The Central Oregon Adventure 6-Pack

Bill Breneman

6 Adventures…1 Day….A  Lifetime of Memories

“You should do it,” they said.

“Think about how cool it’d be,” they told me.

“You get to do it during the work day, ya know,” they reminded me.

So I said yes.

I agreed to embark upon what, for me, would be the ultimate one-day Central Oregon adventure. An adventure to showcase all that is glorius each spring in Central Oregon.

The Central Oregon Adventure 6-Pack. (OK, so that’s the best we could come up with..but hey, it’s got a beer theme, right?)

  1. Sunrise hike at Smith Rock
  2. Cinder Cone run at Mt. Bachelor
  3. 9 Holes at Widgi Creek
  4. Mountain bike ride at Phil’s Trail
  5. Kayak on the Deschutes River
  6. Complete the ENTIRE Bend Ale Trail.

Giddyup.

Smith Rock at Sunrise/Clint Melsha

Sunrise at Smith Rock

A 5 a.m. alarm comes pretty early when you’re the father of an 8-week old who demands to sleep on your chest from 4 a.m. on. It’s also tempting to hit the snooze button a thousand times knowing you’re waking up to a hike called “Misery Ridge.”

But I rolled my little girl on to the bed and hit the shower on what I knew was going to be one of the best days of my life.

We arrived at Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne just before 6 a.m. fueled with coffee, Cheerios and adrenaline. The day would be a marathon, and any thoughts we had of turning the opening hike into a sprint were quickly erased. Misery Ridge sounds a little more daunting than it is, but it’s still a leg burner no matter what time of day you hit the trail.

We opted for the four-mile loop, which includes about 1,400 feet of elevation gain. But the reward at the top is most certainly worth any bit of pain you experienced on the way up. Smith Rock, one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon, is a breathtakingly unique part of our state with sheer rock cliffs rising abruptly from the banks of the Crooked River below.

As we were heading back down the trail, the parking lot was beginning to bustle with climbers eager to get an early start.

Elena Pressprich

The Cone Run

More coffee and a sense of “maybe the worst is behind us” pushed us back to Bend and up the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway to Mt. Bachelor. We arrived just as the chairs started running, but our goal was to bypass the motorized lift to the top and hike the “cone” and for me to take a run that’s a rite of passage for Bendites.

The cinder cone is adjacent to the ski area and a favorite of skiers wanting to “earn their turns” and get fresh tracks on powder days. The cone is open all day every day and it’s free to ride the 715 feet of vertical drop. Assuming of course, you’re willing to hike the 715 of vertical ascent.

It didn’t sound all that bad considering we’d just hiked up twice that at Smith Rock. But it was a little different taking a hike in fresh snow, wearing too-small snowboard boots and carrying your board on a backpack.

After several “hey, let’s stop and take in the view/desperately gasping for my breath” breaks we made it to the top. Once again, the reward was worth the effort. (I’m sensing a theme here.) I sat down on the top of the cone to take it all in. I had been to the mountain dozens of times over the years and always looked up to the cone as something beyond my level of expertise.

“Mission accomplished” I thought as I strapped in and carved my way down the mountain toward some more fun thinking “why in the world hadn’t I done this before?”

Welcome to “The Widg”

After we loaded up the car in the Bachelor parking lot and grabbed a world famous burrito from the ski area’s Nordic center we headed back into town to Widgi Creek Golf Club, which we passed on the road up to the mountain earlier.

This, I wasn’t worried about. I served as the assistant golf professional here from 2005 to 2010 and looked forward to the nice little walk that the front 9 offers. By now, the sun was up and it was starting to feel a little more like spring and there were just a few people on the golf course. That was probably a good thing with the pace we were walking (not fast) and the number of strokes my buddy was taking each hole (many.)

But even as he was having me write down his double bogey on the scorecard, he couldn’t get over how good the course looked so early in the season. And, even more surprisingly, we played in right at 2 hours. I’ve played nearly every course in Central Oregon (we have 30)  and people always ask me “what’s your favorite golf course?” That’s impossible to answer, but if I could only play one course every  single day, I’d probably tee it up at “The Widg.”

Phil? Phil? PHIL!?!

