Why Bend’s the best for a President’s Day Weekend family escape
February 9, 20247 minute read
Bend is undeniably one of the most remarkable destinations in the Pacific Northwest for snowmobiling enthusiasts. Central Oregon is known as a motorsports haven, even when the snow flies. There are over 500 miles of rugged, diverse high mountain terrain to explore, from well-maintained groomed trails to backcountry wilderness in the Deschutes National Forest, with exhilarating mountain views at every twist in the trail. The Mt. Bachelor trail system alone spans more than 250 miles into acres of backcountry brimming with open snowfields and old-growth pine forests.
On average, the Cascade Mountains see an average of more than 38 feet of snow, which makes for a lot of pristine powder. As you navigate these trails, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the glittering summits, frozen lakes, and snow-draped pine forests that border Bend.
Explore an abundance of sno-parks, a mere 20-minute drive from town to an hour away—you’ve got your choice when it comes to location and access. If you don’t have your sled, there are loads of snowmobile tours and rentals near your Bend hotel or vacation rental.
Eager to throttle up and venture into the snowy wonderland around Bend? You’re in for an adrenaline-packed ride. Let’s dive into the details, including where to ride, tour operators, and essential tips to ensure your snowmobiling experience is not only thrilling but safe as well.
Many sno-parks in Central Oregon are multi-use, which means you’ll see cross-country skiers, fat bikers, snowshoers, and even pets that can create user conflict. Make sure to always pay attention to your surroundings and be respectful of non-motorized users of the same area you’re enjoying so that everyone can have the best day ever playing in the snow in Bend.
Within a short drive of Bend, several sno-parks offer miles of trails to explore, from the Cascade Lakes Highway to Newberry Volcanic National Monument. All sno-parks require an Oregon Sno-Park Permit, which is required from November 1 through April 30. They’re available for purchase at the DMV, local outdoor shops, and the Bend Visitor Center.
Dutchman Flat Sno-Park is a smaller yet popular parking area where nordic skiers, snowshoers, and snowmobilers can access a winter wonderland full of snow-capped mountains and pine forests blanketed in snow. Snowmobilers can venture out on groomed trails to Todd Lake, Tumalo Mountain, or the relatively open terrain of Dutchman Flat. Because of its small parking area and multi-use access, the parking lot can fill up quickly. Avoid getting a parking ticket and unload your snowmobile at Kapka Butte Sno-Park if the lot is full at Dutchman.
From Dutchman Flat, you can also opt for a delightful excursion to Elk Lake Resort, where you can savor a delicious dinner against the backdrop of the serene lake, surrounded by snowy wilderness. If you want to extend your stay, book some time in one of the cozy cabins nestled along the lake’s shores for an unforgettable getaway. It’s an 11-mile journey to Elk Lake in the winter, and it’s only accessible by sno-cat, cross-country skiing, or sleds.
Wanoga Sno-Park offers access to an expansive winter wonderland with over 180 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. From here, you can venture as far as Cresent Lake and Santiam Pass. The sno-park provides ample parking and a warming hut and welcomes nordic skiers, tubers, fat bikers, and even dogs.
Edison Butte Sno-Park is a spacious site ideal for winter recreation, accommodating large groups, RVs, and trailers. Situated about 20 minutes from Sunriver and 30 minutes from Bend, it provides easy access to a large network of interconnected trails, making it a fantastic choice for snowmobilers.
Kapka Sno-Park makes for a hassle-free in-and-out snowmobiling experience with ample pull-through parking for trailers and RVs. Here, you have the opportunity to traverse an extensive network of groomed and ungroomed trails on your sled. For those seeking a full-day adventure, you can journey as far as Sunriver or explore the winter beauty of Crane Prairie Reservoir and Little Cultus Lake.
Newberry Volcanic National Monument offers a unique snowmobile experience with over 150 miles of groomed trails nestled in one of the nation’s largest volcanoes. The most popular access point is from Ten Mile Sno-Park, which is about 3.5 miles from Paulina Lake. You can also park at Six Mile Sno-Park, but it about doubles the length of your journey. Just a 30-minute drive from Bend, Newberry Crater presents stunning snowmobiling opportunities with breathtaking landscapes, thanks to the dedicated grooming by the La Pine Lodgepole Dodgers snowmobile club.
And because the road leading to Paulina Lake Lodge is closed to vehicles during winter, you can experience a snowed-in retreat with cabin rentals, a restaurant, and a bar, providing a truly memorable winter getaway. The lodge is open in winter from late December to mid-March. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner on weekends, and reservations are required.
If you decide to leave your sled at home or want to leave the logistics to someone else, there are a couple of companies in Bend offering snowmobile tours. Central Oregon Adventures provides snowmobile trips led by friendly, professional guides. You can choose from two and four-hour trips leaving from Wanoga Sno-Park, where you’ll catch epic views and thrilling rides through pillows of powder. Obsidian Flow Snowmobile Tours takes you on a journey to Newberry Volcanic National Monument. Choose from a variety of excursions from two and four-hour trips, and custom tours, or enjoy a magical sunset tour and watch the sun gently fade over the mountains.
You can also easily fuel your winter adventure with a snowmobile rental in Bend. Central Oregon Rentals offers a variety of snowmobiles that are perfect for cruising groomed trails to boondocking in powder fields. Five-hour or full-day rentals are available. Elevation Adventure Rentals has daily and multi-day rentals on playful, powerful, and insanely fun snowmobiles that cater to both newer and more experienced riders. Adrenaline Rentals brings the feeling of carving through powder with horsepower under the hood with their variety of snowmobile rentals. Pick from 5 hours to daily and even multi-day rentals.
Here are a few additional tips and things to be aware of for a safe and responsible snowmobiling experience.
Snowmobiling in Bend offers an exhilarating escape from the ski slopes, allowing you to uncover hidden gems in the National Forest. With extensive groomed trails and access to remote backcountry areas, it’s a thrilling way to experience Central Oregon’s winter wonderland. Whether you’re an expert or a newcomer, this adventure promises unforgettable memories. So, gear up and rev your engines for a uniquely fun winter journey!