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Written by Bend Magazine Staff

Winter Hiking in Central Oregon

Winter Hiking near the Oregon Badlands

Learn more about these six favorite winter hiking trails in Central Oregon.

Larry Chitwood Loop

The Badlands desert wilderness can be popular in the winter because it receives relatively little snowfall. For a trail less traveled, try the Larry Chitwood Loop. The trails are less dusty in the winter and stay warm enough with the amount of sun that reaches the area.

Directions: Turn onto Dodds Road from Highway 20. Turn right onto Obernolte Road. Trailhead will be at the end of the trail.
Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 6- or 10-mile loops.
Dogs: Allowed. No leash law.
Other: Maps are provided at the trailhead.

Winter hiking Badlands Oregon
Photo by Alex Jordan

Flatiron Rock Trail

The trail offers a classic high desert landscape with plenty of sand and sagebrush. It leads to an outcropping of rocks that yields an expansive panoramic view of the Cascade Mountain Range.

Directions: Turn off Highway 20 to the Flatiron Rock Trailhead at milepost 16.
Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 6.5 miles round-trip
Dogs: No leash law.
Other: You can shorten this hike by following the signs for the Ancient Juniper Trail.

Winter Hiking in Central Oregon at Pilot Butte
Photo by Toni Toreno

Pilot Butte

One of the best parts about living in Bend is that hiking is within walking distance from your doorstep. Pilot Butte is a popular spot in the summer, but it’s just as great in the winter–especially because cars aren’t allowed on the butte.

Driving Directions: Turn off Highway 20 at signs for Pilot Butte State Park.
Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 1 mile
Dogs: Allowed on a leash.


Meadow Camp Trails

The Upper Deschutes has a lot of trails to explore from the Meadow Lake Area. You can pick your trails and make the hikes as long or as short as you want. Most trails will lead you to the waterfalls—Lave Island, Dillon and Benham—along the river.

Driving Directions: Turn off Cascade Lakes Highway at the signs for the Meadow Lake Picnic Area. Drive about 2 miles to the parking area.
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.2 miles to 8.5 miles
Dogs: Allowed on a leash.


Smith Rock State Park Winter Central Oregon Snow Hiking

Smith Rock

Smith Rock is a popular hiking and climbing destination for a reason—the trails offer beautiful views along the Crooked River, and the rocks are world-renowned for climbers of all skill levels. It’s worth visiting in the winter for less crowds and cooler weather.

Driving Directions: Turn off Highway 97 at Terrebonne and follow signs to Smith Rock State Park.
Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 5.3-mile loop or 6.6-mile round-trip
Dogs: Allowed on a leash.
Other: Day use parking is $5.


Boyd Cave

The entrance to Boyd Cave is at the end of a short trail. You’ll have to climb down a metal staircase to get inside the lava cave and explore the only cave in the Newberry National Crater Monument that stays open throughout the winter.

Driving Directions: Drive east on China Hat Road (Road 18) and turn left at the junction of 18 and 18-242.
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: Half-mile round trip
Dogs: Not allowed
Other: Bring a flashlight to help you explore.


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