Fall Hikes Near Bend – 5 Underrated Trails

Peter Skene Ogden Trail

The autumn season is the best season in Central Oregon for hiking. The weather is cooler but usually still sunny until November. The leaves are changing color and there are not as many people on the trails. Bend is known for its many beautiful but popular hikes and must-see locations and for good reason. Places like Green Lakes, Broken Top, Smith Rock and Devils Lake are some of the most beautiful places in Oregon. However, if you want to see some spectacular places without the crowds, here are 5 underrated fall hikes near Bend.

1) Little Belknap Crater

Lave rock on Little Belknap Crater Hike.  Fall Hikes Near Bend

Mileage​: 4.75 miles

1,060 ft. of elevation gain

Family friendly​: Yes

Dog friendly​: Yes but I wouldn’t recommend it because the lava can hurt their paws.

This moderate hike partially goes along the Pacific Crest Trail and is located 38 miles northwest of Bend near McKenzie Pass and Dee Wright Observatory. The first part of the hike is through a beautiful alpine forest where you will see many bushes along the trail that turn bright yellow, orange and red during the fall. Once the trail leaves the forest you will be surrounded by fields of red and black lava. In the distance to the north you can see Belknap Crater as well as Mt. Washington. Once you climb to the top of Little Belknap Crater, to the south you have a stunning view of the Three Sisters! The best time to do this fall hikes near Bend is in mid to late September and into early October, but you can do this hike usually into November when Hwy. 242 closes for the season.

2) Peter Skene Ogden Trail

Beautiful waterfall on the Peter Skene Ogen hike.  Fall hikes near Bend.

Mileage​: 5 – 7 mile sections

Up to 1,046 ft. of elevation gain

Family friendly​: Yes

Dog friendly: Yes

This underrated gem is located 26 miles south of Bend near the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. From end to end this trail is a total of 9 miles long (so 18 miles out and back). There are various trailheads in between so you can do 5 – 7 mile sections of this trail, depending on what you want to see.

Section 1 starts at Ogden Group camp and is 5.75 miles out and back to McKay Campground. You will see 3 incredible waterfalls and some poplar trees that have beautiful yellow leaves in the fall.

Section 2 goes from McKay Campground to a series of waterfalls and is a total of 5.1 miles out and back. This section has lots of larch trees as well as 4 stunning waterfalls. Larch trees are not very common in Oregon and this is one of the few places in Central Oregon that you can see them. In early to mid-October their needles turn bright yellow.

Section 3 goes from Paulina Falls down to the series of waterfalls that section 2 ends at and this part of the trail is 7.2 miles out and back and lets you see Paulina Falls from both sides of the river. This is one of the fall hikes near Bend that is best done in late September to the end of October to see the fall foliage but you can do this hike well into the winter.

3) Patjens Lakes Loop (currently closed due to wildfires)

Patjen Lake with mountain in the background.  Fall hikes near Bend.

Mileage​: 6.75

900 ft. of elevation gain

Family friendly​: Yes

Dog friendly​: Yes

This moderate loop hike is 47 miles northwest of Bend near Santiam Pass and Big Lake. It offers a mix of old burnt trees and new growth trees. There are also beautiful meadows where you can often spot wildlife. Along the way you will see the Three Sisters to the south, Three Fingered Jack to the north, and you will get a close-up view of Mt. Washington and Big Lake. Besides Big Lake, you will also hike past the 3 Patjens Lakes and a few ponds. The fall brings out the reds in some of the ground foliage and the meadows shimmer in a golden hue when the sun hits them just right. The best time to do this fall hike near Bend is in late September to mid-October.

4) LaPine State Park

River running through LaPine State Park. Fall Hikes near Bend

Mileage​: varies

Family friendly​: Yes

Dog friendly​: Yes

If you are looking for some easy but beautiful hike options to do with smaller kids, LaPine State Park is a frequently overlooked option. It is 28 miles south of Bend and offers many different hike options that range from less than a mile up to 5 miles. Many of the trails in the state park take you through a beautiful mixed forest of lodgepole and ponderosa pines, as well as along the Deschutes River. The Big Pine Loop is something you definitely don’t want to miss. Along the 0.75 mile loop, you will see a 500-year-old Ponderosa pine, the largest one in Oregon. It is 162 feet tall and has a circumference of 27 feet! This is another one of the fall hikes near Bend the is best done in mid September, but the park can be accessed through the winter depending on snowfall.

5) Muskrat Lake

Old Muskrat Lake Shelter.  Fall Hikes Near Bend

Mileage​: 10.2 miles

885 ft. of elevation gain

Family friendly​: Yes

Dog friendly: Yes

This moderate lake hike is located 40 miles southwest of Bend off of the Cascade Lakes Highway. The first part of the hike is along Cultus Lake, which is quiet in the fall because the resort closes and there are no more boats on the water. There is a short out and back side trail that you can take to go see Teddy Lakes, and then the main trail will take you deep into a more mature forest to Muskrat Lake. Here you will see the old skeleton of Muskrat Lake shelter and there is a nice place to camp if you want to do some autumn backpacking. To keep the hike at 10.2 miles you will turn around at Muskrat Lake, but the trail ultimately continues to Winopee Lake and then all the way to the Pacific Crest Trail if you are wanting to backpack and explore further.

This article was written by guest blogger Franziska Weinheimer.
To get more information and directions to any of these hikes visit www.hikeoregon.net

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