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.

But with our high desert climate, there’s also plenty of opportunities for more “summer-like” activities like hiking, cycling and yes, even swimming and golf.

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.

Swimming

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.

Surfing

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.

Hiking

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

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.

Golf

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.

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