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).