Where to photograph sunset and sunrise in Bend, Oregon
Remember, Bend is primary a sunrise location for photographers. The Cascade mountains run north to south and the sun sets behind them. They are ideally photographed at sunrise when they catch the early glow and the light from the rising sun. Sunsets can be be beautiful if clouds are present. Often the setting sun lights up the remnants of a thunderstorm and makes the clouds glow. Important: this blog post is not concerned with capturing the actual sun but it is all about utilizing the best light with a scenic view during sunset and sunrise. Our photographers all have their favorite places for photography and locations where they take people to. Here are a few select ones by Christian Heeb
1. Pilot Butte
This iconic cinder cone in the eastern part of Bend is a local favorite and has been for a very long time. During the summer month you can drive all the way to the top. There is a hiking trail up as well. You get a stunning vista over Bend and the towering volcanoes in the back. This is one of the best places to actually see the sun disappear behind the mountains.
2. Horse Butte
In the very southeastern corner of Bend, past some scenic horse farms, you eventually hit the Deschutes national forest. Right at the start of the unpaved road where Horse Butte roads enters the forest, you see a red cinder Butte to your right. A rough trail trail from the south side leads up to the top where a old Ponderosa pine stands. From there you get beautiful vistas all over the Juniper studded high desert and the whole Cascade Range and its towering volcanoes Bachelor, Three Sister, Broken Top and Jefferson. On a clear day you may even see Mount Hood far to the north.
3. Badlands Wilderness
Heading east on highway 20 you soon drive through open desert country full of old growth Juniper trees. After 12 miles you arrived on a slight rise of terrain from where you get nice views of the mountains which can be combines with the trees. Driving on you find several areas where you can access the forest on your left. There are trails to explore the forest.
4. Sisters view along Highway 20
Heading to the town of Sisters from Bend you pass through the small community of Tumalo. Highway 20 emerges out of the river valley and climbs up to the plateau. Eventually you will get a great view of the volcanoes of the Three Sisters wilderness to you left. There is a large pullout where you can park. This is a great spot for sunrise photos when the early light hits the mountains. Closer to the town of Sisters, just before you get into town, there is a photogenic horse and cowboy sculpture to your left which makes for a great photo.
Please be very careful when stopping along this busy and dangerous highway.
5. Lava Land Visitor Center
Just south of Bend past the High Desert Museum you find the Lava land visitor center. It is part of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Follow the nature trail through the broken lava field to an overlook over the vast volcanic landscape. The big field ends at the Deschutes river Mount Bachelor rises up from the surrounding forest. This location is good for sunrise and sunset.
6. Paulina Peak
If you don’t mind a one hour drive and a steep gravel road then head south from Bend and head to Paulina Peak near the town of La Pine. It is situated in Newberry National Volcanic Monument. The views from the observation area are supreme. You have vistas all around from the old carter named Fort Rock in the east to the Three Sisters Volcanoes in the northwest. Sunset is best if there are some clouds in the sky. Sunrises in early summer when the mountains still have snow can be very rewarding. The road is closed for cars in winter.
7. Smith Rock State Park
Fancy a little Utah red rocks in the middle of Oregon? This is the place. The Crooked river winds its way through a wonderland of rocks on its way to join the Deschutes river. There are wonderful views towards Mount Jefferson that can be combined with the red rocks at sunrise. Sunsets are great with clouds and you may need to do HDR because you will be mostly photographing into the sun.
8. Dillon Falls
10 Minutes from the edge of Bend on Century drive you hit the National Forest information center and a road leading to several recreation sites. Dillon Falls is very rewarding for photographers. The Deschutes river travels through a deep gorge. In June you can catch the sunrise when looking straight down the river canyon. Sunset are better shooting upriver from the boat ramp. You may not get the actual sun but if clouds light up you have many opportunities there.
9. Mirror Pond
A Bend Oregon classic, Mirror Pond photographed with South Sister rising over the neighborhood houses has been featured in tourist brochures for years. Walk through the breezeway on Wall street and head straight down to the waters edge, then wait for the sun to rise or set.
10. Powell Butte Road
Just driving east from Bend gets you many views to the mountains. The road between the Bend airport and the hamlet of Powell Butte runs through farmland. The Three Sisters are highly visible in the west. Here you will get a more rural pastoral looking photograph.
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