Sunriver is an aptly named town; the idyllic community soaks up tons of Central Oregon sun and has the mighty Deschutes River meandering through. It’s tough to not feel the magic of Sunriver when rays of light first break over the not-so-distant Cascade Mountain peaks and dance on the tips of ponderosa pines in the surrounding Deschutes National Forest. Central Oregon tours are popular for visitors and locals alike, and for good reason. With four distinct seasons, Sunriver is primed and ready for exploration any time of the year. From snowmobiling to horseback riding, here are the best ways to discover Sunriver.
1. Sunriver Horse Riding Tours and Trail Rides
Over the years, Central Oregonians have made it a tradition to raise and train horses, meaning many of these beautiful animals call this community home. You can experience Sunriver, and take part in an old tradition, by checking out these guided horseback tours.
The Sunriver Stables offer a few different horseback adventures, including one sleigh-drawn option for meandering through a winter wonderland. In the warmer months, the stables have a 45-minute tour through ponderosa pines, a 75-minute tour through the nearby meadows, pony rides for kids and the “Corral Ride” which is a hand-led experience for people who might not be comfortable controlling a horse on a trail.
Alternatively, head a bit south to the Three Rivers Equestrian Center, which offers a two-hour private session for more experienced riders with opportunities for trotting and cantering. This tour will lead you down the Deschutes River and offer shade in the nearby Deschutes National Forest, granting amazing views of the Cascade Mountains.
2. Sunriver Kayak and Paddleboarding Tours
With the Deschutes running right through town, a key part in planning your Sunriver vacation includes deciding how to explore the river. Luckily for visitors, that might be the toughest choice of the trip! Choose one way or try them all, but definitely don’t miss out on all the kayaking and standup paddleboarding (SUP) opportunities in Sunriver during the summer. A guided tour for tubing isn’t necessary, but there are many rental options and staff can always give tubers an idea of what to expect once floating the river.
The Marina at the Sunriver Resort is a great place to start a river paddle or float. The experienced staff will be sure to get your whole crew outfitted with the proper safety gear and trained on some quick river tips before setting off on your own adventure. The resort also offers a 6 mile float from the marina to the Benham Butte take-out. This scenic stretch of the Deschutes is devoid of any rapids, allowing SUPers to stay standing without any trouble. The float winds through forest and meadows and showcases the pristine natural surroundings. For canoes, kayaks and paddleboards, the float takes about two hours to complete, and comes with a shuttle service to get your crew back home safely.
Good 2 Go is a great choice for rentals of all kinds and has a large variety of watercraft to choose from. Great for adult kayakers with kids who are still learning, Good 2 Go offers something called a “croco-yak,” which is a wide and sturdy kayak, shaped like a crocodile, that helps kids learn how to paddle and traverse the river without the fear of flipping into the water. Think of these like training wheels on a bike, but for kayaks.
For more rental options, be sure to consider Sun Country Tours or the Sunriver Toyhouse, and don’t forget to grab a life jacket!
3. Sunriver River Rafting Tours
Similar to the kayak and paddleboard options above, floating the river through Surniver is mostly a DIY thing. White water rafting in Central Oregon is a popular activity, but the stretch of the Deschutes River in Sunriver is very calm. If you’re really looking for a guided white-water experience, you’ll have to leave Sunriver and head upriver. Luckily for you, Sun Country Tours offers guided white-water rafting trips that depart from Sunriver, making them super easy to include on your Sunriver vacation.
The Big Eddy Thriller, the Raft N’ Brew (the same float as the Big Eddy Thriller, plus beer tastings) and the North Umpqua Premier are all floats that depart from Sunriver, even if the bulk of the float takes your group through other nearby areas. Every float comes with a professional guide to help your group navigate the river, safely prepare you for rapids and even offer some interesting facts and stories along the way.
To float through Sunriver, check out the Sunriver Resort Marina, Central Oregon River Adventures and Sunriver Toyhouse for raft rental and shuttle options.
4. Off-Road ATV Tours in Sunriver
Exploring the rough side of Sunriver is definitely one of the top things to do in Central Oregon. An ATV can allow visitors to discover parts of the landscape that they never thought they would see, by allowing them to traverse uneven terrain with ease. Plus, it’s a thrill all on it’s own to take an off-roading machine out and discover its power. To get in on the action, check out some ATV tours of Sunriver.
Despite being called The Bend Tour Company, this tour company actually offers a two-hour guided ATV tour exclusively around Sunriver. This tour showcases breathtaking views of volcanic landscape, desert expanses and dense forests that can’t be seen anywhere else. Get the opportunity to see the Cascade Peaks and the Newberry Volcanic National Monument, all in one trip. This tour is offered in partnership with Outriders NW, another reliable ATV tour company.
For more rental options, check out Central Oregon Rentals and the Octane Rental Company.
