Daylight saving time has arrived. That means when the quitting bell rings at 5 p.m., there’s more than two hours of sun left.
No more dreary, dark drives home. The time change gives you all the reason you need to get out in Central Oregon and enjoy.
Three outdoor jaunts -- Lava Butte, Sawyer Park/Deschutes River Trail, and Rimrock Springs Wildlife Management Area -- can be done in less than two hours. Two begin in Bend and one in Redmond. So you can walk out the door at work, enjoy the outdoors and get home in time to see the sunset.
Drive time from downtown Bend: 15 minutes
Approximate hike time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Lava Butte, which rises next to U.S. Highway 97 just south of Bend, is a great alternative to Pilot Butte and a fairly strenuous after-work workout. The road, which opens in the summer, is closed until mid-April and, in the spring and summer, closes at 5 p.m. When the road is closed, it’s prime hiking hour.
Park near the gate and walk to the right from the visitor’s center. The road winds next to the highway, then turns up through a basalt lava field and up the butte. I found myself out of breath going up the hill but was rewarded with stunning views. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Mount Hood.
Curling around the butte, the road affords views in all directions. It’s one of those only-in-Central Oregon places, with lava fields butted up against pine forests licking at the edges of mountain peaks.
An old fire lookout, now a small exhibit center, marks the summit, and for the very quick or adventurous, there’s a quarter-mile walk around the rim of the crater.
At the end of last week, there was still some snow on the road going up the butte, so prepare accordingly.
Robert W. Sawyer Park/
Deschutes River Trail
Drive time from downtown Bend: 5-10 minutes
Approximate hike time: Can walk as long as you want. For 4-mile hike, about 1.5 hours.
Just past The Riverhouse Convention Center and worlds away from it, Robert W. Sawyer Park is tucked off O.B. Riley Road just a short drive from downtown Bend. We headed for this trail after work Friday, when the mild weather brought out many with the same idea.
Parking at Robert W. Sawyer Park, we crossed the bridge and followed signs to the Deschutes River Trail, wandering north down the river. Almost immediately, the trail slopes up and soon we were walking high above the river, looking down into a canyon.
The trail continues for about a mile down the river, always above it and along a rocky wall. Soon, it crosses Archie Briggs Road. Some may want to turn around here, especially if stomachs are rumbling for dinner, but if you have the energy, it’s worth it to go at least a little way farther.
Shortly past Archie Briggs, the trail snakes through a beautiful neighborhood and affords stunning mountain views. Walking along past well-adorned porches and looking out at the peaks in the distance, I had one of those “that’s why I live here” moments when everything suddenly seems a little rosier.
The trail continues past houses and above the river; here, the canyon is steep and rugged. Soon, after you pass through the neighborhood, the trail goes down into a gully and back up to a bench overlooking the river canyon.
Here, you’re probably about 2 miles from the car, and that’s where we turned around to make it home for dinner.
Rimrock Springs Wildlife
Drive time from Redmond: 30 minutes
Approximate hike time: 30 minutes, with viewing stops
Just a half-hour from Redmond, and even closer to Madras, this oasis sits hidden and often forgotten in the High Desert. Rimrock Springs is a wildlife management area. It was set up in the early 1990s, said Brian Ferry, a wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, as a way to preserve a wetland area created by dams built by homesteaders generations ago.
The trail begins on the south side of the parking lot and is paved for a half-mile, to the first viewing area. The day we went, it was raining in Redmond but dry, with a hint of blue sky, at Rimrock Springs.
The first viewing station looks out over a small pond and marsh, set incongruously in the desert landscape. Formed by dams, the marshes attract a variety of wildlife, especially birds. With benches lining the wooden walls, the viewing stations are great places to relax. Though we did not see any birds, signs in the park and the online descriptions promise a variety of species including coots, mallards and snipes.
From the first viewing area, head back if you’re only in the mood for a short stroll, or keep walking along the loop trail, which continues for about another mile. The trail becomes gravel and then dirt as it passes another viewing area over a marsh, then cuts uphill and back around, passing a mountain-viewing area on the way home.
Along the trail, plaques give information about the desert, its plants and wildlife, and even how the landscape was created. One fun fact: Smith Rock and Gray Butte are more than seven times as old as Mount Bachelor and Mount Jefferson. Who knew?
One of the best parts of this hike is the solitude. On the day we hiked, a weekend, we saw no one else, and other descriptions also note that few people use the area. With well-maintained trails lined with juniper, sagebrush, wildflowers and wildlife, you’ll want to be one of the few to take advantage.
If you go
Rimrock Springs Wildlife Management Area
Getting there: From Redmond, drive north on U.S. Highway 97 briefly and turn right at the sign for O’Neil Highway. Go 5 miles to Lone Pine Road. Turn left. Continue about 9 miles to the intersection with U.S. Highway 26. Turn left. Rimrock Springs will be about 4.5 miles ahead on the right. There is a sign 0.5 mile before the entrance, but no sign at the entrance itself.
Contact: Crooked River National Grassland, 541-475-9272
Robert W. Sawyer Park
Getting there: From downtown Bend, head north on Third Street to O.B. Riley Road. Go left and continue, for 0.25 mile. Robert W. Sawyer Park is on the left; wind down to the parking area near the river.
Contact: Bend Park & Recreation District, Park Services, 541-388-5465
Getting there: Head south on U.S. Highway 97 for about 10 miles. Turn right into the Lava Lands Visitors Center and park near the gate. No fee to park when park is not open.
Cost: Free when park closed
Contact: Newberry National Volcanic Monument: 541-593-2421