Tag Archives: Central Oregon

Dee Wright Observatory (Summer 2016)

Directions: From Sisters, Oregon get onto Highway 242 and follow it for approximately 15 miles to the McKenzie Pass summit.

From the parking area get on the paved trail that’s near the bathroom. The short trail twists it’s way uphill  through lava rock where it ends at the observatory that is also made of lava rock. Take the steps up to the roof of the observatory where you get great views of the surrounding area. It also has a peak finder that tells you the names off all the mountains you are seeing. The main mountains you will see are the Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, and Black Butte. There are plenty of others to see but these are the big ones.

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When you’re done on the roof head back down the stairs and go into the observatory. There are small square openings along the walls that you can look through and see each mountain. It’s kind of dark inside but it feels good on a hot day.

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Heading back down take the back paved path that ends at the other side of the observatory. You should be dropped off right at the big wooden Dee Wright Observatory sign. Next, get on the Lava River National Recreation Trail. It’s a short interpretive trail that takes you out into the lava bed and gives you more views of the surrounding area. Head back out the way you came in on this trail.

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This place is a great stop to take in all the mountains and get a good look at all the lava rock. We stop here whenever we’re doing a hike in the area, it’s always worth it!

Distance: 1 mile (easy)

Elevation: 115 Feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All Ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: Open early summer through early fall. Call before heading out to make sure the road is open.

Popular: Yes. This place can get very busy.

Warnings: None

Scott Lake to Benson Lake (Summer 2016)

Directions: From Sisters, Oregon get onto OR-242 W and drive for a little over 20 miles. Take a right onto NF-260 (signed for Scott Lake) and follow it for just less than a mile (you’ll pass by Scott Lake on your right). The road ends at the Benson Lake Trailhead.

From the trailhead take the trail to the left and start heading uphill on a beargrass and flower lined trail. The trail is dusty and full of the usual trees and bushes you would see on a mountain hike in central Oregon. It’s a pretty straight forward hike, just follow the trail that heads steadily uphill the whole time.

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After just less than a mile and a half you will come to a Mt. Washington Wilderness sign. It’s just a short distance from the sign that you will start seeing Benson Lake. Continue following the trail as you skirt around the lake. When you get to another sign go left on an unmarked trail that takes you down to a good viewpoint of the lake. There are multiple viewpoints along the lake, and they all offer great views of the clear and very blue water. When you are ready to head back just follow the trail out the way you came in.

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Back at the trailhead make sure you stop by Scott Lake before you head out. It’s a bit more swampy but it’s still very pretty. If you hike around the lake you will get good a view of the Three Sisters Mountains.

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We did this hike during peak mosquito season. If you kept moving constantly on the hike it wasn’t so bad, but it was pretty awful at the lake. They were out in full force and swarmed us like crazy. We were hiking with a group this day and some of them chose to only stay at the lake for a minute because of the bugs. The mosquitos were better at Scott Lake due to the massive amount of frogs! It was crazy to see hundreds of tiny frogs jumping around in the grass 🙂

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Distance: 3 miles (easy)

Elevation: 400 Feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: Almost all ages. It might be a bit difficult for young kids and older folks.

Bathrooms: Yes at the trailhead

Parking Fee: NW Forest Pass Required

Seasons: OR-242 closes during the winter at the snow gate. The road and trail are open from late spring to early fall. It’s best to call ahead in spring and fall to make sure the road is open.

Popular: There is a campground at Scott Lake that can become busy during the summer months. The hike to Benson Lake can be a bit busy on weekends.

Warnings: The mosquitoes are pretty bad during the summer.

Smith Rock (Misery Ridge) (Spring 2016)

Directions: Take Highway 26 East to the town of Madras. Then get on 97 South and drive to the town of Terrebonne. Once in Terrebonne take a left onto Smith Rock Way. Take another left on 1st Street (1st becomes Wilcox). Take a left on Crooked River Drive and end at Smith Rock State Park.

We did the River Trail in Smith Rock a while back, to see that post click here.

