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 clinging to August like a summer lifeline, we’re here to help. Head to Central Oregon’s Prineville (pop. 9,000)  for a secret summer extension. 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 late 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 Solstice Brewing Company, taste the Wild West in the Smoke Porter, Show Me the Honey Wheat, Prinetucky Pale, Warpaint Red Ale, Double Dam IPA and Boot Kick’n Stout. Weekly specials range from fish tacos (tilapia rolled in panko crumbs served with pico de gallo and sour cream) to the Greek Burger (made with local lamb and feta cheese).

about author Eileen Garvin

Eileen Garvin is the editor of Travel Oregon’s Seasonal Features, enewsletters and annual visitor guide. When she’s not cooking up trip ideas, Oregon Dreamer profiles and outdoor adventures to write about, she’s out exploring Oregon.

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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.

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  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

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