Winter Isn’t Only About Snow in Central Oregon
Splashing through the snow
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.
On many days you can wake up to two or three inches of the white stuff out your window, but come lunchtime the snow’s gone, the temps have warmed up and it’s the perfect weather to get outside.
There’s something invigorating about hitting the pool when there’s a blanket of fresh snow on the ground. For starters, kids will take any chance they can to go swimming regardless of the temperature outside and nothing says “vacation” like a day at the pool.
Central Oregon has some great places to splash around all year, including the indoor pool at the SHARC aquatic center in Sunriver, at Juniper Swim and Fitness Center in Bend. Seventh Mountain Resort, Tetherow Resort and more have heated outdoor pools for their guests that will quickly have you forgetting what season it is.
Several of the hotels, including the Hampton Inn and Suites in the Old Mill District, have indoor pools as well. And there’s the unique experience of ornate Turkish bath at McMenamins Old St. Francis School in the heart of downtown Bend.
Yep, you read that right. Surfing in Central Oregon. In fact, you can do that in a couple different ways here.
For the truly adventurous, Bend’s Whitewater Park near the Old Mill District turns the tranquil waters of the Deschutes River into a whitewater adventure. The center channel of the park has four-wave features for emerging to expert whitewater enthusiasts. The features are created by twenty-six, underwater pneumatic bladders, natural and man-made riverbed conditions and dynamic river flows.
The sport – Flowriding is not just a ride, it is a sport… a 21st Century alchemy that has the look of surfing, the ride of snowboarding, the tricks of skateboarding, and boards derived from wakeboarding. Since the early ‘90s, the world’s best board riders have cross pollinated
into flowboarding. This new alternative board sport is taken seriously from the mountains to the sea.
Looking to take it up a notch? How about an afternoon surfing Oregon’s only indoor FlowRider wave machine! The Sunriver Fitness and Aquatic Center on Sunriver’s northern edge offers two-hour sessions for $20.
One of the most popular go-to hikes for folks during the winter is the Deschutes River trail near the Bill Healy bridge west of the Old Mill District. This gentle hike (it’s more like a walk on dirt than a “hike”) is a 3.5-mile loop up one side of the river, across a footbridge and back down the other. You can add some distance by parking in the Old Mill (a perfect place to grab a bite to eat or hot chocolate after your hike.)
A lot of locals also like to hike Pilot Butte’s trail in the winter. This is actually a pretty good hike – not long, just strenuous in that it’s quite a trek up to the top of this 480-foot butte located in the middle of town. The road is closed during the winter so you won’t have to worry about cars, but you should be careful of icy spots on the north-facing side if there’s been a recent snow.
And, of course, there’s the granddaddy of winter hiking spots – Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne. Winter might just be the best time to explore all of the hiking – and biking – options available because the park can get scorching hot during the summer months.
You can find more info on our “urban hikes” here.
Cycling wise, most mountain bikers head east of Bend for the best trail conditions during the winter. Complexes like Horse Ridge and Horse Butte stay snow free most of the winter except in rare cases and offer some great trails and amazing views of the area. Hikers and horses can also often be found at Horse Butte. You can combine several loops in the area for longer rides, but the Coyote Loop Trail-Arnold Ice Cave Trail loop is about 12 miles. Be sure to check out the Arnold Ice Cave as well – a super cool lava tube in the middle of the loop.
In Redmond, try the Radlands and in Sisters, some of the Peterson Ridge trail systems is rideable during the winter months too. You can also mountain bike the uber-scenic Smith Rock State Park. Prineville has some great backroads and mountain bike trails that are perfect for winter riding.
“If folks were coming to Prineville to ride a mountain bike I would push them to the Lower 66 trails at the Grade as you enter town coming into Prineville from Bend/Redmond,” said James Good, owner of Good Bike Co. in Prineville. “It is located in the south part of the Ochoco Wayside State Park. It is 66 acres that have roughly 3.5 miles of single track trails encompassing two loops and a connecting loop at the West end of the trails. Trails are for beginner to intermediate riders.”
Good Bike Co. is a great place to stop before you hit the trails – James is a wealth of information.
The Madras Mountain Views Scenic Bikeway is a rideable route for road cyclists in the winter because the 30-mile loop is entirely in the warmer climes of Jefferson County.
Several Central Oregon courses are open year-round, weather permitting and often the weather most certainly permits. I worked one winter at Lost Tracks Golf Club in Bend and we were open every single day. Sure, there were some really cold days and the greens froze over a few times, but the course stayed snow-free the entire season and we had players nearly every day.
In Bend, River’s Edge Golf Course is another popular winter golf destination; Prineville’s Meadow Lakes Golf Course is a popular winter spot even if there’s no snow in Bend. It’s a fun course and the weather’s usually a tad warmer the farther east you go.
Happy Hour Alfresco
Sure, it might be a little cold, but several of the region’s hot spots for dining/drinking outside have found ways to keep customers warm. Places like 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Crux Fermentation Project, McMenamins Old St. Francis School and others have firepits that only add to the already cool ambiance.
More inspiring stories, adventures, and tips & tricks for planning and experiencing the best Central Oregon has to offer.
Central Oregon Winter Adventures
WHEN THE SNOW FLIES, CENTRAL OREGON SHINES. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS CHOOSE YOUR ADVENTURE.
Panacea at the Canyon: Central Oregon’s Luxury, Off-the-Grid Retreat
Central Oregon has no shortages of places to unwind. From the banks of a high-alpine lake to a trail alongside the Deschutes River, you don’t have to go very far from your hotel room to find an escape from the real world.
How to Beat the High Desert Heat
During the dog days of summer, one of your best options to beat the heat is to head up to the high lakes and splash around. But when you’re on vacation with the family sometimes all you want to do is go and relax at the pool. Luckily, Central Oregon has a handful of great places to soak up the sun in between cooling off in the water.
Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway: Pull Off For a Central Oregon Adventure
The Cascade Lakes Scenic byway is one of the prettiest drives in the U.S. But it might be the most recreationally rich road you’ll ever drive too. From Bend southwest to the Highway 58 junction, the Oregon Route 372 cuts through 66 miles unique volcanic formations and geological beauty that offers everything that makes Central Oregon an outdoor lover’s paradise.
Casual Family Weekend in Sunriver
Imagine this: you’re riding your bike through a rolling meadow, the Cascade mountain range in the background, and the only sound is from the whir of a prop plane taking off against a crisp blue sky. Up ahead, your children pull carrots from their pockets and present them to a gathering of friendly horses in an adjacent pasture.
Beating the Heat Central Oregon Style: High Lakes & Lazy Rivers Keep You Cool
Whether it’s a relaxing mid-week paddle or a wild weekend float — one of the best ways to beat the summer heat in Central Oregon is to head for the Deschutes River. Winding through the Old Mill District in Bend, the Deschutes is a quick, easy way to cool off without doing too much work. You don’t even need your own floatie! Sun Country Tours rents tubes and paddleboards right where most people put in at Riverbend Park.
Bend Concert Season Heats up at Les Schwab Amphitheater
Central Oregon’s iconic music venue, the Les Schwab Amphitheater in Bend, is bigger and better than ever before after undergoing a major renovation.
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.)
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.
Lava Lands Visitor Center a Central Oregon Geologic Gem
In the late 1960s NASA looked for a place to send astronauts who were training for a mission that would change the world. But before the mission could happen, NASA needed a place to mimic what they believed those astronauts would find on the surface of the moon. Because, after all, nobody had been there before so nobody really knew what the surface of the moon was like.