10 Things You Need to Know About State and National Parks in Central Oregon

It’s National Great Outdoors Month, and it’s never been a better time to explore the many incredible parks of Central Oregon. If you’re planning on your next outdoor activities in Bend, or you’re moving to Bend and what to know more about your recreation opportunities – here are some of the most interesting things about our state and national parks in Central Oregon! Browse through these favorites to find inspiration for your next adventure!

1. Newberry National Volcanic Monument’s Slumbering Volcano is the Size of Rhode Island

Newberry isn’t a volcano in the traditional sense, but rather a vast caldera forming a beautiful valley in the Deschutes National Forest. It’s filled with trails exploring the ancient lava beds and fields of obsidian and is a popular destination for a summer weekend. Pack plenty of water if you want to spend time exploring!

2. Smith Rock is Considered the Birthplace of American Sport Climbing

It’s easy to see why! The towering red basalt monolith is perfect for every kind of climbing sport with rock faces for every level of experience. But if you aren’t into climbing and bouldering, don’t worry: There are still plenty of hiking and camping options in this state park, plus beautiful views once you make your way to the top. If climbing sounds like something you’d be interested in, you can also try out one of Bend’s climbing gyms first to learn more about the sport.

3. Bend is One of the Only Cities in the U.S. with Its Own Dormant Volcano

That would Pilot Butte, which is impossible to miss on your first time in Bend. While Central Oregon is filled with these reminders of past volcanic activity, Pilot Butte is unique in that it’s entirely within the city limits. People wondering what to do in Bend can hike or even drive up the butte to get an overview of the city!

4. Tumalo State Park Is Not the Same As Tumalo Falls

These are two separate – although beautiful – locations that are frequently confused by newcomers. That’s all right: Both locations are great fun, but the Park itself is where you’ll want to go for camping or even finding a beautiful venue for a summer event.

5. Crater Lake is the Deepest Lake in North America

What happens when a massive caldera fills with mountain runoff? You get the amazing Crater Lake, one of the wonders of the natural world and an excellent destination for anyone living in Bend who wants to take a day trip to someplace new. There are many opportunities to hike around the Lake or down to the incredibly blue (and cold) waters of the lake, with beautiful views at every step.

6. Central Oregon Has Painted Hills, Too

The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, to be precise, is home to a beautiful stretch of Painted Hills that are perfect for photography adventures. Painted hills occur when ancient volcanic activity and soil movement result in visible layers of yellow, black, red, and gold that are quite stunning in person.

7. Prineville’s Reservoir is a State Park As Well

It may sound a little odd making a reservoir a state park, but it’s easy to see why once you visit: This park features a beautiful calming reservoir lake that is open in summer for a variety of water activities (the level of the reservoir may also affect current options). Another popular option is Craine Prairie Reservoir, although Central Oregon is packed with lakes where boating, fishing, swimming and hiking are all possibilities, so we encourage you to find your favorite.

8. Cove Palisades Are Named After Fencing

“Palisades” are traditional fence-like fortifications often used around a camp. It’s fitting once you see it, as the gorgeous hills of this State Park rise to guard beautiful lakes. It’s a favorite spot for weekend campers and others exploring Central Oregon.

9. Central Oregon Also Has an Official “State Scenic Viewpoint”

It’s not quite a State Park, but it’s certain an official Viewpoint, and designed specifically to take advantage of the Crooked River Canyon. While Central Oregon’s slopes, forests, and lakes get plenty of attention, there’s also a wealth of gorgeous desert canyons that make perfect scenery for your next photoshoot and are filled with hiking opportunities of their own. Get a great look at this viewpoint!

10. You Can Go Spelunking in Bend

Okay, it’s not exactly a State Park, but Boyd Cave is incredibly accessible and a great spot to get started if you are interested in spelunking or just some light cave exploration. When you are ready to take on a little more, you can move up to the Redmond Caves and a variety of other cave exploration options in Central Oregon – or even plan a trip over to the Oregon Cave National Monument for family-friendly cave fun.