Even after 17 years of exploring the trails in Central Oregon, I am continually amazed at the vast variety of singletrack in the area.
Recently I rode an easy 6-mile out-and-back from Phil's Trailhead with my kids. A few days later, I rode a fairly advanced, technical and challenging 13-mile loop.
The trails on these two rides could not be more different, yet they are located just a few miles from each other west of Bend.
Thanks to the Central Oregon Trail Alliance – a nonprofit, volunteer organization that builds and maintains trails throughout Central Oregon – and the Deschutes National Forest, this region offers options for mountain bikers of all skill levels, beginners to experts.
Cyclists can choose the type of experience they seek as well. Do they want a remote, alone-in-the-woods-type feel on a cross-country loop? Do they want lots of climbing? Do they want freeride-flavored trails with technical features, including man-made jumps, natural rock obstacles and bermed corners?
Or do they want all of the above? If so, the 13-mile Funner-Tiddlywinks loop in the Wanoga trail system southwest of Bend is ideal.
Funner and Tiddlywinks were the first two trails in the Wanoga system, built in 2008 and 2009. Over the past 10 years, COTA has designed and built numerous other state-of-the-art trails in the Wanoga complex, including Kiwa Butte, Larsen's, Dinah-Moe-Humm, Tyler's Traverse, Catch and Release, and Duodenum.
COTA is continuing to expand the Wanoga system, which now includes more than 30 miles of trail.
Both Tiddlywinks and Funner connect to the Storm King Trail just south of Century Drive.
I started the recent, more difficult ride from a small parking area off Century Drive, near where Storm King crosses the highway. For the loop, I prefer to climb Funner and ride Tiddlywinks back down, but the route can be ridden in either direction. Hike-a-bike is required on several of the steeper rock sections along the Funner climb.
Some of the Funner Trail now includes uphill-only and downhill-only routes, so climbing bikers need not worry about encountering descending riders who travel at high speeds.
The climb up Funner was a challenge – ascending from about 4,500 feet to 5,500 feet – but I continued slogging along the 4-mile ascent to Wanoga Sno-park, which I reached after about an hour of riding.
Tiddlywinks starts next to the restroom building at the snow-play area at Wanoga. I cruised through tight forest on tacky singletrack, then through an open, logged area and second-growth trees. There, the trail can became somewhat sandy as it leads to a brief rocky area.
Eventually the trail moved from high desert to thick forest. At this point the ride becomes challenging mentally, because I always think the climbing is over once I reach Tiddlywinks, but the trail actually includes quite a bit of a climb before the descent.
The singletrack leveled out and I enjoyed the remote, cross-country style riding in the middle of the green and vibrant Deschutes National Forest. Then, the trail transitioned from typical flat, smooth singletrack into a freeride mountain biker's dream. That section of Tiddlywinks has been built up with tabletop jumps, bermed corners, and creatively built side-angle jumps.
I did my best to maintain control through the section, catching air but speed-checking often with my brakes so as not to risk a crash along the steep downhill section.
Eventually the trail became less steep and the features became smaller, such as boulders built into the design of the trail that riders can roll over fairly easily. Many of the big rocks appear daunting on approach, but the drop-off is never severe, and riders can choose to either catch some air or ride the rock back down to the trail on the other side.
Yellow "Y" signs indicate where the trail breaks into two separate singletrack paths. These areas were built to serve as passing areas during races and often include signed "easy" or "difficult" options.
Soon thereafter, I turned back onto Storm King and rode back to my car.
The 13-mile ride included a bit of everything that Central Oregon's mountain biking paradise has to offer – remote cross-country, challenging climbs and freeride fun.
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