Swampy Lakes, Wanoga and Meissner Sno-Parks are great options for cross-country skiing near Bend and have trails for all levels of experience.
Sure, Bend’s proximity to Mount Bachelor is a major benefit to life in Central Oregon. But great cross-country skiing is even closer to town at a trio of snow parks: Swampy Lakes, Wanoga and Meissner.
Virginia Meissner Sno-Park is the first you’ll encounter on Cascade Lakes Highway. A mere thirteen miles from downtown Bend and you’ll be clipping into your skis and gliding through a magically wintry alpine forest. Volunteers with the nonprofit Meissner Nordic groom forty kilometers of skate skiing and classic skiing trails that vary in length and degree of difficulty. The warming hut is the community gathering place—a spot to rest, snack and chat with other skiers. Virginia Meissner is also where the annual Luminaria gathering is located.
Just up the road is Wanoga Sno-Park, one of the most popular winter recreation areas off Cascade Lakes Highway for its sledding hill. Wanoga is also the place to take your furry friend. As one of only a few sno-parks open to dogs, Wanoga is your destination for skijoring or just taking Fido out for a romp in the snow. There are groomed trails for skate skiers as well as ungroomed trails for classic Nordic skiers here as well. Designated trails for fat bikers and snowmobilers are in the park, and snowshoers share trails with skiers. Glide along on short and relatively flat loops, great for those who are new to Nordic skiing.
Of all the parks, Swampy Lakes Sno-Park is where to find solitude. Venture deep into the woods and you might just find yourself all alone. There is nothing like the silence and cold of a winter day, with only the shush-shush of your own skis to sing to you on a journey of your choosing. The Swede Shelter—one of three warming huts at Swampy—offers views from the ridgetop down into Tumalo Creek below that are outstanding on a clear day.
If you use any of these trails, be sure to say thanks to the Central Oregon Nordic Club (CONC). The nonprofit is the primary caretaker of the ungroomed trails in the area. They work year-round to update trail signs and maps, maintain the shelters and stock firewood, and more. Their work keeps the backcountry safe as well as accessible.
Update 2/26/2019: This article has been updated with information about the Central Oregon Nordic Club.