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5 Winter Activities in Sunriver and Bend Oregon the Whole Family Will Love!

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5 Winter Activities in Bend and Sunriver Oregon for the Whole Family5 Winter Activities in Sunriver & Bend Oregon

If you are wanting to find the perfect family friendly destination for winter fun, Central Oregon definitely fits the bill as they have such a wide variety of outdoor winter fun activities that everyone in your family will love. Bend and Sunriver are about 3 1/2 hours from the Portland area & about 6 hours from the Seattle area in the high desert area of central Oregon. This area boasts an average 300 days of sunshine a year and let me tell you, when the sun is out, the sky is a brilliant shade of blue and the Cascade mountains are crystal clear. It just makes you want to get outside & explore!

Central Oregon is known for being an outdoor enthusiast hub during any season and winter is a great time to head over & explore the area with all that sunshine, but without the busier crowds that you would find during the primetime season in the summer. We headed to Central Oregon the last weekend in February and were blessed with a big snowstorm & lots of snow throughout the weekend – just what we were hoping for! It is such a beautiful winter wonderland in the snow!

Here are some of our picks for winter activities around Bend & Sunriver that the whole family will love! Plus, tips & ways to save the most on your visit!

More Information about Bend/Sunriver:

Mt Bachelor 

Mt Bachelor during the winter from Sunriver Oregon

If you’re debating on where to go for Spring Break & you are hoping for snow & skiing/snowboarding, Mt Bachelor is the place to go. It is the 6th largest ski resort in North American and has over 4000 acres for skiing and 101 runs. It has one of the longest ski seasons as typically the season runs thru Memorial Weekend (depending on snow levels).

When we were up there at the end of February, they got about 30″ in 3 days, too, so they got a great base of snow later in the season. {Unfortunately that meant we weren’t able to check it out (as it was blizzard conditions on that weekend), but we’ll definitely be back to try again as there are a number of activities up there.} If you head there in the summer, there are scenic chairlift rides, mountain biking, disc golf , hiking & more activities.

Activities at Mt Bachelor:

  • Skiing – they do offer kids classes thru their Gravity School if you’re interested in your kids taking lessons while you ski
  • Snowboarding
  • Tubing  -this is open on weekends (Fri, Sat & Sun & select holidays thru April 1st) with 6 lanes open & a special tow to bring you back up the mountainside which is so nice after a few runs. There are 3 sessions for the day starting at $20 for kids or you can purchase an all-day pass.
  • Free Ranger – Led Snowshoe Tours – You will be provided snowshoes & this is a 90 minute interpretive tour to learn about winter ecology & plant & animal life in the area. Kids must be 10 yrs or older (and no kids in backpacks). These are available thru March 31 on weekends, holidays & school vacations.
  • Sled Dog Rides – if you want to try a unique, special activity, they offer sled dog rides for kids & adults
  • Cross-country skiing – They have a number of Nordic trails if you are interested in cross-country skiing

Tips & Ways to Save:

Check Instagram or website for current conditions – Mt Bachelor does a great job with their communication & sharing current conditions on their website. Check their Instagram Stories as they share the conditions each day and throughout the day to let you know if there are any issues (we were able to see that the tubing was closed due to high winds, difficult driving conditions, etc on our weekend there.)

Kids 12 & Under Ski Freeski free the same number of days as their parents if you purchase a 3 or more day adult lift ticket. 1 free kids’ ticket per paid parent (no blackout dates) – great way to save if you plan on skiing multiple days

Discount Lift Tickets for  Beginners – If you are a beginner, there are several options for discount lift tickets at Mt Bachelor

  • Carrousel Free Lift Ticket – for all ages – you can get a free ticket for the Carrousel Chair whenever the lift is open
  • Sunrise Lift Ticket Discount – for all ages, pay $44 for a lift ticket from 12-4pm on the Sunrise Chair lift (mid-Dec thru mid-March).
  • Sunshine Accelerator Discount – for all ages, $39 for all day on the Sunshine Accelerator lift whenever it is open

Save 10% on advance purchase – Buy at least 4 days in advance  and save 10% on advance purchases of multi-day lift tickets for all age groups. (does not include Kids Ski Free tickets)

Buy a Spring Pass – If you will be skiing/snowboarding for your whole trip in the springtime, Mt Bachelor has a spring pass that pays for itself after 3 visits, so this would be worth checking out

