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Fun Things to Do During a Sunriver Vacation in Central Oregon
A concise list of the Sunriver activities shared in this article:
- Visiting the Great Hall
- Bike riding on and off trails
- Canoeing/kayaking down a river
- White-water rafting.
- Mountain hiking
- Rock climbing
- Golf and miniature golf.
- Horseback riding
- Four wheeling
- Riding jet skis
- Hot air ballooning
- Glider gliding
Fun in the Sun
Anyone who has been to Central Oregon will tell you about the rugged beauty and countless activities that can be enjoyed in this exciting local. One of the most well known locations in Central Oregon for tourists is Sunriver - a resort located 15 miles south of Bend.
From corporate retreats to family vacations, this resort provides everything one might need for year-long fun. While many people rent cabins and houses during the winter season to ski Mt. Bachelor, because I have only enjoyed this location during the summer time, I will share some of the thrilling adventures that can be enjoyed during a week stay at this beautiful destination.
Sunriver is a prime vacation spot for active adventurers who desire to have fun while seeing the world and staying in shape. From horseback riding to mountain climbing, from four wheeling to jet skiing, Sunriver can keep you busy for years.
Twenty Summers in Sunriver
Just recently my family experienced our 20th summer visiting Sunriver. From the age I was four until now I have enjoyed spending a week every year in Central Oregon. This has been a place where I have spent time with family, friends, and strangers. At Sunriver I learned how to ride a bike and a horse, observed deer and chipmunks, attempted to play golf and canoed down rivers.
Sunriver has been a place where my family has been able to grow closer to each other and closer to nature. I would recommend a vacation to Sunriver for anybody and everybody interested in the outdoors, creating great family memories, and having an adventure.
Every activity that I will mention in the following article I have either participated in or an immediate family member has been involved with. As mentioned, I have spent one week each summer for 20 years in Sunriver, and still have yet to experience everything (and trust me, we try).
The Sunriver Bike Trails and Benham Falls
The most simple and yet most epic part of my experience in Sunriver has been the bike trails. With 35+ miles of paved trails and even more unpaved, a visitor can access any part of Sunriver via bike.
As a boy I had countless bruises and scrapes learning to ride a bicycle through Sunriver. My brother and I would eagerly beg for one final bike ride before leaving - our helmets on and knees cut up.
As we got older the trips got more exciting! The dirt trail out to Benham Falls (and all the way into Bend) is narrow, weaving through the forest and over rocks, along the edge of cliffs and across bridges. It's a great place to take a short hour ride or a full day trip. The refreshing river will quickly cool off anyone getting too hot from the ride.
The Great Hall and Village
The Great Hall is an amazing room made entirely out of wood. With huge beams crossing overhead and a circular staircase wrapping around a giant log, this room is breathtaking.
The Great Hall can be seen in several older western movies and is a must see for anyone visiting Sunriver.
For those interested in shops and eating (who isn't), the Village at Sunriver is a great little place to walk around and enjoy small shops and good food. With a mini-golf course and several of my favorite places to eat, the Village is an important place to stop by.
When visiting Sunriver, there are two places it is absolutely necessary to eat at:
- Hot Lava Bakery: An amazing little bakery that sells donuts, cinnamon rolls, breads, and pastries. At least one breakfast must be eaten at this incredible location.
- Goody's: An ice cream and candy store, no visit to Sunriver is complete without a stop at this classic sweets shop. The appearance makes customers feel as if they are in a classic ice cream or candy shop from 70 years ago and the crowd makes it a fun and energetic venue.
Water Activities: The Pool, River, and White Water
With the recent addition of Sharc, Sunriver now has a "water park". Though it consists of two or three very mild slides, and is incredibly crowded, the pool is a great place for anyone to relax, read a book, and enjoy some fun in the water. This is a great place to bring the kids and sit back and relax.
For those wanting a bit more scenery and less of a crowd when spending time in the water, The Marina provides a beautiful 2 hour canoe or kayak float down the river. All you have to do is get in the boat and enjoy the ride - the Sunriver staff will haul you and the boats back to the starting location at the end of the trip. This is a great ride with a rope swing along the way, the opportunity to see deer, ducks, otters, and birds, and beautiful scenery. Definitely worth checking out.
Finally, for the wild at heart, there is white water rafting. A several hour drive from Sunriver will end you up at Maupin, Oregon. A tiny town along the Deschutes River, Maupin is the perfect place to grab a raft for a several hour white water rafting trip. With two class fours and multiple class threes, this ride is a lot of fun. If you don't mind getting a little wet and maybe wetting your pants, this is a great ride! There is even an opportunity to body surf through several rapids. For a closer ride which is not quite as intense, but still a load of fun, take a ride down the Little Eddie - which includes some great rapids.
