Jim Witty / The Bulletin

One of the things that makes a good city great is its livability.

Holiday traffic jams and non-stop construction notwithstanding, Bend seems to have those certain somethings that set it apart from, say, well I better not go there (and who would want to?). Clean air, natural beauty, proximity to outdoor recreation. Everyone has different criteria, but everyone, so it seems, ranks Central Oregon pretty high on their own personal livability index.

Whatever that means to you.

Give the Bend Metro Park and Recreation District credit. Its urban trails system is an amenity that just reeks ”quality of life.”

Who doesn't like to take a walk?

There are plenty of routes to choose from, and you never have to leave the city limits (but you can).

I'll start close to home, where most of us begin. For me, that's the Larkspur Trail, a mile-and-a-half-long path that connects Pilot Butte State Park to the north and the Bend Senior Center (Larkspur Park) to the south. In between, is the Pinewood Natural Area, a ponderosa pine and juniper woodland sandwiched between old and new housing tracts. There's even an airstrip back in there. You're never far from a neighborhood but the improbable open space offers a welcome contrast. Climb to the top of Pilot Butte and back and you can cover about four miles on this trail.

The Cascade Highlands Trail is on the other side of town. It begins at Overturf Park and goes west up and over Overturf Butte through the Skyliner Summit neighborhood to the Mount Washington Drive roundabout. You can bike, run or walk this trail all the way to the Phil's Trail system west of Bend and on to Tumalo Falls.

The Central Oregon Canal Trail begins at Blakely Park on Brookswood Boulevard, follows the west side of the road then heads southwest where it intersects with the Deschutes River Trail. From there, you can go upriver or downriver. Or, according to the Bend Metro Park and Recreation District, hikers can start at Blakely Park, go south along the east side of Brookswood to the Central Oregon Canal and follow the ditch road east along the canal. It currently goes as far as American Lane, but a short jaunt up Reed Market Road hooks you into the southern end of the Larkspur Trail at Larkspur Park. Home again.

Of course, Shevlin Park, west of town, and the Deschutes River Trail are the crown jewels of the Bend trails system.

Spend an hour or an entire day in either place and you'll experience the best of Bend. Shevlin Park encompasses 647 acres with Tumalo Creek flowing right through the center of a mixed conifer forest. Trails range from 2 1/2 miles to a 6-mile loop. The Deschutes River Trail allows hikers to access the mighty (and placid) Deschutes along several reaches between Sawyer Park on the north and River Canyon Park on the south. Plans call for the trail to eventually connect Tumalo State Park and Meadow Camp, an unbroken 19-mile pathway.

Spend an hour or an entire day in either place and you'll experience the best of Bend. Shevlin Park encompasses 647 acres with Tumalo Creek flowing right through the center of a mixed conifer forest. Trails range from 2 1/2 miles to a 6-mile loop. The Des-chutes River Trail allows hikers to access the mighty (and placid) Deschutes along several reaches between Sawyer Park on the north and River Canyon Park on the south. Plans call for the trail to eventually connect Tumalo State Park and Meadow Camp, an unbroken 19-mile pathway.

The system is a work in progress.

The Bend Urban Trails Plan, published in 1995, identified 44 miles of trail opportunities within the Bend Urban Growth Boundary, according to the district. The vision was, and still is, a system of trails connecting neighborhoods with parks, schools and natural attractions. In 1995, less than 19 miles of trails within the proposed system were in public hands. Today, 33 miles of trails have been completed.

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