By now our legs were good and warmed up. And tired. And maybe not ready to pedal our bikes for a little more than 7 miles at Phil’s Trail.

But, we thought, at least there’d be some downhill sections so we’d get to rest albeit briefly for a few minutes at a time. We rolled through the parking area up the slight climb of Ben’s Trail to MTB before veering up Kent’s, over to KGB (here’s the ride) back down to the Flaming Chicken and down Phil’s Trail back to the trail along the road to Skyliners and back to our car. Normally this ride takes me about 40 minutes – when it’s the only thing I’ve done all day. Today…well, let’s just say I took in the scenery a little more than usual and we got back to the care in about an hour.

Floating the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon

A River Runs Through It

As comfortable as I am on a golf course I am twice as uncomfortable on water. But that was part of the challenge – get out on a kayak on the Deschutes. I wasn’t going far and I knew I could probably touch the river bottom if I happened to fall out.

Still, my heart was beating a little more quickly with this one. Luckily I had set up a little informal lesson with Laurel from Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe. She put me at ease and stayed with us as we paddled upstream to the Healy Bridge, which was very hard for me by the way, and back to the shop, which sits right on the bank of the river.

I’m not saying I’m planning to go out and buy a kayak now, but I can say I wouldn’t be opposed to renting one for a relaxing float on one of the high lakes come summer. And for me, that’s a huge step.

Down the Hatch, Again and again and (hiccup!)

My first steps out of the kayak must have looked like the first steps of a newborn horse. A little wobbly to say the least. But, I took some confident steps toward the car knowing the “exercise” portion of the day was complete. It was, as they say, all over but the drinking.

Next up was a hike of a different sort – a hike along the Bend Ale Trail. Sixteen breweries!! stretching from Bend to Sisters with the help of the John Flannery and the Bend Tour Company. (No way we were going to ruin this epic day by drinking and driving.)

And we wouldn’t be doing all that much drinking. Yes, we planned to hit all the pubs on the trail, but no, we didn’t plan on having a full beer at each one. A taster (and appetizer) at each would suffice for crossing this final adventure off our 6-pack list.

We did, though, start off toasting our day with a well-deserved full pint of Bachelor Bitter and a burger at Deschutes Brewery. We hit up Bend Brewing Company next, McMenamins, Silver Moon, 10 Barrel, Cascade Lakes Brewing, Worthy….etc. until we had just one stamp left to get.

We ended the day with a  beer, our final stamp and a high five at the Crux Fermentation Project. My wife and daughter came by just in time to see  the kind of sunset Central Oregon is known for. Sunsets that for many of us from time to time, are the perfect exclamation point on the perfectly fun-filled day.

I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, with my head spinning – not because of the beer, but from thinking of all the reasons I love living in Central Oregon.

That alarm – in the form of my daughter – came early again the next morning.

(editors note: This adventure is an extreme example of what awaits you in Central Oregon. And while you could, of course, actually do all these things in one day in the spring, the author actually did not.)

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Central Oregon Hiking Trails

From demanding full-day hikes to leisurely walks by the river, there’s a Central Oregon Hiking Trail for every adventurer


Pilot Butte State Park – Bend

EASY/MODERATE – 2-mile loop (nature trail and scenic viewpoint)
Head east on Highway 20 (Greenwood Avenue) to the Pilot Butte State Park. The parking area and trailhead are just east of the butte. Walk on either the nature trail or the paved road. The road is also for vehicle traffic, weather permitting. It is a wonderful viewpoint for the entire Bend area. This hiking trail is one of the most popular in Central Oregon.


Robert W. Sawyer Park – Bend

EASY – 45.2-acre park (nature park)
A large park stretching along both sides of the Deschutes River. Formerly a state park dedicated to the District in 1980. The park is connected by a hiking trail to Sawyer Uplands Neighborhood Park and River Glenn Natural Area. A footbridge over the river leads to the Deschutes River Trail and connections to First Street Rapids Park, Sawyer Uplands Park, and Archie Briggs Natural Area. The site is adjacent to the River’s Edge golf course. The park has a mix of mature pine and juniper. It is a popular viewing site for migratory and riparian birds and is listed on the Oregon Cascade Birding Tour route. The picnic site is spread out making it ideal for small to medium size groups.


