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Tyson Gillard | 12.25.2016

The terrain of Oregon offers almost everything the outdoor enthusiast could ask for, from deserts to the coast to rain-soaked pine forests, and Bend anchors another of Oregon's unique environments to call home for a foray into the outdoors. Like the rest of Oregon, there is a magnificent assortment of activities to choose from here, and in the winter the high desert scrub, striking volcanoes, and subterranean lava tubes assume an entirely different character. Its Sno-Parks and cinder cones become snowy playgrounds for snowshoers and skiers, while its waterfalls continue to roar amid a fringe of ice.

We can find far more than 15 reasons to go there, but here are the best.

Backcountry Skiing

  • Cinder Cone: Anyone who skis at Mount Bachelor will recognize the little mound often used by skiers and snowboarders who visit the resort. Being outside of the resort boundaries, the Cinder Cone is a cost-effective way to ski close to resort amenities, but be forewarned: The secret’s out. 
  • Ball Butte: An enjoyable alternative to backcountry skiing nearer to Bend, Ball Butte offers accessible backcountry runs near Broken Top. Access is difficult, though, so do your level best to get the keys to a snowmobile. 
  • Vista Butte Backcountry Ski: One of the finest areas for snowshoeing is also ideal for backcountry skiers. All aspects of the butte are skiable from the summit, which makes Vista Butte one of the best backcountry ski options so close to Bend.
  • Todd Lake Ridge: The runs at Todd Lake Ridge are short—the longest drop just 700 feet—so don’t expect the 10-minute joyrides down Bachelor’s Northwest Express. That said, the area offers a variety of terrain and preserves dry snow, and you can lap these routes all day long.

Cross-country Skiing

  • Wanoga Sno-Park Cross-country Loop: An easy loop, the trails at Wanoga are great for beginners or for those who want to take the dog out on a special walk. Trails are level and extend for 2 miles through pine forest.
  • Paulina Creek + Falls Loop: Another Oregon gem, the waterfalls along Paulina Creek are striking in mid-winter, much like the cascade at Tumalo Falls. Whereas Tumalo is a short day excursion, Paulina is best experienced as an overnight, whether backcountry snow camping or staying at the Paulina Lake Resort. Hot springs included!
  • The Swampy Lakes Warming Hut received an upgrade in 2016, and the new hut opened for visitors in December by the raging flames of the old hut, scorched in an opening ceremony. Like the old hut, the new one is an easy 1.5 miles from parking with great views of the Cascades.


  • Tumalo Falls Trail: Tumalo in the winter is one of the most spectacular scenes in Oregon. One of Oregon’s tallest waterfalls cascades 89 feet from a rocky precipice to the canyon floor, where the whitewater becomes indistinguishable from surrounding snow. Snowshoe or ski the 2.5 miles, but give yourself time to complete a longer loop if you’re looking for a challenge or solitude.
  • Tumalo Mountain Snowshoe: A local favorite, Tumalo Mountain offers a moderate grade and some of the best views of the area in Central Oregon. The scene is inspiring, showcasing the Cascade volcanoes from Bachelor to the Sisters.
  • Black Butte Snowshoe: Black Butte is another of those iconic and inspiring formations near Bend. Unlike Tumalo, it’s a rigorous ascent up the 4.2-mile trail to similar vistas of the surrounding mountains.
  • Vista Butte: Just a quick walk in the park, the trail to Vista Butte is one of the easiest ascents to panoramic views near Bend. The view south extends as far as Mount Scott on Crater Lake.
  • Big Lake Snowshoe: This picturesque snowshoe is mellow and groomed, following the summer access roads from Benson Sno-Park to Big Lake. Off-trail explorations into wintry wilderness are available as well, but be sure to bring proper navigational aids.


  • Dutchman Flat Sno-Park Sledding: If you’re in the Three Sisters Wilderness and you’re looking to finish off your day with some sledding, the Dutchman Flat Sno-Park is one of the most accessible options. The terrain is gentle and great for families with kids.
  • Wanoga Sno-Park Sledding Hill: Bring your innertubes to Wanoga Sno-Park for some winter sledding fun with the whole family. An easy and gentle descent makes Wanoga the safest option close to Bend—and also the most popular, these days.
  • Drake Park Sledding: The modest sledding hill on Franklin Avenue is one of Bend's most easily accessed sledding hills.
  • Mount Bachelor Cinder Cone: The Cinder Cone at Bachelor is better known for backcountry skiing and snowboarding, so it comes as no surprise that the sledding area is one of the area's most under-appreciated.

Ice Skating

  • Pavilion Ice Skating: Though technically indoors, the Pavilion is a great place to spend time when the weather gets a little nasty, as happens on occasion in Bend. Newly constructed and open for public use in 2016, it’s one of the few places in central Oregon to lace up ice skates.
  • Seventh Mountain Ice Skating Rink: The Pacific Northwest claims few places to ice skate, and two of them call Bend home. The rink at the Inn of the Seventh Mountain, unlike the newer Pavilion, is outdoors.


  • Three Creek Lake + Tam McArthur Rim Yurts: Some of the swankiest lodging in the Bend area also offers access to some of the best backcountry ski terrain. The yurts house six and offer many of the comforts of home in the middle of the forest. The nearby Tam McArthur Rim will consume the rest of your day anyway, so who needs towel service?
  • Mill Inn: An incomparable little boutique bed and breakfast, the Mill Inn is just six blocks from downtown and a perfect place to stay for the service and amenities of a special vacation.
  • Lara House Bed + Breakfast: With six rooms, the Lara House overlooks Drake Park in Bend, a little bit of the urban wilderness to accompany the comforts of home.
  • Tumalo State Park: With year-round yurts, some campgrounds in the Oregon State Park system have accommodations that are are available for reservation. Near Bend, your best bet is Tumalo State Park.
  • McMenamin's Old St. Francis School: Never lacking for ambiance, the McMenamin's hotel in Bend was a Catholic schoolhouse converted in 2004 and hosts, in addition to its accommodations, a pub, a movie theater, and a soaking pool.
The soaking pool at McMenamin's Old St. Francis School Brew Pub and Hotel. Photo by Tyson Gillard.


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