Outward Bound in the City: Central Oregon’s 5 Best Urban Hikes

Hiking in Central Oregon can take you deep into the wilderness, far away from worry and stress. But sometimes all you need is a quick break from reality…just a half hour or so outside in nature, on a trail, alone with your thoughts (or with your dog, husband and two kids.) There are hundreds of hikes and trails available in and around Bend, Oregon and Sunriver, Oregon. These “Urban Hikes” are the perfect remedy to slow down our all-too-busy lives.

Pilot Butte State Park in Bend, Oregon

Pilot Butte Trail

Pilot Butte State Park, Bend
Two miles roundtrip | Easy
More than a century ago, Pilot Butte served as a beacon of sorts, guiding wagon train travelers to the Bend area and a manageable crossing of the Deschutes River, said to be located around the area of Farewell Bend Park. Today the dormant cinder cone is a year round destination for Bend residents and visitors who seek out this urban hike. Signage on Hwy. 20 guides visitors to an ample parking area and large park complete with playground area for young visitors. From there follow the signs to the trail head at the base of the cone.

Take a moment to survey the names and ages of the men and women, as well as boy and girls, who ascended the steep spiral path in record setting time. Set your stopwatch and track your progress to get an appreciation of their accomplishments. Follow the well maintained walking trail as it circles the butte. It’s a roughly 1 mile climb to the summit which rises some 500 feet above the surrounding terrain. From the top you can enjoy panoramic views of the Cascade Range to west, the Ochocos to the East and Smith Rock State Park to the north. Catch your breath and double back the way you came. If you’ve worked up an appetite, consider dropping by the namesake Pilot Butte Drive-In just across the street for a milkshake and burger that are second to none, after all this is an urban hike.

Deschutes River on the River Trail in Bend Oregon
View from the footbridge on the Deschutes River Trail.

Deschutes River Trail/Bill Healy Loop

Farewell Bend Park, Bend
Three miles round-trip | Easy
Thanks to the shared efforts of many community members and the leadership of the Bend Park District, Bend offers multiple places along Deschutes River corridor for visitors to hike, bike and play. Foremost among those is the popular loop from Farewell Bend Park at the Bill Healy Bridge to a footbridge roughly 1.5 miles upstream.

Formerly an out and back trail, the park district closed the loop, so to speak on this trail, shortly after construction of the Healy bridge. Today walkers can start on either side of the Healy Bridge and hike upstream into a narrowing canyon that is marked by soaring ponderosa pines along the river banks and steep lava tuff walls.

Keep your eyes open for eagles and osprey and other wildlife that make the Deschutes River their home. While hikers can and often do turn back before the bridge, it’s well worth extra steps. When you reach the bridge pause for a minute and contemplate that you are still standing inside the city limits of Bend as water rushes under your feet.

Dry Canyon Trail

Four-mile round-trip | Paved, Easy
Redmond isn’t blessed with all of Bend’s geographic diversity or riverfront access, but the area is not without its natural attributes — one of the most notable of which is the Dry Canyon Trail.  The four-mile paved pathway meanders from the so-called Spud Bowl area near Redmond Senior High north toward the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Since it opened more than a decade ago, the trail has become a popular destination for residents and visitors, providing a perfect backdrop for an afternoon stroll. As the name implies the trail is framed by lava cliff walls that once hemmed in an ancient river, the bed of which forms the general trail route. There are several access points, the most popular and accessible of which is found at Redmond’s Bowlby Park, about a mile north from the trail’s southern terminus.

Shevlin Park Trail

Tumalo Creek Trail (2.5 miles) Loop Trail (6 miles) | Moderate
The crown jewel of Bend’s park system, Shevlin is host to a variety of activities from wedding and family fishing at Aspen Hall to picnics, trail running and even mountain biking. The expansive forested park is open year round but best enjoyed from late spring through early fall when the long shadows of the soaring Ponderosa pine trees, left mercifully intact during Bend’s long ago logging frenzy, create an oasis for runners and hikers seeking to escape the midday sun.

Shevlin Park near Bend, Oregon

If you do overheat, relief is as close as a quick dunk of your head in the icy waters of Tumalo creek that rush down from the Deschutes National Forest  toward the junction with the Deschutes River below Bend. Located just west of Bend, visitors will find ample parking at park’s main entrance just beyond the bridge over Tumalo Creek. Runners and bikers can also try the small parking area in the Shevlin Commons neighborhood which offers quick access to a bike and runner friendly spur that follows the ridgeline through the Awbrey Hall burn area before dropping into the forested park and into the adjoining national forest.

Whychus Creek Canyon Trail

Six miles (out and back) | Intermediate

Like the Shevlin Park route, this trail isn’t technically “in-town” but it’s well worth the short jaunt down Elm Street from downtown Sisters. Located about four miles from the bustling Western themed storefronts, the trailhead is just off Highway 16 on the road to Three Creeks Lake. The out-and-back route follows Whychus Creek as it tumbles down from the shoulders of the Cascade Range, and includes waterfall views. The hiking-only trail is dog friendly and winds through a second generation pine forest and into the sub-alpine Manzanita. The trail includes some light scrambling over a basalt flow and down some relatively steep ascents and descents around the river, but isn’t beyond the technical abilities of most moderately fit hikers. The entire trail is a six-mile roundtrip, but trekkers can turn back wherever they like – the second waterfall at mile two making a good spot. If you’ve made good time and have a few minutes to spare, you can take a load off at the Three Creeks Brewing in Sisters where a Knotty Blonde ale and a heaping plate of Black Butte nachos are a great way to finish any afternoon.

