Five Tips for Enjoying a Safe, Fun Summer in the Central Oregon Outdoors

Summer is fast approaching—which means several months of picturesque Cascade peak views from the trail, relaxing afternoons on the water, stunning sunsets, cool evenings under the stars, and more. In Central Oregon, outdoor recreation is seemingly limited only by your imagination—and, naturally, how much time you can take off work.

So as you plan your summer in Central Oregon, we wanted to help you have the best experience possible. We’ve rounded up a handful of ideas for promoting sustainability, finding solitude, and finding your next favorite hike—so here are five ways to have a safe, fun summer in the Central Oregon outdoors.

Show Up Early or Late in the Day

Early birds rejoice: If you’re heading to your favorite trailhead or lake in the early morning, chances are good you’ll enjoy an uncrowded outing. But the benefits there go far behind having the trail to yourself (or close to it); by heading out early, you’re more likely to spy wildlife (which is most active in the morning hours), avoid the hottest temperatures of the day, and see other natural beauty—like the sun rising over our Cascade peaks or fog burning off the water.

And if you’d rather sleep in, you’re in luck: Trails and lakes usually clear out by the late afternoon, leaving you space to enjoy sunsets, wildlife activity, cooler temperatures, and less-crowded public lands as the day progresses. (Just be sure to have plenty of light and other provisions if you’re out around dark.)

Be Sure to Take Care Out There

On your next trip to Central Oregon, we hope you enjoy our pristine outdoor spaces—from alpine mountain lakes and Cascade peaks to the wide expanse of our scenic high desert. So while you’re here, we’d invite you to Take Care Out There.

In short, that means making an informed plan before you head out for the day (like packing everything you need and having a backup plan in case your desired trailhead is crowded), being mindful of your surroundings (by choosing activities within your skill level and following posted signs), and connecting with your desired destination (whether by being respectful of your host community or by patronizing local businesses).

Learn more about how to Take Care Out There.

Take a Tour With a Local Outfitter

There are several reasons you might want to plan your next excursion with a local outfitter like Wanderlust Tours.

For starters, you’re almost assured a quiet experience tailored to your group’s specific outing. If taking Wanderlust’s craft beer tour, for instance, you’ll likely enjoy behind-the-scenes access and seating away from the crowds. The Bend-based outfitter also provides outdoor excursions at unusual times of day—like sunset hiking tours in summer and moonlit snowshoe tours in winter—that, by their very nature, offer a more relaxed time. 

Another benefit of touring with a local outfitter is that you can see best safety practices in action—and learn how to incorporate that into your own routine. 

Dave Nissen, owner and founder of Wanderlust Tours, points to his company’s fire safety as a prime example of something most tour members can learn from. On any of Wanderlust’s tours where campfires are involved, for example, the tour guide will take several steps to fully extinguish the fire—such as pouring cold water on the fire, placing the ash in a hole in the ground, pouring additional water on the half-buried ash to ensure the fire is no longer smoldering and covering the ash with dirt to extinguish whatever may remain of the fire and keep others safe. “When our guests witness that kind of behavior, that’s the learning circumstance we hope to share with others,” Nissen says. “We hope that, by example, we’re able to share the proper behavior for how we treat the natural world when we’re out there.”

Plan Ahead Whenever Possible

When it comes to the outdoors, a little planning goes a long way. 

If you’re hiking in the Central Cascades this summer, for instance, you’ll want to know about the Central Cascades Wilderness Permit System that’s capping the number of permitted day-use and overnight visitors on trails throughout the region—all to keep our forests clean and help preserve the wilderness qualities so many of us crave in the outdoors.

It also can’t hurt to do a little research before heading out. If you’re looking for hiking inspiration on U.S. Forest Service websites (such as in the Deschutes National Forest or Ochoco National Forest), keep an eye on the “usage:” field on most trailhead webpages; these range from “light” to “heavy” and can help you uncover less-traveled trails.

Once you’re out and about, consider stopping into a visitor center, whether it’s a U.S. Forest Service ranger station or the Visit Central Oregon office, for additional insight, information, and recommendations. (Just be sure the offices are open before setting out.) These are staffed by knowledgeable experts who can offer tips and advice (such as alternatives to popular trailheads or insight on whether certain trails might be closed) to help make the most of your experience. 

And, finally, try perusing hiking websites (such as the Oregon Hikers Field Guide) or regional Facebook groups (like Oregon Hikers and Climbers), both of which might offer recommendations, insight, and other helpful advice that can help make the most of your trip.

Take an Active Role in Conservation

These tips aren’t just about what to avoid, when not to go, or what not to do; they’re also about what you can do to help ensure future generations enjoy the same experience you did—or even better.

Nissen says it’s easier than you might think to have a positive impact on the environment around you. “I hope that when people do go into the natural world to recreate and receive solace and energy from being out there, that they go back another day and give back,” he says.

Nissen says that can range from growing milkweed in your garden (which aids declining monarch butterfly populations) to picking up litter on your next hike.

If you’re unsure of where to start, consider volunteering with Discover Your Forest on your next trip to Central Oregon. Discover Your Forest is the nonprofit partner of national forests throughout Central Oregon and offers a wide range of opportunities to get involved and make a difference—such as maintaining trailhead permit boxes, serving as a volunteer interpretive ranger, or offering visitor services at some of the region’s most popular attractions.

Matt Wastradowski
Matt Wastradowski
Visit Central Oregon

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