Tumalo Ridge-Skyliners Loop

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

Distance: 13 miles, two to three hours.

Elevation gain: 1,300 feet.

Trail features: Challenging climbs and fast descents along singletrack, with numerous mountain views along the way. The Swede Ridge Shelter offers a midride pit stop.

Rating: Technically intermediate and aerobically strenuous.

Season: Summer and fall.

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

The area surrounding Tumalo Falls west of Bend is a mountain bike paradise with multiple loop options available from summer through fall.

Mountain bikers can start their rides at Skyliner Sno-park, just a few miles from Tumalo Falls, to access numerous upper-elevation trails on the eastern flank of the Central Oregon Cascades.

I prefer riding loops, especially those that offer the perfect combination of elements: tough climbs, sweeping downhill sections, mountain views, and just enough mileage to get a solid workout but not ruin your day.

The 13-mile Tumalo Ridge-Skyliners Loop seems to fill that bill.

Last month I made the 10-mile drive west of Bend to Skyliner Sno-park to tackle the loop. With the snow recently melted off the trails and rainfall from a thunderstorm the day before, the trails were in stellar riding condition.

The trail up Tumalo Ridge started deep in the shade of towering pine trees. After a quick climb with sharp turns, I came to a junction and made a left turn to ride up Tumalo Ridge. A right turn would have led to the Tumalo Creek Trail and Tumalo Falls.

The short, challenging climb took me to an open ridgeline that pointed east to sprawling views of Bend. I could also peer down at sparkling Tumalo Creek far below.

After finally reaching the top of the ridge, I was able to gain momentum on smooth, tacky singletrack tucked into the alpine forest. Broken Top and other nearby mountains eventually came into view from between the trees.

The trail soon thereafter transitioned to a downhill stretch as the trees gave way to thick manzanita. Mount Bachelor and Tumalo Mountain came into view to the west, as did Broken Top and South Sister, their snowy flanks contrasting brilliantly with the bright blue sky.

More climbing was to come, and the trail eventually turned into rocky doubletrack winding up to the Swede Ridge Shelter. I began climbing, and along the way I looked to the right and saw Tumalo Falls from half a mile away: an interesting view of the popular falls, revealing the enormity of the surrounding forest.

The doubletrack climb was relatively challenging as it just seemed to keep going. The climb is a bit longer and more gradual than the climb up Tumalo Ridge. I had to stop and walk in some places, but I finally reached Swede Ridge Shelter after about 1,000 feet of elevation gain.

I ate my sack lunch and rested at the Swede Ridge Shelter, located at about 6,000 feet with more unparalleled views of Broken Top and South Sister.

The shelter is there primarily for cross-country skiers to warm themselves inside during the winter, but it also serves as a pit stop for trail-weary mountain bikers in summer and fall.

From Swede Ridge, I turned onto the Sector 16 Trail, a rolling, twisting downhill stretch with numerous sharp turns deep in the trees.

The trail eventually connected to Lower Whoops, a fast descent that includes some bermed corners and small jumps. But that section does not include the more massive jumps and features of Lower Whoops, so Upper Whoops is more approachable for the average mountain biker.

From there I connected to the Skyliners Trail to finish the ride. The cross-country route led me 4 miles back to Skyliner Sno-park.

This loop can also be ridden in the opposite direction, starting up the Skyliners Trail and finishing with a descent of Tumalo Ridge.

The 13-mile ride required a little more than two hours, with about 1,300 feet of climbing — a tough but doable loop through some of Central Oregon’s best mountain biking terrain.

—Reporter: 541-383-0318,