What to Bring on Your Next Central Oregon Hike

With Cascade peaks dotting our skyline and clear mountain lakes enticing paddlers — not to mention thick forests, craggy volcanic features, and wide-open deserts all comprising our landscapes — there are several summers’ worth of outdoor experiences to enjoy around Central Oregon.

But before you hit the trail this season, make sure you’re prepared. Here’s what to bring — and what to know about making the most of your next Central Oregon hike (whether it’s your first or 101st).

Grab the Right Gear

You never know what the weather will bring in Central Oregon: Snow may linger on trails well into July, while toasty temperatures in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness Area may give way to surprise snowstorms in the Three Sisters Wilderness — even at the height of summer. So while we may enjoy nearly 300 days of sunshine per year, it’s never a bad idea to arrive prepared.

The Mountaineers, a Pacific Northwest-based advocacy group, have established the 10 Essentials that all hikers should bring on their outings for the safest possible experience. In no particular order, those are:

    • Map
    • Compass
    • Sunglasses and sunscreen
    • Extra clothing
    • Headlamp or flashlight
    • First-aid supplies
    • Firestarter
    • Matches
    • Knife
    • Extra food

Not on the list but also a good idea: water. Bring more than you think you’ll need, since those sunny days and intense inclines can dehydrate even the heartiest of hikers.

Time Your Hike Right

There’s no worse feeling than circling a hike in your favorite guide, heading out for the day, and arriving at the trailhead … only to find a parking lot filled to capacity.

Fortunately, a few tips can help you time your hike right and enjoy a fun day on the trail.

Check in with official organizations: Don’t be shy about reaching out to the U.S. Forest Service or Oregon State Parks — whichever organization manages your preferred trail — to see how busy it might be. Friendly rangers can offer recommendations for when to visit, what to know, and which nearby hikes to consider if your preferred destination is crowded that day.

Aim for midweek: If you can push your hike to Monday or Tuesday, chances are good you’ll enjoy more solitude on the trail.

Go early — or late: Try to arrive at your desired trailhead by 9 a.m. (no matter the day of the week), or opt for a late-afternoon hike (starting at 3 or 4 p.m.) if daylight and weather conditions allow. 

Plan a late-season outing: It’s a bit of a local secret: Central Oregon enjoys some of its most pleasant temperatures in September and October, just before the season’s first snowfall and just after families have returned home for the back-to-school rush. Crisp, dewy mornings generally give way to comfortable afternoons this time of year — and chances are good you’ll have the ideal conditions all to yourself.

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