Central Oregon MTB
The Flagline Trail is one of the best mountain bike trails anywhere both in terms of scenery and the quality of the riding. It is actually a collection of three or four trails depending on the length of the loop that you choose but it is referred to locally as "Flagline". Unfortunately, the season is short. It is usually mid-summer before it is clear of snow, and there is a section that is officially closed until the middle of August to isolate an elk calving area. In the summer of 2011 which was a very heavy snow year, there were a couple dozen patches of snow some as long as fifty feet between Happy Valley and Tumalo mountain at the end of August!
The Flagline Trail is most commonly done as a loop starting from the Tumalo Falls Trailhead or the Skyliner Trailhead. It could be done from town via Mrazek and or Phil's but you would have to be in real good shape to pull that off and not have your legs talking to you the next day. The graph below would be from town.

 

One word of caution is that there have been break-ins for many years at the Skyliner Trailhead. Although from most accounts the thieves are typically in a hurry to win the Darwin award, so with a minor amount of prevention you will probably keep your most important valuables. The Tumalo Falls Trailhead is much more secure if you are traveling with a car full of tempting goodies. Break-ins may be on the rise with the wave of foreclosures on golf course investment properties. So if there is a guy in a cream colored polo shirt and a five iron standing buy your car when you get back to the car don't buy the story that he shanked one through your window. Be sure to get the license plate of the Escalade.

The ride is typically done counter-clockwise up the North Fork Trail because due to the heavy hiker use the North Fork is officially uphill only. It is heavily used by hikers for a reason as there are at least a half a dozen beautiful falls within a couple of miles. Try not to get so focused on keeping up with, or leading your friends going up the trail that you don't take the time to stop and look at some of the falls.

You will leave Tumalo Creek at Happy Valley (well signed) and continue climbing in a beautiful, mountain hemlock forest. (From Happy Valley it is possible to cross the river and connect with either Mrazek back to town or the Farewell Trail back to the Tumalo Falls Trailhead. The Farewell Trail is one of those love it or hate it type of trails. Much of the lower half is very loose rock and dirt. Typically, the only riders who seem to enjoy the lower half of this trail are riders with racing experience.

You will cross a number of trail intersections on the way to the north side of Tumalo Mountain and basically you keep hanging lefts with the exception of the trail that heads down the Bridge Creek watershed but it is clearly marked as closed to bikes. If for some reason, you need to make contact with civilization the 370 Road is not far from the trail, and roughly parallels the trail to the west. One worthwhile side trip is to take the very short connector trail to the 370 Rd. at 44.047,-121.653. This trail junction is the first one you will come to after Happy Valley. It makes a hard right uphill near some very large downed trees. From here there is a spur road that leads to the Broken Top Trailhead. This trail junction is also one of the high points on the trail, and a common resting point. As soon as you get to the road the trees open up and there are good views. You can see Broken Top from the trailhead but it is wilderness after that, so no bikes. (The 370 Road is actually very good mountain biking. It is more scenic than the trail and is mostly hard pack dirt. Another plus is that the road can be done much earlier in the season than the trail not to mention it is also fun to race and pass the four wheel drive aficionados.) Back on the trail on the way down from Tumalo Mountain near Swampy Lakes the forest changes from the big hemlocks to lodgepole and becomes much drier and dustier. The pass to the north of Tumalo Mountain is the high point of the trail at about 6,940 feet (44.011357, -121.64099) and another common place to take a little break after the final climb, but many riders will be itching to get going on the big descent.

The Swampy Lakes Nordic Shelter is not easy to miss and is a major decision point. If you turn north to the left, you descend the South Fork Trail and will be at Tumalo Falls in short order. This trail is becoming increasingly rough with exposed lodgepole roots to the point that you may want to ask your caddy for a freeride or downhill bike. It is possible at the bottom of the hill to turn east on to the Tumalo Creek Trail if you parked at the Skyliner Trailhead. The other option, depending on where you parked your car, is back at the Swampy Shelter to continue straight on Swede Ridge to the next shelter. At that point you will want to turn around almost 180 degrees to the left and ride down the road until it turns back into singletrack and finally drops down to the Skyliner Trailhead. Shuttled downhill riders heading into town will continue straight on the Sector Sixteen Trail.

This is a National Forest fee trailhead and money is routinely collected due to the trailhead's popularity.


Getting to the Tumalo Falls Trailhead: From Google Maps copy and paste "NF-4603 @44.03197, -121.56630" as a destination and wherever you are or will be as a starting point.

Getting to the Skyliner Trailhead: - From Google Maps copy and paste "NF-4601/Skyliners Rd @44.03183, -121.51522" as a destination.

Google Earth KML (you need to have a KML viewer like Google Earth installed on your machine)
8.5 x 11 Pocket Map Covering from Skyliner to Dutchman Flat (use with the Phil's trail map for longer rides)
Bend and Central Oregon
Oregon Mountain Biking Home Page