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Dog Friendly Winter Sports Trails In Central Oregon For Snowshoeing And Other Sports

Updated on January 30, 2012

Pet Friendly Winter Sports Trails in Central Oregon

Pet friendly is becoming the catch word for many activities throughout the world and in fact, is part of the winter sports scene as well.

Did you know that studies show that over half the people in Central Oregon for instance have dogs?

A statewide average in the United States shows that 25% of residents snowshoe or cross-country ski with their dog or dogs. In Central Oregon, that figure climbs to 33%. That means that roughly one-third of the population here participates in winter sports with their dogs!

It may seem a simple thing then to just pack up your dog or dogs and head out to the trails. However, that is part true and part false. In Central Oregon, there are restrictions on where and how you can participate in winter sports with man's best friend.

Let's take a look at some of the best places to go and some of the etiquette involved when participating with your dog at pet friendly winter sports trails in Central Oregon.

The pictures and first video are a capture of the trip we took last winter at Wanoga Sno-Park snowshoeing with our daughter and son-in-law and 2 malamutes, Griffin and Denaya.  I can only describe it in one word - fantastic!

Pictures by Audrey Kirchner
Pictures by Audrey Kirchner

Background Information on Pet Friendly Winter Sports

Again, best estimates put Central Oregon households with over half of them having at least one dog.

Perhaps because of the topography of this great area of the country and the many recreational possibilities, many Central Oregonians including dog owners participate in winter sports like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and back country skiing. Many dog enthusiasts also participate in sledding and skijoring (cross-country skiing with a harnessed dog or dogs pulling you).

The health benefits of any exercise are well known but particularly in the case of snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, you are ramping up the aerobic exercise potential. The added benefit of exercising Fido is icing on the cake. It is estimated that you can burn as much as 600 calories per hour cross-country skiing - while using most major muscle groups at the same time.

The added benefit for the dogs is incredible. Most dogs that participate in winter sports or any kind of 'working' behavior' are healthier for the effort and more content than dogs who are left to their own devices and not properly exercised.

Not only does participation in winter sports with your pet enhance your physical well being and your dog's, but it is also mentally stimulating and encourages socialization - both for the human and for the pet!

Importance of Pet Friendly to Tourism

It may not seem possible that establishments or activities be pet friendly but more and more, this is becoming an important point for many pet owners. For instance, pet owners are much more likely to rent a house or room to go on vacation if they can take their pets. The same goes for dining out.

Pet friendly establishments tend to be doing better and better while some of the places that refuse animals are seeing a reduction in business. One of the reasons for this fact I believe is the economy. People do not want to spend the money to kennel their pets as it gets expensive and there is the 'frustration' factor that arises for many pets when they are left alone or left in someone else's care.

People seem to be more attached to their pets as well these days and want to train them to be sociable and capable of interacting in public places. If a pet is well-mannered and well-trained, I say go for it! I also applaud and am a regular customer of establishments that allow me to bring my dogs with me - because my dogs are well-mannered and well-behaved. I don't frequent non-pet friendly establishments unless I have no other choice.

To get an idea of other parts of the country and their pet friendly winter sports trail policies, here are some facts:

  • Sun Valley lists their pet friendly opportunities in the getaway guide to attract visitors
  • Local parks and recreation areas in Sun Valley maintain trails and welcome pets, selling 'passes' - to the tune of at least a thousand or so per year
  • Sun Valley has 70 km of groomed dog friendly trails and numerous ungroomed ski and snowshoe trails
  • Methow Valley encourages you to bring your dog because they boast 56 km of dog friendly ski trails
  • Jug Mountain in McCall, Idaho operates a ski ranch which is open to the public and includes dogs
  • Also in McCall, Idaho there are many trail systems that are dog friendly - at Tamarack Resort, Jug Mountain Ranch, Little Bear Basin and The Activity Barn
  • No restrictions are imposed on the trails in Diamond Lake Ranger District of the Umpqua National Forest
  • Mt. Hood has some restrictions on some groomed trails but most winter trails allow dogs

Griffin trying to be patient
Griffin trying to be patient
Griff ready to go
Griff ready to go
Griffin and Denaya ready
Griffin and Denaya ready
Before and after the fun
Before and after the fun

Winter Sports Trail Pet Etiquette

As in anything else, there are rules and principles you should be aware of if participating in winter sports on the trails. These rules apply no matter what sport you are doing or where you travel to so it's simple to remember them and always be prepared!

