Hiking Trails in Central Oregon

A family crosses a bridge while on a hike.

Hiking is, far and away, one of the top things to do in Central Oregon—and it’s easy to see why. Our landscapes, ranging from flat and arid to forested and mountainous, offer something for hikers of all abilities. The wide range of scenic beauty comprises shimmering rivers, ancient lava flows, centuries-old forests, high-desert terrain, stunning rock formations, and more. And perhaps best of all: Wherever you are in Central Oregon, you’re never far from a trailhead or two (or 10).

With so much to see and experience, here’s how to enjoy the best hikes in Bend, Oregon, and beyond. Just make sure you bring plenty of water, slather on sunscreen, pack the Ten Essentials, and have trail maps or directions before heading out.

Hiking Trails Near Bend and Redmond

Hiking is undoubtedly one of the top summer activities in Central Oregon, and we could fill an entire book writing about hikes around the region. So if you’re looking for a rundown of treks that explore the disparate landscapes around Bend and Redmond—from thundering waterfalls to alpine lakes to a high-desert expanse—here’s a look at some of the best day hikes around Bend and Redmond.

Sparks Lake: The short loop hike at Sparks Lake gains just 150 feet over the course of three miles—but packs a lot of what makes Central Oregon so beautiful into that short span. Almost immediately after setting out, hikers pass Sparks Lake—with South Sister towering overhead and creating one of the most-photographed sites anywhere in the region. (In fact, Oregon photographer Ray Atkeson made this view famous with many of his photographs, and a paved loop at the lake is named for Atkeson today.) Beyond the viewpoint, the easy hiking trail heads through a forest of lodgepole pine and lava rock for an enchanting outing.

Tumalo Falls: The four-mile out-and-back hike past Tumalo Falls leaves the crowds behind for a quiet look at Tumalo Creek and some of Central Oregon’s most resplendent forests. The easy trail begins near the base of the 97-foot waterfall before gently, yet steadily ascending roughly 600 feet through a forest of ponderosa pine. You’ll pass a series of smaller waterfalls along the way, as well. Given this hike’s close proximity to Bend, scenic beauty, and relative ease, this is a popular stop for locals and visitors alike; try arriving by 9 a.m. on weekends—or consider a midweek trip, if possible.

Oregon Badlands Wilderness: Almost 50 miles of trails cover the Oregon Badlands Wilderness, just outside of Bend, so it can be tough to know where to start. For a fine introduction to the region, consider the 6.3-mile round-trip hike to Flatiron Rock, a citadel-like rock formation in the heart of the wilderness. Hikers gain only about 220 feet along the gentle trek while passing through a forest of ancient juniper trees. Views from inside Flatiron Rock show off the surrounding high-desert landscapes, along with Cascade peaks to the west. A lack of shade makes this a particularly brutal hike in summer, so consider hiking the Badlands in spring, fall, or winter—and be sure to pack plenty of water and sunscreen, no matter the time of year. (Curious about the stands of centuries-old juniper throughout the Badlands? Read up on our page about the forests of Central Oregon for more.)

a couple walking toward a Tumalo Falls, a waterfall viewpoint

Misery Ridge Trail at Smith Rock State Park: There are few more popular hiking trails anywhere in Oregon than the Misery Ridge-River Trail Loop at Smith Rock State Park, just 15 minutes northeast of Redmond. The 4.2-mile round-trip hike ascends the appropriately named Misery Ridge, gaining nearly 900 feet via a series of steep switchbacks, before emerging onto a bluff that affords dramatic views of the park’s rock formations, nearby farmland, and Cascade peaks to the west. From the summit, the hike follows the Mesa Verde Trail before descending to the River Trail, which follows the Crooked River back to the trailhead; grab a map (or download a trail map online) to help navigate the park’s network of trails. (And while you’re hiking, learn about the importance of staying on the trail with this short video about trail preservation.)

Trail Hikes Near Sunriver and La Pine

The areas around Sunriver and La Pine offer a little of everything. Waterfalls along the Deschutes River Trail? Quiet forests of ponderosa pine? Ancient lava rock? Lakes within a volcano? You’ll find it all—and more—in the bustling stretch of Central Oregon.

a family takes in the view of the river at Benham Falls

Big Obsidian Flow: One of the most dramatic hikes in the state is a one-mile loop through Big Obsidian Flow—a striking lava flow in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. The lava flow is just 1,300 years old and is covered in glassy obsidian and pumice, all of which can be seen up-close from along the gently ascending trail.

Dillon Falls to Benham Falls: Whatever natural experience you’re looking for on the trail to Dillon Falls and Benham Falls, you’re sure to find it along this scenic stretch of the Deschutes River Trail. The 6.8-mile hike, which gains a relatively mild 300 feet along the way, offers highlights almost too numerous to mention—including a pair of waterfalls, churning rapids, rocky river canyons, stretches of lava rock, forests of pine, and Cascade peak views.

