Storm King-Tyler’s Traverse Loop

Directions: From Bend, drive southwest on Century Drive to Conklin Road. Turn left and drive about 1.5 miles to a gravel parking area on the left. The Storm King Trailhead is just across the road.

Features: A challenging climb up Storm King, rolling singletrack along Larsen Trail, and jumpy downhill along Tyler’s Traverse in the Deschutes National Forest.

Distance: About 12 miles.

Rating: Aerobically intermediate and technically intermediate to advanced.

This always seems to be a troubling time of year for outdoors enthusiasts.

Not quite enough snow has fallen yet in the mountains for skiing and snowboarding. And the recent rainy, windy conditions are not the best for hiking, running or fishing.

But rain and frost have finally moistened the Central Oregon sand, creating ideal conditions for mountain biking.

Dress a little warmer — with full-fingered gloves, a hat under your helmet, tights under your cycling shorts and a windbreaker — and you are set for some prime Central Oregon singletrack.

The Central Oregon Trail Alliance, the volunteer organization that builds and maintains most of our mountain biking trails here, this past Saturday held its annual October work party on trails throughout the Deschutes National Forest.

COTA’s recent work on the Wanoga Trail Complex, which has added many miles of new trail west of Bend and south of Century Drive, is remarkable. The design, creativity and hours of work that have gone into these trails is impressive to say the least.

And this fall they can be enjoyed in all their splendor.

Last week, after rainfall the previous day and freezing temperatures overnight, I drove to the Storm King Trailhead off of Conklin Road southwest of Bend. The plan was to ride a loop of about 12 miles that included the Storm King, Larsen, Tyler’s Traverse, and Catch and Release trails.

The climb up Storm King is not an easy one, and I suffered through the morning fog and steep terrain. But I welcomed the chance to warm my body in the cold conditions.

The Storm King Trail has been around for many years, but Larsen, Tyler’s Traverse, and Catch and Release are all recent additions to the Wanoga system that has helped to drive crowds away from the perennially popular Phil’s Trailhead area.

After riding up Storm King, I turned onto Tiddlywinks, which led me up to a left turn onto the Larsen Trail as the sun finally broke through the morning fog. There, at about 4,800 feet in elevation, I really felt the effect of the recent rain and frost. The trail was sticky and firm under my tires as I cruised along the expertly designed singletrack.

The Larsen Trail is mostly flat as it runs south toward Kiwa Springs, a small pond along a dirt road. I turned left onto lower Tyler’s Traverse, perhaps the crown jewel trail of the Wanoga system. The downhill-only trail, designed by Mountain Bike Hall-of-Famer and Bend resident Paul Thomasberg, features several twisting jumps and banked corners through the Deschutes National Forest.

Last week the singletrack there was wet and tacky, and I cruised fast down the trail catching air on the jumps while maintaining control through the thick forest.

The east end of Tyler’s Traverse merges onto Conklin Road, but I turned north onto the Catch and Release Trail. This 4.6-mile trail was built in a single afternoon last fall by nearly 300 volunteers from COTA 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, and the result was Catch and Release.

A year 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 Catch and Release Trail, which parallels Conklin Road, is that it means I no longer have to ride on pavement along Conklin Road to complete the loop that I rode last week.

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 trail includes several rolling sections and technical rocky sections. One particularly rock-strewn section lasts for about a quarter of a mile before the trail connects back to Storm King.

I finished the loop in about two hours, encountering a wide variety of riding: tough climbing, flat and fast riding, jumpy downhill sections, and rocky challenges.

— Reporter: 541-383-0318,

mmorical@bendbulletin.com

Editor’s note: Mountain Bike Trail Guide, by Bulletin sports and outdoors writer Mark Morical, features different trails in Central Oregon and beyond. The trail guide appears in Outdoors on alternating Wednesdays through the riding season. For more great rides in Central Oregon, visit bendbulletin.com/rideguide.

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