Click here for current wildfire information in Central Oregon including up-to-date conditions and restrictions.

Top Things to Do In and Near Madras

The city of Madras was formed in the early 1900s by a loose-knit collection of dreamers and optimists who wanted to see the region’s burgeoning rail system roll through the nascent community. Their efforts prevailed—but more than a century later, the railroad is a footnote in the agricultural-minded community’s history. Still, dreamers continue flocking to the city of nearly 8,000, enchanted by its outdoor adventures, natural beauty, and fascinating history.

The fun around Madras includes short hikes to stunning waterfalls, colorful gardens that recall the city’s roots as a farming community, and museums that cover a wide range of regional and worldwide history.

Here are seven fun things to do in Madras, Oregon:

Read on for more—and to start making plans to visit Madras, Oregon, soon.

Outdoor Adventures

a couple sitting, looking at the waterfall

#1: Hiking Steelhead Falls

Stretch your legs with a short hike to Steelhead Falls, a small cascade in the lower Deschutes River and one of the best things to do in Madras, Oregon.

Steelhead Falls, less than 40 minutes southwest of Madras, can be accessed via a one-mile (round-trip) hike. The mostly flat footpath—one of Central Oregon’s most popular short hiking trails—follows the rocky banks of the Deschutes River while passing in the shadow of khaki-colored cliffs and striking rock formations. Before long, it arrives at a viewpoint that overlooks the 20-foot waterfall as it tumbles over a rocky, moss-covered shelf and into the river.

The waterfall is a can’t-miss attraction in all four seasons, but springtime rewards hikers with a thundering display (since Steelhead Falls is fed by seasonal rain and snowmelt), wildflower displays, and occasional sightings of golden eagles as they soar overhead. Between spring and fall, keep an eye out for resident rattlesnakes that can occasionally be found along the trail.

Excited to learn about other outdoor adventures in the area? Check out our guide to warm-weather fun in Madras

#2: Water Activities at Lake Billy Chinook

The manmade Lake Billy Chinook, created after construction of the Round Butte Dam in 1964, occupies a unique place in the Central Oregon landscape—where the Crooked, Deschutes, and Metolius rivers come together about 25 miles southwest of Madras.

Today, the lake sits within a rocky river canyon, formed by millions of years of volcanic activity, and is surrounded by The Cove Palisades State Park. The popular park hosts nearly 300 tent and RV sites—making it one of Central Oregon’s most popular campgrounds and a convenient base camp for water activities on Lake Billy Chinook.

Head to Cove Palisades Resort and Marina for a wide range of watercraft rentals—from kayaks and stand-up paddleboards to more extravagant offerings like ski boats, houseboats, pontoons, party barges, and more.

On your way back from the lake, celebrate your adventures with friends and family at some of the top Mexican restaurants in Redmond and Madras.

Boating at Lake Billy Chinook near Madras, Oregon
Walking through the field at Cascade Lavender Farm near Madras, Oregon

#3: Visit the Cascade Lavender Farm

Step out of Central Oregon and into a colorful fairy tale at Cascade Lavender Farm, an idyllic  getaway and one of the top things to do near Madras, Oregon.

At the family-run Cascade Lavender Farm, just eight miles southwest of the city, you’ll find roughly 4,000 lavender plants—representing dozens of varieties of the fragrant flower—that blossom between late June and early August. Fun on the farm includes U-pick opportunities, dazzling display gardens, a gift shop, a curated plant nursery, friendly alpacas, and more. To the west, Cascade peaks rise above the farm and provide a picturesque backdrop to the magical setting.

Family-Friendly Attractions

#4: Madras East Hills Trails & Madras Bike Park

Less than two miles east of Madras, where the city landscape gives way to expansive high desert, sits Madras East Hills Trails—a beloved trail network that welcomes intrepid mountain bikers all year long.