Getting Around the “Typical” Round of Golf

Scaled Down Golf, Big Time Fun

Back in the Don Draper era it may have been acceptable, nay commonplace, for husbands to disappear for whole days on the fairways. For most modern dads that’s neither realistic nor desirable. The reality is that the family dynamic has changed and golf habits have changed with it. Fear not. Leave the five-hour rounds for your buddies trip or the birthday weekend. There is plenty of great family friendly golf (Yes there is such a thing) to be had in Central Oregon.

What follows is a rundown of some of our favorite alternatives to the traditional round. It’s still golf, just without the big hit to your wallet or your ego.

The Old Back 9

Sunset Green

A well-manicured executive course on the south end of Bend, The Old Back 9 might be the perfect course for families in Central Oregon. Situated between mature pines in the Mountain High neighborhood, the course is great fun for all skill levels–from experienced to junior golfers. The 9-hole layout offers the ability to get a round in quickly, which is conducive to the active lifestyle of Bend residents and visitors alike. It’s also one of the best deals in the region with tee times available for about $25.

The Greens at Redmond:

greens at redmond

This 18-hole executive course was designed by Robert Muir Graves, whose award-winning work can be found around the West, including Central Oregon where he designed Black Butte Ranch’s Big Meadow Championship course and the challenging River’s Edge Golf Club in the heart of Bend. While there’s a heaping of Par 4’s on this course, you can leave the driver at home. The premium is on accuracy, placement and a stress-free round that can be completed in under three hours.

Smith Rock Golf Course:

One of the area’s only true Par 3 courses, this Redmond course features nine holes and a full driving range. With peak rates of $10 per round, this is a great way to introduce a friend or family member to the game, or squeeze some golf into a day that is packed with other activities. For an additional twist, keep an eye out for their after-hours, glow-in-the-dark ball events.

Caldera Links:

Caldera Links in Sunriver, Oregon

The newest addition to the family of Sunriver golf courses is this intriguing nine-hole Par 3 layout. Caldera was designed by Sunriver’s Jim Ramey and renowned golf course architect Bob Cupp who also laid out the adjacent Crosswater championship course. The semi-private course is reserved for the use of Sunriver guests, Crosswater members and Caldera Springs homeowners. However, given the great stay and play options, this is worth a look for locals and visitors alike. Best of all, kids under 12 play free with an adult.

Sunriver Putting Course:


Designer John Fought gives the amusement park putt-putt course a four-star makeover with this nine-hole putting course. Your Pro V1 ball and Odyssey putter won’t look out of place on the miniature bent-grass fairways of this layout. Conveniently located between the 18th Green and the “19th hole” in the resort lodge, the putting course is a great way to settle any undecided bets or just wind down after a round. Oh yeah, kids love it, too!

Tetherow’s Twilight Par 3:

View of club house from green at Tetherow in Bend, Oregon

Perhaps not officially a Par 3 courses, the driving range at Tetherow is once a month transformed into a nine-hole pitch and putt course. While it’s best to call ahead to confirm the exact time and dates, the event, which includes a patio BBQ, is usually held on the first Monday of the month during the late afternoon and evening. “The kids basically have the run of the course,” said assistant pro Kelly Wachter.

Central Oregon Indoor Golf:

So you want to play Pebble Beach’s Spyglass. There’s just one problem: you’ve got a $30 budget and no vacation time in the bank. Solution: Central Oregon Indoor Golf where time, money and travel are no barrier. Thanks to the wonders of technology, any golfer can experience St. Andrews or Augusta with the push of a button. This is a great way to whittle away a few hours in a fantasy golf world and a consolation prize for would-be golfers stymied by inclement weather.

Central Oregon’s Five Must-Do Waterfall Hikes

A shortlist of the area’s most scenic and accessible waterfalls

Paulina Falls/Ted Taylor

Paulina Falls

If you’re on a waterfall tour, this is a good place to start. Located inside the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, southeast of Sunriver, this is the only waterfall east of Hwy. 97. The area is epicenter of the cataclysmic eruption that formed many of the Bend area’s notable geologic features. Today, the Newberry Caldera remains a hotbed of geothermal activity as evidenced by the multiple hot springs found around the area. You could spend days exploring the interior of this scenic shield volcano, and its twin lakes, but it takes just a few minutes to hike from the visitors center down to Paulina Falls on Paulina Creek. If you happen visit in the offseason, you may just catch a glimpse of local ice climbers ascending the frozen plume, ice axes in hand and crampons strapped to their feet.

Benham Falls/Dillon Falls

Accessed via the Deschutes River Trail, these falls are formed by the lava channels created during a series of eruptions of Mt. Newberry that concluded roughly 7,000  years ago. While Benham is the main attraction, it’s worth dedicating a few hours to a river trail exploration. Those who venture beyond the Benham Falls overlook are rewarded with views of dramatic landscape shaped by boiling lava and churning water that is perhaps more readily associated with a Hawaiian coastline than an Oregon forest. Massive lava beds of angular obsidian  stubbornly resist the push of the powerful river, hemming it into a narrow channel filled with drops and pools that includes Dillon, Benham and Lava Island Falls.

