After a ten-day camping trip around Bend, Oregon, I really fell in love with all that central Oregon has to offer. My partner and I road tripped to Bend in a Tacoma and camped either out of the bed of the truck or in a tent if we really liked the location. For the most part, we moved around every single night and paid zero dollars for camping. If this sounds like something you’d be down to try, I really encourage it. I’m going to share with you some of my favorite epic scenes and hikes that are in central Oregon, and if you’re in the area, go check ‘em out! You won’t regret it.
1. Crater Lake National Park:
This place is unbelievable. Although it is a common destination, it is way more epic in real life than in photos. It is an easy day trip from Bend. We got to the lake at 4am to watch the sunrise, and it was freezing. So if you’re a sunrise chaser like I am, bring proper attire. Also important, we went in June and there was a lot of snow. So much snow that some snowbanks were over 12 ft. tall on the road out. It was amazing! This is an incredible place to explore. As the sun rose, we made oatmeal and coffee near the truck at an overlook. I would highly recommend getting a jetboil to make boiling water convenient and fast, and to up your coffee-making game.
2. Clearwater Falls:
After Crater Lake, we desperately needed to go somewhere warmer. After a couple hours of driving and exploring dirt roads, we headed to Clearwater Falls in Umpqua National Forest. We arrived there around 8am and there was no one else there. It was incredibly easy access making it a must-see waterfall in central Oregon.
3. Blue Pools:
For a pretty easy hike with a breathtaking scene, go check out Blue Pools in Willamette National Forest. The hike is about 2 miles each way. It is a bit more high traffic, but it is still so worth it. The water is freezing, but I’d dare you to jump in! This was one of the coolest places I’d ever been, between the piercing blue water and the mossy green trees. This hike truly felt like a fairytale, and relatively close to Bend. If you zoom in on the picture, you might even be able to see me sitting on a cliff overlooking the water.
4. Toketee Falls:
This waterfall is in the Umpqua National Forest. It is absolutely beautiful, illuminated by bright blues and greens. Being less than a mile round trip to the main overlook, this location is fairly accessible and totally worth it. It is definitely one of my favorite waterfalls that we visited, don’t miss it!
5. Tumalo Falls:
This beautiful waterfall is in the Deschutes National Forest and has extremely easy access. Once you park in the designated parking area near the water, you take a short walk near the river for a stunning view of the waterfall. I would highly recommend this location for anyone.
Central Oregon is filled with endless detours and dirt roads that lead to stunning views. It is the perfect location to go out without a plan and wander. The trees are fantastic, the colors stunning. There is so much to see. If you’re up for some dirtbag style camping, get ready for bathing in rivers and creeks! That was my absolute favorite part. Central Oregon has a lot of creeks throughout the national forests, as well as endless free camping spots, you’re bound to find peaceful locations to stay.
Bend itself is an amazing town. It is dog friendly and family friendly, so bring your fur babies and your human babies with you! There are tons of good coffee shops to get work done and review your content, as well as an amazing beer scene. I really cannot speak highly enough of this location for all you outdoor explorers out there. I hope you get outside, plan a trip to Central Oregon, and check out some of these locations. You’ll be glad you did.