There are so many great hikes in Central Oregon, it can be tough to choose where to start. For beginner hikers or families here’s a couple of easy to get to – and more importantly – easy to conquer starter-hikes.
Flanking the Deschutes River near Bend’s Old Mill District, the Deschutes River Trail is a 3-mile loop that starts near Farewell Bend Park. The path is well-maintained and perfect for whatever pace you’re up for, you can even tackle the trail with strollers. Dogs are allowed and there’s plenty of places to relax and take in the sights that seems to get better around every corner.
About 25 miles up the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, Sparks Lake offers unparalleled mountain views. The Ray Atkeson hiking loop starts off as a paved pathway but quickly turns into a trek through the forest. This hike is considered easy just don’t forget your water bottle as the hike can get hot in a hurry. If you’re not up for the full hike — follow the paved pathway for a half mile to the viewpoint. It’s impossible to not be awestruck by South Sister and Broken Top and it’s easy to see why this area was named for Atkeson, a famed landscape photographer. No matter what time of year it is, this spot is a photographer’s dream.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get better than that, there’s the hike nearby at Todd Lake. After a short walk from the parking area, you’re hit larger than life views of Broken Top. It’d be easy to stay right there all day, but there’s so much more to experience. The 1.8 mile trail around the lake is heavily used but there’s plenty of room to spread out and find your own little piece of paradise for the day.
Todd Lake is extremely family friendly because of it’s easy to navigate paths and lots of places to have a picnic. You might wonder why the far side of the lake seems to be the most popular, but it doesn’t take long to find out.
From the looks of it, Todd Lake should probably be called Frog Lake! Kids can spend hours chasing the quick little guys around but be aware, this is strictly a catch and release area. No matter what hike you decide on, you’re guaranteed a great day when you’re outside in Central Oregon.