Explore the Natural Wonders of Central Oregon

Deciding what hiking trail to explore is the greatest challenge faced by hikers visiting and living in Central Oregon.

Sunriver is the perfect jump off place to explore nearby trails and those a short drive away. Alpine lakes, majestic Ponderosa pines, breathtaking waterfalls, ancient lava flows, and marvelous mountain views await beginning to advanced hikers.

Hiking checklist:

  1. Make sure the trail you want to hike is open. Some trails aren”t accessible until after Memorial Day and close in October.  
  2. Check the weather. Weather can often be unpredictable in Central Oregon so it’s important to always be prepared before heading out. 
  3. Wear good hiking boots and socks. 
  4. Pack a backpack with food, water, First Aid kit, whistle, extra clothes and socks and a flashlight. Take a hiking GPS. 
  5. Ask a friend to go hiking with you or join a hiking group. The Sunriver Hiking Club explores Central Oregon Trails and can be reached at sunriverhikingclub@gmail.com. The Sunriver Women’s Club also has hiking groups. 
  6. Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.
  7. Pick up a season or day recreational pass. You can purchase recreational passes at Camp Abbot or visit recreation.gov/pass for passes at Camp Abbot or visit recreation.gov/pass for passes to Oregon’s Central Cascade Mountains. Central Cascades Wilderness Permit System requires a permit June 15 to October 15 for some of the most popular trails in the Mount Jefferson, Three Sisters and Mount Washington wilderness areas. All reservations for Central Cascades Wilderness Permits must be made through Recreation.gov either on-line, via the Reaction.gov either on-line, via the Recreation.gov app on mobile devices, or by calling their call center at 1-877-444-6777 or TDD 877-833-6777. Search for “Central Cascades Wilderness.” 
  8. Talk with the locals. Visit any of the recreational stores in The Village at Sunriver to ask questions about hiking trails. Stop by Sunriver Books or Camp Abbot for guidebooks and maps. 
  9. Be good to nature. Stay on the trail. Take pictures and leave nature where you found it. Pack it in and pack it out. Bury potty breaks. 

Hikes in Sunriver

With more than 34 miles of paved paths, a hike in Sunriver will take you alongside the Deschutes River and among towering Ponderosa and lodgepole pine trees.  Stroll across the Cardinal Landing Bridge, near Circle 5, to the new Sunriver Trails. While designed for mountain biking, the trails are open to hikers and trail runners. 

The Sun-Lava Trail 

A 5.5-mile paved bike path connects the Sunriver Resort with the Lava Lands Visitor center. 

Easy Hikes 

  1. Benham Falls: It’s great for all ages and fitness levels, allowing you to go 1/2 mile to the Falls and back or keep hiking along the river. 
  2. Lava Butte Crater Loop & Trail of Molten Land: The Lava Lands Visitor Center has two short hikes with interpretive signs into the lava field behind the Visitor Center. 
  3. Lava Cast Forest & Lava River Cave: This 2-mile out-and-back hike is completely underground!  
  4. Pilot Butte: Explore an old cinder cone located just east of Bend. Hike one of three trails. The trails wind through stands of juniper and sage. All the trails lead to the summit. 
  5. South Canyon Loop Deschutes River Trail: Bend has an amazing trail system along the Deschutes River.
  6. Shevlin Park, 3 miles north of downtown, is Bend’s largest park. There are trails along the creek and on the canyon rim. Discover hikes of varying lengths. 
  7. Riley Ranch Nature Reserve in Bend features open meadows, juniper and pine forests, unique lava flows, cliffs and the river’s rocky canyon. The park is host to many native plant species, migratory birds and wildlife. 
  8. Fall River Trail: Be sure to see the headwaters of the spring-fed river. Wonderful place for a hike or run or to cast a fishing line. 
  9. Todd Lake Loop Trail: A 1.7-mile loop trail. Starting point for Broken Top.
  10. Lucky Lake: The 3-mile hike leads to an alpine lake, perfect for a swim on hot days. 
  11. Dry River Gorge: is closed to hikers in the spring and summer because it’s a nesting site for Prairie falcons. In the fall, it’s a wonderful hike with beautiful scenery and mysterious petroglyphs. Total of 4 miles.

Moderate Day Hikes 

  1. Badlands Wilderness, Flatiron Rock/Ancient Junipers: It’s notable for its year-round accessibility, photogenic old-growth junipers, wildflowers in early summer, volcanic rock formations and flat trails. 
  2. Green Lakes Trail: is a moderate hike along a 4 to 6 mile trail where you’ll have the opportunity to see lava flows, waterfalls and an abundance of wildflowers. 
  3. Tumalo Mountain Trail: The two-mile uphill climb is worth it for the amazing views of Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top and the Three Sisters. 
  4. Tam MacArthur Rim Trail: offers spectacular views of the Cascade Mountains and amazing blue-green alpine lakes. 
  5. Wake Butte: This area is a hidden recreation and scenic natural smorgasbord that has few visitors! 
  6. Paulina Lake: There are several trails to explore, hike around the lake, to the peak or Lost Lake.
  7. Ann’s Butte: This butte has two peaks with a saddle between them and offers some peek-a-boo views. The climb up is short but has steep spots. Total distance is less than 5 miles.

Long Day Hikes

  1. Sunriver to Bend via Deschutes River Trail: An epic 20-mile hike from Circle 7 on the Deschutes River Trail will take you to the Old Mill District of Bend. If you leave around 8 am, you can be in Bend for happy hour!
  2. Bachelor Summit: Hike to the 9,065 foot summit to see Mt. Bachelor’s “summer side.”
  3. South Sister: It is rare to be able to ascend to the top of a 10,000 ft. tall peak on a hiking trail. No technical equipment is needed to climb our tallest local volcano, South Sister, only legs of steel. 
  4. Broken Top: Start early in the morning to enjoy this 15.2 mile out and back hike. Start at Todd Lake to hike to No Name Lake. 

Broken Top

by Phil Fischer

South Sister

by Kate Cosgrove

Green Lakes

by Kristine Thomas

South Sister

by Kate Cosgrove

View of Todd Lake

by Kristine Thomas

View of Mt. Bachelor

by Kristine Thomas