Dog-Friendly Winter Sports Trails in Central Oregon
Winter Fun with Dogs in Central Oregon
Pet-friendly is becoming the catchword for many activities throughout the world, including the winter sports scene.
Over half of Central Oregon households have at least one dog. In the United States, 25% of residents who snowshoe or cross-country ski do so with their dog or dogs. In Central Oregon, that figure climbs to 33%. That means that roughly one-third of the population here participates in winter sports with their dogs!
Perhaps because of the topography of this great area of the country and the many recreational possibilities, many Central Oregonians including dog owners participate in winter sports like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and back-country skiing. Many dog enthusiasts also participate in sledding and skijoring (cross-country skiing with a harnessed dog or dogs pulling you).
It may seem a simple thing then to just pack up your dog or dogs and head out to the trails. But that's only partly true. In Central Oregon, there are restrictions on where and how you can participate in winter sports with man's best friend.
Let's take a look at some of the best places to go and some of the etiquette involved when participating with your dog at pet friendly winter sports trails in Central Oregon.
The pictures and first video are a capture of the trip we took last winter at Wanoga Sno-Park, snowshoeing with our daughter and son-in-law and two malamutes, Griffin and Denaya. I can only describe it in one word—fantastic!
Snowshoeing With MalamutesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Tips for Taking Dogs on Winter Sports Trails
Enjoy your outings on beautiful Central Oregon's pet friendly winter sports trails and while you're there, just remember these simple rules:
- Always make sure the trails that you plan to use are designated as pet-friendly trails.
- If trails are new to you, make sure you have a map and that you’re on the correct trail.
- Respect others on the trail and make sure your pet is always under control.
- Take extra precautions dependent upon weather, terrain and time of day.
- Pack out what you take in—including dog refuse.
- Most of all, enjoy the great outdoors and create a positive experience for yourself and your pet!
On the TrailClick thumbnail to view full-size
General Rules for Dogs on Winter Sports Trails in Central Oregon
Dogs must be physically restrained (on leash or harness) or under voice control at all times.
- Area and trails south of Cascade Lakes Highway (except Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort slopes and trails) - no permit required.
- This includes Edison and Wanoga Sno-Parks and trail systems - no permit required.
- This also includes Skyliner Sno-Park and trail system - no permit required.
- No dog restrictions on winter trails in Santiam Pass, the Sisters Ranger District or the Deschutes National Forest.
- Willamette National Forest welcomes dogs but advises you to observe proper "etiquette."
Dog-Friendly Winter Trails in Central Oregon Sno-Parks
Here are some general area descriptions about Oregon Sno-Park trails open to dogs participating in winter sports. "Maps" means which map to use for that Sno-Park; there is a list of maps below. Here's the state brochure on Sno-Parks (PDF File). Below is a Google Map showing locations.
Ray Benson Sno-Park
Highway 20 – Hoodoo turn-off
Trail Types: Machine-groomed snowmobile roads, skier-tracked Nordic trails
Maps: Sisters District map, Santiam map
Good Trails: Choose by distance – snowmobile roads are 3.5, 6, 9 and 12 miles
Terrain: Gentle ups and downs
Alerts: Loose dogs and sled teams
Highway 20 – West of Sisters
Trail Types: Machine groomed snowmobile road and trails, skier tracked Nordic trails
Maps: Sisters District map, Santiam map
Good Trails: Main road groomed – connects with Ray Benson Trail. Splits off to lesser groomed roads with more rolling terrain.
Terrain: Gentle ups and downs and rolling
Alerts: Quieter than Ray Benson – more skiers, less snowmobiles
McKenzie Pass Area
Highway 242 – Junction at west end of Sisters
Trail Types: Machine groomed snowmobile roads, skier tracked Nordic trails
Maps: Moon Country map, Sisters District map
Good Trails: Not highly recommended (harder)
Terrain: Can lack snow; wind can make snow drifts slanted or banked
Points: Great views! Meets up with Cross District Trail that connects with Santiam Recreation Area (11.8 miles), Three Creek Area and Dutchman Flat Area (which has some restrictions for dogs)
Upper Three Creek Lake Sno-Park
USFS 16 from Sisters
Trail Types: Machine-groomed snowmobile road, skier tracked Nordic trails
Maps: Three Creek Lake Nordic Trails, Moon Country map, Sisters District map, Santiam map
Good Trails: Main road goes 5 miles up moderate grade. This accesses Cross District Trail (17 miles one way to Dutchman Flat).
