Visitor’s Guide
to the Central Oregon Backcountry

With rolling plains of sagebrush, dramatic river canyons, and dense forests of old-growth juniper, the Central Oregon Backcountry provides visitors with a wide-ranging introduction to Oregon’s High Desert.
This is wild desert within a 1- to 2-hour drive from Central Oregon communities. Whether you are seeking an easy day-hike or a weekend adventure, use our visitor’s guide to the Central Oregon Backcountry to plan your next trip to the desert.

Where to Stay

Camping

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. Season: Year-round

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. Season: Year-round

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.  Season: Year-round

Lodging

Central Oregon is a popular tourist region with many amenities. For lodging options, see the directory at Central Oregon Visitors Association.

Where to Eat

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.

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 baked goods, cold drinks, espresso, plus organic produce, meats, and 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. Stop by for a snack and a cold drink after your hike, or to pick up freshly harvested food for your dinner! Make time to linger on the wraparound porch, with comfy seating and views of the farm and Smith Rock, or send them a note at least 24 hours in advance to join the Rainshadow family for lunch!

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.

Activities

Recommended Hikes

To see how we define hike difficulty, please see our Hike Difficulty Ratings.

Scout Camp

Take in jaw-dropping views and explore fascinating geology on this loop trail on the Middle Deschutes River.

Hike It

Frank Israel

Ancient Juniper Trail to Flatiron Rock

Get to know the Oregon Badlands Wilderness on a winding journey through maze-like lava formations and old growth juniper woodlands.

Hike It

Mike Stahlberg

Alder Springs

Enjoy an adventurous hike along Whychus Creek to its confluence with the mighty Deschutes river.

Hike It

Greg Burke   Website

Other Attractions

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 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.

Resources

Important Advice for Safe Exploration
Recommended Links
Further Reading

Day Hiking: Bend and Central Oregon by Brittany Manwill

Land Manager(s) Contact Info 
Bureau of Land Management Prineville District
3050 NE Third Street
Prineville, OR 97754
(541) 416-6700
www.blm.gov/or/districts/prineville
www.blm.gov/or/resources/nlcs