Not a lot of people have extensive knowledge about the town of La Pine. It probably doesn’t make a lot of bucket lists. And that’s the perfect reason to spend some time here. La Pine is a bit undiscovered, a bit of an up and comer. That’s all part of its charm.
Stretching four miles along Highway 97, La Pine, Oregon is a tight-knit community of around 1,600 people surrounded by tall pines. Populated by cowboys, loggers, retirees and self-professed regular down-home folks, La Pine is more of a bottomless cup of coffee than an $8 siphon-pressed, fair trade Americano kind of town. But that doesn’t mean folks there don’t know how to party. Nearly every weekend of the year there are community events, ranging from a legit music and arts festival with a 20-band lineup, to La Pine Frontier Days, an amazing 4th of July celebration and rodeo, to a humble Rhubarb Festival. It seems like no matter when visitors show up, the town is getting together to support or celebrate something. It’s no wonder Cycle Oregon is embarking on its fourth visit to La Pine. It’s the hospitality and hard work of the chamber of commerce, La Pine Parks and Rec, the La Pine High Hawks and the community in general that keeps visitors coming back again and again.
The landscape and climate of La Pine are quintessential high desert, with mostly dry, sunny days and crisp, cool nights. And since the town sits at 4,235 feet of elevation, they get a respectable amount of the white stuff each winter. Outdoor recreation is year-round in La Pine.
Even though La Pine is firmly situated in the high desert, that doesn’t mean they don’t have water. This is a great place for the amphibious and those with a strong affinity for water. The Little Deschutes River undulates through town providing miles and miles of banks, eddies and pocket water to explore, float or prospect with a trout line. And Wickiup Reservoir, the second largest reservoir in Oregon, boasting famous monstrous brown trout, is less than an hour’s drive away. Staying closer to town, the Deschutes National Forest that surrounds the La Pine area has over 158 lakes and reservoirs, 100+ campgrounds and over 240 miles of streams. Water, water, everywhere indeed.
But what about dry land activities? Well, they’ve got those too. A short distance north of town lies LaPine State Park with 15 miles of some of the most beautiful singletrack you will ever pedal, hike or mosey on horseback. And nearby Newberry National Volcanic Monument is a 500-square mile geographic smorgasbord of lava flows, lava tubes, waterfalls, cinder cones, basalt flows and hot springs. Mountain biking the rim on Newberry Crater Trail is an epic other-worldly ride that every cyclist should experience. A particularly worthwhile drive across Newberry’s 17-square mile caldera to the top of Lava Butte yields spectacular vistas of Mt. Bachelor, The Three Sisters, Three Finger Jack, Broken Top and Mt. Jefferson.
Speaking of drives, here’s one 3-hour tour that’s sure to please. La Pine is the hub of the Newberry Country Trail, a boot-shaped route connecting the cities of Sunriver, La Pine, Gilchrist, Crescent, Fort Rock, Christmas Valley and Silver Lake. Paulina Peak looms over the horizon too. From La Pine, a half hour’s drive in any direction results in every kind of landscape and activity imaginable, no matter the season. There are literally too many activities to list where adventure awaits.
If our stay here feels much too short, then a return trip is definitely in order. The more time you spend in La Pine, the more you find you to see. That’s when you’ll come to appreciate that it’s not just some town off Highway 97. It’s a town in close proximity to all kinds of outdoors adventure smack dab in the middle of some of Oregon’s most amazing country.