The Madras East Hills Network comprises fast, flowy, cross country-style paths that include a crowd-pleasing mix of speedy descents and a wide range of technical features. On the area’s rolling hills, mountain bikers of all experience levels encounter berms, jumps, wood features, paved corners, and other challenges for an exciting ride. The somewhat sandy trail surfaces offer excellent riding conditions in fall, winter, and spring.

In the heart of town, meanwhile, is Madras Bike & Skate Park—where new and experienced BMX riders can practice tricks and jumps in bowls, on rails, and through other fun obstacles.

Whichever you enjoy, make it part of a memorable weekend or a fun Central Oregon day trip to Madras.

#5: Swimming at the Madras Aquatic Center (MAC)

Active kids of all ages find plenty to love at Madras Aquatic Center (MAC), which hosts all manner of water-based activities, fitness classes, and more on the community’s eastside.

As the name implies, the aquatic offerings are the stars at the MAC—undoubtedly one of the most fun things to do in Madras, Oregon. Attractions include a 25-yard lap pool, leisure pool and lazy river, 100-foot-long water slide, diving board, hot tub, and a rope swing for the adrenaline-seeking swimmers among us. Parents with new swimmers can take advantage of Toddler Time, when family-oriented pool time is dedicated to helping children 5 and younger acclimate to the water.

Other fun activities include gym sports, fitness classes, and more. Soak it all in while enjoying panoramic views of Mount Bachelor, Mount Jefferson, and other Cascade peaks to the west.

Madras Aquatic Center in Madras, Oregon

Cultural and Historical Experiences

Erickson Aircraft Collection in Madras, Oregon

#6: Visiting the Erickson Aircraft Collection

Check out one of the largest privately owned collections of vintage war planes in the world at Erickson Aircraft Collection, which sits on the northern edge of Madras and next to the city’s municipal airport.

The displays represent the passion of Jack Erickson, who in 1983 started collecting rare, vintage planes that date back to World War II. Today, the collection spans nearly 30 aircraft—most of which are still in flying condition—and is open to the public all year long. Every August, the museum hosts the Airshow of the Cascades—which includes a vintage aircraft fly-in, motorcycle show, antique car show, and a variety of family activities.

#7: Exploring the Museum at Warm Springs

Some 14 miles north of Madras, in the community of Warm Springs, is The Museum at Warm Springs—which explores, in depth, the past, present, and future of the region’s tribes.

The captivating museum shares the history and culture of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs—made up of the Wasco, Warm Springs, and Paiute peoples—through vintage photographs, colorful beadwork, intricate basketry displays, multimedia exhibits, replica lodgings, and more. Numerous interpretive panels cover a variety of important topics—from historic treaty negotiations to how Native Americans are portrayed in pop culture today.

Museum at Warm Springs in Warm Springs, Oregon

Other stories

More inspiring stories, adventures, and tips & tricks for planning and experiencing the best Central Oregon has to offer.

  • Top Mexican Restaurants in Redmond and Madras
    Top Mexican Restaurants in Redmond and Madras

    The Central Oregon food scene has earned acclaim in recent years, thanks to an invigorating mix of creative food carts, fashionable fine-dining restaurants, and a growing number of globetrotting eateries that feature authentic cuisine from around the world. That eclectic selection includes a variety of taquerias and Mexican restaurants in Redmond and Madras, both of which host homegrown eateries that craft a mix of classic dishes, modern flavors, and innovative entrées.

  • Warm-Weather Fun in Madras, Oregon
    Warm-Weather Fun in Madras, Oregon

    Central Oregon is a treasure of towns with endless good times and secret spots that are not to be missed. Take Madras, Oregon, with its population of 7,000 people and convergence of two canyons from the Crooked River and the Deschutes River. It’s a magical setting with lots of wildlife, interesting sights you won’t find anywhere, and views for days.

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

  • Madras

    Whether you’re spending the day or staying the night, you’ll find no shortage of things to do in Madras, Oregon—from outdoor recreation to craft food and beer to one of Central Oregon’s most colorful lavender farms. Here are a few ideas for enjoying your time in Madras.