Snow Country Rules of Engagement

Most of these are just good common sense - but a refresher course never hurts - and these are some of the things that the US Forestry Service recommends as well

Things that can go wrong:

  • Collisions with sledders, snowmobiles or skiers
  • Bad or aggressive behavior towards humans or other dogs on the trails
  • Dog fights
  • Getting lost

Make sure that you understand your dog's behavior as best you can before taking him or her to participate in winter sports on public trails. The key to preventing any of the above is caution.

In terms of collisions, being aware of where you are and where others are on the trails is the wisest course of action.

Of course, if accidents happen (and they will), make sure you are prepared and know what steps you need to take to rectify the situation such as calling for help or being able to get back to safety. Cell phones are an important part of any excursion but having coverage is the most important element!

Understanding your particular dog's behaviors and not exposing him or her to unusual situations or situations you know to be possibly a 'bad mix' is the best way to avoid dog fights and aggression. If you notice that your dog is reacting to another dog, don't force the issue and try to separate them as much as possible. Sometimes an aggressive dog can turn an otherwise docile dog into more of an aggressor. Knowing what your dog's temperament is and how he or she reacts to stress is important before venturing out on the trails.

Make sure you know the trail, have a map or are traveling with other people and dogs. Carrying your cell phone helps but check to make sure you have coverage. Also make sure someone knows when you are going out before you hit the trails. Always try and come back before dark unless you know the trails well and are planning on night trail work.

Take care of your dog

  • Don't push a dog beyond its limits - if the dog is just starting out doing winter sports, don't push too hard
  • Deep snow fatigues a dog just like humans
  • Dogs can easily become dehydrated - always carry water
  • Be watchful of paws frequently if on hard snow pack as this can cut into a dog's paw and cause an injury you don't want - in hard pack snow conditions, it is always wise to carry dog booties just in case
  • Keep to the right and train your dogs to do the same when passing other people, dog teams or skiers
  • If a team of dogs is approaching and you can get off the trail, do so to the right and then plant yourself between your dog or dogs and the team passing. This reduces the chances of dog fights remarkably - give the dog team passing some space and then set out
  • Dogs should always be under control and close by - that means 15 feet at most away from you.  Under control means they come when you call. Personally, I don't ever let my dogs off lead on the trails because they are malamutes and they could simply disappear if they were curious about an animal. I don't want to take the chance of losing them in unfamiliar territory!
  • Take frequent breaks and make sure that you bring a few snacks and water - for both the human exerciser and the canine!
  • Never go out on trails in extremely bad weather or too late in the day - this is a set up for disaster and getting caught by the elements
  • If you do go out at night or in dark weather, have reflective tape sewn onto your dog harnesses or your gear - and even consider a headlamp especially for nighttime trail work
  • Leaving dog poop behind is never appropriate - it breeds germs such as Parvo to a young dog and can cause many illnesses for other dogs. If your dog does his business on the trails, the politically correct thing to do is pick it up - EVERY time and dispose of it properly. People who leave dog poop on roads and on trails ruin it for everyone else with a pet because that is the thing that most non-pet friendly establishments and activities remember about people with pets - that they don't clean up after them.

I always consider the leave no poop behind rule as the same I would apply if this was a child I was taking somewhere. I know it sounds a bit goofy but it's just common courtesy not to leave something that offensive behind for someone else to clean up or step in - or have another animal mess with later on.  Be polite - pick it up and cart it out!

On the Trail

Team work
Team work
Griff in harness
Griff in harness
Denaya in harness
Denaya in harness
Puppy distractions
Puppy distractions
The power of pull
The power of pull
Perfect trail maneuvering
Perfect trail maneuvering
On the trail
On the trail
Pause for a rest
Pause for a rest
Pause for a hug
Pause for a hug

Check out if you are in the Central Oregon area and want more pet friendly trails and parks in the future. This group is working diligently to bring our sno-parks and trail systems into the here and now when it comes to dog access.

The Bend/Central Oregon area is well known for its pet friendliness, but at the present time, there is a rather heated debate about opening up more areas or creating pet friendly only areas for winter sports with dogs. Many areas across the country have the best of both worlds with trails for people only and trails that are all pet friendly for winter sports and year round.

DogPAC has been instrumental in increasing the number of off-leash areas in Bend (from 1 to 7) and they continue to fight for more pet friendly areas in terms of hiking and winter sport trails in the area.

Check out their website and if you feel so inclined, you can support them simply by emailing the Forest Service and making your feelings known on the subject – pro or con!

Pet Friendly Winter Sports Trails in Central Oregon

Here are some general area descriptions about trails open to dogs participating in winter sports.

