Travelers with a taste for adventure are always on the hunt for the next destination that takes them to new and challenging heights. When hiking is your strong suit and getting into nature is what makes you jump out of bed every morning, you won’t want to miss a chance to conquer the many trails waiting for you in Sunriver, Oregon. While this destination is often sought-after in the name of resort-style rest and relaxation, its prime location on the Deschutes River makes it an ideal setting for those who long to venture into dynamic landscapes that offer a lot in the way of twisting trails. Whether you’re a novice hiker or someone who has been checking off trailheads since childhood, Sunriver and the surrounding landscape is a sensational stop when trekking through the wilderness is the ultimate goal.
The Deschutes National Forest is home to a collection of stunning cascades, but Tumalo Falls is a must-see when you’re planning on hiking the loop. The Tumalo Falls Day Use Area is a great starting point for this trek and can be easily accessed off of Tumalo Falls Road. The North Fork trail is what will take you to the top of the falls but there are plenty of opportunities at the trailhead itself to view the spectacular scenery from a distance. The cascade descends from over 90-feet in the air making for an incredible photographic moment as well as a wonderful prize at the end of the hike. The trails surrounding Tumalo Falls allow hikers to customize a trip that ranges anywhere from a 1-mile leisurely walk to a more challenging 7-mile adventure depending on the time you plan on dedicating to the great outdoors.
If you’re looking for a hike that combines a breathtaking view with challenging elevation changes, a trip up to Pilot Butte is made just for you. Begin your trip at Pilot Butte Neighborhood Park and begin the initial ascent up what many fondly refer to as the “Stair-Stepper.” This particular trail spirals counterclockwise up the Butte and carries hikers over 475-feet in the air. The destination is worth the effort once you reach the top and indulge in a sprawling, panoramic views of The Cascade Mountains stretched out before you. From start to finish the Pilot Butte trail covers over 1.5-miles of the ground and is best suited for semi-experienced to experienced hikers.
When you long for a well-traveled trail that’s still scenic and challenging, South Sister should be on your itinerary. South Sister is the third tallest mountain of the Three Sisters chain and the trail provides over 11-miles of ground to explore. The elevation gain of this hike is over 4,900 feet, making it an exciting trip that promises beautiful vantage points along the way. The trailhead is located near La Pine and the highlight of a hike through South Sister is an opportunity to stop and enjoy a pristine lake. Plan on dedicating approximately 3. 5-hours each way when you hike this trail near Sunriver.
Cascade seekers won’t want to miss a chance to hike the Benham Falls Trail from Sunriver when they’re in town. This scenic and fairly simple hike is popular with outdoor enthusiasts of all ages for its smooth path that winds over 2-miles roundtrip. Follow alongside the Deschutes River as it transforms from gentle currents to aggressive rapids before reaching Benham Falls which are categorized as the largest on the upper portion of the river. It’s no surprise that this portion of The Deschutes is extremely popular with white water rafters as well. This is an impressive route that hikers tend to repeat time and again specifically for the view.
Lava Butte Loop
Difficult to miss due to its sheer magnitude, Lava Butte rises into the sky 500-feet and the possibility of an up-close viewing is enough of a reason to hit the Lava Butte Loop. As part of the greater Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Lava Butte is one part of an incredible volcanic landscape in Central Oregon. Begin your trek at the Lava Lands Visitor Center for an approximately 3.5-mile hike up to the Butte and back again. This cinder cone comes equipped with a man-mand lookout tower perfect for viewing the Cascade Mountains in the distance. Expect significant elevation changes as you go and if you’re hoping to expand your hike, veer off course to follow the rim trail.
A Vacation with a View
Whether you choose to take on the most challenging trails or spend time leisurely wandering paths to pristine landmarks, a hiking trip to Sunriver is not one you’re soon to forget. Be sure to take photographs of amazing sights along the way and don’t be surprised when you find yourself returning year after year to find those yet-to-be-explored routes.
Caitlyn Knuth is a travel writer whose personal adventures have motivated her to write about everything from the most delicious cafés in Paris to the breathtaking salmon runs in Juneau, Alaska. Working alongside Sunriver Pines Vacation Homes, she has fallen in love with writing about the inspiring destination of Sunriver in hopes that others will head to Central Oregon in the name of history, travel, and outdoor adventures of their very own.