Tumalo Creek Trail

Directions: Travel 10 miles west of Bend on Skyliners Road to Skyliner Sno-park on the left.

Distance: 7 miles

Elevation gain: About 100 feet.

Trail features: Smooth singletrack suited for beginners, with exceptional scenery through Tumalo Canyon and the Bridge Creek Burn to Tumalo Falls.

Rating: Aerobically easy to intermediate, technically easy.

Season: Summer and fall.

For more Mountain Bike Trail Guides, see bendbulletin.com/rideguide.

The Tumalo Creek Trail west of Bend is an ideal path for mountain bikers looking for an easy ride with loads of scenery.

The trail, located near Tumalo Falls, still offers some challenges and showcases some of Central Oregon’s world-class singletrack, but without any lung-busting climbs or nasty rock gardens.

Beginner mountain bikers in Central Oregon are often faced with a difficult task: finding a trail without the excessive climbing or technical sections that could ruin their maiden experience, if not drive them away from the sport entirely.

Fortunately, many of these types of trails are out there. Several can be found from the ever-popular Phil’s Trailhead, from Shevlin Park, and from the Deschutes River Trail. But in midsummer conditions, we have the ability to go a little higher.

I made the 10-mile drive west of Bend to Skyliner Sno-park earlier this month, starting out under sunny skies.

The start of the Tumalo Creek Trail is a little tricky, with some tree roots jutting up from the ground, followed by a brief climb. After that, it is pretty much smooth sailing, other than a couple of rocky sections that can be a challenge for a beginner.

The Tumalo Creek trail follows the creek about 3½ miles to Tumalo Falls, an iconic Central Oregon attraction and a nice visual reward for completing the first half of the ride.

As I rode, I caught glimpses of the babbling creek below, and of Mount Bachelor and the rugged green surroundings of Tumalo Canyon and the Bridge Creek Burn.

After enjoying views of the falls, I headed back the way I had come. On the ride back to Skyliner Sno-park, bikers can pick up quite a lot of speed on the smooth trail, but keeping a watchful eye for hikers is a must.

The Tumalo Creek Trail can be ridden as a 7-mile out-and-back journey, but I turned onto the South Fork Trail for an out-and-back on that trail to add a bit of climbing to what otherwise was a mostly flat ride. I pedaled up the steep hill along a small creek through a thick forest. South Fork connects to the Swampy Lakes area, but I rode only about 1½ miles or before turning around to cruise downhill back to Tumalo Creek.

I ended up covering about 10 miles in two hours.

Skyliner Sno-park and Tumalo Falls are also good starting points for many longer, more advanced loop rides in the higher elevations of the Deschutes National Forest. One such ride, the North Fork-Flagline loop, is a 20-mile classic through the high country with grueling climbs and fast descents.

Also, from Skyliner Sno-park, mountain bikers can connect to the Skyliners Trail, which links up to the Whoops Trail, Sector 16, and other trails in the Phil’s network.

Aside from the Tumalo Creek Trail, other beginner rides are available at higher elevations in Central Oregon. Good singletrack options include the Swampy Lakes Loop (4.3 miles) from Swampy Lakes Sno-park off Century Drive, and the Cultus Lake Loop (12 miles), about an hour’s drive from Bend off Cascade Lakes Highway.

Both of these rides are on trails that connect to more singletrack for much longer, more expert-level rides.

But beginner mountain bikers, too, can find thrills in the Central Oregon high country during midsummer.

— Reporter: 541-383-0318,