Tumalo State Park in Central Oregon

Tumalo Falls

This may be the most photographed waterfall in all of Central Oregon, and for good reason. The falls pour dramatically off a rock ledge, dropping nearly 100 feet crashing noisily  into a small pool below. There the frenzied water molecules pause briefly to gather themselves, before continuing their journey northward toward the confluence with the Middle Deschutes River. But for a few short second they hang in majestic splendor, seemingly created solely for the camera’s eye. If you’ve got the time and the lungs, don’t stop here. Follow the hiking and biking trail west toward the Bridge Creek Watershed where you’ll find a handful of smaller falls just waiting to be explored.


Steelhead Falls on the Deschutes River in Central Oregon

Steelhead Falls

Another destination off the beaten path, Steelhead Falls rewards those willing to explore.  The somewhat remote falls are located on a lightly trafficked section of the Middle Deschutes that is accessed through Crooked River Ranch. The area is designated as a Wilderness Study Area and is managed for its wild and scenic values, including a ban on motorized travel and development. While signage to the area has improved over the years, it helps to familiarize yourself with the directions in advance, as there is no direct route to the parking area. Once there however, you’ve got miles of trails through the pristine canyon to explore. Head north, downriver, along the hiking trail roughly ¾ mile to find the falls. The picturesque plunge falls drop dramatically into a cauldron like pool. If you’re visiting in the summer months, bring plenty of water and sunscreen, as the canyon can be as inhospitable as it is breathtaking.

Fall River Falls

You won’t find any highway signs leading to this oft overlooked spot on the Fall River. But it’s worth a short detour, if you’re on your way to or from Mt. Bachelor or spending time in the Sunriver area. To reach the falls, take South Century Drive out of Sunriver to the W. Deschutes River Road, a gravel road that’s found west of the Robert Maxwell Bridge on the Deschutes River and east of the Fall River fish hatchery.

When you find the gravel road, follow it to the parking area near the bridge. Make sure to have your Deschutes Forest Pass, as it’s required in this neck of the woods. Look for the trailhead on the near side of the bridge and follow the path roughly half a mile to falls. Here the gin clear waters tumble dramatically into a broad basalt-lined pool before the river resumes its journey westward to the nearby Deschutes. It’s a perfect spot for a picnic on a summer day or just a stroll and photo op.


Central Oregon Golf: Best Par 3s

Lost Tracks, 16th Hole

Play a good golf course and chances are that when you’re back at the 19th hole, you’re talking about the Par 3s. The short one you made double on. The bear where you snaked in a 20-footer for your only birdie all month. They’re the “short” holes that can make or break a round. Some of the signature holes on the Central Oregon Golf Trail are Par 3s. Here’s a look at some of the best.

8th hole on The Fazio Course at Pronghorn in Bend, Oregon
Pronghorn (Fazio Course,) 8th Hole

Pronghorn #8 (Fazio Course)

Perhaps the most memorable Par 3 in Central Oregon is found on the Fazio course at Pronghorn where a combination of geography and determination conspired to create this downhill Par 3 that is flanked by a pair of giant lava caves. The yawning entrances are located in a deep swale between the tee box and hanging green. A quick pit stop to stop and explore the large tunnels is mandatory for all first time players. (Provided you don’t hold up the group behind you.)

Landscape of 17th hole at Tetherow near downtown Bend, Oregon
Tetherow, 17th Hole

Tetherow # 17

Dubbed the “Pumice Pit” hole, this dramatic hole at Tetherow in Bend finds golfers staring down to a green that is nestled in the belly of a natural pumice pit. Club selection is a matter of taste here. The hole plays shorter than the yardage and offers players areas to bail out both left and long where the steep walls tend to feed slightly wayward shots onto the multi-tiered green.

River’s Edge #16

At 210 yards from the middle tees, this hole at River’s Edge plays another 150 feet downhill. The resulting tee shot feels like you’re hitting a ball off the top of a building to a flag that is located on a green in an adjacent zip code. Take a moment to breathe in the Bend skyline and distant view of Smith Rock State Park, take at least one less club than the distance would suggest and make a confident swing. The good news is that if you go left, the steep bank will feed everything down to the green below.

Sunriver Resort Meadows Course #6

The signature hole on the Sunriver Meadows golf course is a classic mid-iron Par 3. Designer John Fought used not only the natural terrain but also the skyline to create this memorable hole where the green frames a perfect postcard image of nearby Mt. Bachelor. While not overly long, the superintendent and crew are fond of tucking the pin just behind the front right bunker, just goading players to be overly aggressive.

Bend Golf and Country Club #3

Bend’s original gof course was designed by the renowned Oregon amateur golfer and architect H. Chandler Egan who laid out the front nine holes in 1925. The parkland style layout winds through the soaring pines on the property. Among the many memorable holes in the design is the Par 3 third. A forced carry over water to a dramatic multi-tiered green evokes some of the other classic courses of the era. (Think a certain course in Augusta, GA) Keep your eye’s peeled for a resident fox that’s been known to dart across the green and snatch up the occasional Titleist without so much as a courtesy mark.

Pronghorn Nicklaus Course

Pronghorn #7 (Nicklaus Course)

Jack Nicklaus didn’t so much build a golf course at Bend’s Pronghorn resort as construct an amazing piece of landscape architecture upon which golf can be played. Emerald greens and fairways contrast with an ochre and sage desert landscape creating a bent grass oasis of sorts. The Par 3 seventh hole is no exception. Here players face a short forced carry to a shallow green, placing a premium on club selection and accuracy.

