Central Oregon sits at the doorstep of the Cascade Range, which is blanketed every winter in a scenic blanket of snow—turning the region into a playground for locals and visitors alike.
Often, these play areas come in the form of Sno-Parks, which are exactly what they sound like: forested winter wonderlands where visitors can go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, hop on a snowmobile, or even try tubing and sledding on snowy hillsides. More often than not, these Sno-Parks are home to small warming shelters where visitors can step out of the cold and get cozy next to a roaring fire.
Dozens of Sno-Parks crisscross Central Oregon—from the outskirts of Bend to the foot of the Cascades. These are a few favorites:
Ready to get outside this winter? Here’s a guide to the Sno-Parks of Central Oregon:
Just 20 minutes southwest of downtown Bend via the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, Wanoga Snow Play Area Sno-Park is among the most popular wintertime destinations anywhere in Central Oregon.
Wanoga provides access to more than 180 miles of groomed trails that reach as far into the Cascade Range as Crescent Lake and Santiam Pass—making it a popular base camp for snowmobile adventures. But the park is also surrounded by dog-friendly trails, many of which are groomed for fat biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing in Central Oregon. Families with young children, meanwhile, enjoy frolicking on a dedicated tubing and sledding hill adjacent to the parking lot. After a fun-filled day outside, step into the park’s warming shelter to shake off winter’s chill and celebrate your adventures.
Dutchman Flat Sno-Park
Dutchman Sno-Park/Trailhead, better known to locals as Dutchman Flat Sno-Park, sits across the street from Mt. Bachelor and at the base of Tumalo Mountain—making it one of the region’s top destinations for dog-sledding, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing in Central Oregon.
After a 25-minute drive southwest of Bend via the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, visitors pull into a large parking area that affords access to a scattered network of paths that includes various trails specifically maintained for cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and snowmobilers. Cross-country trails, in particular, butt up against Todd Lake and afford views of Broken Top—and dedicated snowshoers enjoy the 1,400-foot trek up Tumalo Mountain. Friendly reminder: Dutchman Flat is not open to dogs in winter.
Ray Benson Sno-Park
Incredible views await at Ray Benson Sno-Park, which sits just 30 minutes northwest of Sisters—between Three Fingered Jack (to the north) and Mt. Washington (to the south).
The skinny spire of Mount Washington makes an appearance on bluebird days—and can be seen from along the park’s many snowmobiling, dog-sledding, and cross-country skiing trails. Those trails, splaying out into a thick forest of Douglas fir, also pass a trio of warming huts when you need a break from the cold. And if you’d like a warm meal, Hoodoo Ski Area is a three-minute drive away.
Virginia Meissner Sno-Park
For cross-country skiing enthusiasts, there is no more iconic wintertime destination in Central Oregon than Virginia Meissner Sno-Park/Trailhead, which sits just 20 minutes from Bend via the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway.
Roughly 47 km of cross-country trails are groomed daily between December and March, providing the ideal conditions for exploring the area’s ponderosa pine forests and diverse terrain. These trails, maintained by the nonprofit Meissner Nordic Ski Club, are geared toward skiers of all skill levels and lead to three warming huts. The park isn’t open to snowmobilers, giving the area a sense of calm and peace all season long.
Edison Butte Sno-Park
Edison Butte Sno-Park sits just 15 minutes northwest of Sunriver, making it a popular winter destination for visitors from the beloved resort community. Its location, away from the popular Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, helps the park maintain a quiet demeanor throughout the season.
The dog-friendly park hosts several well-marked trails for cross-country skiing, dog-sledding, and snowmobiling in Central Oregon, with options for beginners and experienced enthusiasts alike. And while the Edison Shelter is closed, the AC/DC Shelter can be accessed at the end of a Nordic skiing trail.
