2015 has been a great year for us here at Guaranty RV, and now that it’s almost over, we’re already looking ahead to the 2016 camping season. We’re lining up those bucket list RV trips that we want to get to while the price of gas is still low, and we’re starting to make our summer reservations at our favorite Oregon state and county parks so that we’re sure to get the best campsites. However, we haven’t forgotten that we still have a prime opportunity to get in one more winter RV trip and we’re planning on heading to one of our favorite winter destinations: Central Oregon. More specifically, we’re heading to Sisters and Bend in January and February, because this is the season when you can get the best winter fun activities.
From our Travel Center in Junction City, Sisters is about a 2-½ hour drive via Highway 126 and Highway 20 over the Santiam Pass. You may need chains to get over the Pass if there has been recent snow, but generally you can keep track of the weather and road conditions via the Oregon Department of Transportation’s TripCheck website. Remember, winter is not the time to take the scenic routes you might be tempted to explore in the summer; stick to the main highways. With a little planning and forethought, this is an easy drive except in the worst winter weather.
Where to Stay
It can be tricky to find great RV campgrounds in the winter because a lot of the state and county parks are closed for the season. One of the reasons that we like the Sisters/Bend area so much for winter RVing is because there are several good options even when the temperature drops below freezing and the snow starts to pile up.
If you’re interested in activities in the Sisters area, be sure to check out the Camp Sherman RV Park in Camp Sherman, Oregon, just 20 minutes from Sisters. This campground is beautifully situated on the Metolius River and is a perfect gateway for hiking, snowshoeing, day trips and more. Your pets are welcome here and there is also a convenient market on-site. They offer both full and partial hookup campsites that provide electricity, water and sewer hookups, free RV dump and more. To guarantee a campsite, you’ll need to make a reservation in advance. Call (541) 595-6514 or email [email protected]. Be sure to ask for your AARP, Disabled Veteran or AAA discount.
If you’re going to be in the Bend and Mt. Bachelor area, the Bend-Sunriver RV Campground is another good option for winter RVers, particularly if you’re looking for the perfect place to ski, snowboard, toboggan and/or snowshoe. Located on the Little Deschutes River in the 283-acre (114.5-hectares) Bend-Sunriver Camping Preserve, this campground is just minutes away from the world-class ski resort Mt. Bachelor. This campground is also the place to be if you’re a fishing enthusiast; there are rivers and lakes galore. The RV sites are a nice size and have large trees, but there are no sewer sites and limited 50 amp service; however, there are two dump stations on-site. Your pets are welcome and amenities include a clubhouse, restaurant, bathrooms with showers, a dog park and laundry facilities. This is a Thousand Trails campground, so if you are a member, you can make reservations through the Thousand Trails website. A few public campsites are also available and you can make reservations for these through RV on the Go.
If you’re serious about golf, you should also explore your options at Crooked River Ranch RV Park. This awesome campground has been called the “hidden jewel of Central Oregon” and is conveniently located near Crooked River Ranch’s 18-hole par 71 golf course, a course people have described as “player-friendly with teeth”, and home to the Central Oregon Winter Series (more about that later). Crooked River Ranch is located in Terrebonne, 45 minutes north of Bend and about the same distance northeast of Sisters. During the winter, you can get campsites with full hookups, including power and sewer, but they won’t have water available at the campsites until later in the year. They have 90 RV spaces with 30 and 50 amp hookups, high speed wireless internet, a laundry room, pay showers and more. Your pets are welcome with advance approval from the campground staff (some restrictions do apply). You can make reservations by calling 541-923-1441. Be sure to ask about their golf/RV packages.
What to Do in Sisters and Bend in January
If you love winter sports—even if you love to watch them, rather than participate—you’ll want to catch the Central Oregon USASA Series. Starting January 2, snowboarders and freeskiers of all ages will be at Mt. Bachelor trying to earn points to qualify for the USASA ( United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association) National Championships, and having a whole lot of fun while they’re at it. You can be on hand to watch slalom and giant slalom competitions, as well as boarder cross/skier cross and slope style competitions, ski races, obstacle courses and more. On Sunday, January 17, you’ll definitely want to watch the 10 Barrel Hella Big Air event, where you can see some of the industry’s top competitors battle to get the most air and the top position.
If you’d rather get back to nature or you’re looking forward to checking out Bend’s famous brewery scene, give the folks at Wanderlust Tours a call. Winter tours include guided snowshoeing and caving, as well as daily brewery, distillery, winery and cidery tours on the Bend Brew Bus. For a spectacular experience, participate in one of their Bonfire on the Snow Snowshoe Tours. They will guide you and your friends to a natural amphitheater in the forest where you can revel in the glow of a bonfire while enjoying hot drinks and tasty desserts. There will be a naturalist on hand to share interesting facts about the night sky, the forest and the wildlife.
If you love good music, then load up the RV and head to Sisters on January 28 for the Sisters Folk Festival 2016 Winter Concert Series. The winter concert series has been “bringing hot music to the cold season in Sisters” since 1995. This year’s “blues to bluegrass” event features the great Bumper Jacksons, Wood Brothers and opener Liz Vice, and Darlingside with opener Caitlin Canty, so you’ll be in for a special treat. You can purchase series or individual tickets here.
What to Do in Sisters and Bend in February
If you love golf, you’re going to love the Crooked River Ranch. They’re some of the folks responsible for the Central Oregon Winter Series—winter golf events that are open to any adult who has a current USGA handicap. This great event will give you the chance to stay competitive in your game and have the beauty of winter all around you at the same time. (Not to mention, the Crooked River Ranch Golf Course is home to one of the best holes in golf: the No. 5 Canyon hole.) Each event in the Winter Series consists of two-person teams playing a wide variety of formats, so there’s something for everyone. Tournaments are held on Fridays and you must register via email by noon on the previous Wednesday. Entry fees are payable onsite, prior to the 11 a.m. shotgun start. Click here for schedule, rosters and more.
Bend is the place to be February 12 – 14, 2016 because it’s party time in the snow with fire! This year’s Oregon WinterFest will feature an experiential fire arts area, a fire pit competition, the Metal Mulisha team doing death-defying stunts in the Old Mill District, live music on stage all weekend, an OMSI kids area, an arts and crafts marketplace, a wine walk, a hot cocoa run, great food and so much more! Like we said, it’s Oregon’s party of the winter. This is a not-to-be-missed good time! You can get tickets here.
For those of you who love nothing better than to curl up with a good book in front of the fire on a snowy day, plan to be in Bend February 25 for the latest presentation of the Author! Author! series. The series is in its fourth year and brings top American authors to Bend for a discussion of current works, literature and the writing process. This time you’ll get to bask in the wonder that is Lisa See: American writer and novelist, author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Shanghai Girls, China Dolls, Dreams of Joy, and other acclaimed bestsellers. Her work has received honorable mentions from the Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature. If you purchase Preferred Seating tickets, you’ll get to attend the private author reception. You can buy individual tickets here All proceeds benefit the Deschutes Public Library.
We think Bend and Sisters are the perfect places to truly appreciate winter in Oregon. Before you take off, be sure your RV is ready to take on the Santiam Pass give our service department a call if you need any help with that) and stop by our Travel Center for other items to create the perfect winter RV vacation. Contact us with any questions.
From our family to yours, Happy New Year 2016 and Happy RVing!
Photo: Matt Kern