Whether you’ve never tried snowshoeing or are a seasoned pro, there are plenty of reasons to put an outing on your to-do list this winter with a trip to Central Oregon.
Snowshoeing requires very little practice to enjoy. That makes it a great, inclusive way to traverse the magic of an Oregon winter with friends and family, all in an environmentally friendly, low-impact manner.
It’s gorgeous out there, too. The eastern slope of the Cascades offers lots of sunshine and blue sky for trekking through quiet forests framed by colossal peaks. Friendly ski shops around the region — like Pine Mountain Sports in Bend or Eurosports in Sisters — can rent you gear to get you started, and you can often even bring your dog.
Remember to buy your sno-park parking permit, and if you’re following Nordic ski trails, please don’t walk in the parallel tracks set by grooming machines for classic cross-country skiers. Last but not least, don’t forget to stop on the way home for a pint of winter craft beer and a post-shoe bite to eat at one of Central Oregon’s awesome breweries.
Here are some places you shouldn’t miss.
Into the High Country Near Sisters
Located near the 4,817-foot crest of the Santiam Pass near Hoodoo Ski Area west of Sisters, Ray Benson Sno-Park, at 4,790 feet, is an excellent entry point for accessing more than 60 miles of multiuse trails that run through some of the Cascades’ most stunning high country. Try the 6-mile round-trip wander back to the Island Junction Shelter. The Santiam Sno-Park on the north side of Highway 20 has a short (0.7-mile) tie-in trail that connects to the Pacific Crest Trail. Four miles farther west along Highway 20 brings you to Potato Hill Sno-Park, a great place to head out on gentle trails like the 3-mile Hash Brown Loop and its stands of old-growth Douglas fir trees.
Closer to town, about 11 miles south of Sisters on the edge of the Three Sisters Wilderness, Upper Three Creek Sno-Park offers access to 14 miles of trail with several loop options. A popular 9-mile route, Three Creek Lake to Snow Creek, includes 1,300 feet of climbing.
Awesome Views Near Mt. Bachelor
Located just 19 miles west of Bend and about 4 miles off the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway on Forest Service Road 45, Edison Sno-Park is a popular winter spot with several scenic trail options of moderate lengths. A loop trail including two warming shelters along the way offers views of Mt. Bachelor.
Dutchman Sno-Park — right across from Mt. Bachelor on the Cascade Lakes Highway — can get crowded on weekends, so get there early for fantastic snowshoeing out to areas like Todd Lake. The more adventurous should tackle the 2-mile climb up to the summit of 7,779-foot Tumalo Mountain. Dogs aren’t allowed at this sno-park (or at any park on the north side of the Cascade Lakes Highway) unless your dog is skijoring (working in a harness) on a snowmobile trail. Here’s a map to get you started.
Wander Along an Ancient Caldera Near La Pine
To get great vistas of Paulina Lake — one of two lakes that form the watery heart of a collapsed caldera inside Newberry National Volcanic Monument — make your way to 10 Mile Sno-Park near La Pine. To get there, travel 24 miles south of Bend on Highway 97, and head east for 10 miles on County Road 21. The 6.5-mile Ponderosa Rim Trail follows Paulina Creek for views of the lake and offers a gentle climb.