Given how ponderosa pines proliferate around Central Oregon, one may not be surprised to learn the largest ponderosa in the world is located less than 30 minutes south of Bend, in La Pine State Park.
That’s largest in circumference, that is: According to the Oregon Heritage Tree Program plaque at the tree, “Big Red,” as it is nicknamed, lost half of its crown due to weather a while back, not that its 162 feet of height is anything to sneeze at. Nonetheless, at 28 feet, 11 inches, La Pine’s ponderosa still wins in terms of circumference. Big Red certainly stands out among its neighbors in the park, which is nestled between the Deschutes and Fall rivers and with its 14 miles of hiking trails, is worth a visit regardless of the tree.
An estimated 500 years old, Big Red is located not far from the entrance off of State Recreation Road, but in winter, the road leading to its nearest trailhead is closed. We simply parked by the gate and hoofed it in, about a mile each way from car to tree. We spotted earlier visitors’ cross-country ski tracks in the snow along the road, and discovered beneath that a solid layer of ice. Crampons are advised if you’re heading there before spring.
Getting there: From Bend, head south about 23 miles to State Recreation Road. Turn right, heading west about 3.8 miles to the park’s entrance. Keep an eye peeled for the Big Pine signs, and park by the gate on right.
Contact: stateparks.oregon.gov or 541-536-2428.