Best Hikes in Deschutes National Forest (OR)

Deschutes National Forest Overview

Deschutes National Forest runs along Central Oregon’s Cascades—from the Mount Thielsen Wilderness at its southern tip to the Mount Jefferson Wilderness at the northern point. One of the more popular areas in the forest, due to its close proximity to Bend, is the Three Sisters Wilderness. The Three Sisters—North Sister at 10,090′, Middle Sister at 10,052′, and South Sister at 10,363′ — are found in the eastern portion of the Wilderness. The Deschutes National Forest is also home to the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, boasting more than 54,000 acres of lakes, lava flows, and spectacular geologic features. Skiing and snowboarding on Mt. Bachelor makes the forest a popular destination for visitors all year long. In the summer months, 1000s of miles of trails are available for hikers to explore the beautiful landscape that this forest has to offer. The best hikes in Deschutes National Forest can be found below.

Nearest Metro AreaBend, OR
Area Size1,596,900 acres
EstablishedJuly 1, 1908
Hiking Trails1200+ miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Deschutes National Forest

(*** = best hikes in Deschutes National Forest)

Black Butte Trail – 4.0 miles out and back
Mt Washington and Black Butte-Deschutes
Mt Washington and Black Butte, Photo by U.S. Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region

The trail climbs steeply for two miles along a symmetrical volcano. The trail passes through a rich diversity of forest settings. Large “yellow-belly” ponderosa pines give way to mixed conifer and then subalpine vegetation. In the second mile of the hike, trees thin and unsurpassed mountain views emerge.

Broken Top Trail #10 to No Name Lake*** – 5.3 miles out and back
Broken Top Deschutes National Forest.jpg
Broken Top, Photo by U.S. Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region

Beginning from the Broken Top Trailhead, this exceptional trail climbs steeply along a creek to the east side of Broken Top and No Name Lake. The views of Three Sisters from the top are hard to beat. The lake is a beautiful turquoise blue as it is fed from runoff of the Bend Glacier. This hike is not officially recognized by the Deschutes National Forest so make sure you plan ahead and know the route you are taking!

Green Lakes Trail #17*** – 11.2 miles out and back
Green Lake at South Sister in OR
Green Lake at South Sister, Photo by Jeff Hollett

This is a premier hike in central Oregon. Beginning from the Green Lakes / Soda Creek Trailhead, the trail proceeds north up Falls Creek to Green Lakes and continues to the pass between the South Sister and Broken Top above Green Lakes. There is camping available at the lake on a first-come, first-serve basis. Head back the way you came or venture on any of the various side trails to get back to the trailhead. 

Paulina Peak Trail – 5.7 miles out and back
O-Deschutes Paulina Peak-2
Paulina Peak, Photo by U.S. Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region

From the Paulina Visitor Center in Newberry National Volcanic Monument, this trail ascends to the top of Paulina Peak which offers incredible views of the lake and surrounding area. There are several other hikes you can take near the trailhead including a loop of Paulina Lake or a quick trip to Paulina Falls. The only downside of this trail is you finish at a parking lot at the top which detracts your accomplishment of hiking all the way rather than driving.

South Sister Trail*** – 9.4 miles out and back
Trail to South Sister-Deschutes
Trail to South Sister, Photo by U.S. Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region

Beginning at the Devil’s Lake Trailhead, this trail climbs steeply over rugged terrain and loose cinders to the summit of South Sister, Oregon’s 3rd highest summit. Because of the popularity of this trail, it is highly recommended to avoid weekends. The hike is recommended for skilled hikers only as it gains nearly 5000′ in elevation; however it is a non-technical climb.

Summit Lake + Canyon Glacier Loop*** – 6.7 mile loop
Trail to Upper Canyon Creek Meadow, Oregon
Trail to Upper Canyon Creek Meadow, Photo by Bonnie Moreland

Excellent loop within the Deschutes National Forest section of Mount Jefferson Wilderness. Start from the Jack Lake Trailhead and take Summit Lake Trail north to the Canyon Glacier Trail junction. The Canyon Creek Meadow has gorgeous wildflowers and a great view of Three Fingered Jack, the eroded core of a 100,000 year old volcano. 

Tam McArthur Rim Trail – 5.2 miles out and back
Hiking Tam McArthur Rim
Hiking Tam McArthur Rim, Photo by Loren Kerns

From the trailhead, this trail climbs south up on to Tam McArthur Rim and then turns west. Along the way there are great views of Three Creeks Lake and Broken Top Mountain.

Tumalo Falls + North Fork Trail Loop*** – 6.7 mile loop
Tumalo Falls, Oregon
Tumalo Falls, Photo by Bonnie Moreland

Tumalo Falls is one of the must-see attractions in all of central Oregon and the crowds will confirm it. In addition to gorgeous viewpoints of Tumalo Falls and Tumalo Creek, hikers will pass another 4-5 waterfalls along the loop as you ascent to Happy Valley. Take lefts at Swampy Lakes Trail and Bridge Creek Trail to return back to the trailhead.

Tumalo Mountain Trail – 3.4 miles out and back
24883-mt bachelor from tumalo mountain
Mt Bachelor from Tumalo Mountain, Photo by Oliver.Dodd

A short but somewhat steep hike up to the summit of Tumalo Mountain which provides some of the best views in the area. Mt. Bachelor sits to the southwest while South Sister and Broken Top can be seen to the north!

Featured Image: Fall color and a bridge over the Metolius River, Oregon, Photo by Bonnie Moreland

Don’t forget to stock up on the essentials before you plan your next hiking or camping trip! We have recommendations on:

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