Terrain: For more experienced Nordic skiers – more challenging
Alerts: Be sure to have your map! Relatively light use. Trails are intermediate to advanced but hard to find.
Tumalo Falls Road from Galveston Street in Bend
Trail Types: City of Bend snow-cat packed and skier tracked Nordic trails
Maps: Skyliner Sno-Park area Nordic ski trails (USFS)
Good Trails: Tumalo Falls Road to picnic area and back – 5 mile trip
Terrain: Gentle – rough pack grooming on trail.
Alerts: Lower elevation, so check snow pack. Lots of dogs, many off leash.
Dutchman Flat Sno-Park
Century Drive (USFS 46)
Trail Types: Machine groomed snowmobile roads
Note: Controlled working dogs in harness permitted on snowmobile roads only – no dogs permitted on Nordic trails. Tie-ups for 6 dogs available at Dutchman Sno-Park.
Maps: Moon Country map – Dutchman Flat Area Nordic Ski Trails
- Century Drive to Todd Lake (5 miles – intermediate)
- Trails 5 to 8 (Moon Country map)
- To Ball Butte and back (approximately 7 miles – advanced)
- Trails 7 to 8 (Moon Country map) around Tumalo Mountain approximately 10 miles (advanced)
- Trails 5 to 6 to 7 (Moon Country map)
Terrain: More snow – higher elevation – nice view of Sisters
Alerts: Congested on weekends and holidays, limited parking, and lots of snowmobiles—watch on blind turns
Century Drive (USFS 46)
Trail Types: Machine-groomed snowmobile roads and trails
Maps: Moon Country map
- Trail 5 out and back
- Trails 3 to 2 – short loop back to Wanoga Sno-Park
- Trails 4 to 25 to 5 – makes 5 mile loop
- Trail 5 is mostly flat and gentle
- Trails 3 to 2 – mostly up, then mostly down
- Trails 4 to 25 to 5 – gentle terrain
Alerts: Closest to Bend, with a snowmobile rental operation in parking area. Heavy snowmobile use especially on weekends and holidays, so use caution here.
Lower Edison Sno-Park
Trail Types: Machine-groomed snowmobile road, skier tracked Nordic trails. Nordic trails are optioned for single-track skijoring.
Maps: Moon Country map, Edison area Nordic ski trails (3SFS)
- Main road (Trail 2 on Moon Country map) – distance goes as far as you can
- Pondo Loop (3.5 miles) – intermediate
- Easy Tie (0.9 miles) – easy
Terrain: Gentle – not as heavily used as other Sno-Parks
Alerts: Great practice area. Some loose dogs. Some break-ins. Upper Edison trails are steep, twisty and narrow with lots of loose dogs.
Newberry National Volcanic Monument
Trail Types: Machine groomed snowmobile roads/trails, skier tracked Nordic
Maps: Newberry National Volcanic Monument map “Newberry Crater Area Nordic Ski Trails”
Good Trails: Main road from 10-mile Snow-Park (Trail #1 on monument map)
Terrain: Well groomed, wide, 3 miles one-way to Paulina Lake
Alerts: Snowmobile rental operation in parking lot, best avoided on busy weekends and holidays. Stick to wider snowmobile roads for safety.
Walt Haring Sno-Park
South Highway 97 – Chemult
Trail Types: Machine-groomed snowmobile roads and trails
Maps: Walt Haring Sno-Park Trails
Good Trails: Any and all
Terrain: Favorite training area and running area for dogs in the area
Getting Maps for Winter Sports Trails
Volunteers from snowmobile clubs usually do all the grooming on roads once or twice per week.
- Moon Country & Sisters Sno-Go-Fers Snowmobile Club Man (hereafter called "Moon Country Map") Available at local snowmobile businesses and USFS offices
- Winter Ski Trail Guide - A packet of Nordic trails maps that includes Dutchman, Edison, Skyliner, and Newberry Crater. Available at USFS offices in Bend and Sisters.
- Three Creek Lake Nordic Trails - Available from Sisters Ranger Station
- Sisters District Nordic Ski & Snowmobile Trails - Covers Three Creek Lake, McKenzie Pass, Ray Benson, and Corbett. Not highly detailed. Available from Sisters Ranger Station.
