Bend vs. beach: Why you should spring break in Bend, Oregon
February 16, 20246 minute read
Have you ever dreamed of embracing the spirit of the Wild West? Imagine riding along a sunny trail alongside rushing brooks and crystalline lakes, with snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance.
Join us on a horseback riding adventure in Bend, Oregon. Traverse fragrant pine and aspen groves, navigate around ancient volcanic formations, and trot through history, retracing the steps of pioneers, homesteaders, and indigenous communities.
Horseback riding is a perfect family-friendly activity that allows you to connect with nature, bond with your horse, and create lasting memories. Lose yourself in the breathtaking landscapes of Central Oregon as you ride alongside your trusty steed, guided by rhythmic hoofbeats. Whether a seasoned rider or a beginner, these rides offer a truly unique opportunity to explore the region.
For an unforgettable horseback experience suitable for riders of all levels and most ages, a guided horseback tour is the ideal choice. Guided tours offer access to epic landscapes and ensure a safe and enjoyable adventure. Most trail rides include a brief orientation, so you can get to know your horse and communicate with your guide. Advanced riders can trot and gallop, while beginners can ride at a slower pace with the help of experienced guides. Reservations are required in advance and come prepared with long pants and closed-toed shoes.
Black Butte Stables offers a variety of horseback riding experiences, from the casual “Little Buckaroo Ride” for kids to all-day adventures for experienced riders. Explore the rugged beauty of the Cascade Mountains from the vantage point of a majestic horse. Their experienced wranglers will lead you on a scenic trail ride through the heart of Central Oregon, offering stunning views and the chance to view wildlife. Choose from riding options ranging from 1-2 hour rides to half-day and full-day rides. Full-day rides head into the Deschutes National Forest or the Three Sisters Wilderness, offering an unforgettable experience.
Brasada Ranch offers an exciting horseback riding experience that explores their expansive 900-acre high desert landscape with stunning Cascade views alongside knowledgeable guides. For the ultimate ranch experience, join skilled wranglers for a 45-minute Classic Trail Ride for ages 8 and up, starting with fresh cowboy coffee and treats around the fire. Pony rides for kids aged 5 and up and customizable private riding lessons for all abilities are also available. They offer year-round riding tours, which are open to the public and operate when it is safe for the horses.
Diane’s Riding Place offers a nostalgic escape to a simpler time, set against the stunning backdrop of the Three Sisters Mountains on a sprawling 20-acre ranch. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned rider, there’s something for everyone. Explore scenic trails on friendly ponies, hone your skills in the indoor or outdoor arenas, or take lessons with Diane herself. Family-friendly and welcoming to all ages, it’s an opportunity to embrace your inner cowboy or cowgirl. Saddle up for a memorable adventure in this enchanting corner of Oregon.
FlySpur Ranch sits on the outskirts of Tumalo, Oregon, and is a family-run ranch offering year-round horseback riding adventures for the entire family. Experience the beauty of Central Oregon with private and small group rides, each trip tailored to your needs. The 3.5-hour scenic tour includes a catered meal packed with local ingredients, while the four-hour sunset tour includes a catered grilled meal on the trail or back at the ranch. Each ride also includes grooming and a quick lesson before setting out. FlySpur Ranch is open year-round with at least 2 to 14 days advance notice.
Smith Rock Trail Rides offers a unique perspective on the iconic Smith Rock State Park, one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon. Guided horseback riding adventures take you up close and personal with the park’s towering cliffs and jagged spires as it winds along the majestic Crooked River Canyon. With only one ride per day for small groups, Smith Rock Trail Rides offers an intimate and personalized adventure. Their professional and experienced guides will ensure everyone’s comfort with thorough instructions and will be on hand to capture your memories on camera along the way. For an unforgettable adventure, try a sunset ride and soak in the magic of Smith Rock as the sun sinks below the horizon. Trips take about 1.5 hours, and there’s an age requirement of 10 and up.
Sunriver Stables, part of Sunriver Resort, offers several fantastic horseback adventures for those aged seven and up. Embark on a one-hour guided trail ride and explore Sunriver as you journey through lush meadows and into the majestic Ponderosa Pine forests. Explore the Paulina Peak Loop for a 75-minute experience with breathtaking views of Newberry Volcano and wildlife sightings. Or, venture on the 75-minute Camp Abbot Trail, filled with local history and stunning landscapes. For a shorter adventure, the 45-minute Lodgepole Loop and Ponderosa Pine Path rides offer serene forest and river views. For kids aged two and up and under 60 lbs, pony rides are available. Tours generally operate from mid-April through mid-August.
For a winter experience in Bend that’s both unique and memorable, consider a horse-drawn sleigh ride. At Sunriver Resort, glide under sparkling evergreens with loved ones, snuggled under blankets, listening to sleigh bells jingle while warming your hands with hot cocoa. At Black Butte Ranch, embark on a winter carriage ride through snow-covered fields with majestic mountain views from December 26th through January 1st. Whether you’re looking for a romantic evening for two or a fun winter activity for the whole family, a horse-drawn sleigh ride is a great way to experience the beauty of Central Oregon in the winter.
If you’re looking for a solo adventure with your trusty steed, Central Oregon has loads of horse-friendly trails within the Deschutes National Forest and beyond. We’ll highlight a few popular favorites here. For a complete list, check out the Deschutes National Forest website or click over to NW Horse Trails for further details from experienced riders.
The Broken Top Loop is a stunning and fun trail that begins and ends at Todd Creek Horse Camp. Take a journey past towering hemlock trees and breathtaking views of Mt. Bachelor, Sparks Lake, and the Cascade Lakes basin. And, in the early summer, the meadows are ablaze with wildflowers. The Broken Top Loop is a challenging but rewarding 23-mile ride that is suitable for riders of all levels, but experience in the saddle is a plus. A Central Cascades Wilderness Permit is required for this trail.
When winter arrives, the Oregon Badlands Wilderness is a great place to enjoy horseback riding in the sunshine and on generally clear trails. This 45-square-mile wilderness area offers a scenic 8-mile loop or shorter connecting trails. As you ride, you’ll pass towering rock formations, basalt outcrops, and ancient juniper trees. You might even spot wildlife such as deer, elk, and owls. During the summer, the Badlands Wilderness can be hot and dry, so fall, winter, and spring are great times to visit. No permit is required, and parking is at the Badlands Rock Trailhead.
The Deschutes River Trail is close to Bend and is a popular horseback riding destination in spring, summer, and fall, offering stunning views of the Deschutes River and its lush Ponderosa Pine forests. Along the way, you’ll pass rapids and falls created by ancient lava flows. Trails are shared by hikers, bikers, and horses, but some sections are horse-only. A Northwest Forest Pass is required for parking.
Trail etiquette: Be courteous to other trail users like hikers, bikers, and fellow riders, and yield when necessary. Follow posted rules and respect private property.
Be weather-aware: Check the weather forecast before your ride and be prepared for changing conditions. Dress in layers, and bring necessary gear for rain, cold, or sun protection.
Leave No Trace: Practice Bend’s Leave No Trace principles by cleaning up after your horse. Avoid trampling on sensitive vegetation, stay on trails, and use designated rest areas when possible.