DUTCHMAN FLAT SNO-PARK — Tumalo Mountain is perhaps more known to Central Oregon locals as a wintertime destination, where they can hike to the summit then ski or snowboard down the prominent northeast bowl of the 7,779-foot peak.
Because of that, I have often discounted Tumalo as a summertime hiking spot. But at 2 miles, it is a relatively short trail to the summit, and its location in the Cascade Range west of Bend offers a pretty easy route to some of the best views in the Central Oregon Cascades.
The trail is steep in certain locations, but the 4-mile round trip can be completed in about two hours or less. This makes it ideal for families with young children.
I have seen 3- and 4-year-old kids making their way to the top of Tumalo, but of course in Central Oregon parents can be a little nutty when it comes to outdoor pursuits.
My son Mason made it up Tumalo when he was 4, and I was beaming with pride, only to see another 4-year-old boy atop the summit.
Now 9 and having discovered YouTube, Mason needed a little coaxing to return for a father-son hike there last week.
But as soon as we parked at Dutchman Flat and started the trek, he was all smiles. The parking lot was fairly full, as Tumalo is no secret — and with other higher-elevation hikes still covered in snow after a big winter snowfall, the trail up Tumalo offered a snow-free outing.
The climb begins in thick forest, and we could hear cars along Century Drive as we made our way up above the tree line.
Once above the trees some, we could see Mount Bachelor as it came into view to the south just across the highway. The morning was so clear that we could even see other distant peaks farther to the south, including Diamond Peak and Mount Thielsen. Looking southeast, we viewed the vast, endless green of the Deschutes National Forest, accented by Paulina Peak.
We came across lots of other hikers making their way back down the dusty trail, which increased in steepness as we approached the summit about an hour into the trek.
Mason’s eyes were wide with excitement as we neared the top. When we crested the final ridge, South Sister popped into view, dominating the horizon to the west.
A trail cut along the summit, and more than a foot of snow still lingered just below the trail at the top of the northeast bowl. Looking that direction, we could see the Tumalo Falls area, and farther in the distance the city of Redmond and Smith Rock State Park.
As we continued along the flat path across the summit, Broken Top, Middle Sister and North Sister came into view, all, like Bachelor and the rest of the Cascades, still wearing some of their snowy winter coat.
Hikers lingered on the summit, snapping photos and pointing and planning future hikes deeper into the Cascades. One group of acro-yogis performed seemingly impossible moves and positions as other hikers photographed them. Acro yoga is a combination of yoga and acrobatics, and it was a surreal scene, watching them do their moves on a remote mountaintop.
After exploring the summit for about a half-hour, we made our way back down, running here and there on the less technical spots along the trail. The path is pretty smooth for the most part, but hikers must negotiate rocks and roots on a few sections.
The descent took about 45 minutes, and Mason and I still had enough energy for other activities the rest of the day.
While Tumalo Mountain is a backcountry gem in the winter, it also makes for a relatively easy half-day hike in the middle of summer.
And you can bring the kids.
— Reporter: 541-383-0318,