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The 10 Best Hikes Around Bend + Central Oregon

  |  Central Oregon

Central Oregon literally has it all. You can explore downtown areas, charming suburbs, community parks and a ton of breathtaking outdoor wonders. But with the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we sometimes forget about the acres upon acres of incredible wilderness right in our backyard!

To help get you out to see some of the region’s best scenery—from lava tubes to mountain summits—we rounded up some of our favorite trails in the area. Whether you want a quick trip just up the road or an adventure all the way across the state, every single one promises views, challenges and a breath of fresh air!

COVID NOTES:

1) As of July 15, face coverings are now required statewide in outdoor public places where you cannot physically distance. While hiking is an excellent way to practice social distancing, there may be times when you are not able to maintain a 6-foot distance from others while passing by other groups on narrow trails. Be sure to wear a face covering at that time. Click here for more information from the City of Bend.

2) The City of Bend is creating pop-up Stay Healthy Streets (Neighborhood Greenways) to increase ways to safely get outdoors for exercise and recreation, enhancing the community’s ability to comply with statewide physical contact prohibitions and physical distancing requirements. Click here for a map of the street routes and more information.

 

Big Obsidian Flow Trail

Distance: 2 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

 

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Located near Paulina Lake in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, this easy and beautiful trail is an absolute must this season. The trail starts off with a set of stairs that will take you up to a field of chunked obsidian glistening in the sunlight. The one-mile trail leads through heaping mounds of black obsidian—a geological wonder. It’s created by a 1,300-year-old lava flow and is surrounded by pine trees and a breathtaking stream running along one side.

 

Pilot Butte Trail

Distance: 2 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

One of the top attractions in the Bend area, the Pilot Butte Trail winds its way up 500 feet to the summit of a lava dome, providing great views of Bend and the nearby peaks of the Cascade Range. There are three ways to the top of the butte, either a mile-long paved trail, a mile-long steeper nature trail, or the base trail, which winds around the extinct volcano. Most people like to hike up one and down another — just be aware of cars on the road. If you want to make the most of the view, take a picnic with you and enjoy it on one of the many benches along the trail.

 

Lava River Cave

Distance: 2.2 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

The Lava River Cave is the longest lava tube in Oregon and is one of the most fascinating sites in the state! Grab a flashlight and head to Newberry National Volcanic Monument, which is in Deschutes National Forest just a dozen miles south of Bend. Park in the convenient parking area and walk towards the ranger station at the top of the trail. If you forgot your flashlight—no worries! You can rent a lantern when you get there. Inside, you’ll ease down between walls of volcanic rocks and explore the mile-long pathway. The area tends to be pretty busy most of the year, but the experience is well worth the traffic.

 

Farewell Bend River Trail Loop

Distance: 3 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

 

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If you’re looking for a hike that provides the iconic Oregon forest and river views—Farewell Bend River Trail Loop is perfect for you. Begin your hike at Farewell Bend Park located at the Bill Healy Bridge on Reed Market Road. Park and follow the river trail under the bridge to your left. What you’ll find is some magical views of the Bend landscape. Wondering about its name? The trail was actually the spot where early settlers would look back at our piece of paradise and bid it farewell before heading off to the unknown.

 

Oregon Desert Trail

Distance: Varies according to starting point

Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Bend has its very own long-distance trail just outside of town! The 750-mile Oregon Desert Trail begins in the Badlands Wilderness, just 20 miles east of Bend and covers wide, open deserts, remote mountain ranges, spectacular canyons and so much more. The entire trail ends at the spectacular Owyhee Canyonlands, one of Oregon’s most dramatic landscapes. Visit for a quick day hike or a weekend excursion, or hike the entire route in one go—it’s entirely up to you! You can find maps, a guidebook, GPS waypoints and more here.

 

Black Butte

Distance: 4.4 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

If you’ve made the trip from Salem to Sisters on Highway 20, you’ve likely spotted the massive cone in the distance. In reality, reaching the 6,436-foot summit is a lot easier than you would think. The hike is just 4.4 miles round trip with 1,500 feet gained in elevation. The top itself provides a panoramic view of the Cascades and two historic fire lookouts. If you want to explore the trail in peace, we recommend heading over midweek to avoid the busy crowds on the weekend.

 

Tumalo Falls

Distance: 8 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Tumalo Falls Oregon

When you arrive at Tumalo Falls, it’s just a five-minute walk to the main viewpoint—which is an absolute must. After you’ve gotten your fill of beautiful views, continue along the trail upstream along Tumalo Creek. Along the way, you’ll be greeted by some spectacular waterfalls. This extremely popular area has limited parking, so we recommend planning ahead and carpooling if you can.

 

Green Lakes Trail

Distance: 9 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

One of the most beautiful hikes off of the Cascade National Scenic Byway, the Green Lakes Trail climbs along Fall Creek, past spectacular mountain scenery and eventually leads you to the stunning Green Lakes. This rewarding hike climbs around 1,100 feet and runs across waterfalls, lava flows, colorful wildflowers and more. Once you get to your destination, take a swim, enjoy a picnic on the shore or just take in the beautiful lake views for a while.

 

Misery Ridge Trail Loop

Distance: 3.7 Miles

Difficulty: Hard

Offering outstanding scenery and a bit of a challenge, the Misery Ridge Trail Loop in Smith Rock State Park is one of the best and most difficult hikes on this list. On the trail, you’ll tackle a steep series of switchbacks and climb over 600 feet to the summit, high above the river below. In addition to the sweeping views of the ridge, you’ll also be greeted by a ton of wildlife, like deer, river otters and possibly bald eagles along your hike.

 

South Sister

Distance: 11.8 Miles

Difficulty: Hard

South Sister Oregon

South Sister is Oregon’s third tallest mountain, soaring 10,358 feet in elevation. The trail to the top is rugged, steep and dry—but the view is well worth it. The summit offers a view of half of the state. Make sure you have plenty of water, sun protection and gear to keep you warm and dry if a storm takes you by surprise. It should be noted that experts recommend only hiking this trail in perfect weather, as it can be dangerous otherwise.

 

Happy Hiking!

Did we miss your favorite trail in the Central Oregon area? Let us know in the comments!

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About the Author

Melissa Peterson, Director of Agent Services and Technology

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