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Think You've Hiked It All in Central Oregon? Think Again. 

Use this first *almost*-post-COVID summer to re-examine some local favorites with new eyes

Sunrise or sunset hike in the Badlands

Bend's closest Wilderness area, the Oregon Badlands, doesn't get the credit it deserves. The twisted ancient junipers and vibrant wildflower shows are beautiful any time of day, but the entire area takes on a special character during those early morning and golden hours. Watching the sunset from Flatiron Rock is a special high desert experience. For morning hikes, consider a car-key swap with friends so you can hike across the entire Wilderness area. 

Paulina and East Lakes in the Newberry Crater National Volcanic Monument. - COURTESY U.S. FOREST SERVICE / FLICKR
  • Courtesy U.S. Forest Service / Flickr
  • Paulina and East Lakes in the Newberry Crater National Volcanic Monument.

Bend's soon-to-be newest Wild & Scenic River: Tumalo Creek

This local hotspot is on the docket to gain new protections as a part of Sen. Ron Wyden's forthcoming River Democracy Act. While that won't change much for the average visitor, it does mean that this close-in gem will be protected for generations to come. If you've seen Tumalo Falls a million times, consider exploring other parts of the watershed by hiking up the North Fork Trail. Short out-and-back hikes or a larger loop returning via the Farewell Trail are both great options.

Metolius River

The Metolius is one of my favorite rivers of all time. The combination of clear, cold water, interesting geology and beautiful old Ponderosa pines makes it hard to beat. Both the headwater spring and the riverside trail never disappoint, but those looking for some perspective can appreciate the entire watershed from a birds-eye view on the Green Ridge trail. Stop by Paulina Springs Books on the way out to pick up a wildflower ID book.

Literally anywhere in Central Cascades Wilderness permit area

If you're one of the folks who's decided to give up on hiking anywhere in the newly permitted part of the Central Cascades, I hope you'll reconsider. Green Lakes, Broken Top and many other beautiful spots are still out there—and they're less crowded now! While the permitting process does kill some of the spontaneity, it also might encourage you to try a new trailhead that you wouldn't normally visit (which, in my experience, has always been worth it). Permits are still currently available for some trailheads, and more will be released on July 10.

Newberry Crater Rim Trail

If you're looking for something a little more challenging, beat the heat and crowds by heading up to the Crater Rim Trail at the Newberry Volcanic National Monument. This trail offers expansive views of the Cascades and surrounding high desert, and the caldera itself tells a fascinating geologic story. Pro tip: Check out some interpretive signs or spend a few minutes reading about the caldera before heading up for the day. It will blow your mind!

—For more hiking tips in Central Oregon and beyond, check out the Oregon Wild Hiking Club. Each month, Oregon Wild emails members an exclusive set of three suggested hikes with directions, ecological features and a recommendation for which Oregon Brewshed® Alliance partner brewery to stop by on the way home. Learn more and sign up at

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