Deschutes National Forest

Around the Forest
Trail to Broken Top, Deschutes National Forest.
Trail to Broken Top, Deschutes National Forest. (Stockbyte/Getty)

The Deschutes shelters five rugged wilderness areas including the Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson, Diamond Peak, Mt. Thielsen, and Mt. Washington. Explore adjacent forests such as the Willamette, Fremont, and Umpqua. Crater Lake National Park lies to the southwest of the forest. Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge lies to the south, as do some of California's natural attractions such as Lava Beds National Monument, Modoc, and Shasta National Forests. The forest is approximately a three-hour drive east of Eugene and a four-hour drive southeast of Portland. Nearby towns where you can stock up on supplies include Bend, Sunriver, La Pine, and Redmond. There is also an airport in Redmond.

The Deschutes National Forest is one of the most popular forests in the Pacific Northwest because of the wide variety of recreational opportunities and other benefits it offers. Located in the high desert country of Central Oregon, the Forest attracts more than seven million people every year to camp, fish, hike, hunt, ski, mountain bike, and enjoy many other outdoor sports. The Forest also provides commodities as varied as timber and mushrooms to Oregonians and other visitors.

From the Cascade Mountains on its western border to the high desert country east of Bend, from the old-growth ponderosa pine along the Metolius River to Crescent and Odell Lakes in the south, the Deschutes National Forest radiates variety. Twenty peaks higher than 7,000 feet, including four of Oregon's five highest peaks, are found within the Forest. More than 150 lakes and 500 miles of streams are also found here.

Within the Forest boundary, there are 1.85 million acres. Nearly 1.6 million of these acres are National Forest lands, and the balance is mostly forest industry land with some individually-owned tracts.

Unique Areas and Attractions

You will find many unique areas within the Forest. Among these are five wilderness areas, six Wild and Scenic Rivers, Newberry National Volcanic Monument, the Metolius Conservation Area, and the Oregon Cascades Recreation Area.

The Deschutes National Forest is also home to two specialized operation centers: the Bend Pine Nursery and the Redmond Air Center. The nursery produces between five and eight million ponderosa and lodgepole pine seedlings each year. The Redmond Air Center dispatches smoke jumpers, fire crews, retardant planes, and other fire equipment throughout the northwest and the nation. Both facilities provide public tours.


Outdoor recreation opportunities attract thousands to Central Oregon and the Deschutes National Forest. Warmer weather brings anglers, hikers, bicyclists, horseback riders, and campers to the Forest's rivers, lakes, mountains, and trails. Winter visitors ski the Pacific Coast's premier ski resort for alpine skiing while thousands enjoy National Forest nordic skiing on marked trails or ride snowmobiles.

In 1986, the Forest ranked third among the 19 national forests of Oregon and Washington in recreation visits and 25th nationally among all 125 national forests. Use continues to surge.

During 1990, more than ten million visitors came to the Forest. A 1987 study showed most visitors were from Oregon, followed by California and Washington. Increasingly, the Forest greets people from overseas, especially Asian countries.

About half of all use occurs at developed recreation sites, such as campgrounds, resorts, organization camps, and summer cabins. Camping season starts as early as mid-April and lasts until late September. Occupancy rates at the Forest's 101 campgrounds average 45 percent, slightly above the preferred 20 to 40 percent rate that allows use without impacting the environment.

Camping also occurs near the lakes within the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. This new monument, southeast of Bend, combines the existing Lava Lands Visitor Center, the Lava Butte Observatory, and Lava River Cave with the natural wonders of Newberry Crater.

Skiing has long been a popular sport in Central Oregon, starting with early immigrants from Scandinavia. Today, Mt. Bachelor Ski and Summer Resort attracts nearly three-quarters of a million people annually.

Several private resorts are located within or close to the Forest. In addition, numerous state parks are nearby.

For those who enjoy vacationing away from the crowds, the Deschutes National Forest offers large tracts of undeveloped land. In addition, 1,300 miles of trails cross the Forest, beckoning hikers, horseback riders, snowmobilers, skiers, and mountain bikers .

Five Congressionally designated wilderness areas cover 183,000 acres within the Forest. Many hikers and horseback riders travel through the Three Sisters , Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington , Diamond Peak , and Mt.Thielsen wildernesses. One of the main attractions is the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, which winds through many of these wilderness areas.

Other areas for dispersed recreation include the Oregon Cascades Recreation Area (OCRA) and 145,000 acres of additional undeveloped land. Created in 1984, OCRA is accessible for recreation and wildlife uses, while remaining substantially undeveloped. The Forest contains 43,000 acres of this 157,000-acre recreation haven.

The Forest's six Wild and Scenic Rivers attract people for activities as varied as angling and river rafting. In addition, spelunkers and other explorers will find a number of caves and unique geological areas within the Forest.

The Cascades Lake National Scenic Byway on Oregon State Highway 46 is a superb scenic drive that you can also bike on. There are many stops along the way for activities such as fishing, distance hiking, skiing, wildlife observation, camping, and nature study. Highly recommended.

While portions of the Forest are open to off highway vehicle (OHV) and snowmobile use, demand for trails that accommodate these vehicles is increasing. Wildernesses, roadless areas, research and experimental forests, and certain wildlife winter ranges are closed to such vehicles. During the summer, many OHV operators use infrequently traveled logging roads and a few open trails. Additionally, some 346 miles of snowmobile trails, 261 miles groomed, are open during the winter.


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