Last updated on January 18th, 2022 at 07:34 pm
With dozens of waterfalls to explore and hundreds of trails, Central Oregon is a hiker’s paradise. If you’re ready for adventure in Central Oregon this year, here are some of the best Bend hikes out there. With so many hikes in our beautiful state to choose from, we hope this guide can help you get a better idea of some of the best to explore.
10 Classic Bend Hikes
Central Oregon is gorgeous and is the perfect spot to get out and explore nature away from the crowds. Check out our map of some of our favorite Bend hikes below.
1. Chush Falls Trail
This is one of those trails you just have to take if you’re in the area. This easy 5 mile round trip hike will lead you through an eerie burnt forest and end in a cascading picturesque waterfall.
This trail will also treat you to sweeping views of the Three Sisters and Broken Top. The trail is accessible year round, though you should plan on using snowshoes in the winter. Dogs are allowed on the trail but must be kept on a leash. June to October is a prime time to take this trail as birding is good during summer months. You can find detailed directions to the trailhead here.
2. Green Lakes Trail
The beautiful Green Lakes Trail is a local favorite. This is a moderate hike along a 4.5 to 6 mile trail. Along this trail you’ll have the opportunity to see lava flows, waterfalls, and an abundance of wildflowers. The trail gradually climbs alongside Fall Creek in the Three Sisters Wilderness and goes right between the base of Broken top and South Sister.
Fall Creek Falls is approximately 1 mile up the trail. You’ll come to the first lake after almost 4.5 miles, but you can continue your hike for another 3 miles to the other lakes. The parking lot serves several trailheads and can get crowded, however there is overflow parking across the highway. Get there early as the parking lot can fill by 7 am and the trail can get crowded in summer months.
3. Sisters Mirror Trail
This trail is open from July to October and makes for a perfect summer hike. There are no mountain views on this hike, but it will lead you to dozens of small mountain lakes that are good for taking a dip. You’ll also be lead through a pumice field and forests of mountain hemlock, and past meadows full of wildflowers. Dogs are allowed on the trail with a leash. This trail also offers easy access to the Pacific Crest Trail. This is a great hike to take to get away from crowds on other popular nearby trails.
4. Tumalo Mountain Trail
If you want sweeping views of Broken Top and Mount Bachelor, this is the trail for you. The Tumalo Mountain trail is a popular 4 mile round trip hike to the peak of Tumalo Mountain. It’s open year round, and is a popular hike in winter with snow shoes. Dogs are allowed on this trail on a leash.
The trail switchbacks up through hemlock and pine forest and through meadows of stunning lupine. Be prepared to see a lot of people on this trail.
5. Shevlin Park
For those visiting and looking for someplace close to get out and experience the beauty of Bend, Shevlin Park is the perfect spot. This local favorite is only three miles from Bend and is a favorite destination for not only hiking, but jogging, wildlife viewing, fishing, picnicking, and mountain biking as well. Tumalo Creek goes through the park with several footbridges crossing it. A scene from the Disney movie Homeward Bound was even filmed on one of the bridges going over Tumalo Creek. Today the bridge is no longer here due to coming to the end of its lifespan, but still pretty cool.
The hike is around 4.7 miles and takes you along the river, through lush forests, and over foot bridges. If you’d like to visit this 981-acre park in Bend, head to 18920 Northwest Shevlin Park Road in Bend Oregon.
6. Paulina Lake Trail
The 7.5 mile loop around Paulina Lake will lead you to natural hot springs, past obsidian flows, and give you views of Paulina Peak. Most of the trail is right next to the water, so you’ll be treated to views of the lake and the peak for most of your hike.
Don’t forget to check out these other Bend adventures while you’re in Central Oregon:
- Surfing the river in Bend Oregon
- Relax and soak up nature at Shevlin Park
- Dive off a bridge with this Bend bungee jumping company
7. Lava River Cave
Deep in the Central Oregon forest is a one-mile-long cave surrounded by Juniper Trees, Ponderosa Pines and the landscape of a secret volcanic underground world. The cave itself is one of many hidden in The Arnold Ice Cave System near Bend (for extra spelunking experience you can check out nearby Hidden Forest Cave and Arnold Ice Cave; Charcoal Cave is also nearby but closed to the public) and was created by a basalt lava flow roughly 80,000-90,000 years ago. Today you can make the short hike through the cave system, but remember to bring extra warm gear. The caves can range anywhere between 35-50°F, even during hot summer months.
