Epic Central Oregon Day Trips: Madras and Warm Springs, Oregon

If you’re spending a weekend in Central Oregon and want to explore beyond Bend, look no further than the eclectic offerings in Madras and the community of Warm Springs. There you’ll find heart-pumping mountain bike trails, cafés dishing fresh fare, important museums and more.

And with a short 20-minute drive between Madras and Warm Springs, it’s easy to spend all day in either location or mix and match your favorite options for an enriching weekend. We’ve put together a couple itineraries for one-day outings that are jam packed and full of fun—along with ideas for overnight stays in case you can’t fit it all in.

Spend Your Saturday in Sunny Madras, Oregon

Madras, Oregon

Fuel Up in Downtown Madras

Every proper adventure starts with good fuel. Do it right and swing by Great Earth Cafe & Market for your favorite espresso drink—the eatery’s oat milk cappuccino is dreamy—and a fresh selection of homemade organic pastries and smoothies. For a more savory breakfast, try Great Earth’s avocado toast or breakfast burrito (stuffed with bacon, ham, and potatoes). Nearby Midtown Coffee Company, meanwhile, opens at 7 a.m. and serves homemade bagels, muffins and other light bites to early risers.

Fresh fare at Great Earth Cafe & Market

Go Mountain Biking or Trail Running at the Madras East Hills Trail Network

Start your day the Central Oregon way with an outing on the newly minted Madras East Hills Network trails. With 20-plus miles of twisting, turning and fully featured singletrack—complete with jumps, drops, wooden features and sculpted berms—this new jewel of Central Oregon has something for everyone. (Beginners can even take advantage of ride-around options for all features.)

The trails are situated on the sage-and-juniper dotted high desert, so riders and runners are treated to expansive views of Cascade peaks and the surrounding countryside. And while most of the trails are very approachable intermediate tracks, the boldest riders will get a kick out of Coyote Run, an expert-level trail. You won’t find any huge climbs here—but what the Madras East Hills Network lacks in extreme elevation, it makes up for with trail features and punchy ups and downs, keeping riders and runners fully engaged.

Play a Causal Nine Holes at Desert Peaks Golf Course

Desert Peaks Golf Course is a publicly owned, nine-hole golf course that offers stunning views of the surrounding desert and Cascade peaks all year long. The wide-open, 6,312-yard course is perfect for pros and duffers alike. Left your clubs at home? Desert Peaks has you covered with a pro shop, complete with rental clubs and carts.

Grab Lunch at the Open Air Food Court in Downtown Madras

Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, head into downtown Madras and choose from El Burrito Loco (crafting fresh Mexican fare), Imonae (serving Korean barbecue) or Akira Sushi at Madras’ open-air food venue. Order from one of the several local vendors and sit in the shade of the covered food court while planning your next move. If it gets chilly, fire pits and heaters keep diners comfortable.

Erickson Aircraft Collection

Check out the Erickson Aircraft Collection

With a full belly and tired legs, venture just a couple miles north to peruse the impressive array of vintage airplanes at the Erickson Aircraft Collection. Many of the beautifully maintained mid-century planes are still in flying condition. In fact, the museum’s F-4U Corsair and AD-4W Skyraider were featured in the 2022 film “Devotion,” which chronicled the heroics of Jesse Brown, the first black aviator in U.S. Navy history, along with his fighter-pilot buddy Tom Hudner. The pair became well known for helping turn the tide in the Korean War. 

You can even book a flight in one of the museum’s beautiful aircrafts.

Savor Dinner and Drinks in Downtown Madras Restaurants

Madras is quiet and quaint, which is part of the draw. But don’t let the town’s relaxed and uncrowded feel fool you; there are a bevy of quality restaurants in this city of 6,000. One of the city’s most popular eateries is the Madras Public House, a brewpub that offers several organic, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. Here you’ll find everything from osso buco (served with a wine reduction) to poke bowls, seasonal salads, and (of course) satisfying burgers, fries and fish and chips. Wash it all down with a housemade beer or creative cocktail. 

Wild Winds Station is another Madras pub favorite, with local beers and big burgers available from a famously friendly staff. For exquisite Mexican fare, try Rio, conveniently situated in the center of town; start with an order of guacamole (crafted tableside), and savor the restaurant’s traditional recipes made from locally sourced ingredients—including burritos, tacos, and enchiladas.