Black Butte Ranch Glaze Meadow #5

The newly redesigned Glaze Meadow Course at Black Butte Ranch opened last summer to universally positive reviews. A classic mountain style golf course, nearly all of the holes at Glaze Meadow are lined by towering pine trees and you’re likely to see more deer traffic than vehicle traffic around this track.  One of several water holes on the course, the fifth is a medium length Par 3 guarded by water right and left that calls for a confident tee shot. A small bridge crossing over a creek completes this scenic shotmakers’ hole.

View of lake, greens and Cascades in Sisters, Oregon

Aspen Lakes #8 (Sisters)

The indigenous red sand bunkers and verdant fairways contrast beautifully with the looming Three Sisters peaks at this phenomenal track outside Sisters. The second Par 3 on the front nine at Aspen Lakes plays just 145 yards from the middle tees, making this a great scoring opportunity as players close out the front side. However, it’s not so much the shot as the view of the nearby glacier clad peaks that makes this such a memorable hole.

Eagle Crest Resort Course #7 (Redmond)

During charity golf events, this hole is a favorite among organizers to serve as the big hole in one prize. I’ve never heard of anyone driving away with a new car, however. There’s probably a reason for that. Most casual golfers have better luck finding the water than they do the green on this picturesque Par 3. Club down at least one loft and make a good swing. Anything within 30 feet is a great shot.

Widgi Creek Golf Club #5

One of the shortest on the list, but also one of the toughest. When the pin’s in front left location, this little 140-yarder appears tame enough. But with a cart path and OB dangerously close left, a double trunked tree long and a steep slope to the right, the margin of error here is minimal. When they throw the pin in the back portion of this “L” shaped green, the hole can play as long as 160 yards. The landing area closes in from front to back there, leaving only about five paces to the right and five paces to the left to cozy the ball up close. Two-putting here might be the highlight of your round.

Black Butte Ranch Big Meadow #17

Playing 211 yards from the middle tees, this tough set-up hole was designed to tilt your scorecard away from par. Short hitters might opt to pull out a hybrid here to give themselves a chance at par. Whatever, your handicap anything on the green is a good result. Make your two-putt and move onto the finishing hole.

View of snow covered mountains from Juniper Golf Course in Redmond, Oregon

Juniper Golf Club #3

Before his untimely death at 53, John Harbottle III designed some of the most interesting and acclaimed golf courses in the Northwest including the often overlooked Juniper Golf Club in Redmond. Winding through lava rock outcroppings and dotted with its namesake ancient junipers, the golf course is a stern test of golf at every turn. The Par 3 third isn’t among the most difficult holes, but a deep green can drastically affect club selection and anything left short or right will find a deep green side bunker where it can be tough to get up and down. This is a birdie hole where par still feels like a good score.

16th hole at Lost Tracks Golf Club in Bend
Lost Tracks, 16th Hole

Lost Tracks #16

Reminiscent of the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, the 16th at Lost Tracks requires a only a short iron shot to an island green. That doesn’t stop most casual players from leaving it in the drink. A wet Titleist isn’t the only thing most players leave behind. A repurposed railroad car serves as the walking bridge to the island green. Inside the old sleeper car you’ll find literally thousands of bag tags from courses around the world left behind by previous players as a memento of their round.

Meadow Lakes Golf Club, Prineville
Meadow Lakes Golf Club, Prineville

Meadow Lakes #13 (Prineville)

Designed by renowned Canadian Architect Bill Robinson, Meadow Lakes serves dual purposes. It’s one of Prineville’s premier recreational draws hosting tens of thousands of rounds each year as well as numerous amateur golf events. But the course has a more practical function. The more than dozen ponds around the course are part of the city’s wastewater reclamation process. If you’re thinking, ‘wow, what a stink.’ Well, you’re wrong. The water has already been treated before it reaches the ponds that serve as settling areas. Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about whether to fish your tee ball out of the hazard on the Par 3 13th hole. It’s mercifully dry, but plenty challenging at 180 yards. Soaring rimrock canyons overhead, the Crooked River on your flank. Can’t think of a better place for a birdie. Can you?

Crosswater #13

Dubbed “Osprey” by course designers John Fought and Bob Cupp, this short par 3 hole is famous for the namesake nest near the tee box. Depending on the year, it can be occupied by either an osprey or bald eagle nesting pair. Golfers are likely to get a glimpse at these majestic birds of prey before they let their tee shots fly. Add in mountain views, multiple crossing of the little Deschutes River and it’s no wonder why Golf Digest has consistently named Crosswater a Top 100 course.

Greens at Widgi Creek Golf Club in Bend, Oregon
Widgi Creek Golf Club, 11th Hole

Widgi Creek Golf Club #11

This is one of the toughest in the region. From the front men’s tees it’s a 166-yard shot to a 3-tiered green guarded by water and a huge bunker in front.  Miss left and you’re in the trees with a tough pitch to an elevated green.  Miss short and you might roll back into the drink. A par here is a worth raising a pint when the round’s over.

The 13th Hole at Awbrey Glen Golf Course in Bend, Oregon

Awbrey Glen Golf Club #13

A solid mid-iron shot plays slightly downhill to a green that is hemmed in by a lava rock outcropping and guarded by a pair of white sand bunkers. This gem of a par 3 is the signature hole on the course but just one of many memorable shots on this fun course at the foot of Awbrey Butte.


