The possibilities for a fun-filled winter experience are endless at Wanoga Sno-Park. Located only a few miles outside of Bend on the way to Mt. Bachelor, this picture-perfect forest area on Cascade Lakes Highway gives visitors and residents of Central Oregon something to look forward to when temperatures drop. When you’re in Wanoga Sno-Park, you can’t help but love the wintry weather and idyllic conditions.
Although parking can be very tight, it’s worth the trip. If you do find a spot, park according to posted directions. This is important as the parking lot was designed for diagonal parking in four rows with a one-way center travel lane.
Across the parking area from the sledding hill, you’ll find the trailhead that leads to over two miles of trails where dogs are welcome year-round. Central Oregon’s DogPac provides trail grooming for both skiers and snowshoers and their furry companions. Pet parents need to keep dogs on leashes in the sno-park area, and you’re asked to clean up after your four-legged friend and maintain voice or physical control of your pet while on the trails.
The Wanoga trail is the first regularly groomed ski/ snowshoe dog-friendly trail in Oregon. The aim is to groom the trail four times a week, as long as the weather is cooperative and there are enough volunteers.
The entire family will have a blast on Wanoga Sno-Park’s sledding hill! Now the most popular sledding hill in the area, its steepness means you’ll really get a high-speed thrill as you descend. Anyone who wants to go tubing will love the elevation and if younger kids prefer to play with their snow toys, this area is also ideal. Anyone sledding and tubing needs to observe the established sledding safety guidelines.
Dogs are allowed on leash on the sledding hill but snowmobiles are prohibited in the snow play area.
In the summer, this park becomes a hotspot for mountain biking but in the winter, the bike-ready groomed trails are transformed and are perfect for fat tire biking. This relatively new way to explore mountainous terrain is so much fun that it’s catching on big time.
If you’ve ever dreamed of cross-country skiing through the wilderness, this is your chance. The ski trail is 2 miles long. It is one-way and follows a winding double loop in a clockwise direction. The trails at Wanoga give a wider sense of space and vistas. You’re not closed in by thick trees for much of the trail for those who like more open surroundings. The groomed snowshoe trail is about a mile long and takes you through the trees. Blue diamonds and bamboo poles mark the left side of both trails. The ski trail has been cleared approximately 18 feet to the right of these markers. Non-skiers should not walk on the ski trail.
The Perfect Place for Snowmobiling
Alternatively, if you’re into snowmobiling, this sno-park was made for you. The snowmobile area was named in honor of prominent snowmobile trail groomer, Frank Ellis. You’ll find a large warming shelter and restroom facilities, between Wanoga and Three Creek Sno-Park. The shelter was built and is maintained by the Central Oregon Snowbusters, Sisters Sno-Go-Fers, and Moon Country snowmobile clubs in coordination with the U.S. Forest Service. You can have a rollicking good time on the slopes, then enjoy the company of other members of the snowmobiling community.
In the sno-park, you’ll have access to 150-180 miles of groomed snowmobile trails throughout Deschutes National Forest, between Crescent Lake and Santiam Pass. If you don’t have a snowmobile, Central Oregon Adventures offers sled rentals and tours out of Wanoga under a special-use permit from the Deschutes National Forest.
Non-snowmobilers should be aware that it is hard for snowmobile riders to see you but you will hear them way long before they see you so it’s best to pull over, stay to the far right of the trail and let them pass.
Fat Biking Fun and Fitness
Have your camera close at hand when you spend any time in Wanoga Sno-Park. The range of trees makes the area simply mesmerizing. As long as you’re in Central Oregon, you’re sure to see Ponderosa pines and Douglas firs, large, common evergreens. Grand firs, unlike Douglas firs, are true firs although they may be somewhat smaller. You’ll recognize them by their narrow shape and rigid upright or horizontal branching.
There’s also the Western Juniper, an icon of Central Oregon. This tree is featured in the logo for Deschutes Land Trust. It is an evergreen with a short trunk and a dense, conical shape. They grow 25-40’ tall and their limbs hang so low they’re often close to the ground. Older Western Junipers may be twisted and gnarled with age.
You may also spot the Quaking Aspen, a small tree which has a slender main trunk and grows to a height of 40-80 feet. Quaking aspens get their name from the trembling and rustling of their leaves in the slightest breeze. Almost 200 species of birds and mammals like to use this tree.
If you find yourself near a stream and river, keep an eye out for the Black Cottonwood. When it matures in the spring, its cottony seeds disburse in the wind and may be mistaken for falling snow.
We would be remiss if we did not mention the tall, slender Western Larch, also called tamarack, even though it may look dead in the winter. In the spring, you’ll notice it springs to life, growing new needles. sometimes also referred to as.
Between November 1 and April 30, you’ll need a Sno-Park permit to gain access to these motorized and non-motorized dog-friendly winter trails. Pick one up at Pine Mountain Sports or Sunnyside Sports, grab a trail map and let the winter fun begin!