Golfing, skiing, hiking, and mountain biking—there are not many places where you could do all of this in one day. Central Oregon is one of these special places, which is why so many families choose to call this region home. If you’re considering moving to the area, check out some of these six fun adventures the next time you visit.
1. Make Memories at the High Desert Museum
When many people think of Oregon, the term “desert” is not what first comes to mind, but a large part of the state is technically considered to be high desert. With distant mountain views and scrubland as far as the eye can see, the high desert is both rugged and peaceful. You can learn all about it at the High Desert Museum in Bend.
Immersive exhibits show the history of the region, including how Native Americans once lived off the land. You’ll also hear stories about early Oregon settlers and tour a sawmill and homestead that will bring you back to another time. On weekends, you can even play pioneer games with the fictional family that lives on the homestead in the year 1904 and help them with their daily chores.
One of the most exciting aspects of the museum, especially for the kids, is the ability to interact with live animals. Meet a live raptor, watch the otters play, and keep your eyes open for other wildlife on the daily guided walk through the museum grounds. In the Desertarium, you’ll see rattlesnakes, Gila monsters, lizards, turtles, and other desert animals in a safe setting. You will also learn how to identify various animals by the way they fly, the tracks they leave, and other clues they leave behind.
2. Ascend to New Heights at Smith Rock
Whether you’re an experienced climber or have never tried it, it’s hard to keep your feet on the ground when you visit Smith Rock State Park. Known as the birthplace of American climbing, this park is worth a visit even if you prefer to stay grounded.
One of the most popular natural attractions in Oregon, this park is a hiker’s dream. Seasoned hikers will enjoy taking on the Misery Ridge Trail, which is a direct, and relatively steep, route to the top of Smith Rock. Your efforts are rewarded with a sweeping view of the Cascades and the stunning landscape below. If you’re intimidated by this trail name, there are plenty of other scenic trail options alongside the river.
If you’re a rock climber, you might want to set aside some serious time for this visit because there are over a thousand bolted routes in the park and thousands more non-bolted routes to choose from. Pack your tent and bivouac for a few nights to get the most from this high-desert adventure.
There’s more to do than hiking and climbing at Smith Rock. You can also bring your horses for a gentle ride along the river. There are even designated horse ford areas where you can cross to get to the trails that are just for horses. If you would rather explore on two wheels, you can take a smooth ride along the park roads, or hop on your mountain bike to fly down the descents and get some distance under your belt by expanding your ride into the adjacent BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land.
3. Speed Along a Scenic Bikeway
Speaking of cycling, Central Oregon is home to almost half of the most beautiful bike routes in the country. The Oregon Scenic Bikeway program includes 17 state-designated routes that are mapped (both print and GPS) and marked for easy navigation. With the routes ranging from mild to extreme, you can find the perfect one for your family adventure.
For a moderate ride, check out Madras Mountain Views, a 30-mile loop that begins and ends in the quaint city of Madras just 30 minutes north of Redmond. You’ll have trouble keeping your eyes on the road with the epic views of the Cascades. Fortunately, there isn’t a lot of traffic on this route. With mild winters, you can bike this route all year long for different views with wildflowers, snowcapped mountains, and blue skies as far as the eye can see.
If you’re looking for more of a challenge, McKenzie Pass could be just the cycling adventure you’re seeking This is a one-way route that is best in spring when the roads are closed to traffic, but you can also ride in summer and fall. Start the day in Sisters and follow an old wagon route with mountain views and steep descents through a thick, shady forest. This route includes some climbing, but your hard work is rewarded with beautiful lava-rock scenery that you won’t see anywhere else.
4. Explore Mount Bachelor Year-Round
If your family is into downhill skiing, Mount Bachelor is not to be missed. At one of the largest ski areas in the country, you can enjoy excellent snow conditions for more than half the year from November to May. If you’re not confident about driving up the mountain in snowy conditions, or if you just want the convenience of leaving your car behind, take the shuttle from Bend.
Take lessons as a family or enroll your little ones in the Snow Explorers program to get used to the feel of skis. Stay on the easier slopes or drop the kids off at the childcare center for a day of more advanced skiing. If you want to try something totally new, go for a scenic helicopter tour and see the magnificence of the Cascades from above. If you want to keep your feet on the ground, strap on some snowshoes for a free 90-minute interpretive tour with a U.S. Forest Service naturalist. Pick up the speed with a dogsled tour or tubing run.
When it’s not ski season, you can still get the benefits of a lift up the slopes and take your mountain bike on one of the heart-pumping downhill trails. If you don’t feel the need for speed, just take a scenic chairlift ride to get a glorious view of the wildflowers and lava flows below. At the top, you can play a round of disc golf, have a sunset dinner, or go on a nature hike with the whole family.
5. Take in Tumalo Falls
You can take the whole family for a hike to view Tumalo Falls, just a short drive from Bend. The falls are actually at the start of the trailhead, so even if you’re not up for a longer walk, you can easily view the scenery. At around 100 feet tall, the falls are an impressive sight to behold. The trails allow you to view them from above, so you can see the water churning and swirling below.
After breathing in the fresh mist, keep walking on the four-mile trail through Happy Valley to see wildflowers and even more falls along the way. The trail is easy enough for children, so it’s a great way to spend a day with the entire family. Pack a picnic for a creekside meal and enjoy the sound of the water burbling by.
Part of the Deschutes National Forest, there are also surrounding trails for mountain biking and hiking. In the winter, pack your cross-country skis or snowshoes for a snowy stroll through the woods.
6. Play a Round or Two
In Central Oregon, you’ll find almost 30 golf courses, including three that are nationally recognized by Golf Digest. One of the most popular, Tetherow offers much more than a day on the links, but the crown jewel of the resort is the award-winning golf course.
The 18-hole championship course was designed by David McLay Kidd, known for Castle Course and Bandon Dunes in Scotland. With views of the Cascades and the naturally rolling terrain, this course is truly unique. There are few like it in the country, and no other links-style courses in the high desert. The playing conditions are fast and firm thanks to the hardy fescue that thrives in these arid conditions.
To add a little more adventure to your day, reserve a GolfBoard to get around the course. The non-golfing members of the family can also ride one of these innovative vehicles and go for a tour of the grounds. Leave some time for splashing around in the outdoor heated pool, soaking in the hot tub, or chilling out in your own cabana. Book a room at the lodge or reserve a vacation home with plenty of room for the whole family to spread out and enjoy all of the amenities the resort has to offer.
With so much to do and so much to see, it’s no wonder so many people choose to call Central Oregon home. If you’re considering moving to the area or building a new house in the place you’ve always called home, schedule an appointment with the local Adair Homes branch in Redmond to learn more about how we can help you build the home of your dreams.