If you haven’t discovered Central Oregon yet, make this your year. There are so many amazing destinations to explore: unique land formations, beautiful forested areas and everything in between. With so many things to do, it may just become the vacation spot you come back to again and again.
The nice thing is that Central Oregon is lesser known to the greater population, so it’s not overrun like so many other tourist traps. But rest assured there are plenty of visitors; the difference is, the people who love coming to Central Oregon come to be a part of the great outdoors. If you like camping, hiking, golfing, skiing, or just about any other outdoor activity, this is the vacation spot for you.
When is the best time to visit? Any time! It all depends on what you want to see and experience. Check out a few ideas below, depending on whether you prefer a spring, summer, fall, or winter visit.
If you love to get out and stretch your legs and go for a hike, then your next spring hiking destination is definitely Central Oregon. The area boasts some of the most unique and at times, unusual rock formations. Locals and visitors alike spend a great deal of time hitting the trails, so there are many groomed hikes to choose from. Flowers start blooming, animals begin to raise their young and the sun feels heavenly in the crisp air.
Here are just a few:
- Trail of Molten Lands. Located south of Bend in the Deschutes National Forest, going on this hike is like stepping back in time thousands of years. It was formed just like the name indicates: by molten lava. There is a reason why astronauts spent time training here in the 1960s, because it looks just like the moon! The harsh rock formations are gnarly and fun, though there is a downside in that there are no trees or shade anywhere. That’s why it’s best to visit in spring, when temperatures are cooler. The perfect time to plan a vacation would be May, since the Lava Lands Visitor Center is open starting that month.
- Tumalo Falls. Hikers can actually park close to the 89-foot falls and take a look and then choose from a variety of trails all around for some out-and-back moderate hikes. The Tumalo Creek Trail offers great views of the creek, as well as other falls. This time of year, you might see a little snow, depending on which month you visit. But with or without a little of the white stuff, the views are amazing. Just make sure to check the weather before you go and wear extra layers just in case.
- Smith Rock. These red towers of tuff and basalt are a rock climber’s dream. There’s also an extensive trail system to explore on on foot, bike – even horse. The park is so loved, each year over 200 people volunteer for the Smith Rock Spring Thing, focused on repairing and upgrading trails, fences, parking and more. Want to enjoy the views a little longer? You can also camp year-round.
When the sun gets high overhead and the desert dry heat settles into Central Oregon, there is one thing locals and tourists alike love to do: head for the water. There are plenty of water ways to choose from in the area, so whether you like to hang out on the boat or even surf, here are just a few options:
- Bend Whitewater Park. This newly constructed park is perfect for keeping cool in the water all summer. It is located in Bend in the Deschutes River near the Old Mill District. The project split the river in three areas: a wildlife habitat, a wave train for kayakers and surfers, and a passage for river floaters. The wave has brought water enthusiasts from all over to try it out for themselves. You certainly won’t be disappointed.
- Sparks Lake. West of Bend with views of Mt. Bachelor and South Sister peaks is a lake so beautiful, it’ll take your breath away. If you love canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, or boating, this is your new vacation spot. Because of the ancient lava flow, you’ll come across some interesting rock formations with a backdrop of trees and beautiful summer color. It’s the perfect setting to enjoy some time in the water.
Fall Fishing & Photography
If your perfect vacation includes you and your fishing pole in the cool fall weather, there are plenty of beautiful spots to enjoy the day in Central Oregon. Many are located close to vacation rentals, so you don’t have to travel far to be in the wilderness. Take a picture or two of the gorgeous fall trees while you’re at it.
Here are just a few ideal fishing spots to head to this fall:
- Crane Prairie Reservoir. The view of the surrounding mountains can’t be beat all year long, but in the fall, it’s pretty spectacular. If you don’t have a boat, you can rent one at the resort. Located in Sunriver, you can fish for trout and bass in this natural-looking, man-made lake.
- The Deschutes River. Located near Bend, this river has amazing fishing all year, but in the fall, the weather is quite pleasant and fewer people are out for summer break. Here at Deschutes, you can expect to catch redband trout and brown trout. Whether you are fishing from the bank or off a boat, there are several access areas to choose from.
If you like snow, you’ll love Central Oregon. The towns in the area do get some flurries, but the real snow is up in the mountains. We’re talking 30 feet of the white stuff! Where to go and what to do? Here are just a few ideas:
- Mt. Bachelor. This spectacular mountain is the fifth largest ski area in the U.S., which means plenty of fun things to do for anyone in the family. From skiing (kids ski free) to sled dog rides and much more, you can spend all day up there. But if you’d rather hang out in town during part of your vacation, check out a vacation rental spot down off the mountain.
- Snowmobiling Trails. There are many trails to choose from, so you’ll definitely want to check out a snowmobiling company that can outfit you with the proper gear and show you where to go. As always, have fun and stay safe out there!
Central Oregon is the epicenter for outdoor adventure, and it’s open for business all year long. Make this your next vacation spot to explore all the area has to offer and to reconnect with nature and your loved ones.