The best of Central Oregon, all in a few hours of riding
Visiting Central Oregon can feel like passing through a continuous postcard, and this route is a perfect example of why. Within a relatively short ride, you’ll experience a bustling, outdoors-oriented city featuring plenty of culture, food and beverages; you’ll pedal smooth, sinuous roads through high desert fields and rock formations; and the entire time you’ll have snow-capped peaks on the horizon either in front of you, over your shoulder, or both.
The Twin Bridges Loop derives its name from the two bridges along the route that cross the Deschutes River, both showcasing the river’s middle section that features lovely wetlands and surrounding ranches.
Start at Drake Park, where the Deschutes is temporarily tamed to form Mirror Pond, one of Bend’s signature photogenic settings. Amid willows and wildfowl, pedal out of the city, quickly rising up and then down to Shevlin Park, where Tumalo Creek tumbles through, a prelude to crossings to come.
Climb out of the river bed and emerge atop a ridge, as the houses become fewer and the views get wider. Try to count (and name?) all the peaks you can see at any point in this ride. Enjoy the ever-changing scenery, with native, high-desert landscape, hobby farms, hay fields and wildlife in abundance. Keep a sharp eye out for some critters and birds you don’t get to see at home.
After following a zig-zag pattern of roads that presents a new scenic horizon to scan every short while, swoop down the side of a canyon to the first crossing of the Deschutes, which is hard to imagine as the whitewater thrill-ride it is a ways downstream. Here it’s sylvan and marshy, slow-moving and placid.
Your second crossing brings you into the booming little village of Tumalo, where you can stock up on whatever sustenance you might need for the climbing ahead. Once you cross Highway 20, you’ll roller-coaster up a series of short climbs, gaining 500 feet from the low point in Tumalo. You’ll pass right through verdant Tumalo State Park – another nice place to stop if you’re feeling unhurried.
Soon you’ll have a feeling of familiarity as you rise up toward the mountain-studded horizon – you were on Johnson Road earlier today (and it was more downhill than you realized on the way out!). But, other than the dip down and then up for Shevlin Park, you’ll enjoy a long glide down and back to the start. You’ve earned whatever you’d like to eat and drink at this point.
Here are some logistical notes for this route:
The start at Drake Park offers restroom facilities, parking and shaded picnic tables. Once you pick up bike lanes in Bend, they continue out to Tyler Road; on your way back they’ll resume in Tumalo and back to Bend/Drake Park.
These rural roads generally have low traffic volume, but be aware of farm equipment and multi-use roadways (horses, farm tractors/trailers, recreational river access, etc.). This route is usually rideable from late February through the end of November, depending on the weather.
Important traffic note: This route is only signed to ride the loop portion in a clockwise direction – it is not safe to do it the other way. The clockwise route travels a short distance on Highway 20, and the Oregon Dept. of Transportation (ODOT) has installed a bike lane along this section for safe cycling.