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The 11 Best Fall Hikes Around Central Oregon

  |  Central Oregon, Neighborhood Insight

Bend, Oregon is a stunning sight in the fall. The weather gets a little cooler and the trees come alive in hues of red, orange and yellow. While the city itself is full of things to do this season—from fall events to new autumn beer releases at our local breweries—there’s no better way to enjoy Bend’s changing colors than taking a hike. 

To help get you out to see some of the region’s best scenery this season, we rounded up some of our favorite fall hikes in the area. Whether you want a quick trip just up the road or an adventure a few hours away, every single one promises stunning fall colors and a breath of fresh air! 

 

Distance: Half-Mile 

Difficulty: Easy 

For a quick afternoon jaunt near the Deschutes River, head to the Dillon Falls Day Use Area! This gorgeous spot is nestled just 8.5 miles from Bend, offering a half-mile, out-and-back walk to Dillon Falls—a powerful series of rapids dropping roughly 65-feet. There are several picnic tables in the area so you and your family or group can enjoy lunch under the changing leaves. And, for more experienced hikers, the Dillon Falls Day Use Area offers easy access to the 6.8-mile trail that leads to Benham Falls, another gorgeous fall hike!

 

Distance: 1.6 Miles 

Difficulty: Easy 

Fall Hikes Near Bend, Oregon

Photo courtesy of Bend Parks & Recreation

Located in north Bend, Riley Ranch Nature Preserve boasts 184 acres of former private ranch land along the east side of the Deschutes River. Here, you can explore several different hiking trails, or you can combine them to make a 1.6-mile figure-eight trail! Most trails are wide and feature packed gravel, making them ADA accessible that almost everyone can enjoy. If you want to get closer to the Deschutes River, there is a slightly more difficult and traditional 1.25-mile trail that connects Robin’s Run and the Canyon Loop Trail. Please note: both dogs and bikes are prohibited in Riley Ranch Nature Preserve, so keep that in mind when you’re planning your visit.

 

Distance: 1.6 Miles 

Difficulty: Easy 

Proxy Falls is a stunning set of waterfalls over the MacKenzie Pass. This 1.6-mile trail, which can be done with both kids and dogs, is a local favorite for all skill levels. The loop travels through open lava fields and dense forest, offering views of two waterfalls, hundreds of mossy rocks, signature Central Oregon fall foliage and more. The trail is a bit of a trek from Bend—about an hour and a half—but the views along the drive along with the spectacular hike make it well worth the trip!

 

Distance: 3 Miles 

Difficulty: Intermediate 

 

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The Scout Camp Loop Trail on the Middle Deschutes River is one of the most spectacular hikes you’ll find in Central Oregon—especially in the fall! About a third of a mile from the trailhead, the trail descends steeply into the Deschutes River Canyon. Just before ascending back up to the trailhead, the trail will seem to end at a boulder by the river. To proceed up the rest of the loop, you will have to scramble over the boulder, but we promise the climb is worth it! If you make the full three-mile loop, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the confluence of Whychus Creek and the Deschutes River.

 

Distance: 3.7 Miles 

Difficulty: Intermediate 

Arguably the most iconic scenic trail in the Bend area, the Northfork Trail offers stunning views all year long. This heavily trafficked climb ascends steeply from Tumalo Falls to Happy Valley, featuring several different waterfalls and stunning green, orange and yellow views along the way! If you also happen to be a mountain bike enthusiast, this trail is very popular with the local biking community—but it’s important to note that bikes are only allowed in the uphill direction on the Northfork Trail.

 

Distance: 4.6 Miles 

Difficulty: Easy

 

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Situated just north of Redmond in the Cove Palisades State Park lies the West Metolius River Trail. This relatively easy trail offers both an interesting fish hatchery at the start of the trail and manageable terrain. The trail follows the titular West Metolius River, offering beautiful views of the river and the changing leaves surrounding it. If you can, we highly recommend taking the upper part of the trail, which ends in a jaw-dropping waterfall!

 

Distance: 4.7 Miles 

Difficulty: Easy 

If you don’t want to travel too far from Bend to see the fall colors, the Shevlin Park Loop Trail is a spectacular option. Located just west of the city, Shevlin Park is a 981-acre preserve with an extensive trail and pathway system winding throughout. While the park has three developed picnic sites, a paved road and a few other attractions, most of the park remains undeveloped, which makes for a peaceful adventure through nature. Although the whole trail is 10 miles long, there are several ways to shorten your route—like the Shevlin Park Loop Trail, which travels along the canyon rim and offers views of Tumalo Creek with aspens and ponderosa pines all around.

 

Distance: 5.9 Miles 

Difficulty: Easy 

 

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Just down the road from popular Sunriver, you’ll find the free-flowing Fall River, a tributary of the Deschutes River tucked away within the beautiful LaPine State Park. The hike itself, a 5.9 mile out and back trail, runs along the river, offering stunning views of both fall foliage and the Fall River Falls. While the trail is mostly flat and is a good choice for hikers of all levels, local hikers recommend sticking to the side of the river as many unmarked off shoots may confuse you. And if you decide you don’t want to hike the full trail, the many parking lots along the way give you the option to customize your hike length! 

 

Distance: 8.5 Miles 

Difficulty: Easy 

The mighty Deschutes River is one of Bend’s most well-known features! The upper portion of the river emerges from the Cascades and descends through lava fields and forests of stunning ponderosa pines. The trail winding alongside the river is very accessible and open to hikers, runners, horseback riders and mountain bikers! You can experience a large portion of this section by hiking from the Meadow Camp picnic area to Benham Falls along the Upper Deschutes River Trail, an 8.5-mile journey filled with a plethora of beautiful fall views.

 

Distance: 26 Miles 

Difficulty: Hard 

Following the stunning McKenzie River, this 26-mile trail starts at the mouth of Clear Lake in the Cascade Mountain Range. Popular with both hikers and mountain bikers, the McKenzie River Trail features multiple cascading waterfalls, thick forests, lava fields and twinkling blue pools. But the best part? Due to the length of the trail, it rarely gets overcrowded! If you don’t want to hike the entire trail in one go, we recommend heading to the upper part of the river, where you’ll find the majority of the trail’s attractions like the Blue Pool, Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls. 

 

Distance: Varies  

Difficulty: Varies

Hikers at sunset at Whychus Canyon Preserve. Michelle Bergeron and Pat Gaunt.

Photo courtesy of the Deschutes Land Trust

Whychus Canyon Preserve is a 930-acre preserve on Whychus Creek near Sisters, just a half-an-hour drive from the heart of Bend. The Preserve contains four miles of Whychus Creek, miles of grasslands, old growth juniper, cottonwood and aspen trees—all of which you can explore on one of the many well-maintained trails! There are so many different trails that will take you through the preserve that we couldn’t choose just one to outline on this list. But a few of the most highly recommended include the Wagon Road and Meadow Loop, the Long Canyon Loop, and the Mid Canyon Route. To learn more about each of these trails, click here!

 

Happy Hiking!

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

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