You may have sampled the craft beers, hiked the trails and taken some sweet rides on the powdery slopes in Central Oregon. But have you experienced the landscape by air, toured the city by electric car or collected thundereggs in the high desert? How about learn to photograph Smith Rock in its best light, or watch a rocket shoot 20,000 feet into the air? There’s a ton of offbeat adventures to do here that may surprise you, led by guides who live to share their passions with others. Here are some of those activities that you can do any time of year, but are especially fun with fewer crowds (and before any snow sticks) in the cool days of fall.
Search for Sasquatch
Did you know that the most documented Bigfoot sightings in Oregon happen in Central Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest and Mt. Jefferson Wilderness? If not, grab your fellow humans and spend an hour scanning the kaleidoscope colors of the landscape by air. Big Mountain Heli Tours‘ Bigfoot & Sasquatch Helicopter Tour covers 80 miles of ground in 45 minutes with a smooth, narrated ride flight above the snowcapped Cascade Mountains and electric-green forests, with views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, the Three Sisters, Broken Top and Mt. Bachelor. Photos encouraged.
Dig for thundereggs
Open March through October just north of Madras, Richardson’s Rock Ranch is a must-do for rockhounds. Kids and grownups alike can find their own souvenirs from seven different glimmering agate beds — for easy or more strenuous digging. Take home as many thundereggs as you can find, at $1.25 per pound. Or find rocks from around the world at their gift shop. Fall is a great time to visit, after the dry heat of summer. Make sure to call ahead (800-433-2680) before you visit since digs are weather-dependent; roads may be closed due to rain.
Zip around the city
Located in the Old Mill District, The Bend Tour Company is a one-stop-shop for a range of eclectic guided tours and rentals. There is of course the 14-seat cycle pub, which lets you burn your calories en route to several fun breweries. One of their most popular excursions is the e-cruiser sightseeing tour, which has your group (kids welcome) zipping around in an open-air vehicle as your guide narrates the sights from an insider’s perspective around the Old Mill District, Deschutes River and in and around downtown Bend. Hear the stories around the city’s public art, thriving cultural scene and the latest great places to eat and shop.
Find that golden light
If you dabble in photography or just like posting shots of your favorite landscapes and plates of food to Instagram, you can refine your skills and find inspiration from the pros in a photo tour. Cascade Center of Photography in Bend offers professionally led tours that help you hone your craft while soaking up Central Oregon’s night skies, street scenes and sunsets. If you’re looking for a premium tour, Bend Photo Tours lets you choose your favorite iconic destination as your backdrop — the Cascade Lakes Highway, Smith Rock, Tumalo Falls, McKenzie Pass, the Deschutes River or Painted Hills.
Watch a rocket launch
Have you seen a rocket launched 20,000 feet into the air? You can do that here in the high desert at a public event called Rocketober (Oct. 12-14, 2018), hosted by the Oregon Rocketry group. You’ll find them in Brothers, about 40 minutes southeast of Bend (about 2 miles west of the town’s Brothers Stage Stop restaurant — a great burger joint with an old-fashioned saloon and general store). Rocket enthusiasts launch about 100 flights during the weekend with their rockets, ranging from 10 inches to more than 10 feet tall. The rockets soar 500 to 20,000 feet into the sky and are recovered by parachutes that are electronically controlled. They are certified with the Federal Aviation Agency and operate within guidelines so as not to cause fires. Don’t try this at home — come out and watch the show here.