Larkspur Trail – Bend

EASY – 1.75 miles
Beginning near the Bend Senior Center. This stretch of the trail meanders along an open canal in southeast Bend. You will see wildlife, juniper trees, rabbitbrush and alpine current. Dog stations are at each end of the trail This 1.75-mile trail ends at Pilot Butte State Park on Hwy. 20.


Shevlin Park – Canyon Rim Loop – Bend

EASY – 2.2 miles
Shevlin Park is a haven located less than three miles from downtown Bend and a perfect location for hiking, jogging, fishing, cross-country skiing and picnicking. There is an extensive trail and pathway system providing for both summer and winter uses. From Highway 97 in Bend turn west on Greenwood. It becomes Newport Avenue in downtown Bend. Follow Newport out for about 3 miles. You will see parking areas on both sides of the road. Aspen Hall is on the right and the main part of the park is on the left. The paved road through the park leads to several different picnic areas as well as trails.


Deschutes River Trail – Bend

EASY/MODERATE – 3 miles
The quintessential Central Oregon Hiking Trail, this one starts in Bend with many access points and parking areas. It winds its way along the Deschutes River, passing through Bend, Meadow Camp and behind the Seventh Mountain Resort. You will see a series of waterfalls including Lava Island, Big Eddy, Dillon and finally Benham Falls. Turning west at the Lava Lands Visitor Center also provides access to this trail. Follow the road on your left for approximately 3 miles to the picnic area. Walk across the footbridge for an easy half-mile walk to Benham Falls. The degree of difficulty is low and provides spectacular scenery of untamed rapids.


Benham Falls – Bend

EASY – 3 miles out and back
Five miles north of Sunriver, this hiking trail provides a spectacular scene of untamed rapids. From Bend follow Highway 97 south 11 miles and turn right at the Lava Lands Visitor Center. Follow the road on your left for approximately 3 miles to the parking and picnic area. Walk across the footbridge. Benham Falls is an easy half-mile walk down the road along the river. This trail continues for many miles passing by Dillon Falls and Lava Island Falls. Benham, Dillon, and Lava Island Falls also have parking areas accessible via Forest Service Rd 41, just past the Inn of the Seventh Mountain.

Day-Use Permit is required*


Lava Cast Forest – Bend / Sunriver

EASY – 1 mile 
Travel south on Highway 97. Turn East on Forest Service Road 9720-directly across the highway from the Sunriver exit. This is an unpaved road, which goes nearly 9 miles to the parking area at the Lava Cast Forest. The trail is an easy, paved, nine-tenths of a mile, which wanders through many examples of 7000-year-old lava tree cast formations. This road is snow-covered in winter.

Day-Use Permit is required*


Lava River Cave – Bend / Sunriver

EASY – 1 mile
Thirteen miles south of Bend on Highway 97 on the east side of the road is the largest un-collapsed lava tube in the state. It is about a mile in length and 100 feet deep in spots. The sandy bottom makes it an easy hike, and the Forest Service will rent lanterns to you for a small fee. There is a nominal entrance fee as well. The cave is closed from late fall through mid-April due to the hibernation of resident bats.

Day-Use Permit is required*


Newberry Obsidian Trail

EASY – 1 mile
Head south on Highway 97, approximately 22 miles, turn east at the East Lake and Paulina Lake sign. Continue about 15-miles to the obsidian flow. This is one of the largest obsidian flows in the world, formed about 1300 years ago during the most recent eruption of Newberry Volcano.
Day-Use Permit is required*


Paulina Creek

EASY – 6 to 8.5 miles
The Ogden National Recreation Trail will take you along Paulina Creek, with no fewer than 20 waterfalls. Travel south on Hwy 97 about 22 miles to Paulina and East Lake. Go east, about 1.5 miles to trailhead parking. The trail is 8.5 miles long (each way), accessible from McKay Crossing Campground, which shortens the trip by 2.5 miles. The parking area is on the east end of this hiking trail from the viewpoint at Paulina Falls.
Day-Use Permit is required*


