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South Canyon Reach Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Looking across the Deschutes from Farewell Bend Park to walls of Tumalo tuff (bobcat)
Ponderosa pine overlook in Bend's South Canyon (bobcat)
Thinleaf alder cones (Alnus tenuifolia), South Canyon Trail (bobcat)
River riffle in the Deschutes, South Canyon, Bend (bobcat)
Two Bits by Greg Congleton, Farewell Bend Park (bobcat)
The loop along the South Canyon Reach of the Deschutes River in Bend (not a GPS Track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Riverbend Park TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: South Canyon Bridge
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 4.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 190 feet
  • High Point: 3,695 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes

Contents

Description

A loop trail, opened in 2009 and part of the Deschutes River Trail system, takes you to two of Bend’s newest parks, down the more isolated South Canyon Reach of the Deschutes River, and back to Bend’s Old Mill District, where the noisy sprawl of two massive ponderosa pine mills has been replaced by a development of shops and trendy restaurants. Part of the trail on the river’s west bank crosses the private Mount Bachelor Village Resort where no bikes are allowed. You’ll walk under orange cliffs of Tumalo tuff, pass a rushing river narrows, and visit the original town site of Bend. Interpretive signs at various locations inform about natural history and the age of the lumber mills.

There are shorter options as well. If you begin at the Riverbend Park Trailhead and recross the river at Farewell Bend Park to skip the Old Mill District, it’s a 3.5 mile loop. Using the the Farewell Bend Park Trailhead as your beginning, you can make a 3.1 mile loop. A 1.3 mile loop on mostly paved trails begins at either park and heads north to cross the river at the Old Mill District. The description below begins at the Riverbend Park Trailhead and proceeds south.

Walk out towards the river on one of the paved trails. Riverbend Park is a relatively new park; the land was purchased in 2004 and the park developed over succeeding years. It’s 1.5 miles from here to the South Canyon Bridge. Go right on the wide Deschutes River Trail, which quickly becomes gravel. Low cliffs of orange-colored Tumalo tuff bound the trail on your left, while rabbitbrush, bitterbrush, spiraea, and western juniper from a riparian fringe. Pass under the Bill Healy Bridge, which carries Reed Market Road over the Deschutes.

Pass through a fence and gate to enter property belonging to the Mount Bachelor Village Resort. No bikes are permitted on this section of the trail. You’ll pass a series of interpretive signs, developed by the High Desert Museum and Brooks Resources, that enlighten about the natural history of the trail. Soon, you’re hiking at river level below a ponderosa pine/juniper slope with a vegetation fringe of thinleaf alder, lodgepole pine, and spiraea along the river. A sign explains that lyre-shaped pines are a reaction to the gnawing of porcupines. Across the river, you’ll see a boardwalk at a well-disguised hydropower plant. A spur leads left up a rocky knoll to a view over the Deschutes at a rushing narrows. Next, pass the junction with the Haul Road Trail, staying left. Reach the South Canyon Bridge at a spot where the river narrows again.

Cross the bridge, and hike up to pass through a fence and then descend to the left. You hike through ponderosa pine woods before ascending to a rocky viewpoint over a drop in the river at a narrows. Keep right at a junction, and travel about 50 feet above the Deschutes, passing numerous side trails. Descend to river level, pass through a fence, and keep left at the junction with the Central Oregon Canal Trail. Cross the long boardwalk near a concealed hydropower plant. Here irrigation water from the Central Oregon Irrigation District 15 miles away drops through two turbines to generate electricity, but the plant itself is underground and is well disguised by a restored wetland. The thickets here are composed of willow, mountain ash, wild rose, red osier dogwood, and snowberry.

Pass across a boulder slope that shelters a few manzanita bushes. Then walk through a chokecherry thicket to go under the Bill Healy Bridge and enter Farewell Bend Park. Here paved trails take over at was the original settlement in Bend (shortened from Farewell Bend). The clean new park here has restrooms, picnic tables, and a playground. A substantial footbridge connects to the Deschutes River Trail on the west bank. Guarding the bridges is a Greg Congleton sculpture of two horses dragging a log. Next, pass a pier that leads out into what used to be a log pond. Pass a cattail swale on your right and, at the end of the park, keep left on a tarmac path to pass in front of riverside condominiums. Pass under the ramp to the Columbia Street Bridge through a tunnel decorated by a Paul Allan Bennett mural. Reach the Old Mill shopping and dining district, once the site of two great lumber mills operated by the Minnesota-based companies of Brooks-Scanlon and Shevlin-Hixon. Mill A closed in 1938, and Mill B is now the site of an REI store, its three tall smoke stacks serving as a reminder of past industry.

Reach a small plaza, and cross the river on a wide footbridge flapping with colorful banners. Go left to follow a paved path, which veers right to pass under the Columbia Street Bridge. Return to the river, and pass a dog park where rabbitbrush, blooming bright yellow in late summer, verges the trail. Soon reach the lawns of Riverbend Park, and return to your vehicle.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Restrooms, picnic area, information kiosk, kayak launch
  • Dogs on leash
  • Open 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
  • No bikes on west side of river above the Bill Healy Bridge

Maps

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades by William L. Sullivan
  • Bend, Overall by Scott Cook
  • Day Hiking: Bend and Central Oregon by Brittany Manwill
  • Best Hikes Near Bend by Lizann Dunegan
  • Central Oregon: Walks, Hikes & Strolls for Mature Folks by Marsha Johnson
  • Trail Running: Bend and Central Oregon by Lucas Alberg

More Links


Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.