It’s not just skiers who have wintertime fun on winter trails. Modern snowshoes are now lightweight, rugged and easy to use, making winter adventure more accessible for all ability levels. Throughout the Cascade Range, numerous sno-parks offer excellent opportunities for snowshoers to explore winter wonderlands. So step into some snowshoes and explore these six suggested marked trails, all within a day’s drive from Bend.
Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake averages an amazing 533 inches of snow each year. On a sunny winter day, the 1,943-foot-deep cobalt lake set beneath a snow-covered caldera rivals any vista in Oregon.
The National Park Service maintains the south entrance road up to Rim Village, the starting point to a trek along the West Rim Drive toward Discovery Point. (Note: The rim drives are closed during winter.) Along the way, enjoy incredible views of the snow-capped Wizard Island—a volcano within a volcano—jutting up from the caldera lake. Keep an eye out for “snow rollers,” unique features which start as cylindrical chunks of snow that roll downhill on their own. The rolling action accumulates snow in a similar action to making a snowman.
For those seeking a longer outing, continue to The Watchman Overlook for spectacular views.
Discovery Point: 2.1 miles round trip, easy
The Watchman Overlook: 9.9 miles round trip, moderate to difficult
Willamette Pass, Gold Lake Sno-Park
The Gold Lake Sno-Park (milepost 61.5 on Highway 58) is a winter hub for snowshoers to explore old-growth forests and lakes in the Willamette Pass backcountry. The sno-park’s historic Gold Lake Patrol Cabin serves as the base of operations for Willamette Backcountry Ski Patrol volunteers.
To reach the Eagle Rock Overlook with its dramatic view of Odell Lake, named for Oregon pioneer William Holman Odell, snowshoers begin the trek up to Pengra Pass, then follow the Pacific Crest Trail to the overlook. Massive Shasta red and Douglas fir trees line the trail, and numerous small mammal tracks may reveal nocturnal activity. The return East Overlook Trail descends through the woods and passes the three-sided Westview Shelter. A half-mile side trip up the Diamond View Loop adds nice views of Diamond Peak to this outing.
Eagle Rock Overlook Loop: 3.25 miles, moderate
Santiam Pass, Ray Benson Sno-Park
Named after snowmobile advocate Ray Benson, this sno-park near Hoodoo Ski Resort (U.S. Highway 20) offers a multitude of trails for winter enthusiasts.
The South Loop trail passes through mixed coniferous forests en route to the Brandenburg Butte Shelter. Visual peeks of Mount Washington, Three-Fingered Jack, Hoodoo Butte and the unique Hayrick Butte abound along the trail. Hayrick, known geologically as a “tuya,” is a volcano that erupted beneath a glacier. The lava filled the mold formed by the melted ice.
The Brandenburg Shelter offers a nice spot for lunch or respite from the weather. Several return options exist via the South Loop or Claypool Butte trail, both of which intersect with the Pacific Crest Trail. An après-snowshoe warm up at Hoodoo Ski Resort is a great spot to relive the adventure.
South Loop Trail: 6.1 miles, moderate
Tumalo Falls, Skyliners Sno-Park
The Skyliners Sno-Park, located west of Bend, is a local’s hot spot. In 1927, the Bend Skyliners Ski Club formed and eventually built a lodge and winter ski complex, complete with two large ski jumps, near this sno-park.
On the trail to Tumalo Falls, snowshoers pass by the historic lodge, now leased from the Forest Service by the High Desert Education Service District, and a young forest that continues to regenerate after the 1979 Bridge Creek Fire. After several miles, the trail reaches the Tumalo Falls parking lot where a short trail leads to an overlook of the falls, often frozen in winter and plunging 100 feet over a lip of lava. Snowshoers may follow another short trail uphill to a second viewpoint at the top of the falls.
Tumalo Falls Loop: 6.1 miles round trip, moderate
The AC/DC Snowshoe Trail is a new reroute trail to the Edison Sno-Park’s AC/DC shelter. Named for Alternating Current and Direct Current, not the popular Australian rock band, it will provide snowshoers with a new opportunity to access this warming shelter. Originally proposed by Dr. Jim Davis (also known as Dr. Snowshoe), volunteers and Forest Service staff established this reroute in 2023 that climbs more than 525 feet from the sno-park to the shelter.
Snowshoers will pass by massive ponderosa pines and gain views of Mount Bachelor along this new trail. Sno-park trail maps are available on the Willamette and Deschutes National Forest websites.
AC/DC Trail: 3.2 miles round trip, moderate.
Cascade Lakes Highway, Mt. Bachelor Nordic Area
The Mt. Bachelor snowshoe trails, which originate from the Nordic Lodge, wind through old-growth mountain hemlock forests and cross the Nordic area’s ski trails multiple times to form a loop trail that is well worth the effort. The well-marked trails are color-coded: red, orange and yellow. A long loop is possible by heading west from the lodge on the orange snowshoe trail, then connecting to the red snowshoe trail which passes by great vistas of Mount Bachelor and South Sister before reaching the warming hut known as Bob’s Bungalow.
From the warming hut, snowshoers return on the red snowshoe trail northward toward the Cascade Lakes Highway (closed in winter), then connect to the orange snowshoe trail back to the lodge. Along the trail, listen for the plaintive cries of Canada jays (also known as Camp Robbers) and watch for tracks of the elusive Sierra Nevada Gray Fox which hunts for small rodents and birds in this snowy paradise. Snowshoe Mt. Bachelor trails here.
Red and Orange Snowshoe Trail Loop: 3.6 miles, easy