Tumalo Falls – Bend

MODERATE – 5.5 miles
Tumalo Falls is a photographers dream. Lush forest, cascading water, easy access for all your gear. From Hwy 97 in Bend, turn west on Franklin. Follow the Scenic Highway through downtown Bend along Drake Park. Turn right on Galveston at the west end of the park, and follow this road out for eleven miles. Turn right over the bridge. The pavement ends but the road continues for an additional 3 miles to a parking area at the falls. There is a very short hiking trail up to the falls, which connects to some of the snow park areas and other trails. Road closed in winter Day-Use Permit is required*


 

Mt. Bachelor Summit Trail

EASY/MODERATE – 2.5 miles
Drive west on Cascade Lakes Highway for approximately 18 miles to Mt Bachelor’s first entrance at Sunrise Lodge. The 2.5-mile trail to the top of Mt. Bachelor is accessible in Summer and Fall and starts from the Sunrise Lodge area.
The trail begins just west of the Sunrise chairlift and winds around through the trees. The top portion of the trail above the top of Sunrise chair goes through the lava rock itself and has beautiful open views of Broken Top and the Three Sisters. From the top, at 9065 feet, you can see nearly all of the Cascade Range to the North, and the nearby lakes along the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway.


Green Lakes Trail

EASY/MODERATE  – 9 miles out and back
The Green Lakes hiking trail has its own parking lot across from the Sparks Lake meadow with a wonderful view of the north side of Mt. Bachelor. The trail winds along the Fall Creek through large pine trees and fields of lupine. You will see lots of small waterfalls. Follow the trail for 4.5 miles up to the Green Lakes, or cut off to the west after about 2 miles on the Moraine Lake trail, which is another couple of miles long. There is access to the South Sister Trail from the Green Lakes area.


Todd Lake Trail

EASY – about 2 miles
This popular route is the closest Cascade Lakes hiking trail to town, located just past Mt. Bachelor on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. The trail is an easy walk around the lake with spectacular views of Mt. Bachelor along the way.


Ray Atkeson Memorial Trail 

EASY- 2.3-mile loop
Located at Sparks Lake, this trail is another easy hiking trail for folks of all ages. It takes you through some pretty cool lava rock flows that include sheer walls and deep chasms. If you take the trail clockwise, the best views of Sparks Lake and South Sister are waiting for you at the end.


The Badlands

EASY/MODERATE – Routes ranging from 5 to 15 miles
The Badlands wilderness area east of Bend is a great place to explore the Central Oregon Desert. Take Hwy 20 east about 20 miles. Turn north at the gravel pit, follow the road to the parking area.


Smith Rock State Park

EASY TO DIFFICULT – Varying routes and lengths
This area is a must-see in Central Oregon. Drive north on Highway 97 through Redmond to Terrebonne. Turn right (east) at the flashing light. Turn left on NE 1st Street and proceed 2 miles, turning left at the state park signs. The park is another 0.7 miles. The picnic area has beautiful views of the rock formations where people from all over the world come to climb. Numerous hiking trails suitable for everyone follow the river down into the Crooked River Canyon. The Misery Ridge hiking trail is a little tougher but well worth the walk.

Day-Use Permit is required*


Suttle Lake Trail | Near Black Butte Ranch

EASY – 3 miles
Suttle Lake is just a few miles west of Black Butte Ranch, and about 15 miles west of Sisters. Follow the signs off Highway 20 to Suttle Lake Resort, then to the Day Use area on the NE corner of the lake. The trail goes right along the lake through the backyard of someone’s campsite with plenty of access points. The hiking trail offers unrivaled mountain scenery.


Black Butte Trail | Black Butte Ranch

MODERATE – 2 miles
This hiking trail is 2 miles long going to the lookout station on top of Black Butte, at 6436 feet. The trail winds through open timber with wonderful views of the Three Sisters and Broken Top on the way up. On a clear day you can see nearly the entire Cascades Range! Take Highway 20 from Bend through Sisters to Forest Service Road 1110, near the Indian Ford Campground. Follow signs to the trail.
Day-Use Permit required*


Head Of Jack Creek | Near Sisters

EASY – 3 miles
Travel west on Hwy 20 through Sisters, approximately 15 miles. Turn north on Forest Service Road 12, for about 1.5 miles and then turn left on FS Road 1232. It is about 1 mile to the trailhead. This hiking trail loops through the headwater springs.

