Central Oregon is known for its unrelenting beauty – from the snow-capped peaks of our Cascade Mountains to the fields of sagebrush that dot the High Desert landscape. In every direction a view that can fill you with emotion, whether you’re ready for it or not. But there are a few spots that afford such a view it can put you in a special place. Here are our 6 favorite spots to feel all the feels.
1. Tumalo Falls
The power of a massive waterfall never fails to impress. From a distance, the cascading water is silent and beautiful. As you get closer to the spot where the creek plummets, the energy of the water increases and the sound swells. Tumalo Falls is just minutes from downtown Bend, but as you’re standing there – either from the top looking down to the creek below or from the bottom reviling in the 100-foot-wall of water – you’re transfixed and seemingly a world away.
2. Smith Rock State Park
Quite simply, this is one of the most awe-inspiring spots you’ll ever visit. Smith Rock is a spot painters come to paint. Photographers flock to photograph. Climbers clamor to climb. The rock walls can feel ominous on a dark, cloudy day or cathedral-like as the sun rises; illuminating them on a clear day. No matter the weather, the Smith Rock experience can be religious.
3. Sparks Lake
You’re sitting at work, it’s 4:59 and in just 60 seconds you’re free. Sure, it’s a Tuesday night in August, but in just 40 minutes you go from cubicle to canoe, paddling the placid waters of Sparks Lake. After the relaxing row, you drift back to shore, looking back at the sun setting behind the mountains setting off a kaleidoscope of changing colors. It’s a reality for locals and a dream come true for visitors.
4. Drake Park
Drake Park is the crown jewel of downtown Bend. Take a walk on the path along Mirror Pond. Toss a Frisbee in the grass amongst the trees. Take in a free summer concert with hundreds of your new closest friends. It’s a smile-inducing spot Central Oregon’s hold near and dear.
5. The Top of Pilot Butte
There’s a certain majesty in the sense of feeling tiny. A sense of feeling your true place in this world. A sense of being a small part of something much bigger and beautiful. That feeling rushes through your body when you’re standing at the top of Pilot Butte in Bend. Is it Central Oregon’s tallest peak? Not by a long shot. It’s an easy hike up the trail or on the road – something locals do after dinner on a Wednesday or on Sunday morning before a day of yard work. But the views from the top might just be Central Oregon’s prettiest.
6. The Big Eddy
It starts as a peaceful float, where you can chat with new friends on the raft. You’re relaxed, if not a bit nervous about what’s to come in just a few minutes. As the water currents speed up, so too does your heartbeat. That huge smile on your face straightens a bit as your guide tells you to paddle. And before you know it, you’re in the churning whitewater of the Big Eddy – Central Oregon’s most famous and fun thrill ride. The smile is back, the ride ends as quickly as it begins and you’re left wondering when you’ll get to do it again.