Why Bend’s the best for a President’s Day Weekend family escape
February 9, 20247 minute read
It’s no surprise that Bend, Oregon, is a haven for winter enthusiasts. With a hefty average snowfall in the Cascade Mountains, endless possibilities of winter activities, and breathtaking landscapes, there’s something for everyone. From snowshoeing to cross-country skiing to snowmobiling, sno-parks offer a gateway to powdery pursuits and captivating adventures. So let’s explore what makes these recreational areas in Central Oregon pristine, enjoyable, and accessible destinations the whole family can enjoy.
Within a snowball’s throw of Bend, there are over a dozen sno-parks to explore! Each one has its own charm, a variety of activities, and most even come with a cozy warming shelter or two.
Sno-parks also offer so many awesome ways to play. How about gliding along groomed nordic trails that meander through breathtaking snow-capped pine forests at Virgina Meissner Sno-Park? Or, if the entire family’s in tow, enjoy a snowshoeing adventure for less than the cost of a lift ticket.
If you’re looking for something unique, try riding winter trails on a fat bike. For those who prefer sitting fireside savoring a thermos brimming with hot cocoa, many sno-parks offer inviting warming shelters—a well-deserved treat following your snowy escapade.
While sno-parks see their highest usage during winter months, you can also explore them during the rest of the year. As the snow disappears, it reveals a dry landscape of dense forests, vibrant wildflowers, and dazzling lakes. Hiking and mountain biking adventures are in store for you when summer arrives.
Ready to get out and play? Excellent! Here are some of our favorite sno-parks near Bend.
Got your snow-loving doggo with you? Some Central Oregon sno-parks are dog-friendly, but not all. If you’re looking at a map of the Cascade Lakes Highway, a simple rule of thumb to follow is that dogs are permitted at sno-parks located on the left or south side of the highway. Or, to make it even easier, Wanoga, Edison, and Kapka are all dog-friendly.
Virginia Meissner is one of the most popular sno-parks near Bend. It boasts 30 miles of spectacular groomed ski trails for all levels. The variety of terrain is groomed for both skate and cross-country skiing. You’ll also find two snowshoe-only trails. Meissner has two warming shelters—one at the parking area and the Meissner shelter, which requires a scenic 1.5-mile ski or hike to reach. There are vault toilets located at the parking lot.
And if you loved those meticulously groomed tracks, say thank you by donating to the Meissner Nordic Ski Club. They’re the ones responsible for maintaining these tracks.
Swampy Lakes Sno-Park offers 25 miles of snowshoe and Nordic ski trails through tranquil snow-capped forests and accesses two warming shelters. Trails are not groomed but are fairly easy to navigate by following the blue diamond blazes on trees as well as the tracks left behind by preceding skiers and hikers. Swampy Lakes is ideal for all abilities making it very family-friendly, and vault toilets are located at the parking lot.
Edison Sno-Park offers 25 miles of Nordic and snowshoe trails winding through Ponderosa pines and hilly volcanic terrain. If some high-speed winter fun is more your thing, there are 150 miles of snowmobile trails to explore. If you’re an intermediate or experienced nordic skier looking for a more backcountry experience, Edison makes for a fantastic destination. Because of the large network of trails, bringing a map is highly recommended.
Wanoga Sno-Park is an ideal haven for beginner Nordic skiers, snowshoers, kiddos, and those eager to indulge in winter play alongside their furry companions. From the entrance, the west side parking area has a dedicated snow-play area complete with a sledding hill. The east side parking area accesses easy-to-navigate nordic, snowshoeing, and two groomed fat biking trails. Dogs are welcome to frolic and play leash-free at Wanoga.
Kapka Butte Sno-Park is located just off the Cascade Lakes Highway towards Sunriver. It’s a haven for snowmobilers, including a large parking area for RVs and trailers. While you won’t find as many breathtaking vistas, you will have fewer crowds and a short, backcountry outing ideal for snowshoers. Dogs are also welcome at Kapka.
Dutchman Flat Sno-Park is the perfect gateway to Tumalo Mountain and Todd Lake and is located across from Mt. Bachelor. There are Nordic, snowshoe, and snowmobile trails that head out into the Three Sisters Wilderness. The parking lot is quite small and can fill up fast, so try for an early start or have a backup plan just in case.
Sno-parks lining the Cascade Lakes Highway are easy and convenient to access from Bend. But there are others in the area that also offer plenty of epic recreation and awe-inspiring landscapes.
10 Mile Sno-Park, 30 miles from Bend, serves as a gateway to explore the splendor of Newberry Caldera through designated nordic and snowshoe trails, as well as snowmobile routes. The trails lead you to the breathtaking frozen beauty of Paulina Falls and the serene tranquility of Paulina Lake.
Near Hoodoo Ski Area, 45 miles from Bend, are Potato Hill and Ray Benson Sno-Parks. Ray Benson Sno-Park is quite large, with access to several easy and moderate snowshoe and nordic trails. The park also features three shelters and breathtaking views of Mt. Washington, Black Butte, and Three Fingered Jack. Potato Hill has fewer trail options but rewards nordic skiers and snowshoers with stunning views of the Cascade Mountains.