Day-Use Permit required*


Metolius River Trail | Near Black Butte Ranch

EASY – 12 miles
This is an excellent year-round hiking trail and several starting points are accessible. Huge artesian wells, the source of the Metolius River, and further downstream is the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery. One trailhead starts from the Canyon Creek Campground off Forest Service Road 1420. You can also start at the Wizard Falls Hatchery. Total distance to Bridge 99 is three miles.

Day-Use Permit required*


Dee Wright Memorial Trail | Near Sisters

EASY – .5 miles
Located at McKenzie Pass on Highway 242, 15 miles west of Sisters. Beautiful view of the Cascade Mountains with a paved hiking trail through one of the most recent lava flows in the United States. The trail is about a half-mile long with interpretive signs along the path. It is closed in the winter.


For Additional Information Contact:

Central Oregon Welcome Center 541-389-8799
Lava Lands Visitor Center 541-593-2421
Bend-Ft. Rock Ranger District 541-383-4000
Sisters Ranger District 541-549-7700
Oregon State Parks 541-388-6055
Bend Parks & Recreation 541-389-7275
Fishing License, Fish & Wildlife 541-388-6363
Road Conditions, ODOT 800-977-6368
Emergency: 911

Winter Isn’t Only About Snow in Central Oregon

Splashing Through the Snow

Kids taking a winter plunge in the pool at Seventh Mountain Resort in Bend, Oregon
A warm pool on a cold day at Seventh Mountain Resort

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 in Bend and Kah-Nee-Ta Resort and Spa in Warm Springs all have heated outdoor pools for their guests that will quickly have you forgetting what season it is.

Soaking tub at McMenamins in Bend, Oregon
Soaking tub at McMenamins Old St. Francis School

Several of the hotels, including the brand new 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

Courtesy Bill Breneman

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.

horse butte trail
The trails at Horse Butte in winter

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.

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

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. To the north, Kah-Nee-Ta Resort and Spa is a great winter golf course.


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. You can check them out in this video on breweries taking the party outside. 

mcmenamins okanes fire

Fall in Love: Experience Autumn in Central Oregon

When summer ends, a whole new season of opportunity begins: Autumn in Central Oregon.

The pace slows giving time to reflect and savor mother nature’s big show. During fall on the High Desert, you can stroll through Aspen Tree groves lit up like the last seconds of a fleeting sunset.

Or hike to the top of a mountain for a panoramic view that will make you remember what it feels like to truly be alive.

Around Central Oregon, we cherish the different seasons, because it refocuses our views of and love for the same spectacular spots.

Slip down the Deschutes River during the fall and you’ll have it all to yourself. Hop on a horse and go for a trot through unmanicured forests full of life altering moments of peace and quiet. Or hike to a waterfall like Paulina Falls where the rush of crystal clear water cascading over cliffs will ignite your senses.

The best part about adventuring on crisp fall days is warming up by the fire, craft beer in hand and with 29 breweries and counting spread out across Central Oregon, you won’t have any problem finding the perfect spot to reminisce about your experience.

13 Images That Will Make You Quit Your Job, Buy a Van & Drive to Central Oregon

Step one: Quit your job. Step two: Sit in these chairs at Suttle Lodge and contemplate your new future.

There are worse ways to start the morning than paddle boarding Sparks Lake. (Literally, every other way would be a worse way.)

FLY FISHING CENTRAL OREGON

This guy used to have a job like yours now he’s fly fishing on a Tuesday morning and he’s not even wearing a watch. You could be this guy.

Please don’t break your cubicle wall after seeing this picture from Smith Rock.

Don’t forget to have your mail forwarded. New address: Paradise.

It won’t take long to adjust to the local cuisine. We call this “the usual.”

Before you make any rash decisions though, you should know we do have a lot of board meetings here.

Floating the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon

And just look at this traffic jam. Gross.

Yeeeeah, we’re going to need you to come in on Saturday.

Bend’s Les Schwab Amphitheater

Then again, we throw killer parties with folks like Dave Matthews, Michael Franti, Paul Simon and some guys named Phish.

