Four-Leg Friendly

Three Central Oregon Trails to Enjoy with Your Dog

Thanks to the cooler weather, fall is an ideal time to get out and explore Central Oregon with a four-legged friend. The crisp air is refreshing, the turning leaves are more vibrant, and best of all, the miles of trails are usually less crowded. Phil Collins, my 95 pound, black German Shorthaired Pointer and Labrador mix, is my hiking companion. Although almost ten years old, he always brings youthful enthusiasm to any trail.

From leisurely strolls through the woods to waterside trails for cooling off, there are many places to explore this fall. Regardless of where the destination may be, it is always a good idea to bring along a leash and some waste bags as a common courtesy to fellow hikers and wildlife in the area.

While there are many local hiking options, the Good Dog! Trail System, Metolius River Trail and Crater Butte Trail are three of our favorite spots to enjoy autumn. They each feature water for Collins to cool off and drink, nice spaces to rest or picnic, and plenty of scenery to enjoy as we happily go along.

From leisurely strolls through the woods to waterside trails for cooling off, there are many places to explore this fall.

Upper Deschutes/ Good Dog! Trail System

The Good Dog! Trail system conveniently features plenty of open space where I know Collins can run free while enjoying calm areas of the Deschutes River. I also find the dog waste stations and garbage cans handy.

There are a mixture of official and unofficial trails throughout this trail system ranging in length, but all qualify as mostly easy terrain. This area is ideal not only because of its dog-friendliness, but also its close proximity to Bend and excellent views of the river and fall colors.

How to get there: From Bend, head west on Century Drive. Approximately one mile after passing Entrada Lodge, and just before Widgi Creek Golf Course, turn left at NF Road #4600. Take the dirt road for about one mile to the parking area.

Metolius River Trail

From the headwater’s bubbling springs and Camp Sherman’s quaint market to the Lower Bridge and Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery, this trail offers some of the best fall scenery and picturesque places to relax with your four-legged friend. Collins and I love stopping along the trail to watch the wildlife and fly fishermen that frequent the river.

Going upstream or downstream are both options here, but Collins and I prefer to head downstream from the fish hatchery, cross the Lower Bridge and head back on the opposite bank for a complete and easy 6.5-mile loop. Be advised there are some muddy patches now and again and dogs must be on a leash until September 15.

How to get there: From Sisters, head west on Highway 20 for approximately 10 miles, then take a right when you come to the Camp Sherman sign. Follow this road (Road 14) for another seven miles, veering right at the fork in the road. The Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery is on the left soon after the headwaters of the Metolius.

Odell Lake

Eagles are a common sight at Odell Lake during the month of November, which only adds to the appeal of the surrounding trees and streams. The nearby Crater Butte Trail is a favorite of ours, offering nearly 14 miles of trail until it connects with the Pacific Crest Trail #2000. Like most of the Deschutes National Forest, dogs must be on a leash until September 15, but after that they are free to roam, under supervision of course.

The length of this trail provides many options depending on personal preference. Collins and I usually opt to walk three or four miles of the trail and then head back the way we came. We also typically stop by the Odell Lake Lodge & Resort for a snack before heading to the trail circumventing the lake to watch the nesting eagles.

Keep in mind that around the lake and the resort, dogs must be on a leash. It is also important to note that dogs are no longer allowed on the trails at the resort when snow starts falling. The good news is, if you are feeling like a winter hike, the trail systems away from the resort are still fair game for off-leash fun.

How to get there: From Bend, head south on Highway 97 for approximately 47 miles until you reach the city of Crescent. Take a right on Crescent Road and follow for 12 miles, then turn right onto OR-58 W. Follow OR-58 W for approximately five miles and then turn left onto NF-680/E Odell Lake Road. The trailhead is approximately a half mile down the road.