With more than a million acres of public land, frothy rivers and too many trails to count, Central Oregon is the perfect place for our four-legged friends to explore all that’s magical about this part of Oregon. In winter, especially November, you get the best of both worlds, too. While snow starts to pile up in the high country, lower trails remain frequently bare and spare dogs’ padded paws from the ice chunks that can build up between their toes. The cooler temperatures also let them run in areas that can get too hot in summer.
Even so, always keep your dog in sight, especially when venturing off trail in remote areas. Trapping is allowed on some of the public land in the region, so it is best to be mindful.
Here are some suggested adventures in the glorious days ahead, as well as some tips on how to keep everyone safe.
Good Dog Makes Happy Dogs in Bend
Arguably the most popular place for dogs and their human friends to stretch their legs sits just outside of Bend off the south side of the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway at an area residents call Good Dog. You can find Good Dog listed on Google Maps; in real life, look for the brown sign for the Rimrock Trail. From the parking area, a network of trails spiders its way through the forest, over rocky outcroppings and down to the banks of the Deschutes River. It’s easy to get turned around back in there, so be sure to bring a map.
Some opt to link trails to make a loop; others just do an out-and-back to the river. Along the way, dogs can run and play off-leash, often with other dogs, and plenty of them love to splash around off a shallow beach on warmer days. Mountain bikers sometimes use this area to reach the Deschutes River Trail, so be mindful of them. It’s a good idea to bring a towel to wipe off muddy paws before loading back up.
And be a good human: No matter where you go, always bring plenty of bags to pick up pet waste and throw it away in a trash can by the parking lot. Never leave your bag on the side of the trail with intentions to pick up on the way back.
Your Pooch Will Love Bend’s Quieter Areas Too
If you’re looking for a hike with fantastic views of Newberry National Volcanic Monument and the Cascades, make your way out to Bessie Butte, another favorite place for hikers to bring their dogs. The butte sits off China Hat Road south of Bend, and a mile-long trail spirals its way up to the top, with very few trees to block your views.
Pine Nursery Park, on the northeast side of town, has a large fenced-in area with a network of trails weaving among the juniper trees to reach a big field, offering the best of dog-hiking heaven: trails and wide-open spaces.
East of Bend off Highway 20 sits the Oregon Badlands Wilderness Area, where dogs need to be on-leash within 500 feet of the trailhead. Park at the Flatiron Trailhead and do a 4-mile out-and-back hike along the Flatiron Trail or make a shorter, 2-mile loop by hanging a left on the Ancient Juniper Trail to come back to the parking area. Along the way, you’ll get great views of the snowy Cascades and likely find plenty of sticks for your friend.
Enjoy a Popular Dog-Walking Area Near Prineville
Heading east to Prineville, which gets less snow than Bend, the Barnes Butte Trail is another great spot to bring your dogs. The 2.7-mile-long trail sits near the Ironhorse subdivision and gains about 550 feet during the last bit of the hike, making it somewhat challenging. Keep your dogs on a leash close to the trailhead, then make your way up an ancient rhyolite dome. Be on the lookout for raptors, and be prepared toward the top where the slope turns quite rocky. You’ll have fantastic views of the Ochocos.
Head Out Into the Desert Near Redmond
Residents in Redmond like to take their dogs out along the less-trodden Juniper Trail, which you’ll find off Southwest Cline Falls Road. The whole trail runs for about 13 miles, but you can do an out-and-back for as far as you need to go to tire one of you out, with plenty of high-desert space to roam and run. As always, be mindful of mountain bikers who like to cruise along the singletrack, and check postings at the trailhead for seasonal closures that start early in the year and last through summer to protect nesting falcons and eagles.
How to Have a Great Hike With Your Dog
April Sullivan, owner of Happy Social Dog, a professional dog-training program in Bend, says to keep these tips in mind when heading out with your dog.
- Observe local leash laws, which are often posted at trailheads and can change depending on the season.
- Make sure your dog has excellent recall, especially when there are other dogs or distractions around. If your pooch doesn’t return when called, use a leash.
- Be careful about an off-leash dog meeting a leashed dog as the leashed dog can feel threatened. Best to make sure all are leashed to avoid potential conflicts.
- Keep your dog moving on-leash when passing another dog on-leash. Dogs don’t naturally greet each other face to face, so keep them moving.
- Muzzle train your dog before an emergency arises. If you or your dog gets injured, the first thing rescuers will want to do is use a muzzle. This can be super stressful for untrained dogs.