climb the natural formations at the Newberry
National Volcanic Monument in Deschutes National
Forest near Sunriver, Oregon.
Ore. — Say you are a large group of vacation-seekers.
Your ages span from toddler to senior. Your interests
range from walking to golfing to biking to reading to
sitting on a patio fringed with pine trees and enjoying a
nice glass of pinot noir.
of 20, your vacation is ready.
years my Seattle cousin Shainie tried to explain the lure
of Sunriver Resort, the vacation playground for the
Pacific Northwest that draws her branch of the family
was outdoorsy, she said. It was beautiful, set on a high
desert plateau in central Oregon in the sunny half of the
state. There was something for everyone to do.
it wasn’t till our entire extended family convened there
for a family reunion that I began to grasp the place’s
beauty, natural and otherwise.
is like a mix of an outdoorsy Disney World, a national
park and summer camp. It is a 3,300-acre resort and
residential community set amid forest and meadowlands
where you can go biking, play golf, indulge in a spa, take
the kids to a water park, visit at a nature center or
float down a real-life lazy river — all without leaving
you must leave the property. Sunriver is bordered by the
Deschutes River and some of the state’s most spectacular
scenery. You can drive to excellent hiking, whitewater
rafting, rock climbing and the renowned Cascade Lakes
go back to your lodging for that nice glass of pinot noir.
I mention the hot tub?
rental house had one. But we started our Sunriver stay by
piling into several cars and driving 16 miles to Newberry
National Volcanic Monument, where one of the largest
volcanoes in North America erupted 7,000 years ago. It
left behind vast fields of craggy, otherworldly lava
interspersed with the small yellow flowers of gray
rabbitbrush and yellow puff balls of sulfur buckwheat.
could have spent hours in the eerie landscape — a
Portland family we met urged us to stay till sundown, when
the lava would seem to turn black — but dinner awaited.
meant the communal experience of cooking together — we
divvied up dinner responsibilities each night — and
sitting at tables on one of our rental houses’ patios,
opening a few bottles of good Oregon wine and settling in
as the sky grew dark behind the pine trees.
dinner, several of us repaired to our house’s hot tub.
We sat in the steaming water, turned off the patio lights
and watched as the dark sky filled with twinkling
next day we took to the Sunriver bike path, 37 paved
miles, shared by cyclists and walkers, that meandered
through woods and the green grasses and blue water of a
wetland. My bird-watcher husband saw four lifers before we
stopped for ice cream at the Sunriver Lodge.
spent the afternoon wandering farther by bike, starting
with the Great Hall, a magnificent timber and stone
structure. Sunriver was built on the site of a World War
II combat engineer training facility, and this had been
the officers club.
pedaled past Fort Funnigan (a reproduction fort for kids
over 3), The Outpost (for arts and crafts, with Paint ‘n
Pinot for grown-ups) and the SHARC water park (there is a
separate Mavericks fitness club with a lap pool).
the outdoors beckoned. The Sunriver veterans took us on
one of their favorite hikes in the Three Sisters
Wilderness area: the Green Lakes trail along an icy river
with tumbling waterfalls.
we took another in which we walked through wildflowers to
the high alpine Todd Lake, where hundreds of tadpoles
squirmed in the shallows. The lake is home to the Western
toad and Cascades frog, threatened species protected by
day back at Sunriver, we took a float trip from the
marina. Some of us tried stand-up paddleboarding, which
let us feel the exhilaration of gliding atop the
glass-calm Deschutes River.
lest the dark sky opportunity go to waste, one night we
went to the Oregon Observatory at Sunriver. A friendly
crew of astronomers had set up telescopes below the
jaw-dropping sky and were showing people the Ring Nebula,
the Veil Nebula and the bright beam of Polaris.
of us capped the week off with a rock-climbing expedition
to Smith Rock State Park, 42 miles away, a jagged
outcropping of rock spires with some serious challenges.
stayed at Sunriver. Shainie’s daughter, Tracy, spent
hours reading on the patio during the vacation, proving
her mother’s point: There is something for everyone to
do here, and it doesn’t have to be the same thing.
have a list of things we never got to, in hopes we make it
THERE: You can fly into the Redmond Municipal Airport, 34
miles away, but if you don’t like flying through
turbulence in a small plane, fly into Portland, a pleasant
180-mile drive away.
THERE: The Sunriver Resort (sunriver-resort.com) offers
accommodations at vacation home rentals or in the Lodge
Village or River Lodge, priced from $99 to about $250 a
night. Vacation homes, owned by individuals, can also be
rented through Bennington Properties (benningtonproperties.com),
Discover Sunriver Vacation Rentals (discoversunriver.com);
Sunset Lodging (sunriverlodging .com); Vacation Rentals By
Owner (VRBO.com) and others. For a week’s stay in June,
the sites offer four-bedroom homes for $1,148 to $5,497.
THERE: Sunriver has its own restaurants and a village with
a grocery store. But for fine dining, head to Bend, 18
Sunriver gets 300 days of sunshine a year, but because it
is a high desert climate, summer temperatures can drop
from 80 degrees in the daytime to 30 at night.