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Paulina Plunge Mountain Bike Tour Bend

Updated on December 23, 2012

Central Oregon Travel - Bend Oregon

If you are looking for a great vacation spot, Central Oregon and specifically Bend Oregon and Sunriver Oregon will give you memories you will never forget.

Central Oregon and in particular Bend Oregon and Sunriver Oregon have some of the most pristine travel destinations anywhere in the country but most specifically in the Northwest.

If you are an outdoors type person, Central Oregon and the Bend and Sunriver Oregon areas are the place to travel to spend a vacation as the opportunities for enjoyment are endless. From the lakes to the mountains, to the rivers and the meadows, hiking, camping, river rafting, rock climbing, boating, fishing, kayaking, horseback riding and many other sports abound.

However, one of the most memorable experiences of my many years vacationing in Central Oregon in Sunriver or Bend has been participating in the Paulina Plunge - a downhill waterfall mountain bike tour. It is something you cannot forget.

Public Domain Wikicommons
Public Domain Wikicommons

Bend Oregon/Central Oregon - The Paulina Plunge

Years ago on a summer vacation to Sunriver Oregon here in beautiful Central Oregon where I now reside, we had a family reunion. We spent most of our time in Sunriver but also time in the Bend Oregon region. We also got to know Central Oregon on that trip more than we had ever gotten to know it before.

One of the most enjoyable things we did that summer was to sign up for the Paulina Plunge. This is a recreation company out of Bend Oregon who sets up the day trip. For our group of people, we signed up for a bus leaving out of Sunriver Oregon because that is where we were staying. However, if you were staying in Bend Oregon instead of Sunriver, you could always sign up for a tour from there. 

The Paulina Plunge is a downhill mountain biking tour that covers between 4 and 6 waterfalls depending on the runoff. The company supplies the bus to trek you to the forest (which is part of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument), the mountain bikes and helmets you will need, and they even supply a boxed lunch (fried chicken) if you request it for the tour.

You are picked up at the meeting place and then you ride the bus into the forest. This forest is part of the Deschutes National Forest - and part of the forest became a national monument in 1990. It is a geological wonder all by itself. The Newberry Crater actually is a 17 square mile caldera which is at the summit of a 500 square mile volcano (which is incidentally still active). The mountain bike tour takes place within the 50,000+ acres of the Newberry National Monument which is a beautiful combination of lakes, lava flows, forest and wildlife.

The Mountain Bike Tour Itself

My first time, I was a little skeptical. I was concerned that perhaps the tour could be too strenuous but they advertise the tour as something that anyone from age 4 to 70 can do - if you are in halfway decent shape it should be mentioned!

You start at the highest waterfall and then you bike in roughly four 1-1/2 mile segments to each waterfall. Some of the time you will have a short hike in to the waterfall but others are right there after you finish your mountain biking run. The mountain biking is over rutted trails so it is a true mountain bike tour, but it never got so strenuous that it was in any way taxing. My legally blind son went on the tour as well - although he biffed once when he hit a sandy patch in the trail, he was completely unharmed and totally thrilled by the experience! (The tour - not the fall)

The days that we have gone it has been about 90-100 degrees and sunny. The climate of Central Oregon and Bend Oregon, Sunriver Oregon is termed steppe climate or high mountain desert. It is extremely dry and the summers are absolutely beautiful - no humidity and the bluest sky I have ever seen. By the time though that you have biked a few of the 1-1/2 mile parts of the trails and hiked in a few times, needless to say, you are getting warm.

We stopped by one of the waterfalls and we indulged in our prepared lunches. If you prefer, you can of course bring your own lunch - just remember to bring food if you have not ordered in advance because it is a rather long day. We left at 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning and came back about 4:00 or 4:30 in the afternoon. It was a very full and enchanting day!

