Wrap yourself in the blissful silence of gently falling snow as you snowshoe your way into secret scenes of hidden beauty in the Deschutes National Forest. Or prepare for the ultimate adrenaline rush: try ‘catching air’ by launching yourself off the precipitous edge of one of the region’s many lava flows. Glide down a powdery cloud of freshly fallen snow on the heels of your snowshoes. Snowshoeing is an activity that people of all ages* and ability levels can enjoy together, so bring the kids and their grandparents.
Wanderlust Tours, a nationally recognized ecotourism company based in Bend, takes small groups out into little known sections of the forest off Century Drive. Learn the history of snowshoeing beginning with Native Americans, who used snowshoes for hunting and gathering, and later the European trappers, who adopted this mode of transportation to catch animals. Enthusiastic naturalist guides will also expand upon the unique ecosystem of the forest: you might follow a pine marten’s tracks to its den or learn how the geology of the Three Sisters has influenced the land around the mountains.
Plan an unforgettable evening by booking a moonlight or bonfire snowshoe trip with Wanderlust. Turn off your headlamps and watch the moonbeams reflect a thousand diamonds of iridescent light off the snow, or descend into a hand-built snow amphitheater to warm yourself by a bonfire while sipping hot cider.
For those looking to break fresh tracks on their own, there a number of retail stores that rent equipment and sell trail maps. All five Sno-parks along or near Century Drive allow snowshoeing. Be courteous to your cross country ski friends and make your own tracks alongside the established ski trails.
Not far from Bend, the Willamette National Forest, the Ochoco Mountains, Crater Lake National Park, and the Newberry National Volcanic Monument provide dozens of opportunities for natural solitude.
*Wanderlust recommends snowshoeing for children ages eight or older, but it is up to the parent’s discretion.