Majestic waterfalls, pristine lakes and riverside trails await along some of our favorite family-friendly hikes in Central Oregon
1 – Dillon Falls, about 8.5 miles southwest of Bend
We love how we can morph this hike for just about any audience. For families with little ones, the Dillon Falls Day Use area is great for picnics and exploring the falls and the immediate area around them. More experience hikers can do a 6.8-mile out-and-back trip to Benham Falls that showcases some of the best of the Deschutes River. Smooth and flowy, it’s also a great trail running route.
2 – Riley Ranch Nature Preserve,19975 Glen Vista Rd, Bend
One of Bend’s newest parks, Riley Ranch is a 184-acre of rugged terrain within the city limits. There’s approximately 3 miles of trails within the nature preserve, including 1 ¼ miles in the Deschutes River Canyon along the river. Note, bikes and dogs are not allowed at Riley Ranch.
3 – Oregon Badlands Wilderness , trailhead 17.9 miles east of Bend on Highway 20
At 29,180 acres, the Oregon Badlands Wilderness is a vast expanse of lava outcrops, geological formations and weathered western junipers. Five trailheads offer access to fifty miles of trails crossing the wilderness that are open to hiking and horseback riding.
4 – Fall River Trail, about 28 miles south of Bend on S Century Drive
Home to beavers, trout and old growth ponderosa pines, the Fall River Trail makes for relaxing river stroll that folks of all ages will enjoy. This 2-mile loop takes hikers on both sides of the river and to the Fall River’s headwaters.
5 – Proxy Falls, 28 miles west of Sisters on Highway 242 (McKenzie Pass)
A short hike (1.5 miles) with a spectacular payoff. About an 80-minute drive from Bend, this Central Oregon classic is on the west side of the McKenzie Pass. It’s one of the most scenic waterfalls in the state and a stop at the Dee Wright Observatory atop the pass on the way there makes this one of our go-to treks for when visitors are in town.
6 – Steelhead Falls, about 30 miles north of Bend on Highway 97
In steps, it is only about .5 miles from the trailhead to view the 20-foot Steelhead Falls. In terms of geologic time, it is a few million years. Colorful grooves decorate cliffs and show the erosion of time. Wildflowers dot the slopes in the spring and golden eagles soar overhead. The trail to the falls is relatively easy, with one small, steep section.