Popular winter hiking options around Bend, OR
Nothing beats the winter blues like a little fresh air and sunshine, and Bend, Oregon offers plenty of both– plus some spectacular views– on its many scenic hiking trails. Here are a few favorite winter hikes near Bend that can keep you moving during the chilly winter months.
All of these winter hikes are also great options for year-round trail running in Bend. Be careful during the winter as some will have snowy and icy conditions!
1. Best for All Skill Levels: Shevlin Park Loop Trail
Located in Shevlin Park, this beautiful 4.7-mile forest trail loop will treat you to gorgeous views of the tumbling Tumalo Creek, and the lively greenery of its ponderosa pines will brighten up your winter day.
The trail is great for hikers of all skill levels, as it’s relatively smooth and not too steep, with a gradual elevation gain mostly around the halfway point. Bring the kids and pack a lunch, and take advantage of the picnic tables at various points along the trail.
2. Best for Long Hikes: Horse Butte Loop Trail
The Horse Butte Loop Trail is actually a mix of three different trails in the Deschutes National Forest: the Coyote Loop Trail, Boyd Cave Trail, and the Arnold Ice Cave Trail. Altogether, the loop is about 9.8 miles long, and rated moderate.
With its wide-open views and few trees, you’ll be able to enjoy plenty of sunshine on a clear winter day, but you’ll also be vulnerable to the elements if it’s windy, so be sure to dress appropriately.
3. Best for Views: Burma Road Loop
Located in Terrebonne at Smith Rock State Park, the 7-mile Burma Road Loop will treat you to some stunning views, but you’ll have to work for them. Expect an elevation gain of around 1200 feet, with the steepest (and most exposed) part of the trail on the south face of the summit.
We recommend starting the trail counterclockwise from the trailhead to get the toughest part of it out of the way first, so you can spend the rest of your hike enjoying the relatively flat terrain along the Crooked River. (Note: for even more spectacular views, take the Grey Butte Trail Connector to The Scar.)
4. Best for a Challenge: Misery Ridge and River Trail
Starting near the entrance to Smith Rock State Park, the Misery Ridge and River Trail may only be 3.7 miles long, but it lives up to its namesake with a relentless climb that takes you to the top of the ridge. And like the Burma Road Loop, it’s best to do this trail counterclockwise to get the toughest parts out of the way in the first mile.
Steep cliffs and rocky footing make this hike less than ideal for kids and dogs, but if you can manage it, you’ll be rewarded with stellar views the entire way up. Sturdy hiking boots, poles, and a map app like AllTrails or Google Maps are recommended for this hike.
5. Best for a Short Hike: Pilot Butte
If you’re looking for a short winter hike with a satisfying payoff, Pilot Butte is a great trail for stretching your legs after dinner. This easy, out-and-back trail looks like a nautilus shell when viewed from above, and following its .9-mile spiral will take you to the peak of Pilot Butte (an old cinder cone) for some nice panoramic views of the high desert and the city of Bend, with the Cascade Mountains to the west.
Pilot Butte Summit Drive parallels the trail, and is closed from November through April 15th, so for a slight change of scenery you can follow the dirt trail up and take the road down, or vice versa, for a total distance of 1.8 miles.
6. Best for River Views: Deschutes River Trail
This 6.4-mile trail through Deschutes National Forest starts at the Meadow Camp Day Area, and is an easy hike, with only a 370-foot gain in elevation. The trail runs along the Deschutes River, offering beautiful views of its rushing waters the whole way.
This trail can get crowded during the warmer summer months, but you’ll enjoy more peace and quiet– and even better views of the river with less foliage on the trees– when hiking it during the wintertime.
7. Best for Options: Riley Ranch Nature Reserve Trail
With 184 acres of nature preserve to explore, one of the best ways to see the Riley Ranch Nature Preserve is by hiking its 4.5 miles of trails. Several short trails in the park give you plenty of options. The Juniper Loop and Sage Flat Loop connect in a figure eight for 1.5 miles of smooth terrain surface trail, while the challenging Robins Run connector can take you to the rockier 1.25-mile Canyon Loop along the Deschutes River and the reserve’s best views.
If you’re up for more, a spur off the northern end of the Canyon Loop Trail in Riley Ranch will connect you to Tumalo State Park trails.
Winter Hiking Safety Tips:
- Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean the sun has taken the season off. Be sure to wear sunscreen, especially if you’ll be hiking in an exposed area.
- Winter weather and other factors can impact trail conditions. Check park websites and/or trail apps to make sure trails are open before setting out on your hike.
- It’s always safer to hike with a buddy, but if you can’t, be sure to let someone know where you’re going and to set a check-in time so they know you’ve made it back safely.
- Plan ahead and know your route and skill level. Shorter winter days mean less daylight, and you don’t want to get caught having to hike back to your car in the dark.
- Even if you’re planning a short hike, it’s a good idea to have a daypack with extra water, food, first aid, and fire-building supplies, just in case.
Have you been hiking in Bend during the winter? If so, what are some of your favorite winter hikes? Leave in the comments below!