Thanks to several weeks of mild weather, Central Oregon’s historic snowpocalypse — at least within Bend city limits — is now a distant memory. With snow gone, Bend’s residents are taking to the cinder trails and bike paths that wind through town with the intention of shaking out limbs in time for more robust activities this summer.
But where to go after lacing up those jogging shoes or pumping up the tires on the town bike?
With something for everyone, the Bend Urban Trail System, which is managed jointly by the Bend Parks and Recreation District and the city of Bend, boasts approximately 65 miles of trails and nearly 30 parks that feature a variety of surfaces to accommodate a number of laid-back activities, including easy hiking, jogging, bicycling and in-line skating.
Shevlin Park and the Deschutes River Trail may be relatively crowded, but they’re popular for a reason. The 6-mile trail loop around Shevlin Park is great, said Teague Hatfield, owner of Foot Zone Bend, although its rocky climbs and twisty descents may not entice everyone. For a more manageable walk or run that can accommodate several people running abreast, the paved road that bisects Shevlin Park is a mellow corridor where parents can jog alongside bicycle-riding children. The 2.5-mile Tumalo Creek Trail loop extends to the north of the Shevlin Trail loop, offering an easy way to tack on some extra mileage.
The Deschutes River, whose waters are alternately placid at Mirror Pond or fast and splashy north and south of downtown, provides an invigorating backdrop to those jogging or riding alongside the 14-mile Deschutes River Trail loop that connects riverside green spaces such as Drake, Harmon, Miller’s Landing and Farewell Bend parks. The southern end of the trail network doubles back across a footbridge located a mile upstream of the Bill Healy Bridge, while the northern loop will eventually reach Tumalo State Park. A completion date for the extension, which would lengthen the system by 5 miles, is still up in the air, said Steve Jorgensen, park district planning manager.
“For urban-slash-trail running and biking, (The Deschutes River Trail) is pretty awesome,” Hatfield said, noting the alternating sections of dirt, cinder, pavement and nearby grass.
While it’s easy to fixate on the west side’s ample trails and parks, Hatfield was quick to mention Larkspur Park on Bend’s east side, which he said doesn’t get a lot of attention but is “pretty awesome — it’s a little different than everything else.”
The Larkspur Trail is the east side’s open secret. Consisting of nearly 15 acres of juniper, Larkspur Park, adjacent to the Bend Senior Center, is the southern launching point for the 4.1-mile Larkspur Trail. The southern section of the path, which is mostly cinder, winds through the Larkspur neighborhood. However, at NE Bear Creek Road, the trail drops off before picking back up at SE 15th Street (a couple of blocks to the west) and connecting with the Pilot Butte Trail, which climbs more than 400 feet in elevation to the summit. Jorgensen said the park district will shore up the aforementioned gap some time in late summer or early fall.
“If you need a quick workout, Pilot Butte is great. It’s one of the most visited trails in Central Oregon,” Jorgensen added. “It gets a lot of love.”
From there, Larkspur Trail continues north for 2.3 miles, although it downgrades from trail to sidewalk and streets at NE Neff Road, north of which it connects to Hollinshead Park and ends at Stover Park in the Mountain View neighborhood.
Another east side sanctuary is the Pine Nursery Park. The park features a 1.9-mile loop, and its pavement and easy grade makes it a popular site for those looking to stretch out their legs with some easy in-line skating, bicycling, jogging and walking.
“It’s the best paved loop in Bend,” Jorgensen said, adding that there are some nonpaved trails that run alongside it and lead to the park’s off-leash dog area.
This summer, the U.S. Forest Service will extend and pave Haul Road Trail, which will eventually stretch from McKay Park to the Cascade Lakes Welcome Station. It’s part of an overall effort to connect Bend’s trails to the Deschutes National Forest, Jorgensen said.
Despite unlocking Bend’s wealth of trails, spring can still vex Central Oregonians wishing to spend more time outdoors.
“Spring can be frustrating because it comes in fits and starts,” Hatfield said. “I think the key for people in spring is just to get out there. Whether you’re running, walking or riding a bike, just go because you know you will want to have enough fitness by summer to be able to enjoy whatever you want to do. Now is the time to make sure you’re getting into those good patterns and doing your thing.”
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