Pro Tip: If you need ski or snowboard rentals/gear, check in Bend or Sunriver first as there are a number of shops with rental gear that might be cheaper than up at the resort

Sledding at Wanoga Sno Park

Sledding at Wanoga Sno Park in Bend Oregon

We love to find a good sledding hill and it can be difficult to find available sledding areas up here in WA, so we were thrilled to find the Wanoga Sno Park , which allows for sledding & tubing (thanks to the Sunriver Visitor Center at the Village at Sunriver who told us about this when we stopped in) This sledding hill is at the base of Mt Bachelor and as you can see, it also was feeling the effects of the blizzard the weekend we were there at the end of February. So, these are not the best pictures & we didn’t stay more than an hour due to the high winds/blowing snow. We got over 4″ of snow on our car just in the hour we were there! But we will definitely be coming back because this place was awesome!

It is a wide hill with plenty of places to sled (& I read that it can get crowded so I’d go early or later in the day). There is a large parking lot & you will need a sno-park pass (we got a $5 Sno-Park pass at the Sunriver Visitor Center before we headed out) to park.

Here’s what we loved about it:

  • Wide open area with no trees to watch for as you sled down the hill – this is always a huge bonus in my book as it can be difficult to find sledding hills without trees in the way, in our experience

Warming Hut at the Wanoga Sno Park in Bend Oregon

  • Warming Hut & Bathrooms – there are vault toilets & a warming hut where they have supplies for you to build a fire & get warm with some hot cocoa or just sitting by the fire
  • Dog Friendly – my girls’ favorite part was that there were dogs to visit with as they would take breaks from sledding. If you’re traveling with your dog, you can bring your dog with you to this park
  • Great for any age – on the sides of the hill, it would slope down a bit more gentle and we saw families with young children doing short sledding rides here, as it was perfect for them. If you want more of a challenge, you could go up higher or find steeper sections of the hill
  • Bring sleds or tubes – the information I read said that it can get really packed down which makes it bumpy & we did find that there were definitely some big bumps, so I think tubes would have been even better just to make the ride a bit smoother

Tip: I highly recommend chains or snow tires as the roads were not good at all in this area when it was snowing so heavily. They did have the snowplows out but the roads were very slick (we made the mistake of taking the route back to Sunriver on the way home – that more than doubled our time there b/c of poor road conditions).

Tubing at Sunriver:

Sunriver has their own tubing hill right in town at the SHARC (Sunriver Homeowners Aquatic & Recreation Center) complex. This is included if you have a vacation rental with SHARC passes or you can pay $10/person for an all-day pass. It looks like it is open from December – February (so not open for Spring Break times) & open on wknds & holidays. Kids 4 & up can go to this tubing hill.

If you are worried that there won’t be any snow on your visit, you can still go tubing as the largest tubing run there is made from a plastic NevPlast that you can ride even without snow.  They also have special Black Light nights with black lights & glow sticks on holidays, which would be a blast with kids.

Snowshoeing or Hiking:

Snowshoeing along Deschutes River to Benham Falls Bend Oregon

What I loved most about Sunriver and Bend is the natural beauty that surrounds you everywhere you look! The pine tree forests, the gorgeous Deschutes River running thru the towns and all of the trails just minutes from town (or literally out your door) to just get away from everything & experience the unique beauty of central Oregon.

If you are wanting to get out  & explore, there are over 30 miles of paved bike trails in the Sunriver community for you to walk or bike , with trails heading out to the river  & various recreational areas around the area. We also love to snowshoe, so these trails would be great for that, too, if there is snow on the ground during your visit. There are a number of snow rentals in both Bend & Sunriver (& REI in Bend) where you could rent snowshoes for the whole family.

Check out this post for more winter hiking trails around Central Oregon. Here are a few suggestions to get you started below.

Winter Hikes / Snowshoe Trips:

Benham Falls in Sunriver Oregon

Benham Falls – My husband and I love to get out on the trails & see gorgeous, scenic spots, but our girls couldn’t wait to go sledding and then swimming, so we found a trail that was short & sweet to experience the beauty of the area. This trail is just 10 minutes from Sunriver (the road was not plowed at all – definitely need snow tires or chains if there is a lot of snow on the ground).

Benham Falls (East) is an easy 1/2 mile walk to the falls (which are more like rapids as you can see), but they are just gorgeous! You will first cross a bridge over the Deschutes River & then head out on your walk. It’s very kid-friendly. As you get closer & hear the rapids, make sure to take the side trail down to the right, which will get you closer  than the higher trail & there are logs which we sat on to eat our lunch by the falls.