Sunriver Brewing Co. Galveston Pub

And you’ll probably make some new friends and have a chuckle around the fire. So much chuckling.

Steelhead Falls on the Deschutes River in Central Oregon

So yeah, let’s stick with the original plan because you’ll need to see Steelhead Falls.

And this mountain bike trail on Round Mountain isn’t going to ride itself.

Safe travels.

Stars Over Newberry Event Set to Showcase the Night Sky

wesley - lava butte

The third annual, Stars Over Newberry fundraiser will take place on August 11th 2017 atop Lava Butte in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.  This year, festivities will be from 7:30 – 11:00 PM, giving visitors an unparalleled vista of the night sky and a chance to glimpse the early hours of the Perseid Meteor Shower.

All proceeds from the auction will benefit Discover Your Forest, the non-profit partner of the Central Oregon national forests and grassland.  Live music will be provided by the Moon Mountain Ramblers.  Worthy Brewing Company will be pouring delicious brews and Volcano Vineyards will serve a selection of local wines and sangria. Local astronomers from Sisters Astronomy Club will lead guests on a journey through the skies at telescope stations throughout the event and a silent auction will feature local photographers’ depictions of scenes from the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forest.

Stars Over Newberry largest annual fundraising event for Discover Your Forest, which supports stewardship, conservation education and volunteer programs in Central Oregon’s National Forests. The event runs from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and will cost you $50. You can learn more and sign up here: discoveryourforest.org

NEWBERRY-BIG-OBSIDIAN-FLOW-PANO

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

Redmond
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

Bend
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

Sisters
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.

10 Things Not to Miss in Central Oregon

Time and time again guests come into our Central Oregon Visitor Information Center in Sunriver and say, “We’re here for a few days. What should we do?”

And it’s always the toughest question we get.

With so much to do and see and experience in Central Oregon, it’s difficult to layout the perfect weekend itinerary for folks. But after we ask a few questions of them to get a better idea of what kind of things they like to do, we’re able to send them out the door with a smile and sense of adventure.

Here’s our list of the Top 10 things not to miss in Central Oregon.

Courtesy Elena Pressprich

1. Smith Rock State Park, Terrebonne

One of the 7 Wonders of Oregon, Smith Rock is the birthplace of American sport climbing and a feast for the eyes. Take a hike along the Crooked River and marvel at the spires that rise from the canyon floor or trek up Misery Ridge for expansive views of the High Desert and Monkey Face.

Courtesy Elena Pressprich

2. Tumalo Falls

Just 10 miles from downtown Bend, Tumalo Falls is a majestic, nearly 100-foot waterfall that cascades into the tranquil Tumalo Creek below. Take a hike along the creek and up to the top of the falls for a cool view from above. The trail continues for four miles up Happy Valley; perfect for hikers of any age.

Crux Fermentation Project
Crux Fermentation Project, Bend

3. Grab a Beer

Bend is known for exceptionally clean water – and it’s perfect for making exceptionally good beer. Enjoy a pint at any of our nearly 30 brewpubs across the region or take a tour of Deschutes Brewery, the one that started the movement here. Want to learn to brew your own? Check out Immersion Brewing where you can create your own beer in about two hours.

Broken Top Club Golf Course Sunset

4. Play a Round

Central Oregon is home to nearly 30 golf courses including three in Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses in America and half of Oregon’s Top 10 according to Golfweek. From the forest-lined fairways of Widgi Creek to the Scottish-links berms and knolls of Tetherow, you’ll find a hugely diverse selection of challenges courses to choose from.

Big Eddy Thriller

5. Get Wet

You can’t visit Central Oregon without playing in our wild and scenic Deschutes River. The options are plentiful including a leisurely float through Bend’s Old Mill District, a surf sesh at the Bend whitewater park, a kayak adventure at Sparks Lake or an adrenaline-pumping whitewater thrill ride with Sun County Tours on the Bid Eddy. Bring a swimsuit and have some fun.