Skyliners Sno-Park, often shortened by locals to just “Skyliner”, is a bit different from most of the parks in this piece. It sits 15 minutes west of Bend via Skyliners Road and mostly exists as a trailhead for snowshoers and cross-country skiers wanting to visit the 97-foot-tall Tumalo Falls.
The well-marked trails parallel Tumalo Creek while passing through a forest of fir and pine, ending after about three miles at the base of the waterfall—never more dramatic than in winter, ringed by snow-covered trees and feeding the crystal-clear Tumalo Creek. Note that dogs are welcome (but must be leashed), and Sno-Park permits are not required.
Swampy Lakes Sno-Park
Known simply as “Swampy” by locals who love its cross-country skiing trails, Swampy Lakes Sno-Park sits about 20 minutes southwest of Bend and along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway.
Snowshoers and cross-country skiers who depart from the Swampy Lakes trailhead can ascend to the summit of Vista Butte, traverse several miles of groomed (and well-marked) trails, spy Broken Top through the forested treetops, and stop at a trio of warming shelters.
Photo credit: USDA Forest Service
Kapka Butte Sno-Park
Kapka Butte Sno-Park occupies one of the most idyllic locations in Central Oregon, where the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway (departing from Bend) meets Forest Service Road 45 (departing from Sunriver)—all in the shadow of a snow-capped Mount Bachelor.
That location (and those views) make it a popular stop among snowmobilers who use Kapka Butte as a staging ground for exploring the extensive trail network around La Pine and nearby Sunriver. And Kapka Butte’s close proximity to Vista Butte Sno-Park makes it a popular trailhead when the latter’s parking area fills to capacity on winter weekends.
Upper Three Creek Sno-Park
Just 20 minutes south of Sisters, Upper Three Creek Sno-Park sits surrounded by 14 miles of cross-country ski trails that combine to form numerous loops—making it easy to pick and choose outings suited to your skill level and free time; follow the Three Creek Lake Trail, in particular, to stop at the Jeff View Shelter—where views of the Three Sisters and Broken Top await. The park also hosts a mix of ungroomed and groomed trails for snowmobilers, as well.
Photo credit: USDA Forest Service
Oregon Sno-Park Permits
Keep in mind that Central Oregon Sno-Parks (and those across the state) require a Sno-Park Parking Permit in winter. The permits help fund maintenance and upkeep on these winter playgrounds—and must be displayed whenever you’re parked at a Sno-Park between November 1 and April 30.
An Oregon Sno-Park pass runs $4 for a day pass, $9 for a three-day (consecutive) permit, and $25 for a season-long pass. Oregon Sno-Park Permits are available online, as well as at sporting-goods stores, local retailers (such as REI), and certain resorts; most Sno-Parks don’t have self-pay stations, so you’ll want to buy one before waxing your skis and hitting the road.
For more inspiration, learn about the top winter activities in Central Oregon.
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Central Oregon is a dog owner’s paradise, and Redmond is no exception. Around the city, you’ll find a thoughtfully designed dog park at the end of a hiking and biking trail (showing that our regional affinity of the outdoors is matched only by a love for our four-legged friends), another dog park that serves regional craft beer to human companions and spacious restaurants with plenty of outdoor seating for tired dogs after an exciting day outside.
Best Waterfalls Around Bend That Are Worth Seeing
Arguably Bend’s most popular waterfall hike, Tumalo Falls is only a 30 minute drive from town up Skyliners Road to Forest Road 4603. When the falls are open in the summer, it’s an easy quarter-mile hike on the North Fork Trail. The trail–paved and wheelchair accessible at the observation deck–leads visitors to views of the spectacular 97-foot waterfall.
Central Oregon shines in the wintertime—and, luckily, there’s plenty of time to enjoy it: The Cascades can enjoy their first dusting of snow as early as September, and Mt. Bachelor—the region’s most popular ski resort—may remain open until Memorial Day. Even away from the mountains, snow is routinely in the seven-day forecast throughout winter in the likes of Bend, Sunriver, La Pine, and other lower-elevation communities around the region.