To celebrate an adventurous Christmas, imagine standing at the top of a winter wonderland waterfall or on a snowy volcano with your loved ones. In this modern, millennial-ruled holiday corner of the calendar, you'd better have an Instagram-worthy family photo to push around on all your channels or you might just fall off the self-importance social media radar forever. If you're vain and you know it, clap your hands. If you're vain and you don't know it, pretend you're taking photos for some other reason than Facebook. Either way, here's a rundown of some of the best holiday family photo outdoor backdrops around Bend.
Tumalo Falls - Follow Skyliners Road west for 13 miles
If you haven't seen these falls in the wintertime, tucked into a bed of snow, you're doubly missing out. From a gorgeous, railed lookout, pose with your honey and get a killer pic with no hike-in work required. That being said, the road can be hairy in the winter, if it's open—four-wheel drive only and pretty much one lane. If the gate's closed, do a 2 to 3 mile hike, snowshoe or cross country ski for approach.
Pilot Butte - On Highway 20, in the middle of Bend
At some point in the late fall, the road up this town center's volcanic beauty closes. But that doesn't mean you can't hike up. Since the elevation is lower in town than in the mountains, there may be no, or less snow. Try hiking on the road itself for easiest access. Ideal family photos at the top will happen on clearer days with Cascade fan favorites like the Three Sisters, Mt. Bachelor, Tumalo Butte and Broken Top appearing on the skyline.
Drake Park - Downtown Bend
With a fresh dusting of snow, there are gorgeous winter scenes all over this park—on the footbridge, next to the water with the ducks or geese, at sunset or sunrise and below the snow-laden trees. There's a great moody, romantic landscape pic virtually everywhere you look. Say cheese... No parking pass required; however, it can be tough to find riverside parking.
Benham Falls - West on Century Drive and left on Forest Road 41
Just a stone's throw from a gravel parking lot, adventure a short distance to several lookouts peering over basalt cliffs to choppy waters below. For the best photos, pose atop the basalt cliffs or follow trails up and down river to snap some shots riverside. There is no gate on this road. It can be rarely plowed and treacherous. Check with Deschutes National Forest for conditions or check it out when there's fresh snow and none's been sticking for a while.
Leeway Run at Bachelor - At Mt. Bachelor, at the top of Pine Marten lift, head left and take the access trail to your left as you exit Pine Marten lift. Follow it around 180 degrees. From here, Follow Leeway or West Boundary. Be sure to step to the side and not block downhill traffic when you stop for pics. With the Cascades as a backdrop you'll be grinning ear to ear, loving the high life balling out in powder, slope side on Christmas.
Tumalo Mountain - Across Century Drive from Mt. Bachelor
Not for the faint of heart, backcountry skiing, snowboarding or hard-core uphill snowshoeing is required. For your effort, especially at dawn, summiting this volcanic pearl will provide alpine-glow vibes galore. There is literally nothing like it in Bend. Face west and snap Christmas Day photos with an up-close-and-personal Mt. Bachelor backdrop. Capture the Three Sisters and Broken Top to the north. From the top, it's dealer's choice with every direction providing snow-globe eye candy for your holiday social media feed. Get up early to score a dawn patrol spot in what was formerly known as Flying Dutchman Sno-Park/Trailhead.