Rides Made Here:  Bend, OR
18 July, 2023

Rides Made Here: Bend, OR

By: Ren Walkenhorst // ALLIED Ambassador

The sylvan stylings of the South Fork Trail Loop.

For the latest in our series of rides Made Here, we’re here in the PNW, where Ren Walkenhorst takes us along on his favorite ride out of Bend, OR.

South Fork Trail visits pines, firs, creeks, bridges, waterfalls – it’s a loop that samples everything the region has to offer.

 

LOOP // 13 MILES // 1,600 FT CLIMBING

Bend has been a mountain bike destination for decades, and little wonder – it has over 500 miles of maintained singletrack as well as a world class bike park. The terrain is a treat for the XC/All-Mountain Rider, and the topography lends itself to long days in the saddle zigzagging across the Deschutes Basin.

From town, the trails meander toward the foothills and kick up toward the Central Cascade Mountain Range. With so many trails and link-ups possible, it is hard to choose one favorite; however, every spring I find myself eagerly awaiting the opening of one trail in particular: South Fork Trail.

South Fork is a Bend classic. It’s a fast trail with decent sight lines and a lot of natural features to play around on. There are some berms in the tighter switch backs, but for the most part, it has no manmade features. Everything is rollable, which makes it a great trail to progress on.

South Fork is commonly looped from Skyliner Sno-Park or tossed into a shuttle from Swampy Lakes Sno-Park to town. The trail itself is only about 3 miles, but the loop from Skyliner adds up to about 13 miles with a total of 1,600 feet of climbing. The Skyliner/South Fork loop is my favorite in town, and it’s perfect for the BC40’s versatile qualities.

I recommend taking the long way, especially if you’re on a full-suspension machine that can climb. Leading out from Skyliner Sno-Park, the singletrack meanders through the ponderosa pine forest and then, after the first creek crossing (this one is via a land bridge), it kicks up a bit. As riders gain elevation, douglas firs begin to mix in with the pine until the canopy gives way on the flank of Tumalo (pronounced Tum-Uh-Low) ridge to shoulder-high manzanita before dipping back into the pine.

The trail tops out on the ridge with a mountain view and some rolling singletrack before kicking back up again on some doubletrack on its way to Swede Ridge Shelter and the start of Swede Ridge Trail.

Swede Ridge Trail trends uphill, mixing in some fun descents through the trees, little side hits off roots and rocks, fast corners, and punchy climbs. This is where the BC40 comes alive!

In the spring, there is a creek crossing about three bike lengths wide. It’s chunky but rideable. By mid-summer, the creek is dry, and the crossing becomes even more manageable. After a quick jaunt on Swampy Lakes Trail, the rider has made it to the top of South Fork. Now for the way down.

The first 1.8 miles is a series of long switchbacks that make their way from the top of the ridge down to the South fork of Tumalo Creek. At the creek there is a bridge crossing that is about a foot and a half wide and rideable, but the majority of folks choose to walk it and take in the splendor of the creek.

The remaining 1.5 miles traverse along the hillside above the creek and offer fun rolling terrain where you can find speed by pumping the various terrain features or just getting on top of the pedals. The trail dumps out onto the Tumalo Creek Trail, and this is the final segment of the loop.

Heads up here for hikers, as the trail is multiuse and popular for folks looking to get a view of the Tumalo Falls Waterfall (certainly a nice bonus add-on to this loop if riders are keen). The trail trends downhill and flows nicely through the forest as it traces the flank of Tumalo Creek.

A final bridge crossing marks the trail’s last 50 yards, and riders can choose to hop on the road to return to the trailhead or claim some bonus doubletrack back to the first section of singletrack.

This trail can be ridden by folks of all levels who are comfortable taking on the mileage and climbing. I’ve ridden it on a full enduro rig and on the trail-minded BC40, so there is no wrong bike, but I would say it is most enjoyable with full suspension and something that carries speed well in the flats between downhills (read: The BC40).

Learn more about the BC40 here.

As seen in Men’s Journal

“[...] the biggest holy shit moment came in the first week of testing. The first thing you’ll notice is how quick it gets out of the gate. The bike wants to go. What impressed me more than that was how the top end speed doesn’t feel as fast as it really is. It has an effortless flow to it, especially on flats and rolling sections. The suspension platform provides support and a grounded feel with great rebound out of corners, offering more confidence and allowing me to ride it even faster."

 

Read Andy Cochrane’s review on the BC40 in Men’s Journal here.

Image of BC40 from Men's Journal

Photo: Andy Cochrane


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