No Name Lake at the base of Broken Top/Adam McKibben

6. High Mountain Hikes

Hundreds of miles of tranquil and scenic hiking trails are waiting for you to explore. Go up into the mountains along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway and walk among the giant snow-capped peaks. Take a short hike with the kids around Todd Lake or venture higher up to the peak of majestic Broken Top. Or, closer to Bend and Sunriver, trek along the gently-rolling and beautiful Deschutes River Trail. For whatever adventure you’re looking for, there’s a trail for you.

7. Take a Ride

More than 400-miles of epic mountain bike singletrack can be found in Central Oregon, perfect for cyclists of all abilities and so close to town that you can ride to them straight from the shop you rented your bike from. Road cyclists can enjoy a handful of beautiful, well-marked scenic bikeways that showcase sights like McKenzie Pass and Smith Rock State Park.

8. Mt. Bachelor – Year Round Fun at 8,000 Feet

The 5th largest ski area in the U.S. is a year-round destination for fun and amazing views. Snow lovers can enjoy stellar skiing conditions from November through May – among the longest ski seasons in the country. Once the snow melts a little, Mt. Bachelor transforms into a downhill mountain bike Mecca with miles of adrenaline-pumping trails. Summer also means sunset dinners at nearly 9,000 feet – where the meals and views are equally as spectacular.

 

9. Explore a Lava Flow

Located on the north flank of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, what is now Lava Lands was created about 7,000 years ago after a volcanic explosion of Lava Butte. A miles-wide sea of jagged lava rock was left behind creating a unique geological landscape that served as that training ground for moon-bound astronauts.

Porcupine at a museum near Bend, Oregon

10. High Desert Museum

The High Desert Museum has been inspiring families since 1982 and is consistently rated as a top Central Oregon attraction by Trip Advisor. With 135 acres and more than 100,000 square feet of exhibit space, it’s a “must see” for anyone traveling through the area.

Get a close-up of native wildlife, such as an otter, bobcat, porcupine, and badger. Talk with historic characters who share the tales of early Oregon explorers and settlers. Visit an authentic homestead and sawmill from 1904. Experience a close flying encounter with owls, falcons, hawks and even a vulture. Learn about Native American culture and history and delight your children with one of many fun, hands-on programs that bring history and science to life.

The Hub – Redmond

Centrally located in the High Desert, Redmond is a community rejuvenated with upscale restaurants, a growing brewpub scene, ample lodging, vibrant parks and a bustling downtown district.

Through its music events, parades, farmers’ markets, fairs and festivals, Redmond offers visitors a true slice of Americana.

Nestled in Redmond’s backyard, Smith Rock State Park’s sheer, umber-colored cliffs is top destination to the north, attracting the worlds best rock climbers in addition to sight seers, mountain bikers and hikers.

Juniper Golf Club is one of  the premier courses in Oregon, with panoramic views of Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, the Three Sisters, Mt. Washington and more. A true championship course designed by esteemed golf course architect John Harbottle, Juniper has repeatedly been a U.S. Amateur qualifying site as well as frequent host of the prestigious Oregon Open.

Strategically located at the hub of the tri-county area (hence the town’s moniker of The Hub) the Deschutes Fair & Expo Center plays host to a wide range of events, including concerts, sporting events, auto shows, trade shows, weddings, rodeos and more. The venue offers spectacular panoramic views of the Cascades, meticulously manicured grounds and more than 100 acres of parking.

Redmond is also home to Roberts Field, our regional airport that features direct flights to several hubs: Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Denver.

Welcome to Redmond, Oregon Sign

Must see: The Deschutes County Fair & Rodeo or the display of hundreds of flags in Flag City, USA.

Must do: Walk Redmond’s downtown antique district and relax with a brew at 7th Street Brew House. In the winter, enjoy outdoor ice skating.

Central Oregon Camping: VW Style

camper-van-fire

One of the best parts about living in Central Oregon is we have the ability to get away from it all in no time at all.

In under an hour we can go from our homes or offices to tranquil campgrounds in the middle of the forest, next to high alpine lakes among majestic mountain peaks. In fact, it’s not uncommon for locals in the summer to head up to the high lakes mid-week for a paddle and overnight camp out, returning to town the next day in time to get to work.

A new Central Oregon business hopes to help visitors get out into the woods overnight – and you don’t even have to bring your own tent or sleeping bag.

