: FivePine Lodge

Plan the Perfect Central Oregon Wellness Getaway

Refresh your mind and body with warm saunas, botanical treatments and wilderness outings.
March 13, 2024

I’m in a tiny hut sitting beside the rushing Deschutes River in Bend, feeling waves of alder-scented, steamy heat circulate around my body. Sauna guide Halina Kowalski-Thompson — our mistress of ceremonies and co-owner of Gather Sauna House — dips a leafy bundle of cut branches into a tub of water and sprinkles it over my head like gentle rain. “Are you ready to cool off?” she says. That’s our cue to make our way down to the chilly river and take a plunge. Moments later, I’m wrapped in a warm robe, drinking spiced tea, and every molecule of my body feels alive. The exhilaration is glorious.

As someone who lives on the Oregon Coast with its cool maritime climate and misty forests, I always find Central Oregon’s bright, dry, high desert a wonderful getaway for a sunny spring wellness break. Though the area is known for adrenaline-fueled sports, I seek out slower and cozier pleasures when I head to the communities of Bend, Sisters and Sunriver. There I enjoy mountain vistas, pristine rivers and scented forests of juniper, larch and pine, or I head indoors to cozy spas and museums. Here are some of my favorite places to reconnect with nature, relax and enjoy a few days off.

Juniper Preserve (Photo by Martin Sunberg)

Recuperate at a Resort With a Spa

Central Oregon’s resorts offer a huge range of wellness activities, from massages and yoga to cycling trails. I highly recommend spending a few nights at one, though each of the resort’s spas are open to the public. At FivePine Lodge in Sisters, about 22 miles northwest of Bend, opt for one of 36 wood-paneled cottages set amid rustic landscaping and a little creek in a pine forest, fitted with deep bathtubs and patios for quiet contemplation. Ask about renting cruiser bicycles to explore the compact downtown just moments away, or cruise along the accessible, 1-mile Whychus Creek Scenic Overlook loop to spot birds. Spa treatments are held on-site at Shibui Spa, complete with communal spaces reminiscent of a Japanese inn, including a relaxing room with a fireplace, a Swedish-style sauna and a thermal soaking pool. 

Juniper Preserve, a peaceful resort about 15 miles northeast of downtown Bend, was formerly known as Pronghorn. It transformed into a wellness-themed property in 2022. On a peaceful campus set on 20,000 acres of juniper wilderness, the aromatic tree you’ll find all over Central Oregon, you’ll find trails to wander, world-class golf courses and fully immersive wellness retreats. Spa treatments include Ayurvedic-style oil massages — with herbal blends suited to your body type — as well as face and body treatments with formulas that range from crystal-infused mud masks to arnica for sore muscles. With yoga, breathwork and pilates on a rotating menu of classes, there’s a perfect fit for your wellness needs. One popular option is the 75-minute crystal singing-bowl meditation. 

Family-friendly Sunriver Resort — located on 3,300 acres about 18 miles south of Bend — features many ways to unplug and relax on its all-inclusive grounds. The Sage Springs Club & Spa provides a few hours’ escape from the kiddos, including its very own grotto-style soaking tub set in a dimly lit, rocky landscape designed to resemble a high-desert scene. The hydrafacial treatment does wonders for sensitive skin; it uses a gentle suction wand enriched with water-based solutions to nourish and restore. The resort also offers golf, water-fitness classes and yoga under the full moon. In winter you can rent snowshoes and head off into the nearby Deschutes National Forest; in warmer months, cyclists can head out on the Sun-Lava Paved Path through a forested landscape.

Gather Sauna House

Places to Visit for Traditional — and Not So Traditional — Healing Therapies   

Offering traditional wood-fired sauna in the Baltic tradition, Gather Sauna House includes relaxing wellness rituals in a thermal contrast cycle of hot steam, cold plunge and rest in comfy chairs outside the sauna hut. You can add on a sauna whisk, the traditional bundle of branches used to improve circulation with hot steam, and several types of housemade botanical scrubs and facial treatments. Everyone’s welcome at the sauna, with Deschutes access at Riverbend Park in Bend, where the mobile business is in temporary residency for 2024. Book a communal seat or the entire sauna for your group, and be sure to take some time to meander along the park’s riverside trails. 

