This winter season hasn’t necessarily been the best for outdoor pursuits, but Steve and I have managed to go snowshoeing at Vista Butte Sno-Park twice this season. It’s literally a twenty minute drive, at most, from our house, it’s relatively easy and it has pretty decent views of Mt. Bachelor, South Sister and Broken Top. Honestly we like this trail because it is little used, so we can let the dogs run around and play in the snow without having to worry about them getting in the way of other snowshoers/skiers.
Distance: 4 miles roundtrip
Time: 3 hours or less
Season: mid-December through March
Dog Friendly: Well…if you go to the Deschutes Forest Service site they say dogs are restricted, but the trail is little used, so I don’t think there is a big deal…just don’t leave doggy landmines around for unsuspecting snowshoers/skiers.
Pros: Close to Bend, not much trail traffic, terrific views with little work
Cons: Shares a busy parking space on the side of the highway with snowmobilers, crosses two snowmobile tracks
Permit: Sno-Park Pass required Nov.1 to May 1
To get to the trailhead head west on Highway 46 for about 18 miles. The Vista Butte Sno-Park is on the right side of Hwy. 46 and is literally just a wide space in the highway directly before the turnoff for Sunriver (Hwy. 45). The parking area for Vista Butte will probably have a handful of snowmobile trailers, but don’t worry you only see/hear them in a couple of places on the trail.
For Steve and I this is a pretty easy snowshoe and I think most people in moderate shape will have an okay time with it. The trail gains around 700 ft over about 2 miles with the first quarter mile essentially completely flat. The trail gradually begins to gain elevation.
At about a half-mile in you will get a glimpse of your destination through the trees. And you’ll come to a junction with the lower loop trail. I’ve heard that the lower loop trail is more gradual, but we took the upper loop both times and it was beautiful, so I can’t tell you from experience. The trail does cross two snowmobile tracks, so be mindful and put your pups on leash, so no one gets hurt.
Cross the snowmobile tracks and stay on the Butte Trail. You’ll come to an area labeled Bruce’s Ballpark…I’m not sure what the story is behind that, but continue past it and head up the hill along the main trail. There are occasionally boot paths that take a short cut up to the top, but protect the plant life and stay as the trail….trust me it’s not much further. You will be stoked when you get to the top!!! You’ll be blessed with views of Bachelor, Broken Top and South Sister.
Return the way you came, or maybe check out the lower loop trail.