Central Oregon Golf: Toughest Par 4s

Fairway on Crosswater Club golf course in Sunriver, Oregon
Crosswater Club’s 5th Hole

No. 5, Crosswater Club, 460 Yards – Sunriver

Take a deep breath and think happy confident thoughts before jamming your tee into the ground on this beautiful but cruel par 4 at Sunriver Resort. Clocking in at more than 450 yards from the back tees, Crosswater’s 5th opens with a difficult tee shot with a forced carry over the little Deschutes River. If you do find the fairway, you’ll face a long second shot into a huge, but difficult green where par is more than a good score.

10th hole at Tetherow Golf Club in Bend, Oregon

No. 11, Tetherow, 466 Yards – Bend

There is no shortage of challenging holes on David McKlay Kidd’s links style masterpiece. However, the 11th hole at Tetherow stands out as a particularly stern test. A sharp dogleg right means accuracy is more important that distance off the tee. Wherever you play from, you’ll face a difficult approach into a multilevel and heavily contoured green. It’s the kind of hole that illuminates why Tetherow recommends that new players bring a forecaddie to navigate the quirks of this amazing, but sometimes confounding design.

Fairway 15 on Rivers Edge Golf Course in Bend, Oregon
River’s Edge No. 15

No. 15, River’s Edge, 461 Yards – Bend

A local’s favorite, River’s Edge requires players to create all different kinds of shots around this eclectic layout in the heart of Bend. But on the challenging 15th hole it’s a matter of grip it and rip it. The tee shot plays dramatically uphill to a fairway that slopes right to left. Play a high fade and leave yourself a mid iron into the elevated green, but be aware: the uphill approach plays nearly a full club longer than the yardage.

widgi no. 13
View from fairway, Widgi Creek No. 13

No. 13, Widgi Creek Golf Club, 363 Yards – Bend

Put the driver away. This is one hole at Widgi Creek that requires strategy off the tee rather than blind power. A mid to long iron drive can leave you anywhere from nine iron to a five iron approach, depending on where your tee ball is placed on this severe dog left left hole. The approach shot plays over a deep ravine to a green guarded by a well trafficked bunker on the front edge.

No. 16, Black Butte Ranch Glaze Meadow, 441 yards – Black Butte

A recent renovation by Crosswater designer John Fought has revealed a dormant mountain golf masterpiece at Black Butte Ranch’s Glaze Meadow. This classic golf course isn’t short on scenery or shotmaking. Case in point, the difficult 16th hole where golfers must drill a precise tee shot on this long dogleg left hole. But even a well placed drive doesn’t guarantee anything. Golfers face a difficult approach shot to a crowned green guarded by a large bunker. Can you say blow-up hole?

lost tracks 4th
4th Green at Lost Tracks, courtesy Lost Tracks Golf Club

No. 4, Lost Tracks Golf Club, 458 Yards – Bend

If you made it out of No. 3 without a major catastrophe on your card, congratulations, but it’s not yet time to exhale. The Par 4 fourth at Lost Tracks requires two shots that are better than just good  to escape with par. The dogleg right fairway requires that players flirt with a corner guarded by several large ponderosas. If you do find the fairway, a tough mid-iron shot awaits. Smart players will lay back on the tee shot and play from a conservative position.

meadows 18th

No. 18, Meadows Golf Course, 467 Yards – Sunriver

With water lurking all down the left side, this difficult finishing hole has tanked many a round on Sunriver Resort’s showcase course. Get greedy with your tee shot and you may find yourself taking a drop from way way back in the fairway. On the flipside a shot played to conservatively will leave an impossibly long iron into a small well guarded green with water lurking on the left.

No. 5, Juniper Golf Course, 449 Yards – Redmond

Trouble looms on the left side all the way down this long par 4. Bail out right and you’ll face a long second shot to a green that is tucked behind a large rock outcropping. At that point, you’re better of laying up than trying to pull of a blind approach over the ball eating escarpment. Long and straight is the play off the tee box on this hole at Juniper. So grip it and rip it. No problem, right?

Fall is Prime Time for Central Oregon Fly Fishing for Steelhead on the Deschutes

fly fishing 1
photo by Dan Anthon

It’s no accident that the fabled oncorhynchus mykiss, aka steelhead trout, is dubbed the “fish of a thousand casts” It’s not uncommon for novice steelhead anglers to fish for years without ever tying into, let alone landing, one of these powerful and acrobatic sea-run rainbow trout.  There’s also a reason why they keep trying. For many, the first steelhead is one of the most memorable fishing experiences that you’re likely to find anywhere.

Thankfully in Central Oregon, we have the good fortune of possessing some of the world’s of the most prolific steelhead rivers, foremost among those is the Deschutes. Not the slack water that flows through the center of Bend, but the muscular “lower” Deschutes that emerges from Lake Billy Chinook, carving its way through a broad shouldered basalt canyon. The river twist turns and tumbles through a desert gorge that stretches from just north of Bend to the river’s confluence with the Columbia, about 10 miles east of The Dalles.

fly fishing 3

It’s here in August that the summer steelhead season kicks off with anglers chasing early arriving steelhead fresh from the ocean en route to their spawning grounds that stretch from near the Oregon coast to Central Idaho. By October and early November Deschutes-bound fish have made their way closer to Central Oregon with many fish collecting in the area around Warm Springs.

