In the high desert of Prineville, morning sunshine brightens blue skies with summery promise and golden hours of afternoon stretch for hours. (Photo credit: Troy McMullin / Pacific Crest Stock)

If you’re wanting to make time stand still this summer, we’re here to help. Head to Central Oregon’s Prineville (pop. 9,000)  for a rustic, off-the-beaten-path experience. Here in the high desert, morning sunshine brightens blue skies with summery promise and golden hours of afternoon stretch forever. About 45 minutes northeast of Bend, Prineville is the gateway to the Ochoco National Forest, more than half a million acres of wooded foothills, lakes and rivers that make up your mid-summer playground.

Cast away: Anglers will find Walton Lake at the west end of the Ochoco National Forest tucked among old growth ponderosa pines and stocked with trout. Native rainbows abound in Ochoco Creek accessible from Ochoco Creek Campground. East of the Prineville Reservoir, there is exceptional fly fishing on the Crooked River.

On the trail: Steins Pillar Trail winds through dense forest and open meadows to end at a distinctive, 200-foot outcropping. The last 1.5 mile-section of the trail is steep and challenging. For more geologic wonder and a longer hike, take the Mill Creek Twin Pillars Trail, 8.3-miles one way and ending at 200-foot double pillars.

Wild spaces: Backpackers find solitude in three wilderness areas in the Ochoco National Forest: Mill Creek Wilderness, Bridge Creek Wilderness and Black Canyon Wilderness. Rushing streams and mixed conifer forest offer plenty of day hikes, longer backpacking routes and areas rich with wildlife — deer, elk, bear, coyotes and cougars. (Watch out for rattlesnakes!)

Pints and plates: At Ochoco Brewing Company (formerly Solstice Brewing), fill your belly with some Irish smothered nacho fries and a Steins Pillar burger, and quench your thirst with a Double Dam IPA, one of their 11 brews on tap. Dillon’s Grill is also a local favorite, with burgers and barbecue, 10 local craft brews on rotating taps, games on the big screen and a family-friendly vibe (kids get a free ice cream cone).

about author Eileen Garvin

Eileen Garvin lives and writes in Hood River. When she’s not hunched over her keyboard or digging in the garden, you can find her mountain biking, kiteboarding, hiking, skiing or camping somewhere in Oregon.

Flag as Incorrect

Is any of the information on this page incorrect?

These maps and directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, or other events may cause road conditions to differ from the map results. For travel options, weather and road conditions, visit, call 511 (in Oregon only), 800.977.6368 or 503.588.2941.

Share your thoughts Comments

Have something to say? Your Comment

  1. Vicki Hays says…

    Eileen: Sure enjoyed your article on Prineville. I was born in Bend, and planning a trip back to that area. Am also considering relocating. Any suggestions on towns, hotels, etc. for my itinerary?

    Keep up the alluring articles!!! ~Vicki

    Written on September 12th, 2013 / Flag this Comment
  2. CAROL SCOTT says…

    It would be nice if you would have your antique train run more than just on the 4th of July. My family & I would love to ride it some others as well, but come on get it going more than once a year. PLEASE! ! ! ! You will definitely make some money running it more!

    Written on July 20th, 2016 / Flag this Comment
Win a Pendleton Blanket


Subscribe to the Travel Oregon email newsletter and be entered to win a commemorative Crater Lake Pendleton Blanket.

Click here for terms and conditions.

You're almost there!
Click the link in the email we just sent you to confirm your subscription.

Hmm, something went wrong, please try later.