Dogs must be physically restrained (on leash or harness) or under voice control at all times.

  • Area and trails south of Cascade Lakes Highway (except Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort slopes and trails) - no permit required
  • This includes Edison and Wanoga Sno-Parks and trail systems - no permit required
  • This also includes Skyliner Sno-Park and trail system - no permit required
  • No dog restrictions on winter trails in Santiam Pass, the Sisters Ranger District or the Deschutes National Forest
  • Willamette National Forest welcomes dogs but advises to observe proper ‘etiquette’.

Here are some specific trails and their descriptions for Central Oregon:


Note: Maps means which map to use for that sno-park - list of maps to follow

Highway 20 – Hoodoo turn-off

Trail Types: Machine groomed snowmobile roads, skier tracked Nordic trails
Maps: Sisters District map, Santiam map
Good Trails: Choose by distance – snowmobile roads are 3.5, 6, 9 and 12 miles
Terrain: Gentle ups and downs
Alerts: Loose dogs and sled teams

Highway 20 – West of Sisters

Trail Types: Machine groomed snowmobile road and trails, skier tracked Nordic trails
Maps: Sisters District map, Santiam map
Good Trails: Main road groomed – connects with Ray Benson Trail.
Splits off to lesser groomed roads with more rolling terrain.
Terrain: Gentle ups and downs and rolling
Alerts: Quieter than Ray Benson – more skiers, less snowmobiles

Highway 242 – Junction at west end of Sisters

Trail Types: Machine groomed snowmobile roads, skier tracked Nordic trails
Maps: Moon Country map, Sisters District map
Good Trails: Not highly recommended (harder)
Terrain: Can lack snow; wind and snow drifts making slanted or banked
Points: Great views!
Meets up with Cross District Trail that connects with Santiam Recreation Area (11.8 miles), Three Creek Area and Dutchman Flat Area (which has some restrictions for dogs)

USFS 16 from Sisters

Trail Types: Machine groomed snowmobile road, skier tracked Nordic trails
Maps: Three Creek Lake Nordic Trails, Moon Country map, Sisters District map, Santiam map
Good Trails: Main road goes 5 miles up moderate grade. This accesses
Cross District Trail (17 miles one way to Dutchman Flat).
Terrain: For more experienced Nordic skiers – more challenging
Alerts: Be sure to have your map! Relatively light use. Trails are intermediate to advanced but hard to find

Tumalo Falls Road from Galveston Street in Bend

Trail Types: City of Bend snow-cat packed and skier tracked Nordic trails
Maps: Skyliner Sno-Park area Nordic ski trails (USFS)
Good Trails: Tumalo Falls Road to picnic area and back – 5 mile trip
Terrain: Gentle – rough pack grooming on trail.
Alerts: Lower elevation so check snow pack. Lots of dogs, many off leash

Century Drive (USFS 46)

Trail Types: Machine groomed snowmobile roads
Note: Controlled working dogs in harness permitted on snowmobile roads only – no dogs permitted on Nordic trails
Maps: Moon Country map – Dutchman Flat Area Nordic Ski Trails
Good Trails: Century Drive to Todd Lake (5 miles – intermediate)
Trails 5 to 8 (Moon Country map)
To Ball Butte and back (approximately 7 miles – advanced)
Trails 7 to 8 (Moon Country map) around Tumalo Mountain approximately 10 miles (advanced)
Trails 5 to 6 to 7 (Moon Country map)
Terrain: More snow – higher elevation – nice view of Sisters
Tie-ups for 6 dogs available at Dutchman Sno-Park
Alerts: Congested on weekends and holidays/limited parkingLots of snowmobiles – watch on blind turns

Century Drive (USFS 46)

Trail Types: Machine groomed snowmobile roads and trails
Maps: Moon Country map
Good Trails: Trail 5 out and back
Trails 3 to 2 – short loop back to Wanoga Sno-Park
Trails 4 to 25 to 5 – makes 5 mile loop
Terrain: Trail 5 is mostly flat and gentle
Trails 3 to 2 – mostly up, then mostly down
Trails 4 to 25 to 5 – gentle terrain
Alerts: Closest to Bend – snowmobile rental operation in parking area. Heavy snowmobile use especially busy weekends and holidays – use caution here


Trail Types: Machine groomed snowmobile road, skier tracked Nordic trails
Maps: Moon Country map, Edison area Nordic ski trails (3SFS)
Good Trails: Main road (Trail 2 on Moon Country map) – distance goes as far as you can
Pondo Loop (3.5 miles) – intermediate
Easy Tie (0.9 miles) – easy
Nordic trails are optioned for single-track skijoring
Terrain: Gentle – not as heavily used as other sno-parks
Alerts: Great practice area. Some loose dogs. Some breakins. Upper Edison trails steep, twisty and narrow with lots of loose dogs

Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Trail Types: Machine groomed snowmobile roads/trails, skier tracked Nordic
Maps: Newberry National Volcanic Monument map “Newberry Crater Area Nordic Ski Trails”
Good Trails: Main road from 10-mile Snow-Park (Trail #1 on monument map)
Terrain: Well groomed, wide, 3 miles one-way to Paulina Lake
Alerts: Snowmobile rental operation in parking lot – best avoided on busy weekends and holidays. Stick to wider snowmobile roads for safety

South Highway 97 – Chemult

Trail Types: Machine groomed snowmobile roads and trails
Maps: Walt Haring Sno-Park Trails
Good Trails: Any and all
Terrain: Favorite training area and running area for dogs in the area

Information compiled from PSDSA – Oregon Cascades Skijoring Trails and DogPAC.


Volunteers from snowmobile clubs usually do all the grooming on roads once or twice per week.

  • Moon Countrv & Sisters Sno-Go-Fers Snowmobile Club Man (hereafter called "Moon Country Map") Available at local snowmobile businesses and USFS offices
  • Winter Ski Trail Guide - A packet of Nordic trails maps that includes Dutchman, Edison, Skyliner, and Newberry Crater. Available at USFS offices in Bend and Sisters.
  • Three Creek Lake Nordic Trails - Available from Sisters Ranger Station
  • Sisters District Nordic Ski & Snowmobile Trails - Covers Three Creek Lake, McKenzie Pass, Ray Benson, and Corbett. Not highly detailed. Available from Sisters Ranger Station.
  • Santiam Pass Trail Map Groomed Trails (Oregon State Snowmobile Association, 1-888-567-7669) Covers Ray Benson and Corbett; includes trail names and #5 available from Sisters Ranger Station.
  • Newberry National Volcanic Monument - Available at local snowmobile businesses or USFS offices
  • Walt Haring Sno-Park Trail map Available from Chemult Ranger Station

Also check out TripCheck - Oregon Department of Transportation for more information on individual sno-parks

More on the Trail

Want to Learn Trail Winter Sports for Dogs?

Now let’s say you’re excited – all this talk about skijoring, sledding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing has you saying ‘Let’s go’!

There are of course skills involved in mushing dogs – whether it's urban mushing or working on snow. Make sure that you have trained and know how to control your dogs and yourself first and foremost and second, that you know the proper etiquette for the trails.

But what if you don’t – and you want to learn? If you live in Central Oregon, here’s the perfect solution for you! Even if you're just visiting the area and want to learn, this is the solution you need! Call Karen at Tumnatki Siberians. She owns and runs a topnotch kennel for Siberian huskies here in Prineville but it's much more than that. This is your Central Oregon mushing headquarters.

With a little help from Karen and her friend Jane, you can be off and mushing in no time. Tumnatki Siberians offers many events that are group outings for urban mushers such as scooter mushing outings. Karen and Jane also offer classes in mushing techniques. These techniques apply for scootering, skijoring, sledding, or snowshoeing - basically any type of mushing activity that involves dogs pulling.

Tumnatki is a Siberian husky sled dog kennel where Karen raises AKC racing Siberian huskies. Her team travels to races throughout the west competing primarily in all breed races. She runs 4, 6, and 8 dog sprints as well as 6-8 dog mid distance races. She really knows her stuff and is an excellent teacher.

The kennel also can set you up with mushing products from scooters and sleds to harnesses and lines. Check the store on-line or give her a call or drop her a line via email. Better yet, attend one of the workshops on mushing or a dog outing.

Check out her website for more information but here are some of the upcoming events:

Cascade Sled Dog Club – yearly pull training clinic – this is where it all starts – usually 3rd or 4th week in September – Portland, OR (

Big Bear Mushing Clinic – Karen Yeargain – 10/23 and 10/24 – check website for details

La Pine Mushing Weekend – November 12, 13, 14 – La Pine, OR – see website for more details

Non-winter mushing with our two
Non-winter mushing with our two
The mushing take-off prelim
The mushing take-off prelim
Karen's Siberians getting ready
Karen's Siberians getting ready

Pet Friendly Winter Sports Trails in Central Oregon

After your outing on the trails, stop by Bend and its outlying cities at one of the many pet friendly restaurants or pubs for a quick bite or just a warm-up!

