11 things to do on your trip to Central Oregon

Published August 17 2018

BEND, Ore.

For outdoor recreation, Central Oregon seems to have it all.

Snow-capped Mount Bachelor, the scenic Deschutes River, dozens of lakes and waterfalls, and miles and miles of hiking and biking trails offer endless opportunities for active adventures. And the high desertís warm, sunny days and crisp, cool nights make the climate ideal for spending long hours outdoors.

Here are just a few ways to get out and enjoy this areaís natural beauty.


Central Oregon has hundreds of spectacular trails to explore for both casual and serious hikers. Whether urban or remote, the trails treat hikers to stunning scenery. For easy access, the Deschutes River Loop Trail runs about 3 miles along the river starting in charming downtown Bend. The trail has some lovely river views.


Kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddle boards are common sights on the Deschutes River. Numerous outfitters along the river rent equipment; some also give classes and offer tours. If sitting back and relaxing sounds more appealing, inner-tube rentals are available for a slow float down the river. A shuttle bus will take you back to the starting point.


Bend and the surrounding areas are very bicycle-friendly. Scenic bikeways offer road rides in and around the city that range from easy to challenging. Mountain bikers have more than 300 miles of trails to try out, from fairly flat to steep and extremely difficult. Numerous bike shops in the area rent a variety of equipment.


Mount Bachelor has something to offer in every season. Mountain biking and hiking are popular in summer months. Or take a summer chairlift ride up the mountain for spectacular views of the Cascade Range from 7,775 feet. Pine Marten Lodge at the top features sunset dining on weekends. Winter fun includes skiing, snow-shoeing and dogsled tours.


Try rock climbing, or just watch, at Smith Rock State Park north of Bend. The park is considered to be where the American sport of climbing began in 1986. Today, the park has about 2,000 climbing routes with memorable names such as Bunny Face, Hissing Llamas and Rude Boys. The park attracts climbers from around the world.


Take a drive on the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway, a picturesque 66-mile stretch of road that passes Mount Bachelor and is accented by 14 alpine lakes, most of which are visible from the road. Sparks Lake with its surrounding wildflowers was the favorite of noted Oregon wildlife photographer Ray Atkeson. Devils Lake also is picture-perfect with its striking blue-green glacial water.


Get a close-up look at evidence of Central Oregonís fiery past at the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Explore the Newberry Caldera and some of the many cinder cones left after massive volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago. The caldera contains two beautiful lakes and the 80-foot Paulina Falls twin waterfalls. Climb up Big Obsidian Flow, following the trail through a giant mound of volcanic glass, explore the milelong Lava River Cave, and walk through a large lava field where NASA astronauts trained in the 1960s for the moon landing. Free ranger talks are interesting and informative.e_SClBFALL FOR THE FALLS

Central Oregon has a wealth of beautiful waterfalls, many of which are easy to access on short hikes or bicycle rides. Among these are Benham Falls and the dramatic and often photographed Tumalo Falls, which spills nearly 100 feet over a cliff. Paulina Falls, inside the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, is just a few steps away from a parking lot.


Pristine and impossibly blue Crater Lake is just a 100-mile drive south of Bend in Oregonís only national park. The massive lake formed in the crater of a volcano that erupted 7,700 years ago. It is the deepest lake in the United States (1,943 feet at the deepest point) and is thought to be perhaps the purest in the world. Crater Lake National Park also is terrific for stargazing, with a night sky among the darkest in the country. e_SClBOH, MY STARS

Youíll be seeing stars, especially away from the city lights, because thereís little light pollution in Central Oregon. Two observatories are located within a half-hour drive of Bend. Pine Mountain Observatory, part of the University of Oregon Physics Department, has impressive equipment for viewing the stars and planets. The Oregon Observatory at the Sunriver Nature Center has the largest collection of telescopes for public use in the country. And right in Bend, the Hopservatory at Worthy Brewing is a one-stop shop for sky tours and craft brews.


Central Oregon has long been home to craft brews. With 19 breweries in Bend alone, the city claims to have the most breweries per capita in Oregon. The oldest of them, the award-winning Deschutes Brewery, celebrated its 30th anniversary in June. But any one of the fine craft breweries is a fitting place to raise a glass after a day of hiking, biking or paddling.