The best places to see on a Central Oregon road trip — including ski destinations, hiking trails, classic western towns, and more!
While many people tend to skip over the state’s interior and head straight to the coast, central Oregon is known for its recreational activities and is absolutely worth visiting. Think skiing down volcanoes, climbing mountains, hiking in pristine meadows, and sipping cocktails in cozy cabins.
Taking a central Oregon road trip is one of the best adventures you can have in the western United States. A perfect getaway any time of year, these are the best spots to see on a central Oregon trip!
Central Oregon Road Trip Itinerary
Situated on the Deschutes River, Bend is a small city known both for its logging economics and for its use as a recreational-activity launching pad.
Home to roughly 94,000 people, a main feature of the town is Pilot Butte — a lava dome created by a now-extinct volcano that is perfect for exploring. Whether you visit in winter or summer, the dome has a great 1.8-mile out-and-back hike that will give you amazing views of the city and surrounding area.
Some other great things to do in Bend include paying a visit to the High Desert Museum, hitting up one of the two dozen golf courses, hiking, visiting Tumalo Falls, restaurant and brewery hopping, and doing adventure activities such as rock climbing, mountain biking, and white-water rafting.
Where to Stay in Bend
For four-star accommodations in Bend, check out the Cascade Lodge. This homey property offers a seasonal outdoor pool, sun deck, and business center.
For a mid-range option, the Element Bend features a fitness center, hot tub, and in-room refrigerators and microwaves.
With architecture dating back to the 1880s (they have wooden sidewalks!), tons of recreation activities, and artistic shops galore, Sisters, Oregon is a great stop on any central Oregon road trip. Also located in the Deschutes region, this small town was named for the three peaks nearby and often hosts festivals, live music, and other fun events.
That said, the area is best known for its outdoor activities. Here, you can expect incredible waterfalls, forests, and mountains that are full to the brim with fun things to do. In particular, some of the best include skiing at Hoodoo Ski Area, camping at Suttle Lake, and riding the McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway (it’ll take you straight to the Cascades).
Where to Stay in Sisters Country
Five Pine Lodge is a phenomenal 5-star resort in Sisters. They offer a spa, waterfall soaking tubs, bike use, and fitness center admission (among a whole list of other amenities).
For a more budget-friendly option, Sisters Inn & Suites is highly-rated and offers cozy rooms.
Smith Rock State Park
With roughly 300 sunny days per year, Smith Rock State Park expanses over 650 acres and is the perfect place to crank your central Oregon road trip up a notch. This park is absolutely gorgeous and features dramatic volcanic peaks jutting out of the earth. For this reason, the park is world-renowned in the rock climbing scene — there are thousands of places to climb, some of which are bolted, some not.
Not into rock climbing? All good! Smith Rock State Park also has caving opportunities, golf courses, and endless mountain biking and hiking trails.
Where to Stay Near Smith Rock State Park
Located in nearby Redmond, SCP Redmond Hotel is a great mid-range location. The hotel features a restaurant, fitness center, and lounge.
A slightly more modest hotel, Sleep Inn & Suites Redmond has an indoor pool, hot tub, and gym.
Known as a resort destination, Sunriver is located just south of Bend and is renowned for its championship golf tournaments and spectacular nature. As a matter of fact, if you’re a golfer, then you should know that the local Crosswater Club has been designated a Top 100 course by Golf Digest!
Even if you’re not a golfer though, Sunriver is an idyllic place to visit any time of year. The resort is within easy reach of volcanic sites, miles of paved paths, and the Sunriver Nature Center and Oregon Observatory.
The latter of which hosts stargazing, nature, and wildlife events. Also, if you’re a hiker, then you’ll especially not want to miss the Newberry Crater National Volcanic Monument, home to obsidian lava flows. If you’re visiting in the warmer months, I highly recommend a float down the Deschutes River.
Where to Stay in Sunriver
Sunriver Resort is the premier place to stay in Sunriver. The resort is perfect for families or couples and is home to multiple restaurants, golf courses, and other top-tier amenities.
Lava River Cave
Speaking of obsidian lava flows, Lava River Cave is part of the Newberry Volcanic Monument that I listed above and is the longest lava tube in the state. The site offers information, classes, and headlamps for visitors, as well as self-guided tours.
The tube is roughly a mile long and will take you approximately an hour and a half to explore, so I recommend setting aside a full afternoon for this activity. Also, keep in mind that you’ll have to descend 55 stairs to get into the cave and the terrain is very uneven. Make sure to wear proper footwear!
Where to Stay Near Lava River Cave
Lava River Cave is just 5 miles from Sunriver. I recommend either staying at the Sunriver Resort, or at a hotel in Bend.
Canyon Creek Meadows
Looking to hike through gorgeous alpine forests, meadows filled with wildflowers, and see incredible views of jagged volcanic peaks? Then Canyon Creek Meadows is the place for you!
Canyon Creek Meadows is a 7-mile loop hike that will take you from Jack Lake and into gorgeous meadow areas — the star of the show being the view of Three Fingered Jack peak along the way. Though you can hike this during any of the summer months, the most popular time by far is July when the wildflowers are in full bloom.
Where to Stay Near Canyon Creek Meadows
Though Canyon Creek Meadows is near Camp Sherman, I recommend staying at a nearby campsite if possible. Jack Creek Campground and Lower Canyon Creek Campground are both great options.
Just under 12 miles from the Jack Lake Trailhead, Camp Sherman is a small town located on the Metolius River. Here, you’ll have easy access to the Deschutes National Forest and get great views of Mt. Jefferson — a spectacular site standing 10,497 feet tall.
Some of the most popular sites are the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery, the Oregon “ghost rock” Hoodoos, and the incredible views of the surrounding rocks.
Where to Stay in Camp Sherman
The Suttle Lodge & Boathouse is a cozy place to stay in Camp Sherman, with a restaurant, bar, and concierge service.
For another great option, Cold Springs Resort is a more secluded place from which to explore surrounding nature.
One of the most popular sites on any central Oregon road trip, Mt. Bachelor is a stratovolcano in the Cascade Mountain Range.
Additionally, it’s the sixth-largest ski resort on the continent, featuring 121 unique runs and 4300 acres of skiing area. Great for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels, the resort is home to the only peak in the US where you can ski off any side of the mountain — a full 360-degrees of ski choices.
However, if you’re not into skiing, then you can still have fun at Mt. Bachelor. In particular, the resort features an observatory, as well as snow tubing, dog sledding, snowshoeing, and scenic chairlift rides.
Where to Stay Near Mt. Bachelor
Both just 30 minutes away, Bend and Sunriver are the nearest major municipalities near Mt. Bachelor.
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