From the parking area get on the main paved path that immediately starts heading downhill, soon there is a junction where you can get on the Chute Trail. It gets you down faster but it’s not as gradual as the main trail. Cross the bridge over the Crooked River and you’re at the starting point for Misery Ridge.

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The trail starts out with short switchbacks as you begin the steep climb to the top. The trail climbs continuously and you will get a mix of dirt/rock trail, steps and switchbacks. The views as you round the side of the ridge and head to the top are stunning. After about 3/4 of a mile and over 700 feet of elevation gain you will reach the top of Misery Ridge. The trail continues around the top and there are MANY viewing areas. You will soon come to an absolutely amazing view of Monkey Face, there is even a side trail that takes you even closer for great picture taking opportunities.

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Continue on the main trail when you are ready to head down and finish the loop. The trail down is only dirt and it’s basically long switchbacks. Some spots in the trail have loose rocks, which can lead to falling. When you get closer to river level the trail evens out quite a bit. Soon you will come to the junction with the Mesa Verde Trail, go left towards a climbing first aid area that has crutches and a rescue basket. Continue on the Mesa Verde Trail until you get to the Riverside Trail. Go left on the Riverside Trail as you pass rock climbers and follow along the Crooked River. You will end up back at the bridge where you can get back on the Chute Trail that takes you back up to the parking area.

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There are lots of snakes at Smith Rock and the risk of falling if you’re going up Misery Ridge. We did see one small rattle snake and there had been a bad fall a few days prior. Take extra precautions with children, older folks, and pets.

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Distance: 4.5 miles (easy)

Elevation: 1,100 feet (moderate)

Pet Friendly: Yes but be aware that there are drop offs and lots of places that dogs could potentially hurt themselves.

Good For: Sure footed hikers and older kids.

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area.

Parking Fee: $5 day use fee

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Warnings: Falling and snakes

Painted Hills (Spring 2016)

Directions: Take Highway 26 East through Prineville. Take a left on Burnt Ranch Road (there will be signs here marking John Day Fossil Bed- Painted Hills). Follow Burnt Ranch Road for about 6 miles, then take another left onto Bear Creek Rd and follow the road into the park.

When you first enter the Painted Hills area you can go left and get to a picnic area with a gift shop and bathrooms. Keep going straight to enter the Painted Hills Unit.

You’re first hike options are Carroll Rim and Painted Hills Overlook. Carroll Rim is a 1.5 mile out-and-back trail that gives you great views of all the Painted Hills. It’s a moderate climb on a well maintained trail. The Overlook trail takes you past an information area and ends at an overlook of the hills. There are benches on both trails and you can’t beat the views!

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Continue driving and you will come to Painted Cove. The trail here is a boardwalk that takes you in a loop around smaller, very red hills. There are informational signs all around the trail and you get really good close up views of the colors.

A little farther down the road you will come to Leaf Hill and Red Scar Knoll, these are the last areas that area open to the public. Leaf hill is a short loop that takes you to views of golden hills off in the distance. Red Scar Knoll is an out-and-back trail that takes you up close to the knoll that’s a deep red with burnt orange and yellow. Watch for cacti near the knoll!

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There are lots of vocal birds throughout the area and we saw plenty of deer tracks. You could spend hours here, this place is packed full of great things to see. So make sure to plan plenty of time for exploring!

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Distance: 3.5 miles (easy)

Elevation gain: Overlook Trail: 150 feet, Carroll Rim Trail: 450 feet, all other trails minimal elevation gain. (easy)

Pet friendly: Yes and they really enforce the leash requirement.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the picnic area.

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Warnings: None

Steelhead Falls (Spring 2016)

Directions: Take Highway 26 East to Highway 97 South. Just before the town of Terrebonne take a right onto Lower Bridge Way and drive for 2 miles. Next, take a right onto NW 43rd and follow this road for almost 2 miles where you go left on Chinook Drive. About a mile later you will come to Badger Road on your left, follow this road for about 2 miles and take a right onto Quail Road. After a little over a mile take a left onto River Road and follow it to the end where you will find the parking area.

