Central Oregon is blessed with an abundance of sno-parks and a lot of year-round access, deep into the mountains. This helps to make the Central Oregon Cascades a winter playground, and the endless miles of snowshoe trails means that you will plenty of opportunity to explore. With so many options to choose from though, picking the right one can be daunting. That’s where we come in, your tailormade snowshoe trail guide to a wintertime full of memories. So sit back and click away at the various trails for a more in depth look at each trek, and prepare to explore your favorite summer destinations under feet of pillowy snow.
Tumalo Falls is probably the tallest, easily viewable waterfall near Bend, and enjoying this waterfall covered in ice and snow minus the summer crowds is a very rewarding experience. While the trail is still very popular (you could probably hike up it without the aid of snowshoes most of the time because it is so packed) and well traveled, the number of people making the trek pale compared to the summer months. Plus, you get to begin your journey from further down the canyon, allowing you the opportunity to enjoy the vistas you would normally blast by in your car.
Standing at the viewpoint at the base of the 89 foot falls is a totally different experience in the winter. Ice encrusts the cliffs and the rocks in the creek are covered in pillows of snow. And the best part is that you don’t have to share this experience with 100 other people jostling for position, trying to see the falls themselves. A truly magical experience.
Ray Benson Sno-Park is the highest elevation Sno-Park on Santiam Pass, and is located right next to Hoodoo Ski Area. This winter wonderland is located right in the shadow of Mt Washington, and the always interesting, cliff-sided Hayrick Butte is just off to the side. There are over 18 miles of Nordic trails accessed through the park, but one of the best is the South Loop to the Brandenburg Shelter.
There are many areas along this loop where the terrain just opens up to a wide open sea of snow, and the views from these areas are unbelievable. While Mt Washington may not be one of the more impressive mountains when seen on the Central Oregon skyline, the rugged peak is much more impressive when standing in its shadow. Plus this loop has a snow shelter, complete with a wood stove!! What more could you want?
Todd Lake is a beautiful lake that occupies the bottom of a glacial cirque which formed over 13,000 years ago when the glaciers occupying the area melted. Now, the nice carved depression is filled with 45 acres of water, with some spots reaching 60 feet in depth. This is an extremely popular spot for visitors during the summer, with its easy access off of the Cascades Lakes Highway. This is your chance to visit it in the winter, in a much more peaceful and serene setting.
The trail to Todd Lake begins at the busy Dutchman Flats Sno-Park near Mt Bachelor. While you will likely have to deal with snowmobiles zooming all over the place at first, the chaos quickly subsides as you enter the woods on the way to Todd Lake. And once you reach the lake, there’s something magical about seeing such a large body of water completely frozen over and buried under feet of snow.
Vista Butte is a beautiful little hill located right off the highway on the way up to Mt Bachelor. Its 6,600 foot summit is just free enough of trees to offer some stunning views of Mt. Bachelor, Tumalo Mountain, South Sister, and Broken Top. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Mt. Thielsen. So strap on your snowshoes and make this short, but extremely satisfying climb.
The Jeff View Shelter Loop takes you through a section of forest that was decimated by the Pole Creek Fire in 2012. While all those burned trees can be a little depressing, the up side is that the fire has opened up some purely breathtaking views of the mountains, particularly the Three Sisters. The peaks look close enough to touch.
Once you reach the top of the hill, you will also be rewarded with a nice little snow shelter to enjoy. These structures are great opportunities to warm up by a fire and enjoy some lunch or a quick snack while conversing with fellow travelers.