Central Oregon is a paradise for anyone who loves the outdoors. The area is nestled between the Cascade Mountains to the west and the Ochoco Mountains to the east, drawing skiers and snowboarders in the winter and hikers and backpackers in the summer. Clear lakes and streams offer even more opportunities for fishing, canoeing, SUP, swimming, and other freshwater sports.
Basically, if you enjoy spending time in nature, you’ll likely fall in love with Central Oregon. It’s not uncommon for visitors to return year after year, until they eventually buy a home in the area. To get a taste of what Central Oregon has to offer, check out these 7 great hiking trails.
Visit our Central Oregon community page to learn more about finding a great place to live near all of these amazing trails.
1. Lava River Cave
Central Oregon is historically a volcanic region, which means the area has the most caves in Oregon. Deschutes country alone has over 500 lava tubes. You can explore one of these tubes by walking inside the Lava River Cave, a one-mile hike in the dark. Just make sure you dress warmly and bring flashlights!
2. Rosary Lakes, Pacific Crest Trail
The Pacific Crest Trail is one of the most epic trails in the US. Extending from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, it’s known for its wild beauty. Part of it crosses through central Oregon. You could hike this entire section of the trail, or just sample one of the highlights by going to Rosary Lakes. All three lakes have clear, beautiful water and great campsites, perfect for a relaxing long weekend in nature.
3. McKenzie River Trail
The McKenzie River Trail has awesome waterfalls, ancient lava flows, and pure hot springs you can soak in. The trail isn’t just great for hiking, either. It’s popular among runners and mountain bikers, too. You can work up a sweat cruising down the trail, then stop to enjoy the cool forest air and mist coming off the 78-foot Sahalie Falls.
4. South Sister
South Sister is one of the highest peaks in Oregon and the most popular mountain among the Three Sisters. The trail to the summit is about 12 miles out and back, and you won’t need any climbing gear—just a lot of water and food. You can either hike to the summit in a day or camp up in the meadow first, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the 360° view at the top.
5. Three Sisters Loop
If you’re not quite ready for the rigor of hiking up a mountain, you can spend time in the Three Sisters Wilderness instead. This 23-mile loop trail is perfect for backpacking and camping under the stars. You’ll see bubbling creeks, breathtaking viewpoints, and meadows full of wildflowers.
6. Tumalo Falls Trail
This trail is easy enough for a family with young children, yet still beautiful enough for a seasoned hiker to want to visit. You can either take the “long way” or park closer to the waterfall for a short walk. Don’t miss the path that leads down to the bottom of the waterfall, so you can look behind the falls, too.
7. Bend Ale Trail
Bend, Oregon has a relatively small population, but it has enough world-class breweries for a large city. Since many people living in Bend also love the outdoors, it’s only natural for the town to make a “trail” connecting the breweries. Visit 10 breweries on the Bend Ale Trail, and the visitor’s center will give you a souvenir in recognition of your awesomeness.
Thinking of moving to Central Oregon? Take a look at these fantastic homes in the area, all close to great hiking trails!