The Central Oregon Trail Alliance (COTA) has been at the forefront of developing and maintaining one of the great assets of outdoor recreation around here - the single-track mountain biking trails. There are so many different routes and loops to ride that it boggles the mind, and that is one reason I have yet to write about a certain "must ride" trail or loop - until now. (Another reason is I'm trying to remain true to COTA's mission, which focuses on trail maintenance and stewardship as well as access and education, but does not mention "promoting" the sport of mountain biking. It's a slippery slope - let me assure you.)
Approaching the fall riding season, we are soon to be rewarded with the best riding conditions of the whole year. Much-needed moisture on the ground settles the dust and vastly improves the trail conditions. One of the best rides during this time of year has to be the loop comprised of Tumalo Creek, North Fork, Metolius-Windigo, Flagline and Southfork trails. Although this 23-plus-mile loop is strenuous and moderately technical, the diversity and scenery take precedence over any pain and suffering one might experience. Most bike shop employees recommend this ride and it's described in several trail guidebooks and maps, yet very few people ride it. Perhaps it's the fact that one must commit to riding all the way up North Fork Trail (mountain bikers are not permitted to descend on North Fork which is a popular hiking trail) or maybe the thousands of feet of climbing to attain the high point, known as the "Beach" on Flagline. It is definitely a "camera and a sandwich" kind of ride, but it's not for everyone.
Central Oregon is one of those areas where you have to "earn your turns." In other words, there are few if any "purely downhill" rides. Earning the turns on the NF/Flag/SF loop takes on a whole new meaning as it seems that the ride back down takes just as long as the climb up. It's always good practice to put one foot down to properly enjoy the scenery and maybe that's why this loop can add up to more than three or four hours on the trail. Get out there and enjoy it before the snow falls, marking the end of another season.
Please send trail-related comments, questions or concerns to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Trails!