1) Tumalo Falls Loop Trail
Families with small children might opt to stick with the first leg of the hike, which ends around the North-Fork Bridge Creek Trail Junction. After this point, the terrain becomes a bit more intense – rockier, more uneven and steeper – and is better suited for older kids with more experience. Along the trail, hikers can stop at many interpretive signs that tell the history of the 1979 Bridge Creek Fire, which burned down much of the surrounding area. From Bend, head west down Skyliners Road for about 45 minutes and watch for signs that read “Tumalo Falls.”
2) Pilot Butte Trail
Although the trail is just under two miles, it is a constant uphill that pushes hikers to climb around 500 vertical feet. The trail itself wraps around Pilot Butte, a lava dome created by an ancient volcano, making Bend one of four cities in the United States to have a volcano within city limits. As the trail wraps around the butte, hikers get gradually better and better views of the entire city and the surrounding landscape. The panoramic view from the top provides 360 degrees of discovery, revealing everything from dry expanses of the high desert to the lush and wooded lands of the Deschutes National Forest. A compass sits at the summit of the butte with arrows pointing to the distant mountains; peaks as far away as Mount St. Helens can be spotted on the clearest of days while nearby mountains like Mount Bachelor are typically visible.
The Pilot Butte Trailhead is centrally located in Bend, Oregon just off of Highway 20/Greenwood Avenue.
3) Smith Rock River Trail
Along the trail, hikers get to witness climbers in action as the trail winds past some popular climbing spots, including Picnic Lunch, Morning Glory, The Dihedrals and Christian Brothers. The trail continues to more climbing walls, views of nearby farms and cowboy country near Terrebonne, a meandering river where waterfowl like to hang out and many other rock formations. The views are even better at the end of the trail where hikers can catch a glimpse of the most famous rock formation at the park, Monkey Face. From here, hikers double back to the start.
From Bend, take U.S. Highway 97 north for about half an hour or 26 miles until you reach the town of Terrebonne, a small, rural farming community known for its thriving climbing scene and a couple farm-to-table restaurants. As you enter Terrebonne, you’ll see the towering rock formations of Smith Rock toward the east, and follow signs off the highway toward Smith Rock State Park.
4) Old Mill Reach – Deschutes River Trail
Along the trail, check out the Bend Whitewater Park, a popular destination for river surfers and kayakers as well as floaters during the summer. The park has an impressive hydraulic system installed at the bottom of the river that can be used to create rapids of varying sizes for different events. South of the whitewater park is the Old Mill District, offering food, drinks, coffee and shopping. Along the Deschutes River, you are likely to see wildlife—waterfowl relaxing in the waters and maybe even beavers.
A bit further down the trail, hikers are given a choice to either complete the southernmost loop or cross over the river for a shorter hike. Either way, you are granted views of the Deschutes River, a chance to walk out on a dock with views of the Old Mill and the smokestacks, as well as towering cliffs that line one side of the Deschutes River near the southern portion of the trail.
The hike is centrally located on the Deschutes River in the Old Mill District and is easily reached by driving down both SW Colorado Avenue and SW Reed Market Road.
5) Shevlin Park
The popular Loop Trail is a six-mile loop taking hikers beneath the shade of ponderosa pines, perfect for cooling off after a few steep hills. This loop crosses over Tumalo Creek twice and offers views of the wildlife that call the area home.
For a more creek-focused hike, try out the Tumalo Creek Trail which follows the waterway about 2.5 miles from the park’s entrance to the point where the trail connects with the greater Deschutes National Forest Trail System, and becomes a popular route for mountain bikers. Hikers are still welcome here, but keep an eye out for bikers and yield to them on the trail.
Don’t forget, there is so much to do in Central Oregon. From perusing the boutique shops to exploring the vibrant restaurants, breweries and distilleries, there will be plenty to do after you finish your hike.
More inspiring stories, adventures, and tips & tricks for planning and experiencing the best Central Oregon has to offer.
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?
Hiking Black Butte – Central Oregon’s Iconic & Majestic Cinder Cone
From a distance, Black Butte looks like it doesn’t quite match the picturesque alpine mountains that surround it. The volcanic rock that emerges above the tree line gives the impression of a hill constructed with loose stones that was carelessly dropped in the middle of the woods. Unlike the Cascades that puncture the horizon to the west and north, Black Butte can be hiked and enjoyed in under four hours.