Are you the sort of traveler who rates a trip by the miles you hiked and the amount of sun on your face? Then you should come hiking in Oregon.
Personally, we’re of the opinion that it’s better than Disneyland, but we’re a little biased.
Of course, if you only have a limited amount of time, you want to make the most of your visit. Here are some of the trails in Bend that Oregon hikers cannot miss.
1. Deschutes River Trail
If you need somewhere to start that’s not that far from town, the Deschutes River Trail Loop is less than a mile from the Old Mill District, so you get the best of both worlds. Enjoy a morning hike followed by coffee, shopping, and lunch along the Deschutes River at Anthony’s.
While the loop stays close to town, the Deschutes River Trail goes on for another 10 miles or so, winding along the Deschutes River in Deschutes National Forest. While offering good distance, this hike is good for all levels and ages — the trail is well-maintained and allows pets.
From Meadow Camp picnic area to Benham Falls, the distance is about 8.5 miles, though you can pick the trail up at other points for different distances. From Meadow Camp to Lava Island, for example, it’s a breezy 1.2 miles. If you only want a day visit, spring for the day pass at $5.
2. Misery Ridge
Don’t let the name scare you away from this hike.
Misery Ridge is a steeper hike, but the name probably comes more from the amount of sun (and lack of shade) the trail gets in the summertime. If you want scenic views on your tour of some of the most iconic natural areas in Oregon, you shouldn’t miss Misery Ridge.
From the trail, you get an excellent view of Smith Rock along with panoramic views of Central Oregon’s multiple peaks along the Cascade Range.
Pick up the trail in Smith Rock State Park from the Smith Rock trailhead down to the Crooked River Bridge. You’ll see a sign at the far edge marking the Misery Ridge Trail. Start your hike up the switchbacks, and watch for sunbathing reptiles and golden eagle aeries.
At the summit, you’ll have a great view of the famous Monkey Face formation.
As signs in the area will warn you, Smith Rock has its fair share of rattlesnakes! Keep your eyes open and stay on the trail.
3. Tumalo Falls
Tourist favorite Multnomah Falls is a few hours north along the Columbia River Gorge, so Tumalo Falls offers a great option when visiting Bend. Plus, it has fewer tourists and offers views that are gorgeous.
Think of a lush forest landscape split by a 100-foot waterfall. The hike is only four-miles roundtrip. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can widen it to seven miles. Either way, there are many well-marked options. Follow Tumalo Creek and you’ll get a view of other waterfalls, too.
4. Green Lakes Trail
Green Lakes Trail is only about four miles long (eight miles roundtrip). Its relatively slow elevation change makes it an accessible trail for hikers of all ages.
Fair warning: it’s also one of the most well-trafficked trails in the area, but once you see it, you’ll understand why.
Green Lakes Trail weaves along the banks of Fall Creek past multiple waterfalls through the shade of an evergreen forest. Enjoy the sounds of running water and the colors of the natural landscape as you hike into the Three Sisters Wilderness.
The pay off at the end of your hike are amazing views of the South Sister and Broken Top along with a number of Alpine lakes to enjoy. If you are up to the challenge, you can continue on to climb the South Sister, but make sure to research the endeavor first.
5. Mt. Bachelor Summit Trail
Life looks sunny at 9,065 feet.
Mt. Bachelor Summit Trail offers stunning views of Central Oregon and the Cascades including Broken Top and the Three Sisters. It’s a 3.8-mile round trip, but gains about 2,500 feet in elevation, so it’s a difficult undertaking.
Pick up the trail at the Sunrise Lodge base camp and head straight to the summit, or take the Pine Marten lift to the mid-mountain level. Either way, keep in mind that trails above the Pine Marten Lodge are not patrolled.
Be aware of your surroundings and proceed with a consciousness of taking your own risk. Watch your footing and follow the typical safety protocols and you’ll be fine.
6. Broken Top Trail
Now that we’re talking about difficult trails, if you want a strenuous trail, take a look at Broken Top Trail in the Three Sisters Wilderness.
It’s 9,177 feet at the summit and a 15-mile round trip, making it one of the highest and hardest summits in the Central Oregon area. Beginners shouldn’t mess around here.
That said, the long hike pays off in the views you get from on top. You get amazing views of Broken Top, Central Oregon, and the Cascade Range.
If you think you’re ready for the challenge, you can pick up the trail at the Tumalo Falls Picnic Area and Trailhead about 13 miles west of Bend, out Skyliner Road.
If you’re coming from Bend, you can also enter the trail by driving west for 27 miles on the Cascade Lakes Highway. Turn left at Devil’s Lake Campground and you’ll see a sign for the South Sisters Trailhead at the end of the parking lot, labeled South Sisters Climber Trail 36.
7. South Sister Summit
Only experienced hikers should try South Sisters Summit in the Three Sisters Wilderness. Even then, get an early start.
We’re not kidding when we say it’s a monster of a mountain (in fact, it’s Oregon’s third-tallest summit at a whopping 10,358 feet).
While no technical climbing skills are necessary, the trails are steep and rugged. You have to climb 5,000 feet of trail from the Devil’s Lake trailhead to summit, and that’s only in 5.5 miles.
Those miles are worth it: you can see hundreds of miles in any direction, even if you only loop halfway up the mountain and stop at Moraine Lake (which avoids the final climb up a cinder scree).
Keep in mind that you’ll need a Northwest Forest Pass permit to park at the trailhead, and groups cannot be larger than 12 people.
The Best Spot for Oregon Hikers
For discerning Oregon hikers, Bend is a great place to vacation and try a variety of trails.
Of course, you won’t spend every waking second on the trail, and you’ll definitely be hungry afterward.