Kids, am I right? Either you’ve got some or are you kind of are one. Me? I fall into both categories. All it takes for me to be happy is a car ride with snacks and maybe a lizard sighting. I saw a lizard the other day in fact, it was my favorite thing for the day. Yeah….
Anyway, I’ve been a mom for 13 years now. Wow. That mean’s I’ve pretty much run the gamut of kid hauling on trails- from strollers, to day packs, to leaving the tween at home so she can watch twitch streams. Just kidding, I make her hike- it’s good for her, and me, and her dad. Hiking wears us all out, gets us out of our bubble and connects us to each other-and a world so much bigger than our problems.
Here are my picks for getting the kiddos out into the sunshine this Spring.
Top 10 Kid Friendly Outings in Central Oregon
10. Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery
Feed the fishies! Little ones just love to get handfuls of fish food (for 25 cents) and watch the feeding frenzy that ensues when they drop the pellets into the feeding tanks. Heck, I LOVE to feed the big trophy fish at the end of the hatchery.
The trails at the falls are flat and clear, easy for walking along and enjoying the turquoise waters. The hatchery has lots of picnic tables and grassy areas, a great place to have a lazy picnic.
9. Lava Lands
Lava is so awesome! It’s like a trip to the moon. In fact, NASA astronauts trained on Oregon Lava before they landed their Apollo missions. Lava Lands, part of The Newberry National Monument, has paved trails with interpretive signs that lead the way through an otherworld of dried magma. Yes, you can bring a stroller on these trails. In the summer, a shuttle bus takes visitors to the top of Lava Butte for a view of Central Oregon that is out of this world!
8. Tumalo Lavender Farm
Yummy smells abound, this one is sort of a like a day-spa trip for mom. Visit the farm in June and July to see the variety of purple blooms and purchase some delightful Lavender sachets, lotions, and other potions from the farm store. You can also bring home a lavender plant and become a farmer yourself. Be prepared- bees love the flowers too, but they won’t bother you if you don’t bother them. Save the bees!
7. Shevlin Park Bend
An oasis in city limits. This is the quintessential Bend stroll in my book. It has everything- large Ponderosas, a bubbling stream, an Aspen grove, and a golden meadow. This park can support a stroller, a bike rider (from beginner to expert) and can also be a 5 mile loop. Experienced hikers can hook up to longer through hikes from the back of the park.
6. Glass Buttes
If you are up for an adventure, Glass Buttes is a fun day trip with the promise of treasure! Pack a lunch, bring some buckets and gloves and head out East for a chance to pick obsidian. It’s legal to collect up to 25 pounds of shiny, glass lava gems per day here. It’s not hard either, literally pull over at mile post 77 and look at the edge of the dirt road, the obsidian is bubbling up out of the ground.
5. Ray Atkinson Memorial Trail
High alpine lake, little frogs, and it’s under 3 miles! This hike, off The Cascade Lakes Highway, is an instant classic and a perfect starter hike for grade school kids who want to experience the joys of nature. This trail goes around Sparks lake and is also a good place to fish, paddle board, or even just wade around for a while. Take the edge off the heat of summer and head to the lake!
4. Lava River Cave
Big cave, flashlights, echoes…need I say more? Wear closed toed shoes and a hoodie, the cave is always about 45 degrees. The cave goes back underground for a mile and has a well worn trail, so it’s an exciting journey to the unknown, that won’t get you lost. The forest service does provide lantern rentals on site as well as manage the flow of guests into the tube- it’s busy, so go early.
Oh ya, and this is also part time winter home to a colony of bats so volunteers will ask that you not wear clothes or shoes that you have worn in any caves from other states, probably not a problem but it bears mentioning.
3. Fall River Trail
Just South of Sunriver, Fall River Trail is an oasis of scenery that will leave you breathless, that is if you try to stick you toe in the water. It’s freezing, but that’s because the water bubbles out of the ground just a short ways from the Campground. Come here to walk the flat, 6 mile trail along the river. Marvel at the little falls, cross the bridge, have lunch, and visit the nearby Fish Hatchery. Afterwards visit The Sunriver Brewing Company….it’s what I would do.
2. Mckenzie Pass
This is a super fun road trip for the whole family! Starting in Sisters (after visiting The Sno Cap, no doubt) head up the twisty route 242 into the mountain forest. Stop at Dee Wright Observatory to climb the lava rock lookout and see the largest group of volcanoes in the lower 48 states! Head further along the road to see Proxy Falls, also a short hike that’s an easy one for grade school kids. This route doesn’t open until after Memorial Day but is the best in late September, when the fall colors light the forest canopy from below!
- South Twin Lake
North Twin Lake, my number one spot to take the kids in Central Oregon. I’m a little bias as this is home to my favorite childhood memories. This lake is like a summer movie- it has a little store with ice cream and an adjoining restaurant. Cozy cabins to rent, decent fishing, and the lake itself has a sloped and sandy beach. The 1 mile loop around the lake is easy for littles and offers two smaller beaches with climbing stumps and kid built tree forts. You can also rent a paddleboat or row boat here and have a ‘The Notebook’ style date to satisfy your romantic teenage heart.
Wishing you a joyous season of fun and adventure with your children, may you make happy memories and grow closer to the land where we live. Central Oregon is such an incredible playground, I hope you find your new favorite place to play with your family. Stay Wild!