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Top 10 Must-Do Activities in Sunriver

Over the years, the location of present-day Sunriver has been many things to many people. Local tribes lived amid the area’s ponderosa pine forests and open meadows as far back as 11,500 years ago. During World War II, the forested area along the Deschutes River was a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers training center called Camp Abbot.

Today, the community of Sunriver sits about 15 miles south of Bend and is a world-class family destination in all four seasons. There, you’ll find educational opportunities, nature-inspired activities, well-kept parks, outdoor adventures, and more. To help inspire your next epic outing, we’ve put together a round-up of the top 10 must-do activities in Sunriver for all ages.

The top things to do in Sunriver are:

As you make plans to visit Sunriver, Oregon, read on to make the most of your next trip.

Outdoor Adventures

A family biking near Sunriver, Oregon

#1: Biking Scenic Trails and Paved Paths

Sunriver was built with families in mind—and that means offering safe, fun activities for the whole crew. So whether your rental home comes with free cruiser bikes or you rent your ride from a local retailer, take time to check out the 34 miles of paved (largely protected) bike paths across Sunriver. These mostly flat, paved trails are wide enough for two and largely set off from local roadways, giving riders of all ages and skill levels peace of mind. Along the way, keep an eye out for Cascade peaks rising above treetops to the west, and watch for some of the area’s resident deer frolicking in the surrounding forests.

For more, see why biking in Sunriver is such a popular pastime among locals and visitors alike.

#2: Rafting and Kayaking on the Deschutes River

From placid outings to whitewater thrills, the Deschutes River offers plenty of excitement for paddlers of all skill levels—no matter the experience they’re after—and is routinely one of the top Sunriver, Oregon, activities every summer.

Sun Country Tours is the only whitewater outfitter in the Sunriver area, and its most popular trip takes paddlers through quiet swimming holes, rolling currents, and a series of four class III rapids. (This trip is known as the Big Eddy Thriller, a three-mile tour named for a calm pool where paddlers can head to shore and view the upcoming rapids.) Learn more about rafting near Sunriver.

For a more laid-back experience, grab a rental from The Marina at Sunriver Resort. Choose among canoes, single and tandem kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and even rafts that seat up to 10; from there, you’ll enjoy calm waters on the Deschutes River, as well as views of the surrounding forests, meadows, and more.

Whitewater rafting on the Deschutes River near Sunriver, Oregon
Lava Butte near Sunriver, Oregon

#3: Hiking on Lava Butte and the Lava Lands

Just a few miles north of Sunriver, accessible via the Sun-Lava Paved Path or a short drive, is the educational heart of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument: Lava Lands Visitor Center. Open May to mid-October, a stop by the visitor center is one of the most popular things to do near Sunriver, Oregon. It doubles as a small museum where exhibits, maps, and interpretive panels discuss the cultural and natural history of Newberry Volcano—a massive shield volcano whose eruptions have literally shaped the Central Oregon landscape for thousands of years. A few on-site hiking trails head into a massive lava flow.

One example of its enormous impact is Lava Butte, a 500-foot-tall cinder cone that sits adjacent to the visitor center and can be accessed between spring and fall. Visitors can head to the top of the butte in their own vehicle between mid-April and mid-June, as well as early September to mid-October—or via a shuttle between mid-June and Labor Day Weekend. There, views at the base of a working fire lookout include Central Oregon’s rocky landscape and Cascade peaks to the west.

Family-Friendly Attractions

#4: Visiting the Oregon Observatory

Central Oregon boasts some of the darkest night skies in the United States, and the Oregon Observatory at Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Sunriver—offering incredible opportunities for stargazing all year long.

Each stargazing session at the Oregon Observatory begins with an educational program that explains what you’ll see, what to watch for, and what makes our region’s starry night skies so special. From there, you can gaze into the sky with help from the largest collections of telescopes for public viewing in the United States. Over the course of about two dazzling hours, on-site astronomers will help you identify planets, constellations, and other cosmic wonders in faraway galaxies.

