Within Central Oregon beats the heart of one of the most scenic and spectacular places in all the world. It is home to the cities of beautiful Bend, Redmond, La Pine, Sisters, Prineville, Madras, and the restful resort community of Sunriver. In each of these areas, you will find outdoor recreation, educational activities, ways to relax, and even world-class dining.
History of Central Oregon
Before European settlers arrived in the 19th century, this amazingly picturesque area was the home of Native Americans - namely, the southern Sahaptin tribes and the northern tribes of the Paiute. With the arrival of settlers along the Oregon Trail, the region was transformed into boom-towns of logging mills. For most of the 20th century, the lumber industry ruled its way of life. There were also lots of railroad towns, which helped the region stay flush. Now it's got a diverse economy boasting ski resorts, national parks, cities, rural areas, and cozy suburbs.
Why is Central Oregon Special
Cowboys and city slickers will find themselves equally at ease in this gorgeous geographical area that spans hundreds of miles from end-to-end. Outdoorsy folk can ride horses on pretty forest trails, go mountain biking, fish, ski, golf, and go climbing or caving. Indoor activities include a multitude of museums to explore, 5-star restaurants to enjoy, art galleries to browse, and spas to relax in. Another thing that sets this region apart is its amazing 300 days of sunshine, year-round. This even surpasses famously sunny Southern California, which can claim only an average of 266 rain-free days!
Explore your Adventure in Central Oregon
While it's not concentrated to a single locale, and activities vary from city to city, here is an overview of cool things to do.
Cascade Lakes Highway
The Cascade Lakes Scenic Highway, heading out Bend, follows into the Cascade Range towards Mt.Bachelor. After passing by the high lakes, it becomes South Century Drive and follows 100 miles through mountains.
McKenzie Pass-Santiam Scenic Byway
McKenzie Scenic Highway, 82 miles total, starts west to the town of Sisters The highway is closed in the winter months. Following the highway, you will discover the natural wonders: clear mountain lakes, cascading falls, snow-capped volcanoes, and ancient lava fields. Point of interest: 78-foot high Sahalie Falls, Proxy and Koosah Falls, Belknap Viewpoint, Dee Wright Observatory, and Hoodoo ski area.
Stroll Through a Historic Bend Neighborhood
There are quite a few areas in this region that are designated National Landmarks, but one of the best, and most breathtaking, is the Drake Park Neighborhood Historic District adjacent to Drake Park and historic downtown of Bend. It includes 17 city blocks with 83 private residences, and you can either take a guided tour or just look around on your own. The architecture is diverse, ranging from Colonial to Craftsman.
Roam the Museums
Oregon is steeped in history - and luckily that's been preserved in a number of museums and galleries. The #1 thing to do in Bend is to see the massive High Desert Museum, which is situated on 135 acres of pine forest, boasts displays from Native American Tribes, early settlers, animals, natural rock specimens, and much more - it has something for everyone.
Museum of Warm Springs
One of the largest collections of Native American art and artifacts. You will find in the museum more than 20,000 Native American artifacts. You will learn a rich history and culture of the three tribes, listen to their songs and languages.
Kah-Nee-Ta Resort and Spa is located in the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. Admission to the Hot Springs swimming pool is included for guests of the lodge as well as Village Rooms. Day use pass is available.
Newberry National Volcanic Monument
Newberry National Volcanic Monument was created in 1990 within the Deschutes National Forest. The highest point is the summit Paulina Peak (7,895 ft). Newberry Caldera includes 54,000 acres of lakes, forests, falls, and lava flows. Open from May to October. Newberry is home to Paulina Lake and East Lake. Hiking along the Paulina Creek trail, you will find waterfalls and hot springs.
Smith Rock State Park
Beautiful, natural volcanic basalt tufts of rocks along Crooked River. This is a nice place for hiking and rock-climbing. American sports climbing was born in Smith Rock State Park. A guided climb is available.
Learn about Lava Lands
Lava Lands, located in Deschutes National Forest, is like stepping onto another planet. The lava stretches out as far as the eyes can see, and there is a wonderful visitor center that is educational for adults and kids alike.
Luxuriate at Brasada Ranch Resort
Voted Best Resort in the Pacific Northwest by Conde Nast Traveler magazine, this stunning spa situated in Bend offers activities for Spring Break, romantic accommodations for couples, and all kind of activities for kids. There's world class organic dining, horseback riding, golfing and much more to do here.
Sunriver Resort offers a family vacation with water park at the SHARC aquatic and recreation center, large swimming area, spa, paved bike paths, river rafting, and 63-holes golf.
Oregon Observatory & Planetarium
This is one of the best places in the nation to see the night sky; equipped with state of the art telescopes and a blanket of stars in the clear horizon, this is an experience you will not forget. Also, there are unprecedented wildlife photo-ops ranging from majestic wild swans to tiny tree frogs. Located at Sunriver, the Oregon Observatory & Planetarium has the largest collection of telescopes for public viewing in the United States.
No matter what brings you to Central Oregon, you will want to stay for all it has to offer: rest, recreation, education, and unspoiled beauty.
USDA Forest Service