Bend Westy rents Volkswagen Westfalia and Eurovan campers for about the same price as a hotel room during the peak summer tourism season. But instead of room service and fine dining options, you get nature right out your front door. That’s a pretty good trade-off if you ask me.

“Mountains, lakes, rivers, trails, and rocks, oh my!  While the Westy Way savors the journey as much as any given destination, your travel spirit will be well fed by savoring the myriad of scenic and outdoor adventure destinations in Oregon.

With over 100 mountain lake and riverside camping destinations with 75 miles of our home base in Bend and three of Oregon’s 7 Wonders in our backyard, there’s no shortage of opportunities to seek out your private wilderness retreat.” — from BendWesty.com

The process is pretty simple: Just visit BendWesty.Com and reserve the camper you want. From there, you’ll arrange a time to go pick it up. Along with a couple of vans owned by Bend Westy, several locals list their campers with the site. The company hopes to add more vans in 2017.

After emailing the van’s owner, we set up a time to meet (and it just so happened she lived just a couple blocks away from me.) I met her at her house and we went through the ins and outs of her 1999 Eurovan’s camping features, which included an awning, built-in sink and propane stove, two camp chairs, a cooler, folding table, two sleeping areas and satellite radio.

camper-van-2

We were able to pick up the van on a Thursday night. The next afternoon, under gray skies and a persistent drizzle, my 2-year-old daughter and I headed up the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. Just 40 minutes later, we arrived at the Elk Lake Campground (past the entrance to Elk Lake Resort, which also has campsites available.) I found a nice spot with a view of the lake and started setting up shop.

In no time at all, I had the awning up, the heater going and some classic rock playing. (The 2-year-old was absolutely no help at all.)

Later, after school was out, my wife, infant daughter and 13-year-old son arrived at the campsite ready for a weekend of relaxing. The weather forced us to nix the campfire and huddle inside the van for the evening, but it was kind of fun. We cooked some pasta and chicken on the camp stove and called it an early night. The camper came equipped with everything we needed to cook dinner including pots and pans, dinnerware and utensils, running water, propane and more.

The van even had an exterior shower sprayer hooked up to the rear that made it easy to wash dishes and could serve as a shower if necessary.

camping-van

The campers sleep four adults – but my son and toddler daughter slept in our mini van while my wife, infant daughter and myself slept in the camper. It got a little chilly – temps dipped into the 30s – but thanks to the auxiliary battery, we were able to run the heater on and off during the night to keep things toasty warm and not worry about running down the car battery. (Even without the heater, the van was warmer – and drier – than a nylon tent would have been.)

Overnight the skies cleared (so many stars!) and we were greeted with an amazing sunrise, bright blue skies and Indian Summer temps the rest of the weekend. We played around on a beach area of Elk Lake, relaxed with friends at the campsite and had a nice dinner at the Elk Lake Resort Lodge. Canoe, kayak and SUP rentals are available at the resort during the summer and there’s plenty of great hikes just a couple of minutes from the Elk Lake Campground.

elk-lake-camping

The Bend Westy experience is an amazing alternative to run of the mill hotel lodging. For additional fees, Bend Westy will provide sleeping bags, pads, pillows & more. All you’d have to do to create the perfect Central Oregon VW camping adventure is stop by the store for some provisions.

You’re able to take the vans as far away as you want – or you can stay as close to town as you want. (Tumalo State Park is a great camping spot right in the middle of Bend. And there are a several great camping options less than an hour from Bend.)

THINGS TO KNOW:

  • Bend Westy rentals are available on a daily basis for a 3 day minimum and 14 day maximum.
  • Rental rates vary by vehicle and season, they range from $145-$195/day. Please see the “Reserve” page for specific vehicle rates and availability
  • Daily rate includes 100 driving miles per day.  Miles beyond the accumulation of 100 per day will be charged $0.50 per mile.
  • All rentals are subject to a $50 cleaning fee.
  • Pets are welcome for an additional $50 cleaning fee per pet.
  • Children under 8 are charged an additional $50 cleaning fee per child.
  • A 25% deposit is required to make the reservation.  Full payment is due 14 days prior to pick-up date.  A $1,000, refundable damage deposit is required.
  • Roadside assistance is included in each rental (on supported roads)