From the trailhead follow the marked trail as you start to gradually go downhill. You will soon start to see the Deschutes Gorge and hear the river below. From here the trail starts to go downhill more steeply as you get down to river level. Some parts of the trail are eroding a little bit but it’s all pretty straightforward and maintained.

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As you follow the river around a bend you will start to see the top of the waterfall. The trail takes you to a wide flat viewing area. Steelhead Falls isn’t very tall but it’s quite pretty, and so is the surrounding area! This is the end of the hike so head back out the way you came. This hike can get really busy in the summer, it’s a popular area for cliff jumping and swimming.

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Distance: 1 mile (easy)

Elevation: 120 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area.

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All but check ahead during winter months.

Popular: Yes during the summer months.

Warnings: None

Best Of 2015!

Here is our list of the top hikes we did in 2015!

Columbia River Gorge (Oregon side): *Tunnel Falls* We love the Eagle Creek Trail and this year we finally made it all the way out to Tunnel Falls. We definitely weren’t disappointed!


Columbia River Gorge (Washington side): *Strawberry Island* This was a nice secluded hike that had amazing views of the Gorge and lots of birds.


Mt. Hood: *Zigzag Canyon* This hike is absolutely beautiful. You get amazing views of Mt. Hood all throughout the hike. We did this hike in late June and the Lupine were in full bloom!


Oregon Coast: *Bayocean Spit* Who doesn’t love a hike that’s right on the beach?


Washington Coast: *North Head Lighthouse* You can actually go up in this lighthouse. The views are great!


Portland Metro/Outer Portland: *Oak Island* This is one of our favorite hikes on Sauvie Island, the place is covered with cows!


Washington: *Lacamas Creek (Camas Lily Fields)* Go here in the spring when the lilies are blooming, it’s very pretty!


Willamette Valley: *Abiqua Falls* This waterfall is becoming more and more popular and we definitely understand why. It’s not the easiest waterfall to reach, but it’s definitely worth the scramble.


Central Oregon: *Smith Rock* We absolutely love this place. There is so much to see you almost need more than one day.


Kayaking: *Scappoose Bay* This was the first place we took our new kayak. There’s lots of places to explore here.


*Overall best hike of 2015*

Painted Hills!

Hands-down the most interesting place we’ve ever been to. The colors are beautiful and the views up at Carroll Rim are amazing! We HIGHLY recommend this hike!

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Honorable Mentions: *Lower Twin Lake, Youngs River Falls, Lost Lake (hike and kayak), Tom McCall Nature Preserve (go in the spring!), and The Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival.*

We’d love to hear what some of your favorite hikes of 2015 were!

Wishing everyone happy hiking in 2106!

Smith Rock- River Trail (Spring 2015)

Directions: Take Highway 26 East to the town of Madras. Then get on 97 South and drive to the town of Terrebonne. Once in Terrebonne take a left onto Smith Rock Way. Take another left on 1st Street (1st becomes Wilcox). Take a left on Crooked River Drive and end at Smith Rock State Park.

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We did this hike on Memorial Day weekend and it was BUSY. There are many different trail options here and we decided to do a scenic river hike on the recommendation of one of the Park Managers.


From the main parking area near the bathrooms take the Chute Trail down into the Crooked River Canyon. It’s quite steep heading down into the canyon and be sure to keep an eye out for snakes on the way down. Even though there were a lot of people on the trail we still saw a Rattlesnake sunning itself on a rock. The Chute Trail takes you down to a bridge that crosses the Crooked river and to a three-way trail option. Going straight is one way to get up Misery Ridge, and going left or right is the River Trail.



We went left on the River Trail and started heading down the East side of the ridge. You get great views of the Crooked River and flat out amazing views of the cliffs all around you. You follow the river the whole way on a nicely graded dirt and rock trail. One of the most interesting parts of this hike is seeing all of the rock climbers. Some of them are easy to spot and some are so high up you can barely see them. As you continue on towards the Southern tip you’ll pass many popular climbing areas such as Morning Glory and Phoenix Buttress.