5. Sunriver Snowmobile Tours
Who says Sunriver is just sun and river? Winter brings plenty of snow to town, and the average yearly snowfall is nearly 50 inches. Overnight, the town will sometimes transform into a winter wonderland, and what better way to explore the snow than from the back of a snowmobile, carving through powder like a hot knife through butter. Snowmobiling in Central Oregon can vary, as some people prefer to use the sled (snowmobile slang) as a transport vehicle to discover scenic viewpoints or head from lodge to lodge, and some prefer to take the beast into the backcountry for some powder play. Either way, there’s a Sunriver snowmobiling tour that fits.
A trusted name in the guided-tours game is Central Oregon Adventures; and when they say adventure, they mean it. Whether you select their two-hour or four-hour tours, your adrenaline will be pumping. These tours come with a professional guide, so you won’t waste any time reading a map as you are guided to secret areas, sweet spots and meadows of untouched powder where you can really experience the power a sled is capable of maneuvering through. Saying these tours are exhilarating would be an understatement, and they’ve got the numbers to prove it. COA’s tour sleds typically come back with two to three more miles clocked than their rental sleds, meaning most people end up riding much more with a guide there to assist along the way. Alternatively, for those seeking a more serene experience, feel free to discuss your expectations with your professional guide, who will cater the experience to your preferences. Want to just ride on the trails and explore scenic viewpoints? They’ve got your back.
For more fun rental options, check out Adventure Rentals LLC and Central Oregon Rentals. Both offer full-day rentals that allow you to truly explore this winter wonderland.
With all these tour options, there’s really no limit to exploring Sunriver! Have fun.
More inspiring stories, adventures, and tips & tricks for planning and experiencing the best Central Oregon has to offer.
Hot Springs in Central Oregon Near Bend and Beyond
Oregon is known for being an outdoor paradise; where else can travelers discover misty forests, snowy mountain peaks and vast desert expanses in one day? From the Cascade Mountains to the Painted Hills, volcanic activity has helped shape the many different landscapes of Oregon. Along with mountains and valleys, Oregon’s volcanic past helped create a host of hot springs scattered across the state. These hot springs are natural, hot pools of water—natural hot tubs. Some are more developed and have lodging nearby, while others feel completely remote and undiscovered. So whether it’s a soak under the stars in the high desert or a steamy pool in the forest, there’s a hot spring calling.
The High Desert Food Trail: Agriculture & Culinary Delights Await
A nibble, a nosh, or a feast: Visitors and locals alike can get a tasty sampling of the high desert by exploring the High Desert Food Trail, a self-guided journey through the region’s culinary and agriculture businesses. The trail aims to connect people to the many tastes of Central Oregon through experiences such as on-farm visits, stops at tasting rooms, artisan markets, restaurants and more.
The Ultimate Guide to Pumpkin Patches in Terrebonne, Oregon
Nothing signals the coming of fall quite like spending the day at a pumpkin patch. It’s tough to not feel the cozy spirit of the season when you’re solving a festive corn maze while bundled up and sipping a hot apple cider. Pumpkin patches in Central Oregon benefit from our desert climate and still get plenty of sunshine, even in late October. While smaller family farms all around the region will sometimes host fall events, the two most popular pumpkin patches both reside in Terrebonne: the Smith Rock Pumpkin Patch and the DD Ranch Pumpkin Patch.
Adventures Abound Starting at Sunriver Resort
Sunriver is the type of place that takes your breath away no matter what season it is. During the summer you can hop on a horse for your very own wild wild west experience. The team at Sunriver Stables will make you feel comfortable on your ride, even if you’ve never saddled up before. Whether you’re in a tube or a kayak, floating down the Deschutes River is a relaxing activity that’s fun for the whole family.
Winter Isn’t Only About Snow in Central Oregon
It’s true that when winter rolls around in Central Oregon, most people’s minds veer toward things to do in the snow. With Mt. Bachelor, Hoodoo, sno-parks and more, there’s plenty of options for folks to get out and play.
Get Your “Ah-Ha” Beer Moment at Sunriver Brewing Company
Central Oregon can claim more breweries than quite a few states. We’re not exaggerating. Our region has 30+ breweries. That shows how much we care about craft beer but, it can make it tough to choose where to taste local brews, we get it!
Sammies and Sandos: Central Oregon’s Best Sandwiches
Sometimes after a day full of adventure, all that you crave is a simple, yet delicious, stick-to-your-ribs sandwich. (And a beer, obviously.)
Central Oregon Hiking Trails
Head east on Highway 20 (Greenwood Avenue) to the Pilot Butte State Park. The parking area and trailhead are just east of the butte. Walk on either the nature trail or the paved road. The road is also for vehicle traffic, weather permitting. It is a wonderful viewpoint for the entire Bend area. This hiking trail is one of the most popular in Central Oregon.
Scenic Bikeways Showcase Central Oregon’s Backroad Beauty
Oregon’s official scenic bikeways are the first of their kind in the U.S – and Central Oregon is home to 6 of the state’s 11 most beautiful bike routes. An absolute summer must for road cyclists are riding the best of the best – our scenic bikeways. Every rider can find a ride to suit their style and mood, from family-friendly to adventurous.