There is much to see on the bike tour as you are going through ancient forests of the volcanic monument. The area is lush with vegetation up top but as you come lower in elevation, you experience the devastation of forest fire. Much of the forest and the volcanic moment is obviously made of volcanic rock - added to that the ash from the fire and at times, it felt like you were walking through layers and layers of silt.

Much of the fire damage that we saw was actually caused by a fire jumper in the 1990s who was out of work and purposefully set the forest on fire trying to 'stir up' work. At the time the fire broke out, there was a mountain bike tour on the mountain and they had to be evacuated.

The guides are very knowledgeable and during the day, you learn much about the topography, the Native American heritage of the area, as well as so much fascinating geological information. All the while you are tooling through the forest from one beautiful waterfall to the next!

But....that is not the very best part!

The Waterfall Experience

The most magical thing about the Paulina Plunge Mountain Bike Tour is that you actually get to go into the waterfalls!

Again, I was a bit skeptical and thinking it could possibly be too dangerous. However, these particular falls were magnificent in beauty and tame in their presentation so as it turned out, it was one of the most wonderful experiences I had ever had. I did not come dressed for the day per se. I had on 'wash and wear' hiking shorts, a tube top and Teva sandals. I had not known about the swimming in the waterfalls part but on trekking around for hours and working up quite a sweat, I decided I would eventually dry off - and probably very quickly! (I did)

The thrill of actually swimming in a pool of fresh mountain runoff and then actually going UNDER a waterfall is spectacular! I only wish I had had a water camera so I could have taken a picture of it from behind the falls. Bob and I held hands and plunged under the falls only to come up behind the waterfall. I could have stayed there for a long, long time as it was just mesmerizing to be in a kind of cave behind all that force of the waterfall. It almost took your breath away it was so clean and so pure.

On exiting from under the waterfall, we held hands and as we went under the falls, we were caught in a bit of a riptide that shot us out from under the falls and we surfaced a little downstream in another pool. It was totally awesome!

But there's more....because of the volcanic composition of this particular part of the Newberry Volcanic National Monument, there are 2 perfectly formed 'natural' water slides made from the volcanic rock that have been worn smooth by the continued waterfalls. It was hard to drag people away from the sheer delight of climbing up and sliding down the perfectly smooth water slides and to tell the truth, I have never seen adults act more like kids in my life! It was a delightful experience to coast down the natural water slides and plunge into the pool at the bottom.

After everyone was soaking wet and happily so, we finished up the tour and road the last little bit of the trails back to the bus. I don't think I've been on a more enjoyable outdoor tour to be honest. It was just incredibly simple but breathtakingly beautiful. It was an experience that I will always remember and treasure. Our kids have been on it many more times than we have but they still go back as it is that impressive.

Summing It Up

If you're looking for an adventure that is one-of-a-kind and something you'll never forget, the Bend Oregon Paulina Plunge is your ticket.  It is a delightful way to spend family time together and enjoy nature, get exercise, and have a waterpark kind of experience! All as a gift from Mother Nature herself.

There is much to do and explore in this region I now call home - Central Oregon - but one of my all-time favorites will always be doing the Paulina Plunge. 

For other natural waterslides, visit this website.


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    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      9 years ago from Washington

      It's a fantastic trip to take - have fun!

    • liquidgranite profile image


      9 years ago

      Looks like my next trip.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Washington

      Thanks so much for stopping by Bend Oregon! It's one of my favorite things to do here in Central Oregon...and of course on a day warmer than today when we finally got our snow!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Two big thumbs up to the Paulina Plunge! (On a hot day of course!). Love Bend, OR!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Washington

      Thanks for commenting, Betty - it is a really great adventure and you also get to see some great falls.

    • Betty Reid profile image

      Betty Reid 

      10 years ago from Texas

      Sounds adventurous! I love the waterfalls in Oregon, but I haven't been to Bend.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Washington

      You of all people would love that! Thanks for pedaling by again!

