Don’t Sleep on This Surprisngly Fun Central Oregon Town (hint…it’s not Bend)

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Most people headed to Central Oregon are making their way to Bend for its brewery scene, access to mountain trails for running, hiking, and biking, and to enjoy a day on the river. But what if I told you that there is a town only 25 minutes away that offers all of these with a fraction of the population and crowds of Bend.

That town is Sisters, Oregon and it is situated at the base of the cascade mountains where the Ponderosa forests start to transition to the high desert.

In this charming, western style town you’ll find outstanding restaurants, access to challenging yet uncrowded mountain bike trails, and one of the most famous fly fishing rivers in the western United States.

So next time you’re headed over the mountains don’t drive straight through Sisters on your way to Bend. Stop for a day or three. You might just find that you’ve found your new favorite Oregon destination.

A bronze sculpture of a ramping horse on one of the main streets of Sisters
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What To Do in Sisters

For such a small town (Sisters has a population of only 3,000 people), there is so much to do here. From lodges, spas, and window shopping in town to hitting the trails, rivers, and lakes within just a few miles of town, you can easily fill a week without ever driving more than 30 minutes.

Explore Downtown Sisters

Downtown Sisters is filled with fun shops that are all set behind western facades. Here, you’ll find gift shops selling alpaca wool items, wind sculptures, books, and more. Make sure to take a walk a block north and south of the main thoroughfare as you’ll get away from the traffic, and there are still plenty of wonderful shops to wander through along those streets.

Some of our favorites are Paulina Springs Books, Eurosports, and Sisters Coffee Company.

Mountain Bike Peterson Ridge

Peterson Ridge starts right in downtown Sisters and snakes up into the hills to the west of town.

The main trails are PRT East and PRT West, which run roughly parallel to each other. With numerous connectors between them, you can do the whole 16-mile loop or cut it short when you’re ready to head back into town.

Once the high country snow melts, you can embark on a truly adventurous ride where you connect the Peterson Ridge System with Trail 99, which will take you over to the Bend mountain bike trails.

Fly Fish the Metolius River

Fly fishing in the Metolius River
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The Met, as it’s locally known, is a clear and cold spring-fed river renowned for its large and incredibly difficult-to-catch bull and rainbow trout. Fly fishermen travel the country for a chance to walk along this stunningly beautiful landscape and fish its infamous holes.

No guiding is allowed on the river, so stop in at an area fly fishing shop to chat with the locals and get the details on when and where to go to increase your odds of success.

The Fly Fisher’s Place is located in Sisters, while the Camp Sherman General Store sits along the banks of the river and can offer some of the best local advice on fishing the Met.

Paddleboard on Suttle Lake

Boathouse closed for season on an autumn lake. Foliage reflects in calm water
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Just up the road from Sisters is Suttle Lake, a picturesque mountain lake with the rustic Suttle Lake Lodge anchoring the east shore. Here, you can rent paddleboards or kayaks or launch your own from the nearby day-use area.

Even if you don’t rent a kayak from the lodge, be sure to check out their historic boathouse, where you can grab a burger and a beer and take in the peaceful lake setting.

Watch out for the afternoon winds that whip down the mountains and across the lake. They can kick up waves, which makes paddling a whole lot more difficult!

Hike Black Butte

Black butte is an extinct volcano, 6,430 ft high and part of the Cascade Mountains. From the top, you have a view of the Three Sisters, Mt Jefferson...
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Black Butte stands tall over Sisters, and the trek to the summit is a challenging day hike.

Luckily the hike begins about halfway up the slope of the mountain so you aren’t stuck climbing its entire 3,000 feet of elevation.

From the top you’ll be treated to stunning views of the cascades and the historic fire lookout that was once used to watch for fires in the forests of Central Oregon.

Golf at Black Butte Ranch

Sunset and a golf course near Black Butte Ranch nar Sisters Oregon
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Black Butte Ranch sits to the west of town and is a popular vacation destination with world-class golf courses, biking trails, and fine-dining restaurants.

The top attractions here are definitely the two golf courses, Big Meadow and Glaze Meadow. These courses offer incredible views of the nearby mountains to go along with challenging yet rewarding play.

Where to Eat

The dining scene in Sisters has grown leaps and bounds over recent years, with new additions to the town considered some of the best in their respective cuisines in all of Central Oregon.

One of our favorite places to stop when we’re passing through town is The Barn. This food cart pod is anchored by a timber-framed barn that serves up local brews along with a brewpub menu.

The star food cart at The Barn is definitely Boone Dog Pizza, which serves the best wood-fired pizza in the area.

The Top of the Three Sisters Mountains turn Pink at Sunrise viewed from the Lake at Black Butte Ranch
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Just down the road from The Barn is the roadside burger stand Sno Cap Drive In. This local institution has lines out the door all summer and is well worth the wait for its delicious burgers and fresh berry milkshakes.

If you’re looking for a more elevated dining experience then head down to The Lodge Restaurant at Black Butte which was recently named one of the 50 most beautiful restaurants in America!

Where to Stay

Sisters and the surrounding area have no shortage of places to stay, from lodges right in town to private cabins nestled in the woods.

Five Pine Campus entrance illuminated at winter night
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Five Pines Lodge is the best option in town, offering both lodge and cabin options. Add in their relaxing spa and convenient location on the edge of downtown and it is a can’t miss.

If you’re looking for a more rustic stay, head over to the Suttle Lake Lodge. Here, you can choose from roomy guest houses to rustic cabins, all nestled amongst the pine and fir trees along the shores of Suttle Lake.

About the author
Derek Carlson
Pacific Northwest native, cross-country skier, hiker, mountain biker, wannabe fly fisherman, writer and owner of Roam the Northwest