A Traveler’s Guide to Central Oregon

Central Oregon is a place of mysterious beauty that people often believe only exists in the movies. However, it is a real place with real splendor. The region consists of three counties in Oregon: Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook. The land is flooded with geographical wonders as the sands of the Oregon High Desert gleam under the constant rays of sunshine. There are countless sights of volcanic rock formations that form colorful buttes and crystalline clear crater lakes. The high, majestic mountains overshadow the lands like that of an artist’s paint brush. There aren’t many places quite like Central Oregon. Because the region is located in the rain shadow of the mountains, there is an incredible statistic of 300 days of sunshine annually. This is another part of the attraction to the area! The deep, blue skies are mesmerizing against the high desert sands and red rocks. Don’t be fooled though- Central Oregon has plenty of green to share as well. With a wide variety of tree life, shrubs and plant life, the region offers the best of both worlds.

There are four main cities within the Central Oregon region. Bend, Oregon is the most populous city in Central Oregon with 84,000 residents. This city attracts visitors from all over the country as it’s known as the “outdoor playground of the West”. Bend has a small town feel with a larger than life experience. It’s there that you can relish in the sights of the majestic mountain peaks of the Cascades while canoeing down the famous Deschutes River. Located only 15 miles northeast from the city of Bend, Redmond Oregon is home to more than 30,000 people. The community is growing by leaps and bounds every year. Just like the city of Bend, Redmond provides warm days and cool nights as it’s also in the high desert region. For people that desire a more country way of living, many prefer the small community of Sisters, Oregon that’s located only 25 miles northwest of Bend, Oregon. This is another great treasure in Central Oregon as it’s home to one of the headquarters for the Deschutes National Park. The sights are incredible with the high desert terrain blended in with rugged forest life. Located 35 miles northeast of Bend, Oregon is the charming city of Prineville, Oregon. With a population of only 9,000 people, Prineville is the oldest city of Central Oregon. The locals carry tremendous pride in being the oldest high desert town of Central Oregon as they are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Prineville carries a long history in Crook County as being a main producer of timber, mining and agriculture.


Over the past two decades, Central Oregon’s communities have embraced the arts and made them an integral part of local life as well as an attraction for visitors. Organizations like Arts Central have worked tirelessly championing regional art promotion, restoration and education. Their efforts are on display throughout Bend thanks to the Art in Public Places program that has helped adorn our numerous traffic roundabouts with truly stunning works. With its selection of community theaters, museums, art galleries and concert venues – big and small, Central Oregon is the place for a diverse cultural scene with a spectacular backdrop.


Everywhere you look in Central Oregon, there’s a major landmark or point of interest. Newberry National Volcanic Monument is teeming with ancient lava flows, jagged volcanic glass, rivers, lakes, caves, hot springs, waterfalls, and forests — and they’re all there waiting for you to explore them. The Newberry Crater area offers fun things to do in both summer and winter.Crater Lake National Park is just over two hours from Bend, and is the deepest lake in the U.S. It was formed when Mt. Mazama erupted more than 7,700 years ago and then collapsed, eventually filling with water to become the most brilliantly turquoise body of water you’ve ever laid eyes on. Bend is one of just a handful in the U.S. to feature a dormant volcano in the city limits, and you can drive or climb right to the top. Pilot Butte is an ancient, 500-foot cinder cone that offers stunning views of the city and region when you reach its craggy peak. Be sure to save time for a stroll in Bend’s famous Drake Park, the crown jewel of Bend’s park system featuring 13 riverfront acres and an outdoor stage. You also won’t want to miss a hike at Tumalo Falls just 11 miles west of town. Savor the splash of the 100-foot main falls near the parking area, or continue up the trail to enjoy a plethora of smaller waterfalls.


The geographical climate for Central Oregon is predominantly High Desert. Summer temperatures range from an average high of 85 degrees Fahrenheit to a low of 44 degrees Fahrenheit. Average highs in winter are in the 40’s to lows in the 20’s. Precipitation ranges from 10.5 to 12.04 inches, annually. The summers are short, warm, dry, and mostly clear and the winters are very cold, snowy, and partly cloudy. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 24°F to 83°F and is rarely below 11°F or above 92°F.

Tumalo Falls, Central Oregon
Tumalo Falls


Smith Rock State Park— One of the 7 Wonders of Oregon, Smith Rock located in Terrebonne about 30 minutes from Bend, is the birthplace of American sport climbing and a feast for the eyes. Take a hike along the Crooked River and marvel at the spires that rise from the canyon floor or trek up Misery Ridge for expansive views of the High Desert and Monkey Face. Be sure to go prepared and take care to stay on designated trails to help preserve the trails and native flora.

Tumalo Falls— Just 10 miles from downtown Bend, Tumalo Falls is a majestic, nearly 100-foot waterfall that cascades into the tranquil Tumalo Creek below. Take a hike along the creek and up to the top of the falls for a cool view from above. The trail continues for four miles up Happy Valley; perfect for hikers of any age.

Central Oregon Beers— Central Oregon is known for its exceptionally clean water – and it’s perfect for making exceptionally good beer. Enjoy a pint at any of our nearly 30 brewpubs across the region or take a tour of Deschutes Brewery, the one that started the movement here. Want to taste more? Check out the Bend Ale Trail where you can experience more than just beer.

One of the Top 100– Central Oregon is home to nearly 30 golf courses including three in Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses in America and half of Oregon’s Top 10 according to Golfweek. From the dense forests of ponderosa pines at Woodlands at Sunriver to the Scottish-links berms and knolls of Tetherow, you’ll find a hugely diverse selection of challenging courses to choose from.

A Wild, Wet Ride— You can’t visit Central Oregon without playing in our wild and scenic Deschutes River. The options are plentiful including a leisurely float through Bend’s Old Mill District, a surf sesh at the Bend whitewater park, a kayak adventure at Sparks Lake or an adrenaline-pumping whitewater thrill ride with Sun County Tours on the Bid Eddy. Bring a swimsuit and have some fun.

The High Desert Museum— The High Desert Museum has been inspiring families since 1982 and is consistently rated as a top Central Oregon attraction by Trip Advisor. With 135 acres and more than 100,000 square feet of exhibit space, it’s a “must see” for anyone traveling through the area. Get a close-up of native wildlife, such as an otter, bobcat, porcupine, and badger. Talk with historic characters who share the tales of early Oregon explorers and settlers. Visit an authentic homestead and sawmill from 1904. Experience a close flying encounter with owls, falcons, hawks and even a vulture. Learn about Native American culture and history and delight your children with one of many fun, hands-on programs that bring history and science to life.

High Mountain Hikes— Hundreds of miles of tranquil and scenic hiking trails are waiting for you to explore. Go up into the mountains along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway and walk among the giant snow-capped peaks. Take a short hike with the kids around Todd Lake or venture higher up to the peak of majestic Broken Top. Or, closer to Bend and Sunriver, trek along the gently-rolling and beautiful Deschutes River Trail. For whatever adventure you’re looking for, there’s a trail for you.

2-Wheel Adventures— More than 400-miles of epic mountain bike singletrack can be found in Central Oregon, perfect for cyclists of all abilities and so close to town that you can ride to them straight from the shop you rented your bike from. Road cyclists can enjoy a handful of beautiful, well-marked scenic bikeways that showcase sights like McKenzie Pass and Smith Rock State Park.

Are you feeling called to Central Oregon? Let Pamela’s List get you a top paying contract while you focus on planning out your next adventure!

Come Join Pamela's list

Skip to content