Playing Golf and Mini-Golf
With two great courses, Sunriver is a prime location for the avid golfer (especially if the rest of the family has no interest in golf - because they can go off and do something else).
Both courses provide great holes and beautiful views. The North Course has a lot of water - making it an exciting place to play (I have had more than my fair share of balls end up in the lake).
One time I even saw Tiger Woods' caddie at the driving range - which really does not mean much. In fact, that is similar to saying that I own a painting created by someone who works at the Louvre. In other words, in means nothing. Either way, it was pretty cool.
For those who prefer a smaller round of golf, there are two mini-golf courses in Sunriver. One course is in the village with a variety of buildings and towers to play through, and another one at the Lodge that is set up to look like a real golf course - only miniature. Personally I am a big fan of the course at the Lodge. It is a lot of fun playing mini-golf right next to the real course.
In Sunriver: The Stables, Airport, Observatory, and Nature Center
For those who would like to peacefully enjoy the immediate location of Sunriver, there are a variety of fun activities.
Though unable to gallop freely across the prairie, the stables and Sunriver provide trail rides that can fulfill a little girls dream of gracefully riding around on a pony or the 6 year old cowboys fantasy to hunt down the bad guys in the wild west. The stable is a fun place for kids - and maybe some adults.
Additionally, the nature center and observatory (only minutes from the stable) provide educational opportunities about the beauty on this planet and the beauty miles away from this planet. These are two other great places for a family to stop by.
The airport at Sunriver provides those with private planes to fly themselves directly to the resort. Meanwhile, those of us not fortunate enough to have our own airplanes can have fun watching planes land and take off. Stopping your bicycle on the trail right at the end of the runway to watch a jet fly overhead is fun for the young and old alike.
Mountain Hiking and Rock Climbing
Covered in mountains, Central Oregon is the perfect place for anyone who enjoys seeing the world from 10,000+ feet that they have hiked themselves. Immediately around Sunriver is Mt. Bachelor and the Three Sisters. Mountains for everyone from the beginner to the advanced.
However, before climbing a mountain, make sure that you are prepared. I have accidentally spent a night on top of the South Sister because I was not prepared for the climb. All though a fun and story-making experience, it is much better to be prepared and not end up surprising yourself too much.
Only a short drive away, Smith Rock is a rock climbers dream. This beautiful area has many climbs for the beginner to the advanced climber. If you want to harness up and start scaling mountains, this is the place to do it. Smith Rock is a world famous climbing location and many people head to Central Oregon solely to climb this rock.
Cruising Around: Riding Four Wheelers, Jet Skis, and Scooters.
Sunriver is surrounded by amazing trails that disappear into the forests, climb to the top of mountains, and shoot off through the valleys. Anyone interested in seeing nature with an engine underneath them will certainly enjoy all of the opportunities to four wheel around Central Oregon. Whether you want to follow a guide on a trail, or just take the four wheelers out on your own, there a plenty of rental locations to enjoy these great machines.
With several lakes around, it is also possible to rent boats and jet skis. On a hot day there are few things more enjoyable than cruising around on a jet ski and throwing the people riding on the back into the lake.
Although I have not seen them recently, for a long time it was possible to rent scooters right in the Sunriver Village. Hopefully these show up again. After spending several days biking all around, it is fun to buzz around much faster by using a gas powered moped as opposed to your leg powered bicycle. Certainly an entertaining way to get a layout of Sunriver and the surrounding areas.
Sky High Fun: Gliders, Hot Air Balloons, and Paragliding
As mentioned earlier, Sunriver has an airport. Not only do planes leave this airport, but gliders can get carried up by planes and let loose. For those interested in flying without the sound of an engine, hearing nothing but the sound of the wind as you coast through the wind currents, gliding is an incredible experience. At Sunriver a pilot will take up one or two people at a time for a short ride in the sky.
Just outside of Sunriver it is also possible to ride along in a hot air balloon. Although it is a bit intimidating being lifted into the air by a giant balloon, trapped in a tiny basket, the views, sounds, and meditations experienced from an early morning ballooning excursion are certainly worth the fright.
A third activity for those who love flight is paragliding. With the hills around Sunriver, there are several groups that will take out visitors for tandem paragliding excursions. From floating around to doing loops and 360's, paragliding can be fun and peaceful. A great way to have some fun while not harming the environment.
Experience Sunriver for Yourself
The list of activities goes on and on. For those who would like to drive into Bend, there is shopping, theaters, bowling, and paintball. Throughout all of Oregon are great experiences for the active tourist.
Whether considering a location for meetings, a family gathering, or a place to stop by while roadtripping around the country - Sunriver is a location you must add to your agenda.
I look forward to hearing about you experiences in the comments below.