Over the past half century, a lot has changed in Central Oregon. But deep in the woods, west of Sisters, a timelessness carries on between families and nature at Black Butte Ranch. Hundreds of thousands of acres of fragrant Cascade forests, brooding volcanoes and twinkling lakes surround the property, making it an ideal base for a long weekend of adventure-first pampering. You don’t need to go far with two golf courses and hiking, biking, and horseback-riding options pretty much right outside your door. Visitors have been making memories here for 50 years, but with three well-spent days, you can take in the best.
Day One: Biking, Fishing and Golfing
Resist the urge to laze around that first morning and make a plan to explore the area. It’s easy to get around the Ranch by bike, so bring your own or rent one from the on-site Glaze Meadow Rental Shop, which will even deliver the bike to your door. Start the day at the recently renovated Lakeside Bistro, where you can enjoy a fresh-baked pastry and coffee with panoramic views of the region’s stunning Cascade peaks: Broken Top, Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, Three-Fingered Jack and of course Black Butte.
Saturday mornings you can take a free guided lesson to learn the mechanics of casting with a fly-fishing rod. The Lakeside Activity Center rents five-weights for $40 a day and sells flies, too. That big lake out front is Phalarope Lake, and it does have trout. Rules say you have to cast from the shore, and for that you’ll need a license. Drive through the ponderosas to Camp Sherman for some time on the Metolius River. Frigid and clear, it’s one of the more gorgeous rivers for fly-fishing.
As for golfers, they’re going to want to get going, too, with more than 14,000 yards of holes to play over the weekend. Start at Big Meadow Golf Course, a Robert Muir Graves design with elevated greens and awesome views of 7,844-foot Three Fingered Jack at hole 14. If you time it right, you can check out the new putting course designed by architect John Fought, slated to open in summer 2020. Visit Robert’s Pub, featuring a casual menu with dishes like a beer-braised corned beef sandwich and Oregon rockfish and chips, along with your favorite craft beer and wines from the extensive regional list. Burn off extra energy by playing ping pong at the Lakeside Activity Center Game Room center before calling it a night.
Day Two: Hiking, Family Games and Spa Time
Today’s a big day with a 4-mile hike up Black Butte, a 6,436-foot volcano formed about 1.5 million years ago. The 2-mile trail is steep, climbing about 1,600 vertical feet to your reward: 360-degree summit views of the Cascades lined up for their glamour shots.
A lot of the land you can see from Black Butte is good horseback-riding country, too. You can keep it quick with an hour-long ride under the aspens and pines for about 3 leisurely miles, or go for a whole day deep into the Deschutes National Forest around you, stopping for lunch along the way. Black Butte Stables back at the Ranch by the General Store can arrange it all for you.
From your basecamp, let the kids go for a swim or get everyone together for some pickleball or bocce ball at the Glaze Meadow Recreation Center’s family fun zone, where you can also rent the necessary equipment. No matter what you choose, try to get back in time for a bourbon-oil massage or sugar-scrub treatment at the peaceful Black Butte Spa located inside the Glaze Meadow Recreation Center. (You can also opt for poolside service at the recently renovated Lakeside Pool, the heart of the ranch in the summertime.) With a kids’ wading pool, infinity pool, gorgeous views and walkup food-and-drink service at the Bistro — not to mention a hot tub, sauna and gym — you’ll be hard-pressed to leave. (If you want to lap swim, you can do that in the indoor pool at the Glaze Meadow Recreation Center, which has a fun water slide for kids.)
Tonight, send the kids off to the lodge’s Parents’ Night Out camp for games, movies and ice cream while you enjoy a quiet evening meal at the Lodge Restaurant, pairing your favorite Oregon pinot noir with cocoa-rubbed pork tenderloin.
Day Three: Car-free Paths, Paddleboarding and a Sunset Celebration
Wake up! Someone wants to go for a run or bike ride, which is easy with more than 18 miles of paved, car-free paths to choose from at the ranch. For a more adventurous workout, venture just beyond the ranch onto the Suttle Tie Trail, which stretches for 4.6 miles parallel to Highway 20 to beautiful Suttle Lake. Afterward, it’s time for more golf. The second championship course here, Glaze Meadow Golf Course, is one of the state’s best — with a large putting green, a driving range and a short game practice area as well as a beautiful deck to soak up the views year-round. The highlight of this 7,007-yard course is still hole 12, a 600-yard par five, with the icy flanks of 7,795-foot Mt. Washington on full display.
The Lakeside Bistro does a great lunch, some of the best views in Central Oregon to accompany scratch-made pizzas, local Angus beef burgers and daily specials. In the afternoon, rent a stand-up paddleboard and explore Phalarope Lake, or let the kids do a camp to tie-dye some shirts and shoot arrows. There’s also disc golf and a treasure hunt. Make sure to head into town and check out the Western facades and storefronts in Sisters, a town that Black Butte helped shape. In the 1970s, the founding fathers of Black Butte Ranch offered merchants in Sisters $5,000 and free architectural help to create a “theme” look to the town. The adopted 1880s theme returned the architecture to its roots and made Sisters a unique draw for generations of visitors to come. Stop by the General Store in the afternoon for an ice cream or a coffee; in 2020 the 50-year-old store is getting an update with a broader selection while keeping the same charm and amazing views.
To cap your day, head upstairs in the Lodge to the Aspen Lounge for sunset cocktails and killer views. Then sit down at the iconic Lodge Restaurant for a chef-prepared salmon dinner with sweeping views — a perfect place to celebrate a special event, or the end of a dream vacation. Arrange to have the rental shop come get your bikes, maybe take one last soak in the Lakeside hot tub, and call it good as you head off into a well-earned sleep.
If You Go:
Year-round, you’ll find a host of annual events happening at Black Butte Ranch and in nearby Sisters. (Note that events through fall 2020 have been postponed until 2021.) Typically each year, springtime brings Easter Brunch; Mom’s Brunch and free golf for moms on Mother’s Day; and the big opening of pools and ranch activities on Memorial Day Weekend. Summer brings Father’s Day Golf (dads get a free gift); the world-famous Sisters Rodeo; July 4th celebrations; and the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show (which comes to the ranch the Friday before the main event). Fall ushers in Labor Day, the Sisters Folk Festival and Thanksgiving celebrations; and winter is all about Ski & Stay deals, Christmas dinner, carriage rides and a memorable New Year’s Eve celebration.