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      10 years ago

      Thank you for the bike ride!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Washington

      Thanks, James for stopping by - it is a wonderful place - to vacation and now to live. It certainly is unique!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      10 years ago from Chicago

      Many times I had seen Bend on a map (I love maps) and wondered what it was like there. Thank you for this journey. I enjoyed it very much.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Washington

      Thank you, cupid51 for commenting - and I wish you could experience it too, although there are other natural water slides all over the world. This one is just special to me for many reasons and the experience was so unique.

    • cupid51 profile image


      10 years ago from INDIA

      Nice information! I wish I would go there! Thanks for sharing.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Washington

      Shellie - yes - a huge wow! Thanks so much for stopping by - the waterfalls were just beautiful and so relaxing.

      Nell - thanks for coming back - that is a sad, sad affair although we here in the states get carried away as well with big bucks. In a time when so many are out of work, I don't understand the mentality of keeping prices up - something of something (that people can afford) is far better than nothing of nothing or else I'm just very dumb!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      10 years ago from England

      Hi, just thought I'd come back to say, that yes in America that price was really reasonable. over here it would break the bank the price they would charge. That's how greedy the English government and day trips are! thanks nell

    • theherbivorehippi profile image


      10 years ago from Holly, MI

      WOW....I want to go!!!!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Washington

      Thanks sandyspider for commenting - most everyone does love it!

      Thanks Katie for commenting as well....yes - they actually made ME verify that I could ride a bike before we left the parking lot on the tour....I was rather insulted for a moment but oh well! No one quite understood why they singled me out as I certainly was not the oldest but maybe they had heard the rumors - she is a total klutz!

    • katiem2 profile image

      Katie McMurray 

      10 years ago from Ohio

      I love it, the falls, water and hiking a perfect adventure. WOW Central Oregon Travel and the volcano is fab... Thanks and Peace :)

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      10 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      This wonderful and looks like a place I would love to go to.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Washington

      That's really true - lots of places to go and things to do out there right in our own backyard. I would love to go to Denmark or maybe Germany but think I could spend my whole life touring the US and never get bored....must get a huge RV though first so I can travel with my pups!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      10 years ago from Georgia

      This is a beautiful hub about a gorgeous spot! I'm learning so much about the US from Hubtrails!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Washington

      Drbj - thanks so much for commenting - it is a lovely place to go and I just can't help but think back on it all and smile.

      Nell - really - I thought it was quite reasonable at the time especially since you could order lunch! And they did all the petty stuff like fit you for the bike, give you the helmet, etc~! Thanks so much for commenting.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      10 years ago from England

      Hi, This sounds great. I wish we had such beautiful scenery over here. I watched the video and I thought it looked great. I noticed that it was 40 dollars for the day, I laughed, if that was over here, the greedy sods would charge about 150 pounds, 250 dollars? not sure, it's nice to know that there are places in the world that you can have a great day out without breaking the bank! nice one. cheers nell

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      10 years ago from south Florida

      Now that's what I call a mountain bike tour. Downhill all the way and cooling off in the Paulina Plunge.

      Thanks for the descriptive tour.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Washington

      Thanks so much for stopping by, alekhouse. Yes, I know what you mean - I just did this the last time a couple of years ago - I still think I could do it though - I'd just be a little more careful as I slipped and fell the last time in my sandals and whacked my butt really good on the rocks! It was totally so much fun though and I remember the feeling - being totally happily tired but invigorated. Great exercise!

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      10 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Great hub. That Paulina Plunge looks like so much fun. I used to love to do things like that. But too old to do it now, that's why I enjoy reading and writing so much. I can enjoy these things vicariously.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Washington

      Thanks, Darlene - it is a magical tour to go on because of the sheer beauty of the falls. On a hot, hot day it is just precisely what you need and we always ended up coming back feeling so relaxed and worn out!

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      10 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      Hello, love this article and I have a big passion for waterfalls, while looking at your picture I could smell the fresh mist of the water, rocks, and flora. Thank you once again for another fantastic hub...


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