Catch and Release Trail

Directions: From Bend, drive southwest along Century Drive about 6 miles to the Forest Service welcome station near the junction with Road 41. The trailhead is across Century Drive from the welcome station.

Distance: 4.6 miles

Elevation gain: About 250 feet.

Rating: Technically intermediate and aerobically easy

Trail features: The new trail connects the Storm King and Tyler’s Traverse trails. It is a relatively flat, fast ride in either direction, with only a few technical rock sections.

Season: Late spring through fall.

More rides can be found at bendbulletin.com/rideguide.

It might be hard to get excited about just 4.6 miles of trail.

But when that trail is a crucial connector in a popular trail system, and is a fun ride in both directions to boot, excitement is understandable.

The majority of the Catch and Release Trail west of Bend was built last fall in a single afternoon by nearly 300 volunteers from the Central Oregon Trail Alliance and REI. The outdoor retailer hosted a regional conference in Sunriver and sent employees out to the trail to work with COTA and the U.S. Forest Service.

Nine months ago, when the trail was brand new, the path was a bit bumpy and soft in spots. Now it has been ridden so much that it is smoothed out and is a perfect fit in the vast trail network near Bend.

My favorite aspect of the trail is that it means I no longer have to ride on pavement to complete one of my favorite loops that includes Storm King, Larsen’s and Tyler’s Traverse trails.

Catch and Release was designed as a connector trail between the new Forest Service welcome station on Century Drive and the bottom of lower Storm King and Tyler’s Traverse trails. The crucial addition allows mountain bikers to ride a variety of singletrack loops out of the Wanoga Complex and Phil’s Trail areas.

Both Tyler’s Traverse and Storm King end at Forest Road 41, but now the two trails are connected via Catch and Release, which roughly parallels Road 41. Before the trail was built, riders on either trail looking to continue their ride toward the Phil’s Trail complex had to ride along Road 41, which is narrow with no shoulders and limited visibility, or cross the road and ride along the heavily used Deschutes River Trail.

But not only is Catch and Release a key connector, it is also just a great trail — period.

I had ridden the trail several times as part of a loop, but last month I set out to pedal it as an out-and-back — adding some mileage on Storm King to make for a ride of about 11 miles.

Parking is available at the new welcome station, where hiking and mountain biking maps for areas in Central Oregon are available for purchase.

After parking at the welcome station, my riding partner and I crossed Century Drive and turned onto Catch and Release, which begins at a trailhead at the junction of Century Drive and Road 41.

The trail starts out downhill, and it took us through a variety of rocky sections. We rode over one long, smooth boulder that seemed like it was straight out of the Slickrock Trail in Moab, Utah. Red and yellow wildflowers popped up along the singletrack, and then the trail took us across Road 41, where the path began to sort of parallel the road.

We looped through the forest along the rolling trail, which included some natural jump features. After a couple of miles, we turned onto Storm King and climbed the trail until we felt sufficiently tired to turn around.

Storm King downhill was fast and thrilling, and it did not take long to reach the junction with Catch and Release once again. We rode the trail farther south toward Tyler’s Traverse before turning around to head back toward the welcome station.

While it seemed like Catch and Release would be a tough climb back north, it was relatively flat and fast in both directions.

A few rocky sections make Catch and Release a blue (intermediate) trail, but most of the trail is suitable for beginner mountain bikers.

A trail paralleling Road 41 had been a priority for COTA for several years, according to the volunteer organization that builds and maintains singletrack in Central Oregon. Once REI committed to chipping in and the Forest Service agreed to building the trail, COTA members spent about a month scouting the area, looking for a route that would provide an interesting ride while minimizing erosion and the need for future maintenance.

Nine months later, the trail makes for a fantastic experience, either as part of a larger loop or as an easier out-and-back ride.

— Reporter: 541-383-0318,

mmorical@bendbulletin.com

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