A large telescope at the Oregon Observatory in Sunriver

#5: Exploring the Sunriver Nature Center

Of course, a daytime visit to Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory is rewarding for a variety of fun, fascinating, and educational reasons. Stop by for live animal exhibits (home to lizards, snakes, frogs, and more), a botanical garden with native plants and colorful wildflowers, a laid-back nature trail that shows off the region’s flora, educational activities led by friendly naturalists, and daytime viewing of our sun at the Oregon Observatory.

Family playing at Fort Rock Park in Sunriver, Oregon

#6: Enjoying Fort Rock Park

Kids of all ages find plenty to love about Fort Rock Park in the heart of Sunriver. The expansive park offers all the amenities you might need for an active day outdoors; that includes volleyball courts, nearly 20 well-maintained pickleball courts, outdoors-themed playground equipment (complete with a climbing wall designed to look like the region’s volcanic rock and tree-inspired coverings), horseshoe pits, picnic tables, basketball courts, grills, and plenty of open space to run around.

Recreational Activities

#7: Playing Golf at Sunriver Resort

Sunriver Resort hosts four golf courses that attract golfers from around the world. No matter their skill or experience levels, the golfers are all drawn by each course’s distinctive designs, sweeping views of nearby Cascade peaks, and natural features that show off the Central Oregon landscape.

The 18-hole, heathland-style Crosswater course was named one of America’s top 100 courses by Golf Digest; the 18-hole Meadows course was designed by renowned architect John Fought; the 18-hole Woodlands course, designed by course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr., incorporates Sunriver’s ponderosa pine forests into its layout; and the nine-hole Caldera Links course offers a relaxing experience for the whole family. When you’re ready to hit the links, check out our guide to the top golf courses in Sunriver.

Golfing at Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Oregon
Family fun at the SHARC in Sunriver, Oregon

#8: Swimming at SHARC Aquatic Center

Open all year long, SHARC | Sunriver offers several vacations worth of water-based fun—with heated indoor attractions throughout the year and outdoor amenities between mid-June and Labor Day. (No wonder a visit to SHARC is one of the top Sunriver, Oregon, activities.)

Indoor activities includes an adults-only hot tub, lap lanes, shallow pool, and game equipment (such as volleyball nets and basketball hoops); outdoors, you’ll enjoy two water slides, a lazy river, an aquatic jungle gym, a separate pool for youngins, lap lanes, and a grassy area for when you’d like to dry off and work on your tan.

Local Dining and Shopping

#9: Dining at Top Sunriver Restaurants

You’ll find a globetrotting selection of restaurants across Sunriver, all serving a mix of creative cuisines, down-home dishes, family-friendly selections, and high-end fare.

The Lodge Kitchen at Sunriver Resort, for instance, prides itself on crafting a rotating menu of Pacific Northwest-inspired flavors that changes often to reflect what’s fresh and in-season. The locally owned El Caporal Family Mexican Restaurant, meanwhile, offers a wide range of traditional dishes—such as enchiladas, burritos, and more—crafted from authentic recipes and using fresh ingredients. For good ol’ fashioned pub grub with an upscale twist, head to Sunriver Brewing Company—which puts its own spin on chicken sandwiches by adding hot honey, serving sliders made with hearty American Kobe beef, and topping its crisp green salad with whichever berries are in season at the moment.

Getting hungry? Learn more about the top restaurants in Sunriver, Oregon.

Sunriver Brewing Company in Sunriver, Oregon

#10: Shopping at The Village at Sunriver

Whether you forgot something at home or are looking for that perfect souvenir, chances are good you’ll find it at The Village at Sunriver, an open-air mall that’s home to nearly 20 shops and nearly a dozen acclaimed eateries.

There you’ll find locally owned stores selling pet supplies, a wide range of toys, the latest fashion trends, outdoor experiences, home decor, and plenty of hand-crafted items from Central Oregon-based producers.

For more fun in the area, discover Sunriver Resort and the many activities you’ll enjoy across the community all year long.

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