The Central Oregon Adventure 6-Pack
“You should do it,” they said.
“Think about how cool it’d be,” they told me.
“You get to do it during the work day, ya know,” they reminded me.
So I said yes.
I agreed to embark upon what, for me, would be the ultimate one-day Central Oregon adventure. An adventure to showcase all that is glorious each spring in Central Oregon.
The Central Oregon Adventure 6-Pack (in 1 day). (OK, so that’s the best we could come up with..but hey, it’s got a beer theme, right?)
- Sunrise hike at Smith Rock
- Cinder Cone run at Mt. Bachelor
- 9 Holes at Widgi Creek
- Mountain bike ride at Phil’s Trail
- Kayak on the Deschutes River
- Complete part of Bend Ale Trail.
Sunrise at Smith Rock
A 5 a.m. alarm comes pretty early when you’re the father of an 8-week old who demands to sleep on your chest from 4 a.m. on. It’s also tempting to hit the snooze button a thousand times knowing you’re waking up to a hike called “Misery Ridge.”
But I rolled my little girl on to the bed and hit the shower on what I knew was going to be one of the best days of my life.
We arrived at Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne just before 6 a.m. fueled with coffee, Cheerios and adrenaline. The day would be a marathon, and any thoughts we had of turning the opening hike into a sprint were quickly erased. Misery Ridge sounds a little more daunting than it is, but it’s still a leg burner no matter what time of day you hit the trail.
We opted for the four-mile loop, which includes about 1,400 feet of elevation gain. But the reward at the top is most certainly worth any bit of pain you experienced on the way up. Smith Rock, one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon, is a breathtakingly unique part of our state with sheer rock cliffs rising abruptly from the banks of the Crooked River below.
As we were heading back down the trail, the parking lot was beginning to bustle with climbers eager to get an early start.
The Cone Run
More coffee and a sense of “maybe the worst is behind us” pushed us back to Bend and up the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway to Mt. Bachelor. We arrived just as the chairs started running, but our goal was to bypass the motorized lift to the top and hike the “cone” and for me to take a run that’s a rite of passage for Bendites.
The cinder cone is adjacent to the ski area and a favorite of skiers wanting to “earn their turns” and get fresh tracks on powder days. The cone is open all day every day and it’s free to ride the 715 feet of vertical drop. Assuming of course, you’re willing to hike the 715 of vertical ascent.
It didn’t sound all that bad considering we’d just hiked up twice that at Smith Rock. But it was a little different taking a hike in fresh snow, wearing too-small snowboard boots and carrying your board on a backpack.
After several “hey, let’s stop and take in the view/desperately gasping for my breath” breaks we made it to the top. Once again, the reward was worth the effort. (I’m sensing a theme here.) I sat down on the top of the cone to take it all in. I had been to the mountain dozens of times over the years and always looked up to the cone as something beyond my level of expertise.
“Mission accomplished” I thought as I strapped in and carved my way down the mountain toward some more fun thinking “why in the world hadn’t I done this before?”
Welcome to “The Widg”
After we loaded up the car in the Bachelor parking lot and grabbed a world famous burrito from the ski area’s Nordic center we headed back into town to Widgi Creek Golf Club, which we passed on the road up to the mountain earlier.
This, I wasn’t worried about. I served as the assistant golf professional here and looked forward to the nice little walk that the front 9 offers. By now, the sun was up and it was starting to feel a little more like spring and there were just a few people on the golf course. That was probably a good thing with the pace we were walking (not fast) and the number of strokes my buddy was taking each hole (many.)
But even as he was having me write down his double bogey on the scorecard, he couldn’t get over how good the course looked so early in the season. And, even more surprisingly, we played in right at 2 hours. I’ve played nearly every course in Central Oregon (we have 30) and people always ask me “what’s your favorite golf course?” That’s impossible to answer, but if I could only play one course every single day, I’d probably tee it up at “The Widg.”
Phil? Phil? Phil!?!
By now our legs were good and warmed up. And tired. And maybe not ready to pedal our bikes for a little more than 7 miles at Phil’s Trail.
But, we thought, at least there’d be some downhill sections so we’d get to rest albeit briefly for a few minutes at a time. We rolled through the parking area up the slight climb of Ben’s Trail to MTB before veering up Kent’s, over to KGB (here’s the ride) back down to KGB, and down Phil’s Trail back to the trail along the road to Skyliners and back to our car. Normally this ride takes me about 40 minutes – when it’s the only thing I’ve done all day. Today…well, let’s just say I took in the scenery a little more than usual and we got back to the care in about an hour.
A River Runs Through It
As comfortable as I am on a golf course I am twice as uncomfortable on water. But that was part of the challenge – get out on a kayak on the Deschutes. I wasn’t going far and I knew I could probably touch the river bottom if I happened to fall out.
