Looking for the best winter activities in Bend, Oregon this year?
When we decided to move to Bend, Oregon in 2017, we didn’t realize how many crazy adventures that were to come. The best part? The fun doesn’t stop when it’s winter. So, we’ve made a list of our favorite things to do in Bend, Oregon in the winter.
The 11 Best Things To Do In Bend, Oregon In Winter
There are so many things to do in Bend, Oregon in the winter, but here are our personal favorites:
1. Smith Rock State Park
We are still confused about why Smith Rock State Park is a state park rather than a national park. This park is absolutely stunning and easily makes the list of the best things to do in Bend, Oregon in winter.
Smith Rock State Park offers hiking and rock climbing for all ages and fitness levels.
Located just 35 minutes north of Bend, Smith Rock is an awesome day trip for hikers, mountain climbers, picnickers, and fishermen alike. The conditions stay relatively mild throughout the seasons and the trails are well-trodden.
Our favorite hike in Smith Rock State Park is by far one of our favorite things to do in Bend, Oregon in winter; it’s called Misery Ridge Trail. But don’t let that name scare you. Misery Ridge can be difficult in some areas but is a relatively easy trail for avid hikers.
The “not-so-secret” route we take is hiking the Misery Ridge Trail backward.
Instead of descending into the river valley and immediately heading up the steep slope, we follow the trail that bends around the river. In our opinion, hiking Misery Ridge backward is much more exciting with fewer hikers to surpass along the way.
Note: Parking costs $5 and is valid for the whole day. The parking lot meters take credit cards, so no need to hit the ATM!
2. Paulina Lake Hot Springs
Winter isn’t for everyone; some people just can’t handle the cold.
Luckily, Oregon is packed full of amazing hot springs ready to be discovered. Exploring the many hot springs is one of the best things to do in Bend, Oregon in winter. Our favorite hot spring to visit is Paulina Lake Hot Springs, located just 30 minutes from Bend.
To get here, put Little Crater Lake Campground Paulina Lake into your GPS or use this link: Little Crater Lake Campground. This will bring you into Newberry National Monument.
The hike from Little Crater Lake Campground to Paulina Hot Springs is about 30-minutes. You’ll find the hot spring pools nestled on the shores of Paulina Lake. These hot springs are very rarely visited by tourists, making it one of the best things to do in Bend, Oregon in winter.
Pro-tip: Driving to the Little Crater Campground in winter may be difficult or impossible without a high clearance 4WD SUV. Check the road conditions in the area before heading out.
For more on Oregon’s hot springs, check out our post: The 16 Best Hot Springs in Oregon for the Perfect Soak.
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3. Sawyer Cave
A true hidden gem in Oregon is Sawyer Cave, located just west of Santiam Pass on Hwy 20.
This is one of the larger caves in the area and, in my opinion, one of the best things to do in Bend, Oregon in winter.
During our day trip from Bend, we parked our car at the Little Nash Sno-Park and walked through the edge of the forest. We were blown away to find these views. We spent more than an hour walking around and exploring the vacant caves.
IMPORTANT: Many caves in the Sawyer Cave area are closed during winter months for the protection of endangered bats. If you love nature, which you should, please obey and respect these requests.
4. Sahalie & Koosah Falls
Waterfalls are plentiful in the Pacific Northwest, which is why these two waterfalls make the list of best things to do in Bend, Oregon in winter.
Sahalie and Koosah Falls can be found along the McKenzie River in Willamette National Forest. There are so many adventures in Willamette National Forest that this is the perfect day trip from Bend.
To get to Sahalie and Koosah falls, simply follow the easy 2.5-mile trail along the river that connects the two falls. This trail makes it easy to visit both in one trip. So easy, in fact, that this is one of the best activities to do for families.
For me, these falls are the epitome of Oregon. Even when the sun isn’t shining, these views are unbeatable. It was raining when we visited, but that didn’t stop us from having an unbelievable time.
Pro-tip: If you plan to hike down near the falls as we did, be sure to bring a change of clothes. We were soaking wet by the time we started heading back to the car. Wet clothes in winter can be crippling.
5. Explore The Cascade Lakes
One of our favorite places near Bend and one of the best things to do in winter is explore the nearby Cascade Lakes.
Located just 25 minutes from downtown Bend, the Cascade Lakes are incredibly beautiful, even during the winter. Head out toward Mount Bachelor, but skip the slopes and trek out to Todd Lake and Sparks Lake.
During our trip, we even found these mischievous “camp robbers” hanging out near Todd Lake.
And just a head’s up… they aren’t afraid of humans!
To explore the Cascade Lakes near Bend in the winter, you’ll need to park along the road just before the Mount Bachelor parking lot (lots of trucks tend to park here for snowmobiling).
