Easy Hikes in Bend and Around Central Oregon

Bend has been referred to as an outdoor paradise, and it’s easy to see why. From rolling high desert hills and arid plains to forested and snow-capped mountain peaks with lakes and rivers throughout, visiting Bend and Central Oregon is perfect if you love adventure. There is no shortage of trails to be explored in the region; you have your pick of distance, difficulty, and landscape. To help get you started, here are five easy hikes we recommend in Bend and around Central Oregon.

1) Tumalo Falls Loop Trail

Nearly 5 miles in total, the Tumalo Falls Loop Trail provides views of, you guessed it, the locally famous Tumalo Falls. Despite the name, access to this trailhead is out Skyliners Road west of Bend, and not in the nearby town of Tumalo. The hike is accessible year round but hikers should expect to brave some snow on both the trail and the road leading up to it during the winter months. The entire hike falls somewhere between easy and moderate in difficulty, guiding hikers up and down around 1,200 vertical feet and across a log to cross the river (don’t worry, it has a handrail). From the lower viewpoint, hikers can get a clear view of the 90-foot Tumalo Falls. From viewpoints further along the trail, several smaller waterfalls and cascading sections of the river are visible.

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.”

Tumalo Falls Loop Trail
Atop Pilot Butte

2) Pilot Butte Trail

The trail leading up Pilot Butte is well known by many locals as a great go-to hike. The trail is well maintained and very popular with local hikers, as it’s conveniently located in the heart of Bend. Instead of driving to a more remote trailhead, Pilot Butte is accessible from most parts of Bend by only a five- or ten-minute drive.

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.

While families with small children might be challenged by the steep and constant uphill nature of the hike, the ascent is never too extreme. Novice hikers might call this a moderately strenuous hike, while more experienced hikers will find it easier. If you’re just looking for some quick views or if you can’t hike up in time to catch the sunset, there is also a summit access road that is open seasonally from late spring to mid-fall.

The Pilot Butte Trailhead is centrally located in Bend, Oregon just off of Highway 20/Greenwood Avenue.

3) Smith Rock River Trail

Smith Rock, just about 30 minutes north of Bend, is a renowned destination for climbing, hiking and experiencing gorgeous views. One of the most popular state parks in Oregon, the dramatic canyon walls leave visitors feeling awestruck as they walk along and marvel at millions of years of geology on display. The Smith Rock River Trail is a 2.5-mile out-and-back trail rated as easy, with the vast majority of it on flat ground. As a result, this trail is a very popular one for families with kids of all ages.

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.

two hikers admire the view of smith rock

4) Old Mill Reach – Deschutes River Trail

From morning jogs, to date night strolls to an afternoon outing with the family, the Old Mill Reach – Deschutes River Trail is perfect for any occasion. The 2.7 mile hike is flat and almost entirely paved, making it extremely accessible. There are several access points for hopping on the Old Mill Reach – Deschutes River Trail, including at Farewell Bend Park, McKay Park and the Bend Whitewater Park, as well as alongside the shopping and dining areas within the Old Mill District. This trail is essentially a loop on either side of the Deschutes River with numerous bridges and crossings to make the hike shorter or longer and opportunities to explore the many shops and restaurants at the Old Mill.

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.

Hiking at Shevlin Park

5) Shevlin Park

Shevlin Park is a unique addition to this list because the area offers several trails to try out. Shevlin Park packs nearly 23 miles of trails into an area of about 1,000 acres. With so many options for day hikes, the only tricky part about Shevlin Park is trying to decide where to begin. However, among the park’s old-growth forest and sage-covered high desert landscape, any trail will lead hikers to a beautiful natural area. There are a number of hikes of varying difficulties at Shevlin Park, and the park is very family friendly.

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.

From downtown Bend, follow Newport Avenue until it becomes Shevlin Park Road. The park entrance is only about 10 minutes from downtown Bend, making it perfect for a quick or spontaneous day hike.

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.

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