We did wear our snowshoes, but even on this day when there was quite a bit of snow & it was still snowing, it was well traveled by others that we definitely did not need snowshoes at all.

Benham Falls is part of the extensive Deschutes River Trail, so you really can make this a much longer walk/hike and take in more beautiful spots (Dillon Falls, Lava Island & more) & you could also even walk from Sunriver, too, (or bike if there’s no snow). You will need to pay for a pass ($5) or use one of the other passes accepted.

Here are a few more options of winter hikes:

Trail of Molten Lands – This is at the Lava Lands Visitor Center & although the Visitor Center is closed in the winter, you can still park here & walk this trail to see the unique lava rock left behind from an eruption thousands of years ago. This trail will also connect with the trail to Benham Falls area if you’d like to make it a longer walk/hike.

Tumalo Falls – This is a popular spot all year round to see these beautiful waterfalls, but the gate is closed in the winter, which helps with the crowds as there’s a longer walk in to see the falls. If the temperatures drop below freezing, you’ll have the added benefit of seeing slightly frozen falls, which are always amazing to see up close.  In the winter, you will park outside of the gate (sno-park permit required) and it’s a 2 1/2 mile hike to the waterfalls, so a 5 mile hike total. Most likely, snowshoes would not be needed since it is a popular trail, but you’ll always want to check conditions before you go.

Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint – This is a 500 foot cinder cone right in the heart of Bend with several routes leading up to the top. There is a wide, paved road or a a shorter, steep dirt trail. In the winter, the road is closed from late fall to mid-April, which means you can take the wide road up to the top of the viewpoint.

This viewpoint will provide you with a 360 degree panoramic view of Bend & the high desert – I bet this would be gorgeous on a clear, sunny day when you can see all the Cascade mountains in full view. This trail is dog-friendly & does have a toilet at the top.

Smith Rock State Park – This 651 acre park is considered one of Oregon’s “7 Wonders” with its jagged, sheer volcanic red rock cliffs along the windy Crooked River canyon and is a very popular place to visit with heavy crowds from late April to September. However, visiting in the off-season would give you a chance to experience the beauty of this park without all the crowds.  It is about 30 minutes north of Bend, near Redmond, Oregon. It would make a great stop on your way to or from Bend/Sunriver, too.

Ice Skating:

Ice Skating at the Sunriver Village

Sunriver Ice Skating

The Village at Sunriver has an outdoor covered ice skating rink right in the heart of the village & this was a big hit for the whole family.  My girls had never been ice skating before, and they weren’t too sure about it at first, especially compared to roller skating. However, by the end of our skate session, they had really improved & were loving it – in fact, they wanted to go again the next day!

Ice Skating in Sunriver Oregon

Make sure to check the hours of when they’re open & they do have special holiday hours (including for Oregon’s Spring Break). The sessions are 3 hours long. They also have a nice waiting area if you have young kids/babies & won’t be skating, but you can watch everything from the waiting area, which we thought was a nice option for families.

During select holiday times, there is also a special Alpine (trackless) Train Ride available, which is a 7-10 minute train ride around the Village.  In the summertime, there are many more kids’ activities located in the village.

Bend Ice Skating:

There is also an ice skating rink in Bend that is run through the Bend Parks & Rec group. This is called the Pavilion & looks like a gorgeous facility which is open air, but it does have a roof, as well as translucent panels on the south and west sides to reduce the wind & sun exposure. This rink is the only full NHL size rink in Central Oregon, which hosts adult hockey and curling leagues.  The ice season runs October  31 – early April every year.

In addition to the rink, there is an elevated viewing room complete with fireplace and free wifi, too, for parents who are watching kids skate. There is also an outdoor plaza with fire pits and grass/snow play area. You’ll also find a cafe with drinks, snacks & meals in case you or your kids get hungry during the skate session.

Pro Tip: Check out the special discount sessions they offer, such as the Cheap Skate Night on Tuesdays, with sessions just $6/reg $12 (including Skate rental). Or family skate time at $6/person (reg $12) including rentals. 

More Posts about Central Oregon:

6 Reasons to Use a Vacation Rental in Sunriver

What are your favorite winter activities in Central Oregon?

Disclosure: We were provided passes & skate rentals to the Ice Rink to facilitate my review; however, these are all my own opinions and thoughts expressed here.  

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