Ticket to Ride Trail

Directions: From Bend, travel about 7 miles southwest along Century Drive to the Cascade Lakes Welcome Station on the right. The trailhead is located behind the building.

Distance: 6 miles.

Elevation gain: About 500 feet.

Trail features: A fair amount of climbing and some fast descents along mostly nontechnical singletrack.

Rating: Technically easy and aerobically easy.

Season: Late spring through late fall.

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

Mountain bikers looking for a quick, easy loop to ride in the mornings, during the lunch hour, or in the evenings can head to the Ticket to Ride Trail.

The 6-mile loop starts and ends at the U.S. Forest Service’s Cascade Lakes Welcome Station along Century Drive just west of Bend.

The trail was completed earlier this year by volunteers with the Central Oregon Trail Alliance. Ticket to Ride serves as a suitable loop for beginners or families, and as a way for mountain bikers to connect to other trails such as COD and Grand Slam in the network near Bend.

“We ended up kind of creating another system there that had some options,” said Marv Lang, recreation forester for the Deschutes National Forest who often works with COTA. “But mainly it has that loop that’s an easier trail, and you can tie into the other trails certainly.”

The Cascade Lakes Welcome Station was completed in fall 2015, and COTA worked to build the Ticket to Ride Trail over the last two to three years. The final piece, the north section of the trail, was completed in June during a COTA work party.

The welcome station was originally proposed in late 2008, but the project faced an appeal by Central Oregon tourism interests in 2010, according to Bulletin archives. The appeal questioned whether the building would include trail access or simply be a spot to stop for information.

Responding to the appeal, the Forest Service added plans for a trailhead and, eventually, more trails.

“We got with COTA and said, if we’re going to have a trailhead here, we’re going to need some trails,” Lang recalled.

Lang said the new loop has been popular, even with experienced locals who are simply looking to ride new trails.

“People are always into new stuff,” Lang said. “So even the locals are riding it. It’s kind of an easy evening loop to make that’s close in, so I think it works for a lot of people.”

I rode the loop in both directions on Monday and found each way equally fun. Riding the loop counterclockwise, though, allows mountain bikers to descend a swooping section through a small rock canyon.

While the trail is rated as green (easy), a fair amount of climbing — about 500 feet of elevation gain — awaits in either direction.

The east end of the Ticket to Ride loop is connected by an easier section of the COD trail, which is known for its rocky, challenging singletrack. A reroute of COD in that area is planned, according to Lang.

“COD will follow along the rock bluff and be more true to its more difficult nature, when it’s all done,” Lang said. “But it’s a lot of hand work so it’s going to be another year before it’s done.”

After riding the east end of the loop in a counterclockwise direction, I arrived at a sign that led me to the north section of Ticket to Ride. This included a steady climb all the way to the intersection with Grand Slam. There, one option is to ride Grand Slam out and back a couple of miles to add some distance to the ride before returning to the loop.

Lang said another trail is in the works in that area. A new trail called Voodoo Child will start from the junction of Grand Slam and Ticket to Ride and connect to the Voodoo Trail to the north.

From the northwest corner of the Ticket to Ride loop, the climbing ended and the descending began. Eventually I came to the small canyon, cruising along the swooping turns that cut through the terrain. A few rocks were exposed here and there, but for the most part it was a smooth ride back to the welcome station.

“Yeah, that (canyon) is kind of nice,” Lang said. “The intent was really to not have a one-way or even a suggested one-way. We just wanted it so it was real doable in each direction.”

Because the trailhead is fairly low in elevation, Ticket to Ride should remain ridable well into fall. Recent rain made for some decent conditions on Monday after a long, dusty late summer and early fall.

“Conditions should be pretty good from here on out I would think,” Lang said.

— Reporter: 541-383-0318,