Once You’ve reached the Southern tip there is a waterfall across the river. Rounding the southern tip you’ll pass more rock climbers and soon start seeing Monkey Face. Monkey Face is 350 feet tall and the top looks exactly like the face of a monkey. Soon you’ll come to a junction with the Mesa Verde Trail. This is the end of the hike. Turn around and head back the way you came.


We would caution that Smith Rock is a very exposed area and became really hot, we saw quite a few people struggling with the heat. Make sure to bring enough water and sunscreen on hot days.

There are many other trail options that we didn’t have time for, we’ll definitely be back in the future!

We highly recommend going to Juniper Junction (AKA Rockhard) on the way out for some huckleberry ice cream. It was delicious! It’s about a quarter mile from Smith Rock.

Distance: 5 miles (easy)

Elevation: 280 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: Yes a $5 state park fee.

Seasons: All

Popular: Very

Warnings: Snakes and falling

Best Of 2014!

Now that 2014 has come to an end we have decided to take a look back at some of our favorite hikes. We did so many great hikes that we decided to break everything down into areas and then an overall best hike of 2014. We hope everyone had as much fun outdoors as we did this past year!

Columbia River Gorge (Oregon Side): *Angels Rest* We have done this hike many times but when we hiked it in early January it was really foggy and made the views at the top even better!

Columbia River Gorge (Washington Side): *Falls Creek Falls* This waterfall is perfection! We can’t wait to go back!

Central Oregon: *Big Obsidian Flow* The amount of obsidian here is unreal and the views of Paulina Lake at the top are great.

Mt. Hood Area: *Tom Dick & Harry Mountain* Hands down one of THE BEST views in Oregon.

Portland Metro: *Hoyt Arboretum* Great place to see all the falls colors. We’ll be back this spring!

Washington: *Lacamas Lake* We love lake hikes where you stay close to the lake the whole time. And so many frogs!

Overall Best Of 2014: *Drift Creek Falls* We don’t know how this couldn’t be our best hike of 2014, and we don’t know what’s better the waterfall or the suspension bridge. Together they are absolutely perfect. We loved everything about this hike.


Honorable Mentions: *Gorton Creek Falls, Panther Creek Falls, Tamanawas Falls, and Powell Butte* Three great waterfalls and a butte with lots of trails right in the middle of SE Portland!


We would love to hear your best hikes of 2014! Any hikes you think we should do in 2015?

Paulina Falls (Summer 2014)

Paulina Falls is located in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument which is in La Pine, Oregon.

Paulina Creek Falls is located near Paulina Lodge and would make for a easy few mile hike if you are staying at the lake. We were staying at East Lake so we decided to drive.

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Paulina Falls is a double falls and there are also two viewpoints for the falls. The upper viewpoint is a short walk from the parking lot but really isn’t that great of a view. The lower viewpoint is by far the best way to take in the falls. It’s about a half mile of long switchbacks that drops you at the base of the falls.



Distance: .5 mile (easy)

Elevation: 125 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: There is an entrance fee to the monument and some additional parking fees.

Seasons: Spring through late fall

Popular: Yes

Warnings: None

Big Obsidian Flow (Summer 2014)

The Big Obsidian Flow is located in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument which is in La Pine, Oregon.

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The Big Obsidian flow is a one mile interpretive trail that takes you through obsidian (black glass) and pumice. There are 7 signs along the way and great views of Paulina Lake. It’s also worth mentioning that this is a great area for bird watching!

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From the parking area follow the paved path that leads you to a stairway. The stairs take you up to the flow where you wind through obsidian and pumice for a mile. There are many benches and viewpoints along the way.

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Distance: 1 mile (easy)

Elevation: 125 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: No, the obsidian can easily cut dogs paws.

Goo For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: There are fees to enter the monument and some additional parking fees.

Seasons: Spring through fall.

Popular: Yes

Warnings: None