If you’re not paying attention, you can easily bypass the quiet town of La Pine. It’s 30 miles south of the activity in Bend and 60 miles north of Crater Lake, one of Oregon’s most popular destinations. But with quick access to the Newberry Crater, Deschutes River, Deschutes National Forest, Cascade Lakes and other major natural landmarks, it’s easy to make your basecamp to La Pine for a weekend of exploring.
Here are five epic adventures to check out this summer in La Pine. Just remember to tread lightly as you explore these pristine public spaces and leave them cleaner than you found them.
Climb a volcano.
The Newberry National Volcanic Monument marks an active volcano with 54,000 acres of wooded trails, cinder cones, basalt and obsidian flows and two lakes in its 17-mile caldera: Paulina and East lakes. Start with the accessible 1.6-mile jaunt along the Paulina Falls Trail, which leads to a dramatic viewpoint of the 80-foot falls spilling into the caldera. For a more challenging trek, try the Lava Butte Trail, a steep climb that loops around the crater with a working fire tower and panoramic views at the summit (which you can drive to as well if you’re not up for the hike). Check in first at the Lava Lands Visitor Center for maps, a history of the park and and other information.
Explore a cave.
Travel back in time at Fort Rock Basin, a massive tower of rock that rises from the desert, the former basin of an inland sea in prehistoric times. The protected site is rich in Native American history, home of the world’s oldest bark sandals, dated to 9,000 to 11,000 years old. You can explore Fort Rock Cave, nearby, only through an Oregon State Park tour, which are offered throughout summer 2017. The 2-hour tours meet at Fort Rock State Natural Area and are $8 per person, open to age 6 and up.
Camp and mountain bike at LaPine State Park.
Settle into your tent or cabin — rustic or deluxe — at LaPine State Park, a 2,000-acre high-alpine wilderness along the Deschutes River. Roll out of your campsite with your mountain bike and catch your thrills on 15 miles of rolling singletrack — mostly flat, non-technical trails shared by hikers, horses and cyclists but with enough uphills to challenge advanced riders. Spend a few hours on the trails and then retire a happy camper with songs and s’mores around the campfire. Don’t forget to say hello to the park’s resident Big Red — at 162 feet tall and nearly 30 feet around, the 500-year-old tree is Oregon’s largest ponderosa pine.
Paddle the Deschutes.
There are plenty of ways to experience the Deschutes River, but if you’re unsure how to start, try one of the many guided tours, like Tumalo Creek’s full-day adventure that starts at LaPine State Park. Paddlers can spend all day riding the slow current downriver, a front-row seat to the wildlife and stunning views of the Cascades. Choose from a float tube, kayak, canoe, stand-up paddleboard or raft and go midweek or early in the season to beat the summer crowds.
The pine tree-rimmed lake at Wickiup Reservoir on the Deschutes River, is named for the “wickiups,” or shelters, the Native Americans once built from reeds, grass or brush. Teeming with wildlife, the lake is one of the best spots in the area to find late spring and early summer brown trout as well as kokanee and coho salmon. Try your hand at a catch; the first full weekend of June is free fishing weekend in Oregon, and the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife offers free family fishing events at parks statewide throughout the summer and fall. Check their learn to fish page for tips on how to fish for trout in Oregon, as well as regulations on boats, licenses and other rules.