Enjoy your outings on beautiful Central Oregon's pet friendly winter sports trails and while you're there, just remember these simple rules:

  • Always make sure the trails that you plan to use are designated as pet friendly trails
  • If trails are new to you, make sure you have a map and that you’re on the correct trail
  • Respect others on the trail and make sure your pet is always under control
  • Take extra precautions dependent upon weather, terrain and time of day
  • Pack out what you take in – including dog refuse
  • Most of all, enjoy the great outdoors and create a positive experience for yourself and your pet!

Participating in winter sports on trails is an experience like no other that will give you many happy memories. Especially in Central Oregon, this is a wonderful place to be if you like the outdoors and want to share good times with your pets!

McKenzie Pass Area:
McKenzie Pass, Blue River, OR 97413, USA

get directions

USFS 16 Sisters Oregon Area:
Sisters, OR, USA

get directions

Santiam Pass Area:
Santiam Pass, Sisters, OR 97759, USA

get directions

Tumalo Falls Road Bend:
Tumalo Falls Rd, Bend, OR 97701, USA

get directions

Newberry National Volcanic Monument:
Newberry National Volcanic Monument, La Pine, OR 97739, USA

get directions

Chemult Oregon:
Chemult, OR, USA

get directions

Century Drive Area Bend:
Century Dr, Bend, OR, USA

get directions

Bob and Audrey taking a breather
Bob and Audrey taking a breather
Deciding on the fork
Deciding on the fork

Video of My Malamutes on Wanoga Trails

Skijoring with Malamutes

More on Skijoring

The Pure Joy of Skijoring


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    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Thanks HH for stopping by and wish you were here - would take you out and let you have some fun with my sweet gentle giants!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      I should envy you. The massive snow, beautiful dogs, gorgeous surroundings and then skiing and sledding. It must be such a wonderful experiences. Thank you for sharing and writing such a great, lengthy hub plus the beautiful pictures.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Thanks so much, Simone - it is SOOO fun! I can't wait to do the cross country skiing and the sledding now that Griff is old enough come Thanksgiving!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      What an adventure it must be to be flying along these frozen trails with such beautiful dogs... I can't even imagine O_O

      Your photos and tips are amazing. This is quite the hub!!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Thanks for commenting, Pamela and it truly is a lovely place to live. I love the snow even being from warm and balmy southern California - but then I love my dogs too and they enjoy it so!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Audry, This is an awesome hub and your dogs are gorgeous. I have never lived where this type of outing was possible but I can only imagine how much fun you have. Rated up!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Oh BJ - but it's SO FUN! I have the best time mushing with my dogs and even in the snow because they love it so - except when I'm laying on my rear end in the snow after falling down (that was totally my fault because I stepped on Bob's snowshoe and we both went down). But if you'll notice, I'm dedicated to the max - I'm still videotaping!

      Come join us one of these days - snowshoeing is not so bad even with the malamutes. I'm working up to the skijoring but definitely will be doing the sledding this year as Griffin is finally old enough to pull full out! Can't wait!!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      The temperature outside as I read this beautiful hub is in the 90s and the humidity even higher. And I am freezing because I am so deeply engrossed in these photos and your fervent descriptions of the best trails and parks for winter sports with your pets.

      Easy to see why you are so fond of your handsome dogs - Griffin, Denaya and Bob. (Just kidding, Bob).

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Steph - that is too hilarious - on this trip, we actually had my daughter's puggle, Molly (Griff's best friend) in the car in a coat in her crate/kennel wrapped in blankets! She came out for a walk about and jumped right back in the car! We were going to bring her along in a backpack but decided she'd probably end up freezing even though the temps that day were pretty moderate!

      Thanks for the read and the kind comments!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 

      8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Great hub Audrey! I can imagine our larger dog, Garrett would do great on the trails, but little Earl (poodle schnauzer mix) would just shiver and get all nervous. Actually, he does that no matter the weather or temperature... LOL! Wonderful photos and videos!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Dream On - Thanks so much for the read - the cats could ride along in a backpack!

      Darlene - Thanks so much for the update - and thinking about you all the time! Sweet of you to take the time to read and comment!

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

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

      Hello my dear frien, what an awesome fantastic hub. This is just like you to write a perfect and oganized hub like this, I love the information an videos, this is a big thumbs up. I am back home now with my daughter. She is staying here for me to take care of her. I will be on line a little more, but not as much as I would like. Love you friend, thanks for this outstanding hub...

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 

      8 years ago

      Thats cool.It looks like so much fun.I only have two cats they wouldn't go far.


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