For Central Oregon residents and visitors alike, now is the prime time  to target these coveted game fish on single day or even half-day trips offered by many of the local guide services, all of whom offer full-service experiences, including instruction, gear and shore-side lunches.

The most popular section of river and the most accessible is the roughly six-mile stretch of water between Warm Springs and Trout Creek.

While steelhead fishing is rarely red hot longer than a few days or a few hours, overall run numbers have been average to good this year, said Scott Cook, owner of Fly and Field Outfitters in Bend, one of the shops that specializes in guiding steelhead anglers on this section of river. “We are seeing more bigger wild fish caught this year,” said Cook, who observes that some anglers have not necessarily tempered their expectations from the record runs experienced four  and five years ago, when multi-fish days seemed the norm.

Now it’s about being on the river at the right time in the right place if you want to hook into one of these fish that can range from four pounds up to 12 and 13 pounds on the Deschutes. There are plenty of proven tactics for targeting Deschutes steelhead including traditional wet fly swing presentations that have been used on steelhead in the Northwest and Atlantic Salmon in the Northeast and Europe for close to 100 years, indicator nymphing and spinning gear. However, the technique that has caught on the fastest in recent years is the use of two-handed fly rods, or spey rods, that were developed in Scotland more than half a century ago and have been refined and modified for North American fishing conditions over the past decade.

Men fishing on the Deschutes River near Bend, Oregon
photo by Dan Anthon

These powerful rods are incredibly versatile and relatively easy to learn, if difficult to master. A great way to get introduced to this style is to book a trip with a guide service such as Deschutes River Outfitters, Fly Fisher’s Place, Fly and Field or River Borne Outfitters that specializes in spey casting. This will allow you to incorporate a lesson into your day on the water. Of course, you can always go back to nymphing, but it might just change the way you thing about fishing for steelhead or anything else for that matter.

If you’re determined to go the DIY route, that’s fine, too. There is plenty of water and lots of public access around Warm Springs along the east side of the river. (The west side is owned and managed by the Warm Springs Tribe and closes to public fishing Oct. 31, but is available after that through tribal guiding services).

All of the local shops are knowledgeable on flies and tactics and most are willing to give up a few not-so secret spots, if you promise to leave a few fish in the river.

While no one can guarantee you a hook-up with the fish of a lifetime, the chances are as good now as ever. And as they fly guides say, even when customers aren’t around, “There are no bad days on the river.”

My advice: book a trip and let them prove it. You might just get lucky.


Redmond Country Rediscovered

The beauty of visiting Central Oregon, especially in the summer or early autumn, is that you don’t need to spend your life’s savings to make a weekend of memories that last a lifetime. We’ve put together a few of the highlights, including some of our favorite food, drinks, and scenery from around Redmond country. So go get packed. Adventure awaits.

4 p.m. Arrive at Sunview Motel and Resort

Sunview Motel and Resort in Central Oregon

The Sunview Motel and Resort is a small, no-frills gem consists of a handful of stand-alone bungalow style cabins tucked into a quiet corner of the Crooked River Ranch. If the weather is cooperating take a dip in the nearby outdoor pool one of several amenities offered by the motel thanks to its partnership with the Crooked River Ranch homeowners association.

6 p.m. Dinner at the Brand

This bustling steakhouse in downtown Redmond features Montana-sized servings of choice beef are the order of the day at this festive local steakhouse.

8 p.m. R&R and the Ranch

Ranch at the Canyons in Central Oregon

Back to the Crooked River Ranch for a sunset and a cold beverage. It’s time to kick up your heels and relax while enjoying a signature high desert sunset. Don’t burn the midnight oil too long; you’ll need a full night’s rest for tomorrow’s packed day.

7:30 a.m. Coffee in Redmond

If you’re tempted to stroll around the Ranch grounds at dawn, well go ahead and indulge that impulse. You’re likely to catch glimpses of red tail hawks, eagles, deer, quail and more. Afterward, head to the Green Plow for a great cup of Joe and a handmade scone. This cozy downtown bakery and coffee shop roasts its beans on site. Locals know it’s the place to go if you need something more than gas station java to jump-start your day. If you’re feeling indulgent, try the spicy Maple Mocha, or if coffee isn’t your cup, grab a fruit smoothie and go.

17th green and pond at golf course in Crooked River Ranch, Oregon

9 a.m Cowboy Golf

Tee off at the nearby Crooked River Ranch golf course. This iconic course is perched dramatically on the edge of the Crooked River Canyon. Casual is the order of the day out here on this player-friendly course that offers some of the best rates and scenery among all Central Oregon golf courses.

2 p.m. Pool Duty

No excuses. It’s time grab your suit and towel for a post-round swim at the Ranch’s outdoor pool facility. Trust us, the way to beat the afternoon heat is by staying close to the water.

4 p.m. Smith Rock Sightseeing

Crooked River through Smith Rock near Bend, OregonNow that you’ve had a chance to rest up a bit. Trade your flip flops for your hiking shoes and head out to nearby Smith Rock State Park. This popular rock climbing destination is a great spot to watch local and world-class climbers scale some of the West’s most challenging routes, including the iconic Monkey Face. Of course, you don’t have to be a climber to appreciate Smith Rock. The massive rock features that sprout from the desert landscape are reason enough to visit.

