For a quarter of a century Jim Valentine, the president of Ochoco Snow Sports, a Prineville snowmobile club, has been enjoying snowmobiling trails all around Oregon.
North, south, east and west of Bend there are areas to rev up the engines of snowmobiles and cruise through the snowy forests.
“The thing about Central Oregon is there are a lot of good riding areas between Mount Bachelor, Paulina Lake, Sisters, out in Prineville,” Valentine said. “You have a large area to choose from out of Central Oregon.”
Part of the duties of Ochoco Snow Sports is to groom the 79 miles of snowmobile trails in the Ochoco National Forest. Moon Country Snowbusters is a similar club responsible for grooming the trails of the Deschutes National Forest.
Valentine encourages each owner of a snowmobile to become a member of the Oregon State Snowmobile Association, which helps support the grooming programs that allow snowmobiling trails to be a prominent winter activity in the area.
In the Deschutes National Forest, there are 10 different sno-parks and two in Ochoco National Forest. Snow passes are required.
There are four sno -parks in the Bend/Sunriver/La Pine area of the Deschutes National Forest: Dutchman, Edison Butte, Wanoga and Kapka . Crescent Lake and Junction sno-parks are in the Crescent area. Lower Tree and Upper Tree Creek are in the Sisters-Metolius area. The Newberry National Volcanic Monument has 10 Mile and 6 Mile sno-parks.
There are two sno-parks in the Ochoco National Forest, Ochoco Divide Sno-park and Walton Lake Sno-Park. At Walton Lake Sno-park, located off Forest Road 22 east of Prineville, the 10 different trails make it the greatest concentration of snowmobile trails in the Ochoco National Forest, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The two snowmobile trails link up together, which can be beneficial because getting to Walton Lake can be a difficult feat in wintry conditions.
“It can be a little challenge at times to access because of its location off the main highway,” Valentine said. “Sometimes the conditions are a little harder to get to. People should be prepared with tire chains just in case they have to use them. It is not like driving to Mount Bachelor.”
There are several local businesses such as Central Oregon Rentals that rent snowmobiles, and there are places such as Central Oregon Adventures that offer two-hour tours starting at Wanoga Sno-park. Wherever the destination, snowmobiling is a fun yet challenging way to explore the area during the winter.
“The fun part is the scenery and experiencing the outdoors, and you get to challenge yourself and go places that you wouldn’t go in your lifetime,” Valentine said. “You access places that you would never see.”