If you go

Getting there: From Bend, head up Cascade Lakes Highway about 20 miles to the Dutchman Flat Sno-park on the right.

Difficulty: Moderate. At about 3 miles out and back, it’s short, yet steep enough out-of-shape hikers may find it challenging.

Cost: Free in summer; Sno-park permit required in season

Contact: 541-383-5300

There are certain hikes or other destinations I try to hit at least once a year: Lucky Lake, for instance, which I wrote about a while back in this section. In winter, it’s a sure bet I’ll get out to The Badlands at least once.

Then there are outings I get to a little less consistently: a hike up Misery Ridge at Smith Rock or a canoe trek on Hosmer Lake.

And then there’s Tumalo Mountain.

Perched at an altitude of 7,779 feet, which is a pretty forgiving height as far as hike-in peaks go, Tumalo Mountain is situated just 20 miles from Bend. It’s a quick trip there even if you’re a slow driver.

So while it feels like a peak I should have hiked about 200 times by now, in reality, I’m lucky if I get up there once every three or four years. This is my 14th summer in Bend. A recent hike up Tumalo with my wife, Catherine, marked my third successful hike up the mountain. (A couple of years ago during an early summer hike, we were thwarted by rain and snow blocking the trail.)

For whatever reason, I find it easy to take Tumalo Mountain for granted. I don’t even think about it as I drive by it a dozen times or more each summer on my way to more fun destinations. And summer has a way of passing so fast, year after year, that I miss hiking the 1½-mile (one way) trail.

Catherine and I had firm plans to hike up Tumalo on a recent Saturday morning, and we would not be easily deterred — never mind those dark, fast-moving clouds obscuring the peak as we drove up Cascade Lakes Highway.

Sitting in the car near the trailhead at Dutchman Flat Sno-park pounding the last of my coffee, I took note of the number of cars in the parking lot. It was nothing like a busy winter morning at the popular sno-park, but there were easily 20 cars there, far more than I remember from a few years back.

Of course, just about any trailhead you pass these days looks like it’s overflowing. Have you seen Green Lakes Trail lately? It’s bonkers. Last time I drove by, the lot was full, and cars lined the highway shoulder.

However, the nice thing about even the most popular hikes is that once you’re actually hiking, the crowd thins quickly. At worst, you might find yourself making small talk a little more frequently than usual with passers-by on the trail (unless you’re the aloof type who ignores the people passing you). That’s about how it went once we were on our way up with our enthusiastic dog, Kaloo, in tow. During our hike up, a couple on their way back down stopped and told us that even though they didn’t get much of a view, they did get to stand inside a cloud.

“I don’t know the last time I got to stand inside a cloud!” he enthused.

We passed a number of trail runners who made us feel out of shape and dorky for hiking. We weren’t far into our hike before I was reminded of another reason why I probably don’t make it here that often, if I’m being honest: Tumalo Mountain Trail may be relatively short, but it’s also surprisingly steep.

It feels particularly challenging toward the start, but hang in there: That forest you’re hiking through will soon begin to thin, providing glimpses of Paulina Peak and Mount Bachelor, at least on a clear day.

And don’t forget to look down: Some of the best color is right at your feet, where lupine, Indian paintbrush and other wildflowers are still blooming. As you approach the wide summit, which is a nice, relatively flat perch with room enough for everyone to gawk at the scenery. The views of neighboring mountains — Hi, Broken Top! — are downright stunning.

We didn’t get much in the way of views, though it was clear to the east, so we could see Bridge Creek Burn area and Newberry Volcano. We also had the chance, just like the man said, to stand inside a cloud. The dearth of magnificent vistas due to clouds had the side effect of making us notice all the windblown, gnarled trunks around the summit, which looked something like your favorite Dr. Seuss book meets “Lord of the Rings.”

After a quick granola bar snack, we began the walk back down. We passed a friendly woman who said hello and told us, “Quick up, quick down!”

I don’t know about the quick up part, but the trip down was pretty fast.

By the time we reached the car, we were both fairly worn out. Had we really just hiked 3 miles? It felt more like 10.

Nevertheless, Catherine said we should start trying to hike it once a week. It’s a possibility I’m willing to consider. Summer is growing short, sure, but even after the snow flies, Tumalo Mountain is also popular among snowshoers, as well as skiers and snowboarders who hike up and ride down.

Or maybe I’ll just go across the street and ride the chair at Mt. Bachelor, because after that hike, sitting on a chairlift sounds pretty nice right about now.

— Reporter: 541-383-0349, djasper@bendbulletin.com

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