6 p.m. Dinner at Terrebonne Depot

This is the place where visiting climbers and locals alike to go fill their bellies and top off with a crisp Bombshell Blonde Ale from the nearby Cascade Lakes Brewing Company, or a chilled Oregon Pinot Gris. Whatever your poison, it’s best enjoyed on the depot’s inviting wraparound deck. We recommend the arugula topped flatbread appetizer and the pork shoulder with purple rice, but there are also plenty of vegan options on the menu.

8 p.m. Sunset Stroll at Peter Skene Ogden Scenic Overlook.

Just off the highway at the southern foot of the bridge over the Crooked River Canyon, this a great spot to take in a final Central Oregon sunset. The small wayside park is a beautiful intersection of natural beauty and human ingenuity. It’s here that engineers first erected a steel bridge across the seemingly impassable chasm above the Crooked River that runs like a tiny ribbon more than 200 feet below.

9:30 p.m. Campfire and S’mores at the Ranch.

Settle in and enjoy your final night at the Ranch. We recommend a simple recipe of firewood, camp chairs and a few marshmallows to cap your long day of adventure. If you’ve got energy left, grab those glow-in-the-dark bocce balls that you’ve been waiting to break out and play a game under the stars. Take a minute and be grateful for the simple things.

7:30 a.m. Check Out and Breakfast at Bliss Baking Company

It’s time to pack up, but don’t hit the road just yet. There’s still plenty do on a long summer Sunday. Start out by fueling up at the downtown Bliss Cafe where you will find a wonderful array of baked goods from muffins to scones, pastries and more, including vegan options.

Steelhead Falls on the Deschutes River in Central Oregon

8:30 a.m. Hike to Steelhead Falls

After a quick bite, double back to Crooked River Ranch. It’s less than a mile hike to these plunge falls in the heart of a Wilderness Study Area that is managed entirely for its scenic and wildlife values, of which there are an abundance and just a short drive from downtown Redmond. It’s just one of the many scenic waterfalls in the region. 

Noon: Lunch at the Jody’s Drive-Inn

If you like classic drive-in style hamburgers (and who doesn’t?), you MUST make your way to Jody’s — the best little burger shack in all Central Oregon. Don’t let the fact that there isn’t a single indoor table put you off — it’s actually an endorsement.

Downtown Redmond, Oregon

1 p.m. Downtown Redmond Stroll

It’s been just a few years since state transportation crews wrapped up work on the downtown Redmond bypass that removed heavy highway truck traffic from downtown, but the results are starting to take shape. What’s emerging is a more pedestrian-friendly downtown area that is quickly re-populating with boutique shops and restaurants like the newly opened Wild Ride Brewing and the Brickhouse bar and restaurant. Bring a few dollars and remind these small business owners that Oregonians and visitors like to shop local.

2:30 p.m. Maragas Winery

Maragas WineryIt’s time to wrap up the tour of the greater Redmond area, but not before a stop at this pioneering Central Oregon winery. Now growing grapes onsite and producing award-winning wines like their Muskat Love, owners Doug and Gina Maragas blazed a fermentation trail in Central Oregon that others are now just beginning to follow. If you’re lucky you’ll catch a tour with Doug Maragas who loves sharing and talking about wine as much as he does making it.

4 p.m. Head for Home

It’s back to reality. But don’t worry, it will all be here waiting for your next visit.

Paulina Lake – The “Other” Crater Lake


Exploring Newberry’s Paulina and East lakes

With its great winter and spring skiing, summer biking and paddleboarding and fall, well, everything, Bend and Central Oregon are true four-season destinations. And perhaps no single destination embodies Central Oregon’s year round appeal than Paulina Lake. The high alpine lake is one of two water bodies inside the Newberry Caldera, southeast of Bend. It’s a dramatic setting on its own, but when combined with backcountry skiing options, trophy fishing (The lake yielded Oregon’s state record brown trout in 2002) world class mountain biking and boating and rustic, yet refined, accommodations at Paulina Creek Lodge, as well as, dozens of shore side camping options this is Central Oregon destination recreation at its finest, spring, summer, winter or fall.


No surprise, one of Paulina Lake’s biggest draws is pleasure boating. And with good reason. Not many other lakes are situated in the belly of a shield volcano and anointed with National Monument status. If you’re looking to water ski or buzz around on a jet-powered water scooter, you’ll need to seek other environs. Boaters here are subject to 10-mph-hour speed limit. The emphasis here is on cruising at a speed that maintains the serenity of the lake experience, allowing boaters to soak in the views of the caldera rim and looming and snow encrusted Paulina Peak. If you don’t have room to pack a boat, no worries. The Paulina Lodge has both fishing and cruising boats available by the hour or day.



Both Paulina and neighboring East Lake offer great fishing opportunities. Whether you’re throwing a fly line to rising trout in the evening or trolling deep for the landlocked kokanee salmon, the angling memory of a lifetime is just a cast away. Fly anglers who are traveling light, will find that a float tube is adequate to cover enough of the water for a productive session. If you’re staying in Sunriver consider dropping by the Stillwater Fly Shop and guide service for tips on flies and tactics. Rental fishing boats also open the possibility of jigging for the prolific kokanee. Make sure to keep at least a sample of your catch for roasting or frying over an open flame later in the evening.

