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Central Oregon

Discover the Beaver State’s rugged playground

From high-desert rock climbing to mountain skiing, Central Oregon is a paradise for outdoor activities, no matter the season.

Although most visitors to Oregon associate the state with rainy weather and lots of old coniferous forests, the landscape and climate change drastically once you head inland from the Pacific coast and cross the Cascade mountains. Here, you’ll find a rugged, mountainous playground with crystal lakes, charming towns, and fantastic restaurants and entertainment.

Bend and Around

Central Oregon’s biggest city and one of the state’s fastest-growing urban areas, Bend is best known for abundant outdoor activities and excellent restaurants. The quaint downtown area is filled with charming, high-end boutiques, wine bars and cafes. Places like Re-cycle Music, which sells new and used CDs and vinyl, keep the music playing. Other local attractions include the Les Schwab Amphitheater, which hosts major international acts throughout the summer months.

The city also has some of Oregon’s best microbreweries, which means a lot in a state celebrated for its fine beer. The most famous of these is the Deschutes Brewery, with brews named after local points of interest—the best-known beers include Black Butte Porter and Mirror Pond Ale.

Hitting the Trail

When it’s time to put down the mug and lace up the hiking boots, you don’t have to go far for adventure. Nearby attractions include the Oregon Badlands Wilderness, a shrub- and rock-filled desert park that’s part of the 750-mile-plus Oregon Desert Trail.

During the winter months, Bend is an excellent base from which to explore nearby Mount Bachelor, best known for its skiing and snowboarding options. In the summertime, outdoors enthusiasts head down to the Deschutes River State Recreation Area for floating and rafting. Bring your climbing gear to nearby Smith Rock State Park, which has thousands of rock climbing routes and is considered the birthplace of bolted sport climbing.

Many visitors also stop by Redmond, a small city in between Smith Rock and Bend proper, which features a wide array of outdoor activities. Don’t miss the Redmond Caves Recreation Area, a group of five caves that formed when a lava tube collapsed millennia ago. Other attractions in town include the Alfred A. Dolezal Art Gallery, where visitors can buy originals and prints of the local artist’s fantastical depictions of the natural world.

The Majestic Three Sisters

While many people just stop off in the little town of Sisters on their way to Bend, there’s enough to see and do here to merit an overnight stay. There’s a small main street with lots of cute shops and cafes, many housed in historical buildings that give the town a Wild West feel. Hotel Sisters is one such building; dating back to 1912, this small yellow structure offers not only hotel rooms but also an old-time saloon restaurant, Bronco Billy’s.

Just down the road, the Leithauser General Store houses the local bakery and is just around the corner from Hardy Allen House, a 1908 house—historic by Oregon standards—that is now home to the town florist.

Peak Experiences

Many visitors use Sisters as a base from which to explore the area’s natural splendor. The town gets its name from the Three Sisters, triplet peaks that are covered with snow well into the summer and range in height from 10,047 feet to 10,358 feet. Other nearby mountains include Mount Jefferson, the second-tallest peak in Oregon (Mount Hood to the north takes the prize), as well as Broken Top, an extinct, glacially eroded stratovolcano. Other scenic peaks include Mount Washington and the pinnacle-topped Three Fingered Jack. Black Butte is one of the closest peaks; at its base sits Black Butte Ranch, a large resort with horse stables, golf courses and restaurants open to the general public.

John Day Fossil Beds

A couple of hours northeast of Bend, but still very much within central Oregon, the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is among the state’s more unusual natural attractions. It sits within a mountain range that’s believed to have emerged millions of years ago. A series of lava eruptions over the millennia have reformed the area, making room for fossils in their wakes.


Today, archaeologists and paleontologists, as well as lay public, come to the area to look for fossils, often with quite a lot of success. Just outside the attraction, the beautiful Painted Hills showcase dazzling hues from numerous layers of differently colored stone, each layer emerging after a different eruption. John Day is also home to one of Central Oregon’s more unusual sites, the Kam Wah Chung & Co. Museum, a National Historic Landmark. Once a Chinese-run apothecary, it’s now a museum dedicated to Chinese culture in the American West.

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Central Oregon




Oregon Tourism Commission