Snap a Selfie Along the Central Oregon Mural Trail

Enjoy a break from your busy day by checking out a newly installed mural—part of the growing Central Oregon Mural Trail—at the corner of SW 5th and I streets (on the side of the Midland Realty building) in downtown Madras. There, Karen Eland and Katie Daisy painted the phrase, “Greetings From Madras”—inspired by old-school postcards and road signs—and added whimsical flourishes including local wildflowers, native animals, and regional landscapes (such as Lake Billy Chinook).

Greetings From Madras mural

Stay The Night in Madras

If one day isn’t enough, Madras offers (and sits surrounded by) a wide range of overnight stays. The upscale Crooked River Ranch Cabins hosts luxe cabins and lodge rooms near the banks of its namesake river, while The Inn at Cross Keys Station (at the northern edge of Madras) features modern styling, an outdoor pool, exercise facilities, and a tasty breakfast.

Fun Things to Do in Warm Springs, Oregon

The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs—comprising the Wasco, Warm Springs (Tenino) and Paiute tribes—have called Oregon home for thousands of years. Today, visitors can learn about and honor that history by spending time in Warm Springs.  

Deschutes River near Warm Springs, Oregon
The Museum at Warm Springs

Visit The Museum at Warm Springs

The best place to begin any visit to Warm Springs is The Museum at Warm Springs, which offers one of the country’s largest and most stunning collections of Plateau Native American artifacts. Stroll through the rotating collection, which often features crafts and tools, photography, and even live demonstrations of basket weaving and beading. 

Peruse the 5,000-plus photos and documents that help tell the story of the Wasco, Warm Springs (Tenino) and Paiute tribes that today make up the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Many of the exhibits are interactive, so expect to hear singing, chanting, and use of traditional languages. On your way out, don’t forget to visit the gift shop— where you’ll find an array of locally made crafts, including intricate beadwork, breathtaking pottery, colorful blankets and other such collectables.

Cast a Fly on the Tribal Side of the Deschutes River

Visitors can learn from both the land and its people by booking a guided fly fishing trip with LittleLeaf Guides, a Native-owned and operated guiding service. Run by Alysia and Elke Littleleaf, the pair offers intimate knowledge of the water and region’s history. 

Elke has been fishing the Lower Deschutes since 1975, when he was just a scrappy seven-year-old. Alysia is a tireless advocate for the land and her people, and both she and her partner are experts on the river. With the Littleleafs, anglers can enjoy 39 miles of unspoiled fishing access in an area rich with rainbow trout and steelhead. 

Guests can choose single- or multi-day trips and opt for Pavati Warrior drift boat fishing or four-wheel-drive access fishing; the Littleleafs are the only outfit which offers vehicle access on the tribal-managed side of the river.

Fly fishing on the Deschutes River

Meander the Trout Creek Hiking Trail

Enjoy a dose of solitude along the mostly flat, 14-mile Mecca Flat to Trout Creek hike, which follows the Lower Deschutes River on little-used river-grade trails and offers views of the nearby Trout Creek Bluffs and surrounding landscapes. (Those bluffs have long been popular with climbers who enjoy the soaring, fist-sized cracks between the bronze-hued columns.)

This portion of the desert is very much alive, and astute visitors can expect to see canyon wrens and sagebrush buttercups along the trail. If 14 miles seems like too much, consider an out-and-back excursion from either the Mecca Flat or Trout Creek trailheads. And be sure to check for seasonal closures designed to protect the nesting golden eagles that make their homes on the bluff.

Try Your Luck at the Indian Head Casino

Whether you’re driving home or staying the night, consider a stop at the Indian Head Casino, a Warm Springs establishment that offers a variety of slot machines and table games, including blackjack and poker. In addition to games, the casino regularly hosts live entertainment (such as concerts, comedy shows and other performances).

If you need a little sustenance, the casino’s Tule Grill dishes pub fare; at the Cottonwood Restaurant, meanwhile, diners can choose among a variety of cuisines for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—including classic comfort food, fry bread and fresh salmon. The restaurant also offers beer, wine and cocktails.

Other stories

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