Hot Springs:

Thanks to its volcanic origins, Newberry Crater is a geothermal hotbed. The area’s still untapped energy potential is presently being explored, but you can get a taste of it at the several of the backcountry hot springs that have been unearthed in the area. The most popular and easily accessible are the springs on the shore of Paulina Lake. The steaming water wells up on a natural beach on north side of the lake, roughly a mile hike from the resort or a short boat ride anywhere on the lake if you can find a skipper.  Look for the makeshift rock pools on the beach and pack a shovel; you may need to excavate your soaking pool from the soft beach sand which tends to erode quickly.


Mountain Biking/Hiking

The Newberry Crater ride is on every Oregon must-ride list and with good reason. The 21-mile epic circumnavigates the entire caldera rim offering multiple birds’ eye viewpoints. With big, lung busting climbs, technical sections and loose rock in places, this is not the place to break into the sport. However there are other options for less experienced riders including the short out and back to Paulina Falls along the Paulina Creek trail near the lodge. If you’re not into the whole singletrack scene, the Paulina Creek trail makes for an excellent day hike. There are also plenty of trails along the lakeshore that afford families a leisurely stroll.

Paulina Lakeshore Loop Hike near Bend, Oregon.

Other Features:

If you’re visiting during the peak summer season, make to check with the visitor center for information on some of the free interpretive hikes offered. It’s also a great place to learn about the area’s unique and violent volcanic history, including cataclysmic events that have literally shaped the landscape around the Bend region.


For those seeking a truly one-of-a-kind  experience, check out the Paulina Plunge. A natural backcountry waterslide, the plunge is accessed from the bottom of the Paulina Creek trail at the 10 mile snow park. The guided tours take visitors on a gentle mountain bike ride with frequent stops to enjoy some splash and giggle fun on the numerous falls along the way.

Great Getaways: Newberry Country

paulina lake loop trail
Paulina Lakeshore Loop trail

When plunging into a multi-day adventure in Central Oregon, the number of choices can be well, overwhelming. There is just so much to do in this four-season playground that a traveler can be forgiven for suffering from a little indecision.

One strategy is to break down the area by geography, clustering activities together that are within striking distance of a home base, be it a hotel, cabin or RV parking spot.

In this case, we’re building an itinerary based around “Newberry Country” – southern Deschutes County and the city of La Pine with a home base at East Lake Resort inside the Newberry caldera.

If you’re looking for a little adventure there is nothing like making a dormant shield volcano that once showered the entire region in ash and magma your base of operations. If you’re worried about natural disasters, you’ve seen too many movies. The volcano has been inactive for literally thousands of years. The only thing erupting these days is the surface of the water during the evening mayfly hatch when trout gorge themselves on emerging insects and anglers delight.

Day One

Newberry National Volcanic Monument: After entering the park, look for the visitor’s center on the right side of the road as you approach Paulina Lake. Immerse yourself in a quick history of the area’s fascinating geology some 75,000 years in the making.

Paulina Lk. - Newberry National Volcanic Mon.

If you’re ready for lunch, the Paulina Lake resort has a cozy cafe and lounge where you can grab a pint of ale and a signature prime rib sandwich.

This is also the place to rent a boat, which are available by the hour or day. Rates are reasonable and life jackets are provided. Cast off from the marina for a leisurely cruise, making your way eventually to the north shore of the lake and a series of hot springs that well up along a natural beach. Make sure you’ve packed a shovel, because you’ll likely need to dig out your soaking pool as they tend to fill in rather quickly.

paulina peak

Now that you’re settled and rested, it’s time to break a sweat.

Grab your mountain bike follow the crater rim road up to the trailhead at Paulina Peak. It’s a 12-mile ride along the crater rim back to East Lake resort. It’s one of the better Central Oregon mountain biking trails with switchback single track and sweeping ridgeline views of the sprawling caldera below, but it’s also an advance level ride. If you’re not a seasoned biker, there are better options.

Girls at Paulina Plunge waterfall in Central Oregon

A great alternative for families is the Paulina Plunge Mountain Bike Tour. This guided vacation starts with a downhill mountain bike ride along a relatively easy trail with visits to half a dozen waterfalls along the route. Along the way you’ll have a the chance to experience a pair of natural water slides and cool yourself in the gushing waters of Paulina Creek. The half-day guided adventure, includes extended lessons on the area’s natural and cultural history and a sack lunch. After your adventure, head back to the East Lake resort for some evening cocktails, fire up the grill and kick your feet up as the sun goes down.

Day 2

Greens at Quail Run Golf Course in La Pine, Oregon

Beat the heat of the day with an early morning tee time at the Jim Ramey designed Quail Run Golf Course, a par 72 championship layout with amazing views of the Cascade Mountains.

After your round, head to Sunriver for lunch on the patio at the eclectic Mexican-Peruvian bistro Hola! After you’ve had time to digest your food and possibly one of Hola’s singature margaritas, make your way the Sunriver Marina in the Sunriver resort where you can rent inflatable rafts and kayaks for a leisurely river float on the Deschutes River as it winds through pine forests and alpine meadows. The float can be as short as an hour and a half or as long as three hours depending on your desire.

Marina at Sunriver, Oregon

Before you depart the resort, consider grabbing dinner at the charming Owl’s Nest lounge a favorite watering hole for resort guests and golfers as they come off the 18th hole at the Meadows Golf Course. The vibe is resort casual and the lounge features a great wine and beer list, including plenty of local craft beers. Oh yeah, the food is pretty great too.


It’s time to head back to East Lake resort for a beachside bonfire and a toast to a weekend well done.