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Central Cascades Tour
Exploring Attractions in the Oregon Peaks
The Oregon Cascades is the prime destination for Oregonian adventurers. The sparsely populated countryside is made up mostly of high desert and mountain towns with plenty of wide open spaces to explore. With everything from the mighty Deschutes River to Mt. Bachelor to Smith Rock, the area has it all. But, the Cascades are no one-trick pony. The vibrant city of Bend makes sure that even the city slickers have fine cuisine, concerts and resort hotels to keep them entertained and fed. Enjoy Oregon’s elevated destinations.
Madras, incorporated as a city in 1911, is a great place to take the family to enjoy outdoor activities from bicycling to rafting.
Eagle Watching: Lake Billy Chinook’s 400-foot cliffs rise straight out of the water and create a prime wind environment for America’s most iconic bird of prey. All types of eagles, including the impressive Bald Eagle, take refuge on the sheer cliff faces and watch the water below for signs of food.
Bring your binoculars to be sure that your sighting gets you up close and personal with the powerful predators as the snatch fish from the water and ride the thermal air right up over your head.
Cove Palisades State Park: The Cove Palisades State Park is a year-round recreational destination located in the high desert region. The weather is sunny and warm in the summer months and chilly but generally mild in the winter. Rentals are available for ski and fishing boats, wave runners and kayaks. There is also nearly 10 miles of hiking trails to keep the family entertained all day.
Heading west from Bend on US 20, you will find that the Three Sisters – South Sister, Middle Sister, and North Sister – forming a stunning mountain backdrop against the central Oregon sky as you make your way to Sisters, Black Butte, and the Metolius River.
Shop: Just a reminder that Oregon is one of two U.S. states that doesn’t charge a sales tax! Sisters and Redmond offer a quaint shopping experience in their respective downtowns. Find handmade goods and delicious treats in either one of the charming downtowns.
McKenzie River National Recreation Trail: Near Sisters, this world-class bicycling trail offers tour guides and great easy biking for the recreational mountain biker. It is especially suited for beginning hikers and families with young children. Located on Highway 126, the ranger station is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays.
If you get a chance along your road trip, drive into the Crooked River Gorge via Highway 27 from Prineville to the large Prineville Reservoir State Park. It offers a gorgeous drive into the heart of the gorge and the ancient river.
Chimney Rock: Along the Oregon Trail, Chimney Rock stands as one of the most picturesque landmarks. Travelers of the Oregon Trail reported that it was visible forty miles away. General Joel Palmer said in 1945 that it had the “appearance of a haystack with a pole running far above its top.”
Lower Cricket River Drive: Take the family on a wild and scenic ride to Cricket River. You will find picturesque places to picnic here, as well as an easy, ten-minute trail you can walk down to the river.
Smith Rock: The best picture-snapping view of Smith Rock and the Crooked River is from the far end of the parking area in Smith Rock State Park. The rock climbing at Smith Rock State Park is also considered to be some of the best and most challenging anywhere in the world.
Hiking trails take you around the immense rock feature and along the winding Cricket River. Keep your head up and your eyes on the wall for rock climbers who make this scenic feature a worldwide destination. A steep hike up Misery Ridge will take you over the top of the park and give you a bird’s eye view of “Monkey Face”, a massive stone pillar that has become the distinguishing feature of the area.
On the eastern side of Oregon’s Cascade Mountain Range, Redmond is often referred to as the geographical heart of central Oregon. Its great location to numerous recreational opportunities and rapidly growing industrial and residential communities make it an exciting city to visit while in Oregon.
Redmond Smokejumper Base: One of the nation’s nine smoke-jumper bases, Redmond Smokejumper Base is located at the USDA Forest Service Redmond Air Center, just off US 97 south of Redmond.
If you call ahead for tour information (541) 504-7200, you may get to watch trainees jump from the practice tower in their full smoke-jumping regalia as well as see how the parachutes and harnesses are repaired, rebuilt, and repacked.
The Cascades are a mecca for recreationalists. With everything from world-class ski resorts to class-five kayaking, there is little left to want from Wild Oregon’s high desert. Bend is the epicenter for this extreme community of thrill-seekers. Boasting a vibrant culture and excellent cuisine, Bend is a destination for the adventurer and city slicker alike.
Bend Golfing: The thin mountain air makes sure that your drives are long and that makes for some quick rounds. Luckily, there are several quality courses within Bend’s borders. The Pronghorn Club & Resort is a Jack Nicklaus Signature course and was ranked in the top 25 of places to play in the US by Golf Digest. Other courses include River’s Edge, Black Butte Ranch, and Eagle Crest. Pack your clubs; you’ll be glad you did.
Lava Caves: Among the numerous spelunking destinations near Bend are the spectacular lava caves. The caves dive deep underground and maintain a year-round temperature of about 45 degrees, making the caves a great option no matter the season. Guided tours can be found at the Lava Lands Visitors Center and accommodate just about all skill levels.
Whether you want more outdoor adventures or would prefer to play a game of golf, La Pine is sure to have something for you to do.
Newberry Crater National Monument: Located about 20 miles southeast of Bend, the Newberry National Volcanic Monument is home to a large shield volcano. It is thought to have existed for nearly half a million years and is considered to be a possible active volcano (541) 593-2421.
Paulina Lake: One of the two lakes formed when Mount Newberry erupted, Paulina Lake is a great place to rent rowboats and fishing equipment for a quiet afternoon. As you hang out in the boat dock inside Newberry’s crater, notice Paulina Peak looming 2,000 feet above.
A final drive into this section of the central Cascades is accessed via Highway 58, just south of Eugene and winding about 30 miles east up to the community of Oakridge. Along the way, notice the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks, a historic transportation link to the upper Willamette area that has operated since 1912.
Salt Creek Falls: The falls are located about 20 miles east of Oakridge via Highway 58, and there you can hike a short trail to the spectacular falls which cascade some 286 feet down into a small canyon. These are the second-highest falls in the state.
Willamette Pass: Willamette Pass is one of the state’s oldest ski areas. You can enjoy seeing memorabilia about Oakridge and the ski area at the Oakridge Pioneer Museum, at 76433 Pine Street (541-782-2402). The museum is open Tuesday and Thursday 9 a.m. to noon and on Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m.