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.
1. Smith Rock State Park
One of the 7 Wonders of Oregon, Smith Rock located in Terrebonne about 30 minutes from Bend, 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. Be sure to go prepared and take care to stay on designated trails to help preserve the trails and native flora.
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.
3. Central Oregon Beers
Central Oregon is known for its 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 taste more? Check out the Bend Ale Trail where you can experience more than just beer.
4. One of the Top 100
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 dense forests of ponderosa pines at Woodlands at Sunriver to the Scottish-links berms and knolls of Tetherow, you’ll find a hugely diverse selection of challenging courses to choose from.
5. A Wild, Wet Ride
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.
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. 2-Wheel Adventures
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 – Winter or Summer
The 6th 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, 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. Lava Flows
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.
10. The 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.
More inspiring stories, adventures, and tips & tricks for planning and experiencing the best Central Oregon has to offer.
The Central Oregon Mural Trail
Large-scale, hand painted murals have been growing in popularity in Central Oregon communities in recent years, following the updated city codes (the moral - more murals in public spaces). These bright engaging murals not only bring new life and color to once drab building walls, but they provide the communities and visitors with a sense of pride for their natural surroundings. And let’s not forget, they make great selfie backgrounds!
Top 5 Tours to Take in Bend, Oregon
Bend is a nature-lover’s paradise blended with a hop-head’s dream; nowhere else will you find this much craft beer and this many outdoor activities. The city’s been growing quickly, reaching 100,000 residents in 2020, and with the growth comes plentiful opportunities for adventure. From walking the very halls that brew your favorite beer to any number of adrenaline-inducing sports, we have you covered for the five best types of guided tours in Bend, Oregon.
The Scenic Waterfalls in Central Oregon
Is there anything more satisfying—anything more awe-inspiring—than gazing upon a thundering waterfall, its raging waters tumbling over ancient rock walls? Does it get any better than seeing a waterfall reach full boil in the midst of an otherwise quiet river as it crashes through a rock-lined canyon?