Paulina Lake: It’s not every day you get to hike along a lakeshore inside an active volcano—but that’s exactly what hikers can do along the 7.5-mile round-trip Paulina Lakeshore Trail. The hike gains about 425 feet, mostly through a series of gentle, yet rolling hillsides, while affording views of Paulina Lake, obsidian flows, and the caldera rim.

Mt. Bachelor Hiking Trails

Most of us know Mt. Bachelor as a popular ski resort—but the peak is home to several popular hiking trails, both on the mountain itself and (no joke) just across the road. Here are a few of our favorite trails on (and near) Mt. Bachelor.

Tumalo Mountain: The trail up Tumalo Mountain doesn’t waste any time: Hikers gain 1,340 feet in just 4.4 miles round-trip—but what follows the steep ascent is nothing short of breathtaking: Hikers can walk around the summit of Tumalo Mountain, covered in red cinder, while admiring views of Mount Bachelor (quite literally just across the street from the Tumalo Mountain trailhead), the city of Bend, Broken Top, and other regional landmarks. Wildflowers grow in early summer on the meadows near the Tumalo Mountain summit, and deer and elk are occasionally spotted around the trail’s open landscapes.

Mt. Bachelor: Want to summit Mount Bachelor without the help of a chairlift? You can do so on a brand-new trail that’s replaced a less scenic, now-decommissioned path. The new trail is 7.5 miles round-trip, with about 2,800 feet of elevation gain—making it a task for even the heartiest of hikers. The path begins at West Village, passes through open meadows, heads into forests covered in fir and hemlock, and (from the summit) affords views of the Three Sisters, Broken Top, Elk Lake, and almost too many Central Oregon landmarks to count. Of course, you can still take a chairlift up, at least part way, if the ascent sounds daunting. (Want to see what else there is to do on the mountain? Discover Mt. Bachelor for year-round recommendations for enjoying the iconic peak.)

Two people look at Mt. Bachelor while on a hike.

Hikes Near Sisters and the Three Sisters Wilderness

Most of us know Mt. Bachelor as a popular ski resort—but the peak is home to several popular hiking trails, both on the mountain itself and (no joke) just across the road. Here are a few of our favorite trails on (and near) Mt. Bachelor.

A group of people hike on a mountain rim trail.

West Metolius River: This family-friendly 5.7-mile round-trip hike gains only about 270 feet as it parallels the cool, sapphire-colored waters of the Metolius River. Springtime wildflowers bloom along the trail and on islands in the middle of the river, aspen groves put on dazzling foliage displays in autumn, and the trek ends at the Wizard Falls Hatchery—which rears six species of trout and salmon that are stocked in lakes and rivers all over Oregon. (Bring a few quarters for the hatchery’s gumball machines, which dispense fish food, if you’d like to feed the fish.) With so much to see—wildflowers, fish, forests, and more—is it any wonder the hike is a popular way to explore Central Oregon’s natural beauty?

Canyon Creek Meadows: Good luck narrowing down all there is to love about the locally famous Canyon Creek Meadows: The 6.5-mile hike gains about 900 feet and passes through meadows covered in summertime wildflowers, looks out over a glacial lake, passes a flowing waterfall, and shows off up-close views of Three Fingered Jack’s craggy peak.

Black Butte: The challenging ascent to the pancake-flat summit of Black Butte isn’t without its rewards. Hikers gain 1,560 feet over the course of the 4.8-mile round-trip hike, which passes through a forest of ponderosa pine before emerging onto Black Butte’s wide-open hillside. On a clear day, summit views showcase the mountains of Central Oregon—including Broken Top, North and South Sister, Mount Washington, and (on a clear day) Mount Hood to the north.

Green Lakes: The trail to Green Lakes sits along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway and is admittedly closer to Bend than Sisters—but few trails show off the Three Sisters Wilderness quite so well. The 9-mile out-and-back hike gains about 1,200 feet—but does so while gently rising through a forest of pine, hemlock, and Douglas fir. The path mostly hugs Fall Creek along the way, with several thundering waterfalls offering pleasant diversions. As it ascends from the heart of the forest, the path parallels a massive lava flow before arriving at the Green Lakes basin—where some of the best views of Broken Top and South Sister await.

Finally, a friendly heads-up: If you’re hiking or backpacking certain trails within the Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington and Three Sisters Wilderness areas between late May and September, you may need a permit through the Central Cascades Wilderness Permit System.

Now that you’ve scoped out all the great hikes around the region, check out our page on hiking in Central Oregon for additional details, recommendations, and inspiration. And if you’re not sure where to start or would like someone to lead the way, we’ve got you covered with a rundown of tours & trails in Central Oregon.

Explore Nature’s Beauty

From the sagebrush-covered plains of the high desert to the towering pines and majestic mountain peaks, discover the diverse landscape Central Oregon has to offer.