Professional travel photographer Christian Heeb lists 10 places not to be missed near Bend Oregon.
1. Pilot Butte, Highway 20 in Bend
This local favorite sunset and sunrise spot can be stunning at sunset when the clouds light up. You see the mountain peaks from Mount Bachelor all the way to Mount Jefferson. The sprawling metropolis of Bend may not be too pretty but the vista can be very rewarding. Especially so if you have some clouds in the sky that light up after or during sunset. You can drive up the Butte but it is closed for cars in winter. You can also hike up for a sunrise photo. Experiencing the first light hitting the peaks is well worth the effort.
2. Dillon Falls, Deschutes River
A short drive from Bend’s bustling Westside towards Mount Bachelor you find several National Forest recreation sites. If you park at Dillon Falls and walk downriver 200 yards or so you find a stunning canyon where the river runs through an extensive lave flow. Mornings are wonderful here with mist rising from the river. There are several lone pine trees to photograph against the backdrop of running water. You also find good rapids and a waterfall to works with you shutter speed.
3. Sparks Lake, Cascade Lakes Highway
This is the iconic photo of South Sister volcano towering over a pristine mountain lake. Follow the dirt road at the campground to the boat ramp. Park in the parking area to your left and follow the paved trail to the view point. Make sure you take your first turn to the right. Sparks lake is at its best in early summer when the mountains are still snow capped but it is worth a trip from spring to fall.
4. Smith Rock State Park, Redmond
This park is the closest you get to a colorful Utah like canyon in Central Oregon. The Crooked river runs through a stunning canyon of towering cliffs. Mornings are wonderful here when the light hits the rocks with Mount Jefferson in the background. If you get good sunset clouds, shooting into the light and blending your exposures can be very rewarding. There are several good spots for Nature photographers along the river as well. This is a great place to visit in winter too.
5. Cove Palisades State Park
Lake Billy Chinook, confluence of the Crooked, Deschutes, and Metolius rivers near Culver
Another stunning location that can be visited in the winter as well. From the eastern rim you get broad vistas across the High Desert towards Mount Jefferson and Mount Hood. The mountains look at their best in winter and spring.
6.Lava Butte, Bend
This wonderland of lava rock can be accessed all year. Behind the visitor center is a nature walk that winds its way through the black wastelands of an ancient lava flow. You get good views to Mount Bachelor and there are a few lone pine trees growing out of this barren landscape. If the main gate is closed you can park a few yards on in the parking lot that is open all year.
7. Sahalie Falls, Sisters
This is a bit of a longer drive but well worth it. Sahalie Falls along Highway 126 southwest of the little town of Sisters is a stunning waterfall. Along the McKenzie river trail are several good spots for photography and the Koosha Falls just a little downstream from Sahalie is beautiful too. No visit to Oregon would be complete without the experience of a pristine river running through mossy evergreen vegetation.
8. Three Sisters Volcanoes
If you want to snap a quick picture of the Three Sisters without leaving your car. The pullout on Highway 20 between the Bend and Sisters is the place. You get a full view to the mountains across the Sage brush littered High Desert. This vista is best photographed in the morning.
9. Steelhead Falls of the Deschutes River near Terrebonne
If you don’t mind walking, this half mile hike down a desert canyon leads you to the local swimming hole and scenic waterfall of Steelhead Falls. Evenings are good when the shadows creep in and the falls loose their direct sun light. A tripod is a must if you want to do along exposure and slow down the water.
10. The Badlands, Bend
Drive about 12 or so miles east of Bend on Highway 20 and you will find a vast forest of ancient Junipers trees. You can stop along the highway or head to some of the trail heads on the edge of the forest. This are is perfect for night and astro photography. It s very dark here so make sure you scout the area first during the day and make sure you stay close to your car. Getting lost in the dark is not much fun and at night all tree’s look the same.
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