With the official arrival of summer, here are five hikes you should do right now—before the extreme heat, the big crowds, and so on...
The Cascade Lakes Highway is finally open past Mt. Bachelor, cyclists are gleefully riding along the Mckenzie Highway while the cars wait, and with warmer weather upon us, you have no excuse for not getting out and doing some hiking.
Even if every day doesn't offer that coveted "true summer" weather, you can still see some spectacular views while hitting the trails. Here are five hikes you can do right now, recommended by Kolby Kirk, a local hiking enthusiast who has thru-hiked part of the Pacific Crest Trail, in addition to hiking many trails in the Bend area.
Pro Tips: Before you head out to the trails, be prepared for almost anything, Kirk advised. This time of year it can be 75 degrees one day and snowing the next day—so it's even more important to bring several layers, sun protection, extra food and water. For these hikes you probably won't need sturdy hiking boots, Kirk said, but you will want shoes with good tread.
1. Tam-a-lau Trail at the Cove Palisades State Park
This 7-mile hike starts out steep but levels off on the top of a bluff, Kirk advises. You'll quickly rise 600 feet, and then even out and do a loop around the rest of the peninsula.
"The views of Mount Jefferson can't be beat," Kirk described. "All of the mountains are almost sitting on a platter wearing their white puffy jackets." In addition to the views, you'll also be able to see much more of the cliffs that surround Lake Billy Chinook.
If this is an area where you want to spend more time (and maybe cool off in the water) there are also campsites and RV hookups that you can reserve ahead of time. A day pass ($5, can be purchased onsite) or an annual State Park pass ($30) is required. // OregonStateParks.org
2. Bessie Butte
If you've grown tired of Pilot Butte and you want something a little less popular, Bessie Butte is a great alternative, Kirk suggested. The elevation profiles are almost the same, and there's a maintained trail to take you to the summit. Once you've hiked the .75-mile trail to the top, you'll see a panorama view of the Cascades and a different view of the city of Bend.
Bessie Butte is tucked out of the way on the southeast side of Bend, off China Hat Road. For a bonus adventure, head farther east and check out Arnold Ice Cave. // FS.USDA.gov
3. Oregon Badlands Wilderness
It can be easy to take that quintessential Central Oregon landscape for granted, but the Flatiron Rock Trail might help you re-appreciate the "three ingredients of Central Oregon hikes: the juniper trees, sage and lava rock," Kirk said about this area. On this 5-mile hike you'll see plenty of all. There are even lava rock outcroppings you can scramble up, providing you're confident in your ability to get down.
"The landscape is fairly flat, allowing for easy exploration through a forest of ancient junipers, some estimated to be over 1,000 years old," Kirk explained. // BLM.gov
4. Whychus Canyon Preserve
The 930-acre area is home to many hikes of varying difficulties. Some are short and mostly flat, and others, like Alder Springs, are longer (5+ miles) with more elevation gain. Alder Springs would be a great hike on a hot day because you have to cross the springs to continue, and there is no bridge, so you're likely to get at least a little wet.
5. Glass Butte
You'll have to do a little road tripping for this hike, but if you have kids and they can handle hanging out in the car for 80 miles, this would be a great hike for them—especially if they enjoy collecting things, Kirk recommended. Glass Butte is covered in obsidian, and on this butte it's free to collect and take home.
"There are great views but this is one of the few hikes where I spend more time looking down," Kirk said, laughing. "It's not a matter of finding a piece of obsidian, it's which piece do you want to take home."
This hike is halfway between Bend and Burns, and is best to do in the spring or fall, before it gets too hot, Kirk recommended. // FS.USDA.GOV