Outdoor enthusiasts flock to Central Oregon to soak up outdoor adventure. From the depths of the river valleys to the peaks of the mountains, jaw-dropping vistas await around every bend. Whether paddling the Deschutes River, skiing down Mount Bachelor or relaxing on the Cascade Lakes, the landscapes simply inspire. Charming towns like Bend, Redmond and Sisters keep the adventures going after a busy day in the great outdoors.
An Explosive Past
Bend is one of a handful of cities in the nation to have an extinct volcano within the city limits. The remaining geological evidence is a cinder cone butte that rises 500 feet above the surrounding plains. Trek to the top of Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint on foot or wind your way up the scenic drive for views of the city below and the Cascade peaks rising above the horizon. Good Sam offers plenty of Bend RV campgrounds so that you can explore the stunning lava rock formations, smell the fragrant juniper and ponderosa pines and taste the local craft beer, with ease.
Whole Lot of Lava
Can’t get enough of volcanoes? Nestled within Newberry National Volcanic Monument, the Lava Lands were formed after a volcanic eruption approximately 7,000 years ago, leaving behind an ocean of jagged lava rock. Because of its striking resemblance to the moon’s surface, the area was even used by NASA as a training ground in the 1960s. Today, you can still play astronaut here at the Lava Lands Visitor Center, an interpretive hub shedding insight on the 56,700 acres of lava flows, sparkling lakes and geological wonders. Embark on the Trail of the Molten Land and Trail of the Whispering Pines to get a closer look of the lava rocks. Summit Lava Butte by foot or shuttle for 360-degree views of the desolate landscape. You can also take a helicopter tour to see the lava fields from a whole new perspective.
The River of the Falls
With a name that translates to “the river of the falls,” it’s no surprise the Deschutes River offers adventures with a splash. From its start in the Cascades to its confluence with the Columbia River, the Deschutes dishes out diverse recreational opportunities. Paddlers will find exquisite whitewater, anglers can pull out native trout and plump, wild steelhead, and boaters will find wide, slow patches to explore. To find the Beaver State’s most stunning lakes, take the Cascades Lakes National Scenic Byway for an unforgettable journey. Paddling and fly-fishing opportunities abound, with views of snowcapped peaks reflecting in the alpine pools.
Get Ready for Peak Thrills
Enjoy the scenic Deschutes River from the land with a hike along the Deschutes River Trail Loop. Running 3 miles along the waterway, this path takes trekkers to views of the cascading creek and several waterfalls amid a forested backdrop. Discover a new hiking experience in the Lava River Cave, the longest continuous lava tube in the state. If you aren’t afraid of the dark, grab a lantern and get ready for an unforgettable adventure.
Biking and Golf
Mountain biking is practically a religion here, with 1,000 miles of trails criss crossing the area. Oregon’s majestic scenery can be enjoyed from its golf courses, too. The Central Oregon Golf Trail connects 30 greens across the region.
Three Sisters Reign Supreme
The Three Sisters are a trio of volcanic peaks above 10,000 feet found within the Cascade Range. They are also a mecca for climbers and hikers. Experienced trekkers can summit South Sister, the third-tallest peak in Oregon, with no technical climbing skills — just head to Devils Lake Trailhead and take the 5.5-mile steep route to the top. Middle Sister is best tackled in good weather and can be accessed via the Hayden Glacier, located on the north ridge’s east side. North Sister is the hardest to conquer and should only be done by seasoned hikers with appropriate gear.
Wildlife enthusiasts won’t want to miss spotting golden eagles, prairie falcons, mule deer and more within Smith Rock State Park. The 600-foot cliffs attracts climbers like a magnet. Hunters should take advantage of the many pheasants, quail, elk and deer that roam in the open grasslands, craggy mountains and national forests around Bend. In the winter, Mount Bachelor is your destination for snow sports — shred down powdery slopes, take a sled dog ride or join a snowshoe tour.
Oregon is the epicenter of brewpub culture, and the Deschutes Brewery in Bend is one of the originals. Tours lead to up-close views of the production process, with free samples poured at the end. Central Oregon doesn’t just produce good brews; the region takes pride in its locally grown produce, with dozens of farm-to-table restaurants and farmers markets.
Rodeos, Quilts and Summer Fun
The town of Sisters connects with its Old West roots with the annual Sisters Rodeo. Known as “the biggest little show in the world,” this event includes five days of rollicking rodeo action. People also turn out to this tiny town each July for the more tranquil Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. Learn from master quilters, marvel at the 1,400 quilts on display and take home one of your own. One of the region’s largest parties is the Bend Summer Festival. Enjoy two stages of live music, gourmet food and wines, and fine arts.
High Desert History
Get a sense of how the geology and geography of Central Oregon shaped its history with a visit to the High Desert Museum. Explore fascinating exhibits dedicated to the flora and fauna of the region. Learn about the diverse Plateau Indian Nations who first called this area home. Walk in the footsteps of pioneers at replica pioneer camps.
For More Information
Oregon Tourism Commission