Going Cog Wild For Bend Oregon Mountain Biking

Mountain Biker overlooking the Tumalo Creek canyon in Bend Oregon View from Skyliners Trail - Photo by Jaime Pirozzi - Local Freshies®

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As the sun rose across the high desert, a day brimming with adventure awaited us. Bend has been a long-time favorite of ours for spring skiing, consistently surpassing our expectations including numerous powder days even in late April. This time, however, we were about a different kind of outdoor fun: Bend Oregon Mountain Biking. Would it be as fun as the skiing? We were about to find out.

Tetherow Resort – Gateway to the High Country

Typically when we visit Bend, we stay near the Old Bend neighborhood. It gives us the opportunity to ride bikes or walk to dinner and get a cold brew. However this time, we opted for a change and booked a spot that was closest to Mt. Bachelor and the high country – Tetherow Resort. Among the newer properties in Bend, we soon discovered during our stay that this wasn’t just any ordinary lodging. It was multi-award winning. Countless publications, including Conde Nast Traveler, have showered it with accolades, ranking it as the No. 1 Resort in the Pacific Northwest and the No. 28 Resort in the World.

What Makes it Special

I’m always skeptical about awards. Is it really THAT good? Immediately at check-in it became evident that their attention to detail is what puts it above other places. Instead of a conventional front desk experience, we were warmly welcomed and guided to luxurious chairs to comfortably discuss our stay. Then there are the rooms. It felt like I was entering a grand suite instead of a typical hotel room. The spacious entryway provided ample room for storing shoes and gear. The living area boasted a high-quality king-size mattress for a restful night’s sleep, along with a Nespresso machine for coffee enthusiasts. They even thoughtfully provided to-go cups in the room. Adding to the charm, a balcony offered picturesque views overlooking the Audubon Society golf course.

Early Start

Wild birds enjoying the Audubon Society golf course at Tetherow
Quail and Chuckers giving their approval of the Aubudon Society Golf Course – Photo by Jaime Pirozzi – Local Freshies®

Sipping on a freshly brewed coffee from the Nespresso machine, we soaked in the breathtaking scenery. In the gentle glow of dawn, the golf course teemed with quail and chuckers. The chuckers resembled plump chickens frolicking about. Beyond, the distant peaks of the Cascades beckoned. It was our destination for the day. After a swift breakfast at the lodge, we loaded our gear into the truck and zipped across the road to our shuttle pickup point.

Pulling around the LOGE Bend, we reached the rear of the property where Cog Wild operates. Renowned as the top choice for mountain biking shuttles in the area, we later realized the shuttle was so close we could have easily biked there from Tetherow Resort.

Meeting Our Guide

Cog Wild information booth at their offices in Bend Oregon
Basecamp for Cog Wild in Bend Oregon – Photo by Jaime Pirozzi – Local Freshies®

In the stillness of the morning, we peeked around the buildings to locate our contact. Inside a converted ocean container, boasting floor-to-ceiling glass panels, stood a petite, blonde woman with pigtails. With an enthusiastic smile, she greeted us, her voice tinged with a subtle accent, “Hi! Can I help you?”

Our Free Spirit of the Mountains

We let her know that we were here for a guided tour. “Ah, you’re my group today! I’m Pia.” With a firecracker persona, her small but fit frame was a testament that she spends a lot of time outdoors having fun. We soon learn that she’s been with the company for over thirteen years. In fact, the longest serving guide they have.

European Born But Worldly

Pia pointing out our next trail we’re about to hit – Photo by Jaime Pirozzi – Local Freshies®

A Danish woman, she’s been everywhere. She spent time in Maui when it was but a surfing village. Before mainlanders built multi-million-dollar homes. When it was a place where locals lived off the avocados, bananas, and taro. As changes swept, she decided it was time to move on and lived everywhere from Boston, Vail, Hood River, Bellingham, Costa Rica, and Paris. While she experimented with the urban life, it never quite fit her.

Bend Came Calling

She finally set roots in Bend and has been here for more than two decades. Although it didn’t have the best skiing or the best mountain biking, it offered everything at her fingertips. And most of all, a strong community to raise her son.

Dutchman Flat or Swampy Lakes

Biker putting on his bike on the Cog Wild Shuttle in Bend Oregon
Putting on the bikes for the Cog Wild Shuttle – Photo by Jaime Pirozzi – Local Freshies®

As she set us up with Santa Cruz bikes to demo, she asked how long of a day we wanted in the saddle. We could start up near Dutchman Flat across the street from Mt Bachelor for a full day or pick a more leisurely tour and begin at Swampy Lakes. After two BIG days of more than 2,500 vert of climbing in Hood River, we needed a sip of fun instead of diving headfirst into another full-throttle adventure.

Overview of our Route for the Day


Last In, First Out

Joined by a few other cycling adventurers, our van swiftly exited the parking lot and ascended towards our destination. Among us were a handful of Europeans and even a couple from Texas. While the others were bound for the summit, we started our day at the Swampy Lake Trailhead. Pia mentioned that this trailhead is a great option if the snow hasn’t melted at higher elevations.

As we pedaled away from the trailhead, the air was crisp and invigorating, with a slight hint of chilliness. The damp, tacky dirt beneath our tires offered a reassuring note that today was going to be fun. We began with a brisk ascent up a fire road, leading us to the entrance of South Fork, one of the area’s more technically challenging trails.

