When you are a tourist in a new area, it can be hard to find some of the “best” local things to do. A Google search often lists the most popular actives or places. However, just because they are popular, doesn’t mean they are the most interesting or most beautiful.
During our recent trip to Bend, Oregon we wanted knock out some of the best day-hiking trails the area has to offer. I searched for days online and assembled a list of possibilities. The same 10 trail suggestions seemed to come up time and time again and, although I am sure they didn’t totally suck, I am not sure they were what the locals would consider a must-do.
We asked the one person we knew who lives down there to try and get some local insight. She rattled off most of the trails I found during my online search but also said we should hike to Benham Falls. Benham Falls hadn’t come up during my search but it might be because it is located about 30 minutes south of Bend. Anything with “falls” in the name sounded great so we bumped it to the top of our to-do list.
The trail was mostly flat and wide. There were a lot of families riding bikes along the trail but it was not so crowded with them that I felt it was hard to walk with a dog there (UNLESS your dog goes nuts around bikes). Near the beginning the trail crosses the Deschutes River then becomes a wooded trail that follows along the river. To get to the falls, you turn off the main trail and hike down a hill to see the falls.
The falls was more of a big, rumbling cascade of water down a section of river.
To me, this hike was so-so. Maybe it is because I expected an actual water fall, or maybe it was because there are sections of river like this many places in Washington, but I was not impressed. I wouldn’t say hiking this trail wasn’t worth it at all. It was only 1/2 mile (so the guide books say. It felt a bit longer than that) so it didn’t take a lot of time to get there. I think it is a great trail for beginners or people who don’t usually hike. I wouldn’t go back and do it again though.
On anther day, we drove out the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. We stopped at the famous lakes around there catching views of Mount Bachelor and South Sister. . The area was very nice but most of the lakes were drive-up.
The only lake we found that we had to hike into was Todd Lake. I am not sure “hike” is fair but it was necessary to get out of the car and walk maybe a quarter mile. The lake itself and the view of the mountain behind it was amazing. It was by far the best lake we visited on our trip.
As we were walking back from the lake, a group of hikers noticed Chester and Gretel. They asked if they made it to the top with those short little legs. We said we didn’t know there was a “top” and they told us that we needed to hike the Todd Lake trail, which doesn’t actually have anything to do with the lake except that it starts there. They said we should hike up about 2.5 miles to the Soda Creek Trail turnoff. They raved about the meadow and mountain views.
That sounded great to us so off we went.
This hike was amazing! I can’t say enough about it. There weren’t many wildflowers blooming in the meadows this time of year but the terrain was still beautiful and the mountain views were out of this world…which is a lot for a person who hikes frequently in the Cascade Mountains to say. We caught glimpses of Mount Bachelor but the highlight of the trial was the view of Broken Top. I will forever tell all of my friends who visit that area to hike the trail.
There were a few decent sized streams to cross along the way. Most had stepping stones Chester and Gretel could cross but we had to carry them across two of them.
I imagine that they can be bigger during the spring when snow melt runoff is the heaviest. The trail gave us a good workout seemed only like a moderate climb in a couple of spots and more like a rolling amble in most of the others. Did I say the views from this trail were amazing??
I am a pretty outgoing person but tend to keep to myself when traveling and hiking. We wouldn’t have found this trail if it weren’t for some outgoing locals to show us the way. Thoroughly researching things to do before you visit a new place is a necessity but this was a good reminder to be more willing to strike up a conversation with locals and ask them about their favorite spots.
Note: I did ask some locals when we got there but they had similar suggestions to what was on my list. It wasn’t until we found some people out hiking themselves that we got this amazing recommendation. I suggest finding people doing the activity you want to do and hitting them up for suggestions.