Region: Central / Deschutes National Forest
Length: 1.9 miles roundtrip
Season to Visit: June-September
8. Blue Basin Overlook Trail
There isn’t any other place in Oregon like the Blue Basin, and I can’t imagine there’s any place quite like it in the world. Tucked away in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Blue Basin is a wondrous location with sandstone walls that are different shades of vibrant blue, from cerulean to aquamarine.
Some 44 million years ago, the land that is now central Oregon was a lush subtropical paradise, wiped out by a volcanic eruption near Burns about 7 million years ago. Plants and animals were trapped under a load of hot ash, eventually preserving them in fossil-form. The Blue Basin is full of them, and you will see many interpretive signs and specimens along your hike. Be sure to stop at the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center on your way — it’s well worth the trip.
Region: Central / John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
Length: 4.0 mile loop, 898′ elevation gain
Season to Visit: Spring and Fall
Contact: National Park Service
9. Tamolitch Falls / Blue Pool Trailhead
This is easily one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever experienced, and a That Oregon Life favorite. One of the first things you’ll notice is the color of the water. The topaz blue color is almost iridescent – like a blue Otter Pop (and almost as cold). The water is so clear that some might assume it to be only about 5 ft deep – yet closer inspection will reveal that in many spots it’s over 30 ft deep. So pure in fact that you’d swear the water wasn’t moving – yet at the end of this glass-like pond – a huge volume of water rushes out as the McKenzie River is reborn.
While there is rarely a falls here anymore due to the damming of the McKenzie, the native-American name Tamolitch Falls still persists. The hike to get there is serene; climbing atop mossy lava fields, through emerald green forest, and along the beautiful river.
Tamolitch has two access points – the main one is at Trail bridge Reservoir – about midway on the McKenzie River Trail. From this trailhead, it’s a 2-mile hike to Blue Pool.
The upper access point is at Carmen Reservoir. From here it is a 3-mile hike down. This is the harder trailhead to find, and we recommend you access the lower trailhead.
Region: Central Cascades / Willamette National Forest
Length: 4.2 miles roundtrip
Season to Visit: Spring-Fall
10. Brown Mountain Trail #1005
This section of the Brown Mountain Trail is a delightful hike, mountain bike, or horseback ride along the southern flanks of Brown Mountain. Passing through shaded old-growth forest and lava-fields, the trail offers opportunities for Morel mushroom hunting in the late spring. Wildflowers such as orchids and trilliums blanket the forest floor in early summer. You can find good seasonal huckleberry picking here, as well as brilliant fall colors.
Region: South / Fremont-Winema and Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forests
Length: 6.8 miles
Season to Visit: May-October
Tips For Hiking Bend Oregon
- Check online to be sure the trail you want to hike is open before you travel out there. Also check to see what passes, if any, are required to park at the trailhead.
- Let people know where you’re going and when you’ll be back.
- Take a hiking GPS so you don’t get lost.
- Take a friend. Hiking is always better with a friend.
- Carry extra water and a nutritious snack such as gorp (trail mix), or protein bars.
- Wear good, comfortable hiking boots or sneakers. Take an extra pair of socks too (trust me, someone always gets their feet wet, and it’s no fun hiking in wet socks).
- Bring a light jacket or raincoat and check the weather ahead of time. Better to be prepared than cold and wet from the elements.
- Be good to nature by following the 7 principles of Leave No Trace. Stay on the trail when possible so you don’t tramp down vegetation. Leave nature alone. This means not picking up pretty rocks, wildlife or vegetation to take home with you. Pack it in, pack it out: whatever you bring in with you, make sure it comes out with you, even if it’s just an apple core or other food waste, bring it out and throw it in the trash instead of leaving it for other hikers to find. This also includes human waste. Some trails don’t have bathroom facilities. Try to pack your waste out with you in a zipped plastic bag, but if you can’t, live by the rule: 200 feet, 6 inches deep. Bury human waste 200 feet away from water and at least 6 inches deep. This means you’ll have to bring a trowel to dig with. Don’t count on digging a 6 inch deep hole with a rock or stick, it just won’t work. Cover it up when you’re done. Try to leave whatever trail you’re on as good as when you found it.
Have you hiked any of these trails? Which one of these is most likely to make it onto your bucket list? Share this and tag a friend you’d like to hike these trails with. If you have pictures of your adventures hiking these trails, share them with us!