Where the Cascade Range meets the high desert, sunny Central Oregon is a wide-open arena for outdoor adventures all year round. Winding rivers, alpine lakes, sagebrush plains, snow-capped mountains, volcanic peaks and ancient lava beds beckon bold spirits to play in Central Oregon.
Much drier and sunnier than Portland, the Oregon Coast and Willamette Valley, Central Oregon is the state’s second-most popular summer vacation destination (after the coast). Vacationers are especially drawn to the Cascades Lakes, Newberry National Volcanic Monument, the High Desert Museum, Deschutes River and all of the fascinating features of this rugged landscape, from caves and canyons to warm springs and chilly lakes. This place is ripe for adventure, but it also welcomes relaxation at a variety of resorts and accommodations.
Favorite Outdoor Activities in Central Oregon
Summer is peak season in Central Oregon, with favorite activities being hiking and climbing, mountain biking and road cycling, fly-fishing in trout-filled rivers, whitewater rafting, boating, river floating, lake watersports and scenic drives and general sightseeing. Golf is big in Central Oregon. There are more than 26 courses in this region, including three that have been ranked in the top 100 U.S. courses by Golf Digest. Several courses in the region offer the new GolfBoarding trend.
In winter, Mt. Bachelor is the king of Central Oregon skiing and snowboarding. One of the top skiing areas in Pacific Northwest, renowned for its deep powder, 9,065-foot Mt. Bachelor offers 101 runs, incredible vistas and a long season for snow sports of all varieties, including backcountry and cross-country skiing. Hoodoo Ski Area is another favorite, offering 32 runs, a 5,703-foot summit and popular night skiing.
After all that adventure, the cities and towns of Central Oregon welcome visitors with a wide variety of accommodations, resorts, restaurants, breweries, shops and cultural offerings. Explore this site to find out everything you need to know about Central Oregon.
Bend, Redmond, Sisters and the Cities of Central Oregon
The small cities of Central Oregon feel like supporting characters for the wider stage of the vast natural playground, but that doesn’t mean they lack in amenities, culture and character.
Beautiful Bend, Oregon, right along the Deschutes River, is the anchor of Central Oregon. It’s a healthy, active town, home to Oregon’s first whitewater park, 83 parks and open spaces and 65 miles of in-town trails. It feels compact, but if offers enough cultural, dining and brewery options in its rejuvenated downtown to feel big enough to welcome all the après-adventurists.
Sunriver, south of Bend, Oregon, is a world-class destination resort and resident community offering luxury amenities and 63 holes of golf. North of Bend, Oregon, is Redmond, Oregon, a centrally located city with upscale restaurants, a thriving beer scene, farmers markets and rodeos. Sisters, Oregon, west of Redmond, is a small, slow-paced, Western-themed town in the shadow of the Three Sisters Mountains. Other cities in the region include LaPine, Crescent, Prineville, Madras, Warm Springs and Terrebonne. Thanks to the warm climate, abundant recreation, cultural scenes and relatively low cost of living, the cities of Central Oregon attract retirees, relocators and commuters to Portland.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where did Bend, Oregon, get its name?
The name is derived from Farewell Bend, the designation used by early pioneers to refer to this location, which was one of the few fordable points along the Deschutes River.
How far is it from Portland to Bend, Oregon?
It takes about three hours to drive the 162 miles from Portland to Bend.
Is there an airport in Central Oregon, or do I need to fly into Portland?
There’s a commercial airport in Redmond (RDM). Four carriers serve Redmond (American, Alaska, Delta and United) with nonstop flights to Denver, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland, San Francisco, Salt Lake City and Seattle. Flight time to Portland is 40 minutes. Flight time to Seattle is just over an hour. Flight time to LAX is two hours.
Is Bend, Oregon, in the desert?
It’s actually in a region considered the Oregon high desert, named for its high elevation, about 4,000 feet above sea level. The high desert is dry compared to western Oregon, but it still averages about 15 inches of rainfall a year. The high desert region is home to a variety of mammals and birds and a lot of western juniper trees and widespread sagebrush plants.
What is the population of Bend, Oregon?
The population of Bend is around 90,000, making it Central Oregon’s largest city. Redmond is second largest, with a population of around 30,000.
What are the top outdoor attractions in Central Oregon?
Favorites include the Cascade Lakes and Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, Deschutes River, Deschutes National Forest, Smith Rock State Park, Lava Butte Lookout, Lava River Cave, Mt. Bachelor Ski Area, Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Pilot Butte State Park, Tumalo State Park and Tumalo Falls, and Oregon Badlands Wilderness.