Although the trail system boasts clear signage, making it easy for you to navigate, first timers may want to opt for a guide otherwise you’ll miss out on the unique sights along the way. From changes in vegetation due to elevation to breathtaking views of the Cascades, these hidden gems you will not find on your own.

South Fork

mountain biker on South Fork trail near Bend Oregon
Some of the fun switch backs on South Fork Trail – Photo by Jaime Pirozzi – Local Freshies®

With around 1,100 feet of descent over three miles, South Fork ranks among the more challenging trails in the Bend Mountain Biking trail system. Throughout its steepish descent, you’ll find a swoopy banked slalom flow with roots and even a few rocky segments to enjoy. There’s also a raised wooden walkway that goes across a marshy section, adding an extra touch of adventure to the trail. However, the standout feature of South Fork is undoubtedly a cut log serving as a bridge, spanning a creek more than six feet below.

Note: Mid-summer, this trail is very buggy but great for the spring and fall.

Don’t Miss the Falls

Tumalo Falls on a beautiful fall day
Photo by Jaime Pirozzi – Local Freshies®

No matter how you design your Bend Mountain Biking adventure, there’s one must-see attraction that should always be on your itinerary – Tumalo Falls. Situated off North Fork, these impressive falls are accessible by bike, and if time permits, you can even complete a full loop around them. Just be prepared for a challenging ascent to reach the top. After soaking in the beauty of the falls, we hopped onto our next trail.


While the Bend Mountain Biking shuttle bike ride provides a slow descent back to town, there’s one segment that does feature climbs to access the next segment of the trail system – Skyliner.

It kicks off with a punchy rock-strewn climb as if it was an old-school roller coaster ratcheting up to the first drop. After a quick downhill reprieve, it transitions back to a steady 4-mile ascent. Though not steep, it’s interspersed by enjoyable downhill sections, giving riders a chance to catch their breath before the next climb.

We Learn When to Visit

As we sat on a log, enjoying the mouthwatering sandwiches provided with our tour, Pia mentioned that while many visitors flock to Bend in the summer, the prime time to enjoy its mtb trails is in the fall. Gone are the crowds and scorching dusty days. It’s then replaced by cooler temperatures and pristine trail conditions. This is Pia’s favorite season. A chance for her to seize the day. While her summer schedule doesn’t afford her many days off, tomorrow she’s gearing up for a big ride in the high country – from Dutchman’s Flat to Sisters. A hefty 40-mile journey with nearly 4,000 feet of climbing ahead.

Surfer At Heart

We discover that Pia’s true joy lies in spending time outdoors, whether it’s for work or pleasure. From skiing during the winter and spring to surfing and mountain biking in the summer and fall, she embraces each season’s activities. And yet surfing holds a special place in her heart, and she makes it a priority to visit the coast as often as possible.

Bend’s Signature Trail – Whoops

As we hop back on our bikes, we swiftly notice the landscape transforming from the lush high country near Mt. Bachelor, with its hardy pines and rich soil, to the rock-strewn, arid trails ahead. This marks the beginning of Bend’s signature trail – Whoops. Rolling and rocking the low angle terrain allows you to pick your speed based on either coasting or pedaling. It’s a bit of MTB Enduro blended with BMX style features. Tabletops, banked turns and even pump sections that you can float big airs over. Yet, it’s designed to be enjoyable for riders of all skill levels, with no mandatory obstacles to contend with.

Phil’s Our Favorite

Crafted by Phil Meglasson back in the mid-1980s, he stumbled upon it while exploring the area. What began as a single game trail has since evolved into a multi-option network, allowing riders to either bypass or tackle certain challenging sections. The highlight of Phil’s for us was navigating the enjoyable mini rock garden features, rated as blue, that wind through a canyon. Though there are expert features like Chicken Rock Pile, they require some hunting to find.

Chicken Rock Pile on the Phil's trail network in Bend Oregon
The name fits! The Chicken Rock pile – Photo by Jaime Pirozzi – Local Freshies®

After a day of riding, we relaxed with some cold brews, reflecting on the day’s adventures, our bikes, and our life aspirations. While Pia will always consider Bend home, her restless spirit constantly craves wanderlust. Together with her partner, they dream of finding a place where they can indulge in warm-water surfing, mountain biking, and skiing—a challenging combination to find in one location. With big smiles, we bid each other farewell, hoping our paths will cross again in the future, whether on singletrack or the skin track.

The Rundown of Bend’s Mountain Bike Trail Network

bend mountain biking the C.O.D. mtb trail in Bend Oregon
Photo by Jaime Pirozzi – Local Freshies®

Describing Bend’s mountain biking scene as “big” is an understatement. With over 600 miles of trails in the region, expanding to more than 900 miles when you include Oak Ridge and other outlying areas, the scale is impressive. All of these trails are managed by a single organization – the Central Oregon Trail Alliance (COTA). Even our “short” ride from Swampy Lakes encompassed over 22 miles and boasted more than 3,100 vertical feet of descent.

Shuttle Area

Bend’s shuttle offers an ideal solution for those that are just getting into mountain biking and want to make that big leap out to a larger tour. The shuttle access points are situated to the west, within the national forests between town and Mt. Bachelor. The natural topography facilitates descent and makes it a bit easier to navigate.

Ticket to Ride Loop

Based at Tetherow Resort, it made it easy for us to go for a morning ride the next day before we left. There are a bunch of quick hits you can enjoy but the nice XC loop called Ticket To Ride had some fun rolling terrain that a first timer would love and an intermediate would enjoy.

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