If a wellness experience at a day spa is what you seek, you can find myriad places to book a massage, facial or body treatment in Bend. For a different kind of footwork, try Sole Purpose Massage for ashiatsu, where therapists trained in the art use their own feet to massage clients with long, broad strokes, holding on to an overhead bar. In Sisters Daybreak Wellness is the place to go for a range of innovative therapies involving sound, light, temperature, hydration serums, electromagnetic currents or infrared light.

For a delightful budget relaxation session, make a reservation at the soaking pool at McMenamins’ Old St. Francis School hotel. The turquoise-tiled setting has serene murals and a stained-glass window. Hotel guests can use the pool for free, and others can book by the hour, which is perfect if you’re planning to catch a movie at the hotel’s theater afterward. 

Want to learn more about botanical treatments, wild-plant foraging and more? Bend’s The Peoples Apothecary offers a robust calendar of workshops and walks. The well-stocked, friendly shop can address what ails you with naturopathic remedies, delicious probiotic drinks and a cozy sitting area to browse books about herbal medicine.

Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory

Feed Your Mind With Exhibits, Dark Skies and Public Art

Wellness doesn’t stop with stretching and nourishing food. For deeper peace of mind, consider improving your understanding and connection to nature’s gifts. Bend’s High Desert Museum is an excellent place to start, with exhibits on the natural and cultural history of Central Oregon, wildlife demonstrations, and interpretive walks through the grounds. Marvel at the stars at Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory, which offers dark-sky programs and public telescopes. During the day, you can check out raptors, lizards and more in various habitats.

While moseying around Bend, keep an eye out for the Roundabout Art Route, which includes more than 20 public art pieces — look for trout and deer, among others — available to all in the traffic circles in town. You can spot these sculptural works by car, by bike or on foot; the program has been called one of the most innovative approaches to public art in the country.

Wanderlust Tours

Relaxing Outdoors Excursions

If kayaking, paddleboarding or tubing float your boat, Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe on the Deschutes River in Bend’s Old Mill District is just the place to go for classes, guided tours and rentals. Beginners can choose from a range of lessons or choose group adventures out to Central Oregon’s more remote lakes and rivers. 

In spring and year-round, Wanderlust Tours offers a range of guided adventures in Central Oregon to get outside in the sun, including moonlight snowshoeing, paddling and even cave-exploration tours. Give back with one of the outfit’s volunteer projects, like helping to clean caves or areas around high mountain lakes.

For meditative forest-bathing experiences and nature escapes in places like Tumalo State Park near Bend, book a private or group session with Rooted Presence. Look for special “Queer in Nature” events, held occasionally to support outdoor inclusivity for Bend’s lively LBGTQ+ community.

Salud Live Kitchen

Rejuvenate With Good Food and Drink 

For breakfast or brunch, The Cottonwood Café in Sisters has a wide range of vegetable-forward dishes, including delectable vegan options that sub veggie sausage gravy or tofu for meatier options. For a keto-friendly dinner, an iron-rich steak may boost your spirits; try Rancher Butcher Chef, which opened in 2023 in Bend, for an astonishing array of cuts and creative sides. Active Culture cafe, located near Bend’s downtown, serves a range of healthy bowls filled with legumes and vegetables — and gelato for dessert. At Sunriver Resort, locally sourced meals and an Oregon-heavy wine list at Lodge Kitchen include peaceful views of the golf course with Mt. Bachelor rising beyond it.

Though breweries are excellent throughout Central Oregon, nonalcoholic alternatives abound, like the vibrant juices and smoothies at Salud Live Kitchen in Bend. A nearby option is to fill a pint (or a take-home growler) at Humm Kombucha’s taproom, with seasonal flavors like elderberry or cherry limeade. 

About The

Jennifer Burns Bright
Jennifer Burns Bright serves as the editor of long-form travel content for Travel Oregon’s website and annual visitor guide, as well as other custom publications in Oregon’s dynamic travel industry. She enjoys writing about culinary travel, wellness and resorts in the Pacific Northwest. She spends her free time foraging for wild foods and exploring our beloved state.

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