Deschutes River Trail: Sunriver to Benham Falls


This week I’ve decided to chop my way through the Deschutes River Trail from start to finish. Previously, I’ve had the luxury of completing the journey in a day with a shuttle at the end. Now that school is in session and my time is limited, I’m going to have to break the trip up over short out-and-backs. IMG_0535

I begin at the Sun & Lava trail at the North end of Sunriver Resort. Sunriver is structured around a series of ‘circles’ (roundabouts) that are numbered. The trailhead lies between circles 7 and 9, coincidentally there is no circle 8. Growing up, if a lost tourist asked any of us kids ‘how to get to the lodge?’ we always sent them in the direction of the non existent circle.

I chuckle as I pull into the parking area, this was the edge of the world back then. Today though, my walk seems a tame undertaking, it is paved and I’m only here because hunting season has pushed me into city limits. Still, it’s 7:30 in the morning all too awfully quiet. I start down the path, the only sound is the wing flapping of a surprised flicker.  It is mid October and I have been watching too many ghost shows, my heart quickens. I instinctively hold my breath. I hear a noise. Whoosh, swish, whoosh. I see movement. OH NO, WHAT IS IT?

Three old guys in windbreaker pants and 1980’s Olympics crewnecks shuffle by me.

They wave hello and I am so relieved. There’s no doubt these men have gone as far as I am going (and back) and have not encountered anything creepy. Walking in civilization is good, even if it means I have to ditch my post-apocalyptic survival backpack and dress (kind of) like a normal human.


The passage from resort to river is short (1.9miles) and pleasant. I really can’t believe that, except for the three old guys, I have the trail to myself the entire time. A solo trip on the same trail near The Old Mill? Forget about it.

IMG_0548It is .5 miles to Benham Falls from the Bridge that crosses The Deschutes. The trail turns to dirt as it follows the river downstream past a series of rapids. You can read all about Benham Falls here. This is my favorite place to bring out of town visitors, it’s always a hit! IMG_0611 The falls overlook features a restroom, picnic table, and river trail map. You can access this area from Forest Service road 41. I turned around at this point, making this out-and-back exactly 6 miles long. Yeehaw!


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