10 Things Not to Miss in Central Oregon

Time and time again guests come into our Central Oregon Visitor Information Center in Sunriver and say, “We’re here for a few days. What should we do?”

And it’s always the toughest question we get.

With so much to do and see and experience in Central Oregon, it’s difficult to layout the perfect weekend itinerary for folks. But after we ask a few questions of them to get a better idea of what kind of things they like to do, we’re able to send them out the door with a smile and sense of adventure.

Here’s our list of the Top 10 things not to miss in Central Oregon.

Courtesy Elena Pressprich

1. Smith Rock State Park, Terrebonne

One of the 7 Wonders of Oregon, Smith Rock is the birthplace of American sport climbing and a feast for the eyes. Take a hike along the Crooked River and marvel at the spires that rise from the canyon floor or trek up Misery Ridge for expansive views of the High Desert and Monkey Face.

Courtesy Elena Pressprich

2. Tumalo Falls

Just 10 miles from downtown Bend, Tumalo Falls is a majestic, nearly 100-foot waterfall that cascades into the tranquil Tumalo Creek below. Take a hike along the creek and up to the top of the falls for a cool view from above. The trail continues for four miles up Happy Valley; perfect for hikers of any age.

Crux Fermentation Project

Crux Fermentation Project, Bend

3. Grab a Beer

Bend is known for exceptionally clean water – and it’s perfect for making exceptionally good beer. Enjoy a pint at any of our nearly 30 brewpubs across the region or take a tour of Deschutes Brewery, the one that started the movement here. Want to learn to brew your own? Check out Immersion Brewing where you can create your own beer in about two hours.

Broken Top Club Golf Course Sunset

4. Play a Round

Central Oregon is home to nearly 30 golf courses including three in Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses in America and half of Oregon’s Top 10 according to Golfweek. From the forest-lined fairways of Widgi Creek to the Scottish-links berms and knolls of Tetherow, you’ll find a hugely diverse selection of challenges courses to choose from.

Big Eddy Thriller

5. Get Wet

You can’t visit Central Oregon without playing in our wild and scenic Deschutes River. The options are plentiful including a leisurely float through Bend’s Old Mill District, a surf sesh at the Bend whitewater park, a kayak adventure at Sparks Lake or an adrenaline-pumping whitewater thrill ride with Sun County Tours on the Bid Eddy. Bring a swimsuit and have some fun.

No Name Lake at the base of Broken Top/Adam McKibben

6. High Mountain Hikes

Hundreds of miles of tranquil and scenic hiking trails are waiting for you to explore. Go up into the mountains along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway and walk among the giant snow-capped peaks. Take a short hike with the kids around Todd Lake or venture higher up to the peak of majestic Broken Top. Or, closer to Bend and Sunriver, trek along the gently-rolling and beautiful Deschutes River Trail. For whatever adventure you’re looking for, there’s a trail for you.

7. Take a Ride

More than 400-miles of epic mountain bike singletrack can be found in Central Oregon, perfect for cyclists of all abilities and so close to town that you can ride to them straight from the shop you rented your bike from. Road cyclists can enjoy a handful of beautiful, well-marked scenic bikeways that showcase sights like McKenzie Pass and Smith Rock State Park.

8. Mt. Bachelor – Year Round Fun at 8,000 Feet

The 5th largest ski area in the U.S. is a year-round destination for fun and amazing views. Snow lovers can enjoy stellar skiing conditions from November through May – among the longest ski seasons in the country. Once the snow melts a little, Mt. Bachelor transforms into a downhill mountain bike Mecca with miles of adrenaline-pumping trails. Summer also means sunset dinners at nearly 9,000 feet – where the meals and views are equally as spectacular.

 

9. Explore a Lava Flow

Located on the north flank of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, what is now Lava Lands was created about 7,000 years ago after a volcanic explosion of Lava Butte. A miles-wide sea of jagged lava rock was left behind creating a unique geological landscape that served as that training ground for moon-bound astronauts.

Porcupine at a museum near Bend, Oregon

10. High Desert Museum

The High Desert Museum has been inspiring families since 1982 and is consistently rated as a top Central Oregon attraction by Trip Advisor. With 135 acres and more than 100,000 square feet of exhibit space, it’s a “must see” for anyone traveling through the area.

Get a close-up of native wildlife, such as an otter, bobcat, porcupine, and badger. Talk with historic characters who share the tales of early Oregon explorers and settlers. Visit an authentic homestead and sawmill from 1904. Experience a close flying encounter with owls, falcons, hawks and even a vulture. Learn about Native American culture and history and delight your children with one of many fun, hands-on programs that bring history and science to life.

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