Visitor’s Guide to the Central Oregon Backcountry
Where to Stay
Central Oregon is a popular tourist region with many amenities. For lodging options, see the directory at Central Oregon Visitors Association.
Primitive camping is allowed on Bureau of Land Management land unless otherwise marked. If you’re looking to camp with a few more amenities, we’ve listed a few of our favorite campgrounds below.
Tumalo State Park Campground
4 miles from Bend
Nestled along the Deschutes River, Tumalo State Park features 23 full hook-up and 54 tent sites, 7 yurts and a hiker/biker area, as well as restrooms and showers. Tumalo State Park is the closest campground to Bend, and about a 30-minute drive from the Oregon Badlands, or 45 minutes to Whychus-Deschutes.
Chimney Rock Campground
17 miles south of Prineville via Highway 27
Located in the heart of the Wild and Scenic Lower Crooked River, Chimney Rock features 16 first-come, first-served campsites with picnic tables and firepits. Hiking and fishing opportunities abound on Bureau of Land Management land around the campground, and hikes in the Oregon Badlands and Whychus Deschutes are just a short drive away on lonely country roads.
Smith Rock State Park Campground
just off Highway 97 in Terrebonne
Overlooking scenic Smith Rock and the Crooked River canyon, this popular campground features a walk-in bivouac area for tents, as well as restrooms and showers. Smith Rock State Park is within a short drive of the Whychus-Deschutes proposed wilderness and just steps from great hiking and rock climbing in the park itself.
Where to Eat
Worthy Brewing, 495 NE Bellevue Dr, Bend
This craft brewery on the east end of Bend is a great place for a brew and hearty meal after a hike in the Oregon Badlands. And, Worthy Brewing is the only brewery we know of with its very own observatory, or “hopservatory” as they call it, where you can enjoy a beer while gazing at the sun, moon and stars.
Rainshadow Organics Farm Market, 71290 Holmes Road, Sisters
Featuring seasonal veggies, pastured meats, and organic flour and grains, pickles, local cheese, as well as artisan gifts, the market at Rainshadow Organics farm is a hidden gem that you won’t want to miss if you’re visiting the Whychus-Deschutes proposed wilderness. Make time to linger on the wraparound porch, with comfy seating and views of the farm and Smith Rock, or join them for farm to table lunches on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 12-2pm. Reservations are strongly recommended. Please email email@example.com with reservations.
Redpoint Climbers Supply, 8222 US-97 #101, Terrebonne
With cozy seating, free wi-fi, and tasty espresso, beer, and kombucha on tap, Redpoint Climbers Supply is more than just a gear shop. Stop in for a coffee and a granola bar before a hike to Steelhead Falls or Scout Camp, or for a beer after a long day of adventures.
Terrebonne Depot, 400 NE Smith Rock Way, Terrebonne
Featuring fresh, locally grown foods served up in a restored 100-year-old train depot where you can still watch trains barrel by while you eat, a meal at the Terrebonne Depot is an experience not to be missed.
Greg Burke Website
Located on Lower Whychus Creek, Alder Springs is an oasis in the high desert. The trail starts at the top of the Whychus Creek Canyon and descends gradually to the creek, with panoramic views of the Cascades, towering rock formations, and the rushing waters of Whychus Creek below. At 1.5 miles, hikers reach Alder...Read More
The Scout Camp loop trail on the Middle Deschutes River is one of the most spectacular hikes you’ll find in Central Oregon. About a third of a mile from the trailhead, the trail descends steeply into the Deschutes River Canyon. On the way down, enjoy the fascinating geology of the canyon walls and views...Read More
The Flatiron Rock trail offers a wonderful introduction to the Badlands, winding through inflated lava and old-growth juniper woodlands for about 2.5 miles to one of the most prominent rock formations in the Badlands. From the trailhead, hikers have the option of taking the Ancient Juniper trail, a short and pleasant route that links...Read More
Stargaze at the Pine Mountain Observatory
This University of Oregon run astronomy research facility is open to the public on Friday and Saturday evenings from late May through the last Saturday in September, weather permitting. It’s situated at 6,300’ elevation, an hour outside of Bend. Find detailed instructions on how to visit and what to expect on their website. Another option is to check out the Oregon Observatory at Sunriver.
Climb at Smith Rock State Park
For experienced rock climbers, Smith is a world-famous destination. There is literally something for every climber here, as the park boasts nearly 2,000 routes, ranging from fourth class up to 5.14c. It’s known as the birthplace of U.S. sport climbing, but Smith has plenty of trad climbing, too. And, with impressive geology, hiking trails, interpretive walks, a native plants garden, and mountain-biking, the park offers plenty of attractions for non-climbers as well. It’s possible to visit and climb year round, but the best and busiest seasons are spring and fall. Get details.
Learn about the Confederated Tribes of The Warm Springs
Visitors to The Museum at Warm Springs will experience firsthand the sounds of ancient songs and languages, the mastery of traditional craftsmen and the sights of rich and colorful cultures that make up the Confederated Tribes of The Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon. their histories and traditions are told in an exciting, permanent, interactive exhibit, bringing to life the fascinating story of the Tribes. Visit the museum.
Get Close to Native Wildlife at the High Desert Museum
This unique museum covers both the natural and cultural history of the West’s High Desert region. Visitors enjoy close-up views of native wildlife such as river otters, bobcat, and birds of prey, as well as interesting exhibits about Native American history and culture, and western art. You can tour an authentic homestead and sawmill, and even chat with historic characters who share tales from Oregon’s settlement era. Visit the museum.
Important Advice for Safe Exploration
Day Hiking: Bend and Central Oregon by Brittany Manwill