02 Mar Snowmobiling Oregon
Five places to get your vroom on this winter
Oregon is the perfect winter playground for snowmobile enthusiasts. With a vast network of over 6,000 miles of snowmobile trails that traverse the state from the northeastern corner to the Cascade Range, picking the perfect fast-paced adventure through breathtaking backcountry can be a difficult task.
Amber Greiner, snowmobiling aficionado and owner of snowmobile guide service Central Oregon Adventures, suggests going with a guide to maximize your sledding experience. “If you are new to snowmobiling or not familiar with the area, going with a guide is highly recommended. On a guided trip you will be able to experience more of what the area has to offer than if you go on your own,” says Greiner. Greiner also suggests tailoring your trip to the people in your group. Families with children may want to opt for a gentle ride into the mountains while more seasoned riders can explore steeper terrain in deeper snow.
Regardless of your snowmobiling sophistication, blazing through miles of pristine wilderness on the saddle of a snow machine can be a rewarding and adrenaline-infused escapade. To assist in your snowy sled pursuits, here are five places in Oregon to get your vroom on this winter.
Mt. Hood, Oregon’s tallest mountain, is virtually an endless playground for snowmobilers of all abilities. The Mt. Hood National Forest offers nearly 800 miles of groomed and ungroomed trails through beautiful alpine scenery with some of the most stunning views and vistas in the Northwest. The area also boasts a number of sno-parks that provide access to miles of closed forest roads and groomed trails, making Mt. Hood a winter haven for snow machine enthusiasts. If you lack your own equipment, guided tours and snowmobile rentals are available through Mt. Hood Adventure and from local businesses in Government Camp and in nearby Boring, Oregon.
Directions: From Bend, travel north on US-26 W for approximately 107 miles.
Elk Lake is one of the most popular snowmobiling destinations in Central Oregon. Inaccessible by car in the wintertime, this remote lake is surrounded by hundreds of miles of trails that travel through snow-covered pine trees and provide spectacular views of the Three Sisters, Mt. Bachelor and Broken Top. The Deschutes National Forest is full of open snowfields and old-growth ponderosa pines, allowing you to experience nature in its winter finest. After a fun-filled day on the trails, riders are encouraged to warm up and get a bite to eat at the Elk Lake Resort restaurant. Central Oregon Adventures offers guided trips into the lake and snowmobile rentals are also available through Elk Lake Resort.
Directions: From Bend, travel west on Cascade Lakes Highway (46) approximately 22 miles to Dutchman Flat Sno-Park. From here, continue on Cascade Lakes Highway by snowmobile 11 miles to Elk Lake.
Touted as the “gem of the Cascades,” Diamond Lake is home to over 300 miles of groomed snowmobile trails and boasts an average annual snowfall of over 40 feet. The trails surrounding Diamond Lake range from short, beginner groomed trails to advanced, backcountry wilderness trails that offer views of Mt. Thielsen, Mt. Bailey and Crater Lake. The two most popular trails are the forty-five minute trip to Crater Lake by way of its groomed north entrance and the 8,376-foot climb up Mt. Bailey. The frosted-white evergreens and majestic mountain views that surround Diamond Lake provide the perfect backdrop for your snowmobiling adventure. Guided tours and snowmobile rentals are available through Diamond Lake Resort and Crater Lake National Park.
Directions: From Bend, travel 100 miles south using Highway 97 and Highway 138 West.
The Ochoco National Forest is endowed with hundreds of miles of groomed and ungroomed trails that range in skill level from easy to difficult and vary in length from one-hour trips to all-day excursions. The terrain varies from high mountain meadows to stands of old-growth ponderosa pine and the broad range of trails provides views of unique geological formations, deep canyons and abundant wildlife. The open country, developed trails and back roads closed by snow to vehicle traffic ensure an extensive recreational area for snowmobilers to explore. Try Central Oregon Rentals in Bend for snowmobile rentals and trailer rentals to haul your gear into the Ochocos—but only after checking local snow conditions. With considerably less altitude than the Cascades, some areas of the Ochocos might be lacking snow for all but a few months of the year.
Directions: From Bend, travel east on SW Highway 126/OR-126 to US-26 E approximately 40 miles.
The Wallowa Mountains in eastern Oregon are often referred to as “Oregon’s little Switzerland” due to their great snow accumulation, soft powder and scenery reminiscent of the European Alps. With snowfall in excess of 400 inches a season, the Wallowas offer some of the best snow and terrain in the state for snowmobiling. The terrain ranges from tree-covered slopes to alpine meadows to ridges and peaks with picturesque mountain views. The Wallowas feature nearly 500 miles of groomed trails that travel through quiet forests and provide you the opportunity to explore areas of the wilderness that most people will never get a chance to see. The most popular area in the Wallowas is the Salt Creek Summit Sno-Park outside of Joseph, Oregon, which leads to many different destinations and turn-around points.
Directions: From Bend, follow OR-126 to US-26 E to US-395 N. Follow US-395 N approximately 100 miles to OR-244 then merge onto I-84 E. Turn onto OR-82 and follow to Joseph.
This winter, explore some of Oregon’s spectacular terrain from the exhilarating vantage point of a snowmobile. “Snowmobiling will get you into the scenic winter backcountry of Oregon farther and faster than any other means possible,” says Greiner. “Soak in the majestic views of the mountains, high lakes, old-growth forests and open meadows. There’s a winter wonderland out there that is waiting to be explored.”