Still, my heart was beating a little more quickly with this one. Luckily I had set up a little informal lesson with Laurel from Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe. She put me at ease and stayed with us as we paddled upstream to the Healy Bridge, which was very hard for me by the way, and back to the shop, which sits right on the bank of the river.
I’m not saying I’m planning to go out and buy a kayak now, but I can say I wouldn’t be opposed to renting one for a relaxing float on one of the high lakes come summer. And for me, that’s a huge step.
Down the Hatch, Again and Again and (Hiccup!)
My first steps out of the kayak must have looked like the first steps of a newborn horse. A little wobbly to say the least. But, I took some confident steps toward the car knowing the “exercise” portion of the day was complete. It was, as they say, all over but the drinking.
Next up was a hike of a different sort – a hike along the Bend Ale Trail. Stretching from Bend to Sisters with the help of the John Flannery and the Bend Tour Company. (No way we were going to ruin this epic day by drinking and driving.)
And we wouldn’t be doing all that much drinking. Yes, we planned to hit many of the pubs on the trail, but no, we didn’t plan on having a full beer at each one. A taster (and appetizer) at each would suffice for crossing this final adventure off our 6-pack list.
We did, though, start off toasting our day with a well-deserved full pint of Bachelor Bitter and a burger at Deschutes Brewery. We hit up Bend Brewing Company next, McMenamins, Silver Moon, 10 Barrel, Cascade Lakes Brewing, Worthy….etc.
We ended the day with a beer and a high five at the Crux Fermentation Project. My wife and daughter came by just in time to see the kind of sunset Central Oregon is known for. Sunsets that for many of us from time to time, are the perfect exclamation point on the perfectly fun-filled day.
I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, with my head spinning – not because of the beer, but from thinking of all the reasons I love living in Central Oregon.
That alarm – in the form of my daughter – came early again the next morning.
(editors note: This adventure is an extreme example of what awaits you in Central Oregon. And while you could, of course, actually do all these things in one day in the spring, the author actually did not.)
Happy April Fool’s Day!
More inspiring stories, adventures, and tips & tricks for planning and experiencing the best Central Oregon has to offer.
Favorite Year-Round Mountain Bike Spots
When winter comes and the snow falls, some of Central Oregon’s popular mountain biking trails become a little too muddy to ride – which means some of the unheralded spots in the region get a little more love. Places like Smith Rock can get scorching hot (and quite crowded) in the summer making it a great spot to head come winter. Want some good locals tips on where to ride? Ask the folks at Hutch’s Bicycles, Pine Mountain Sports or The Hub Cyclery for the 4-1-1, or set up a tour with Cog Wild Mountain Bike Tours and Shuttles.
Central Oregon Mountain Biking Trails
Two-wheeled fun for everyone. From magazine spreads to filtered Instagram images, Central Oregon is making a name for itself in mountain biking. Consider this: More than 300 miles of linked singletrack (mountain biker talk for biking trails that are only wide enough for a single rider) is so close to town that many of the riders actually ride to the trails from town (or from Pine Mountain Sports, where a full fleet of Trek and Santa Cruz rentals are available.)
Great Getaway: Sisters, Oregon
When pulling into Sisters from the West you’re greeted by a main-street cowboy town filled with local shops, western storefronts and lots of charm. But as you reach the far end of that main street (it’s actually U.S. Hwy. 20,) something different emerges. There’s some upscale lodging, a brewpub, movie theater, and spa that gives Sisters a whole new attitude.
Accessible Adventure: Easy Hikes for Families near Bend, Oregon
There are so many great hikes in Central Oregon, it can be tough to choose where to start. For beginner hikers or families here’s a couple of easy to get to – and more importantly – easy to conquer starter-hikes. Flanking the Deschutes River near Bend’s Old Mill District, the Deschutes River Trail is a 3-mile loop that starts near Farewell Bend Park.
Sherar's Falls Scenic Bikeway
Oregon’s newest scenic bikeway traverses the strikingly scenic high desert canyon of north Central Oregon, known as River Canyon Country.
Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway: Pull Off For a Central Oregon Adventure
The Cascade Lakes Scenic byway is one of the prettiest drives in the U.S. But it might be the most recreationally rich road you’ll ever drive too. From Bend southwest to the Highway 58 junction, the Oregon Route 372 cuts through 66 miles unique volcanic formations and geological beauty that offers everything that makes Central Oregon an outdoor lover’s paradise.
Central Oregon’s Moonscape
Many who come to Central Oregon say it looks like nowhere else they’ve visited. Sure, there are the mountain vistas and the Ponderosa pines, the picturesque rivers and the deep blue lakes. But to many, the most astonishing aspect is the lunarscape — the lava rocks, cinder cones and lava tubes that dot the region, betraying its geologic history.