Local’s Stress-Busting Trails in Central Oregon

October 7, 2020

Editor’s note: Call destinations before you visit to make sure they’re open. Stay posted on what Oregon’s phased reopening means for you, and follow these steps for social distancing outdoors. Also, remember to bring your face covering, required for all of Oregon’s public indoor spaces and outdoors when keeping 6 feet of distance isn’t possible. Here’s what to know about Oregon’s outdoors right now.

Sometimes you just need to hit the dirt, or the pavement, to turn off the noise of the world around you and get those endorphins flowing. For locals in Central Oregon, scenic trails are easy to find — ones with mountain vistas, rushing water or the comforting vanilla scent of ponderosa pines. It’s that tranquility in nature that Mark Stockamp craves when he hits his favorite less-crowded trails near his home in Central Oregon during his Friday runs with his border collie, Goose. 

“It’s kind of my reset every week — my peaceful time,” says Stockamp, an ultrarunner who lives in Bend and works as marketing manager for FootZone running store. “It’s not about speed — just seeing cool things, clearing my head, enjoying being present and where I’m at.” 

Stockamp blends his passion with his work through a video series he hosts for the shop’s social-media channels called “Trail Gems,” aimed at inspiring others to explore these trails as well. Here’s where to go for a transformative trail adventure in Central Oregon. It’s best to stay close to home as much as possible, so let the locals enjoy these trails until it’s safe to travel again. Remember to practice trail etiquette always  — which now includes wearing a face covering when passing others.


Cave Wanderings in Bend

Horse Butte Trail in Bend is a 10-mile loop in the desert, a convenient 10-mile drive southeast of town, with a 600-foot vertical gain and panoramic views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Bachelor and the other Cascade mountains on a clear day. It makes for an invigorating run with a cool destination — you can divert down a road and go underground to explore Boyd Cave (best explored spring through fall), an ancient lava tube accessed by a flight of steel steps. (Make sure to wear layers since it’s chillier here, and bring a flashlight.)

Waterfalls and Lake Views in La Pine

Starting at the Ogden Group Campground just northeast of La Pine, you can run 9 miles each way along the Peter Skene Ogden Trail to Paulina Lake, with an ever-changing backdrop of delights. The sound of rushing water provides a soothing backdrop as the trail follows Paulina Creek for a while, then begins a long, gradual climb through the deep pine woods, with a few waterfalls along the way. It connects to the Paulina Lakeshore Trail, part of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, which encircles both Paulina Lake and Newberry Caldera for a heavenly view of Paulina Peak.

Rock Lovers’ Delight in Terrebonne

Avoid the crowds at Smith Rock State Park and instead see it from above along the challenging but rewarding Gray Butte Trail, which is 6.4 miles round-trip from Skull Hollow Campground or 13 miles round-trip from Smith Rock State Park (where parking is limited). Be ready for a steep, rocky ascent up the butte with wildflowers galore in the spring and summer. After rain it can get a bit muddy, so be prepared with sturdy footwear for the terrain, and always carry your Ten Essentials. Celebrate at the top with glorious views of the Cascade mountains and the mahogany red and green of Smith Rock below.

Panoramic Cascades in Prineville

Sometimes you just need to get far off the grid to really rejuvenate. Ninety minutes northeast of Bend in the Ochoco National Forest, Round Mountain Trail brings phenomenal views from the 6,700-foot summit after a strenuous climb. Depending on which trail you choose, it’s 7 to 10 miles to the top, with 2,000 feet vertical gain through meadows of wildflowers and open slopes. Know that mountain bikers may be on the trail as well, so respect all users, as well as wildlife. Take your time in the high altitude and breathe deep as your muscles work for you. Spend time soaking up the panorama of the Cascades, Big Summit Prairie and Lookout Mountain from the summit.

About The

Jen Anderson
Jen Anderson is a longtime journalist and travel writer/editor who is now Travel Oregon’s Content & Community Manager, helping to align content for visitors via social media, print and web. She’s called Oregon home for 25 years and loves finding the latest places to eat, drink and play around the state with her husband and two boys. Brewpubs, beaches and bike trails top the list.

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