From here, strap on your cross-country skis, snowshoes, or just plain winter boots and head out on the groomed trail.
Down this path, you will find Todd Lake, Sparks Lake, and so many more fun winter adventures.
Pro-Tip: Book an amazing snowshoe tour through the Cascade Mountain Range with an award-winning professional naturalist. It’ll be the highlight of your trip guaranteed!
Half-Day Snowshoe Tour in the Cascade Mountain Range
6. Boyd Cave
Boyd Cave is a lava tube in Central Oregon. Just outside of Bend in Deschutes National Forest, Boyd Cave is one of the easiest caves to access in the area and one of the best things to do in Bend, Oregon in winter.
Since the cave is completely underground, you’ll be able to escape the elements of the central Oregon winter.
Pro-tip: A flashlight will go a LONG way for this adventure.. literally!
For more about the caves near Bend, Oregon, check out our post: 5 Mystical Caves Near Bend.
7. Hidden Forest Cave
Hidden Forest Cave is another cave located in Deschutes National Forest, approximately ten minutes down the road from Boyd Cave.
Because of these caves’ close proximity to each other (on China Hat Road), it’s easy to visit both Hidden Forest Cave and Boyd Cave on the same day.
You’ll also be delightfully surprised to find even more caves in the area, however, Hidden Forest Cave was by far our favorite. Spend the day exploring the lava tube caves on China Hat Road.
Note: It’s important to note that many caves nearby close for the winter months to protect endangered bats. Hidden Forest Cave remained open.
8. Tamolitch Blue Pool
The photos of Tamolitch Blue Pool can’t do it justice. I’ve seen beautiful blue waters around the world but nothing has matched the hue of the Blue Pool in Central Oregon.
The best part?
The Tamolitch Blue Pool can be reached during any season of the year, making it one of the best things to do in Bend, Oregon in winter.
The hike out to the Blue Pool is just short of 2 miles and the trail is easily accessible for people of all fitness levels. Elevation stays consistent and there are remarkable views of the McKenzie River during the entire hike.
Pro-tip: Visit the Tamolitch Blue Pool during a weekday or in the early morning to avoid other hikers. This is a popular trail and can become crowded during peak hours.
9. Watson Falls
We accidentally stumbled upon Watson Falls while driving through Umpqua National Forest. The sign for a waterfall piqued our interest and we had to check it out. Boy, were we glad we did!
Although there are several waterfalls in close proximity to Bend, Oregon, none are quite as epic as Watson Falls, making it one of the best things to see and do in winter.
The hike up to Watson Falls is short but requires a bit of uphill trekking. In our opinion, the hike is short enough that it can be done by all fitness levels.
We spent the majority of the day here, checking out the falls from every direction.
One of the coolest parts about Watson Falls is that it’s a DOUBLE waterfall. You’ve heard of double rainbows but have you heard of double waterfalls? In the picture above, you’ll be able to see the main waterfall and part of the second waterfall.
Pro-tip: Bring a hammock. There are plenty of trees around to set up so you can spend a day hanging amongst the national forest. We love and recommend the ENO DoubleNest Hammock. They pack light and are versatile in any season.
10. Crater Lake
Indefinitely the most popular adventure in Central Oregon, Crater Lake National Park is even more beautiful in winter.
Not only does the lake shine a brilliant blue, but the trees are completely covered in icicles; I could’ve sworn we were part of the movie ‘Frozen’.
Pro-tip: Bring snowshoes* and venture out on your favorite Crater Lake hike. Take pictures to compare with summer photos of the area. It’s crazy to see the difference!
*We rented our snowshoes from a ski shop in Bend. They were approximately $15/day.
11. Tumalo Falls
Tumalo Falls is an awesome adventure year-round but it’s especially amazing during winter.
Ask any Bendite and they’ll immediately tell you that visiting Tumalo Falls is one of the best things to do in Bend, Oregon in winter.
The hike is approximately 7 miles, however, many people don’t complete the entire loop. Instead, most walk along the trail visiting the various waterfalls along the way until they are ready to turn around and return to the parking lot.
This hike is perfect for people of all fitness levels because you can choose the distance you’d like to go to.
The road to get to Tumalo Falls can be quite bumpy and rough. I’d recommend only driving out with a high clearance 4WD vehicle.
Parking costs $5 and they only accept cash.
The Wrap-Up: Things to Do in Bend, Oregon in Winter
Central Oregon is packed full of incredible adventures. Experiencing central Oregon in winter can be even more exciting than exploring during the summer, so I highly recommend planning your next Oregon trip for winter.
Use this list to find the best things to do in Bend, Oregon in winter and if you do decide to hit the slopes in search of fresh Oregon powder, you’re in luck because one of the snowiest ski resorts in Oregon is just outside of town.
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