- Santiam Pass Trail Map Groomed Trails (Oregon State Snowmobile Association, 1-888-567-7669) Covers Ray Benson and Corbett; includes trail names and #5 available from Sisters Ranger Station.
- Newberry National Volcanic Monument - Available at local snowmobile businesses or USFS offices
- Walt Haring Sno-Park Trail map Available from Chemult Ranger Station
Also check out TripCheck - Oregon Department of Transportation for more information on individual sno-parks.
More on the TrailClick thumbnail to view full-size
After Your Trip
Afterward, stop by a pet-friendly restaurant or pub in Bend or its outlying cities for a quick bite or just a warm-up!
Winter Sports Trail Pet Etiquette
As in anything else, there are rules and principles you should be aware of if participating in winter sports on the trails. These rules apply no matter what sport you are doing or where you travel to so it's simple to remember them and always be prepared!
Make sure that you understand your dog's behavior as best you can before taking him or her to participate in winter sports on public trails. Caution is the key to preventing the problems below.
- Collisions with sledders, snowmobiles or skiers. Be aware of where you and others are on the trails. When accidents happen, be prepared to call for help or get back to safety. Cell phones are an important part of any excursion but having coverage is the most important element!
- Aggressive behavior towards humans or other dogs on the trails. Understand your particular dog's behaviors and don't expose him or her to unusual situations or situations you know could be a 'bad mix.'
- Dog fights. If your dog reacts to another dog, don't force the issue and try to separate them as much as possible. Sometimes an aggressive dog can provoke an otherwise docile dog into aggression. Knowing your dog's temperament and how he or she reacts to stress is important before venturing out on the trails.
- Getting lost. Make sure you know the trail. Have a map or travel with other people and dogs. Carry your cell phone helps but make sure you have coverage. Also make sure someone knows when you are going out before you hit the trails. Always try and come back before dark unless you know the trails well and are planning on night trail work.
Take Care of Your Dog on the Trail
- Don't push a dog beyond its limits. If the dog is just starting out doing winter sports, don't push too hard.
- Deep snow fatigues a dog just like it fatigues a human.
- Dogs can easily become dehydrated; always carry water.
- In hard-pack snow conditions, check your dog's paws frequently and carry dog booties just in case. Hard snow can cut into a dog's paw and cause an injury you don't want.
- Keep to the right, and train your dogs to do the same, when passing other people, dog teams or skiers.
- If a team of dogs is approaching, get off the trail to the right, if you can, and then plant yourself between your dog or dogs and the team passing. This reduces the chances of dog fights remarkably. Give the dog team passing some space and then set out.
- Dogs should always be under control and close by: that means 15 feet away from you, at most. Under control means they come when you call. Personally, I don't ever let my dogs off lead on the trails because they are malamutes and they could simply disappear if they were curious about an animal. I don't want to take the chance of losing them in unfamiliar territory!
- Take frequent breaks, and make sure that you bring a few snacks and water for both the human exerciser and the canine!
- Never go out on trails in extremely bad weather or too late in the day. This is a setup for disaster and getting caught by the elements.
- If you do go out at night or in dark weather, sew reflective tape onto your dog harnesses and your gear, and even consider a headlamp, especially for nighttime trail work.
- Leaving dog poop behind is never appropriate. It breeds germs such as Parvo which can cause illness in other dogs. If your dog does his business on the trails, the politically correct thing to do is pick it up—EVERY time—and dispose of it properly. People who leave dog poop on roads and on trails ruin it for everyone else with a pet because that is the thing that most non-pet friendly establishments and activities remember about people with pets - that they don't clean up after them. I don't leave poop behind, any more than if this was a child I was taking somewhere. I know it sounds a bit goofy, but it's just common courtesy not to leave something offensive behind for someone else to clean up or step in, or another animal to mess with later on. Be polite—pick it up and cart it out!
Want to Learn Winter Trail Sports for Dogs?
Now let’s say you’re excited – all this talk about skijoring, sledding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing has you saying "Let’s go"!
There are of course skills involved in mushing dogs – whether it's urban mushing or working on snow. Make sure that you have trained yourself and your dogs first and know how to control your dogs. Second, make sure you know the proper etiquette for the trails.
But what if you don’t know and you want to learn? If you happen to be in Central Oregon, here’s the perfect solution for you! Call Karen at Tumnatki Siberians, a topnotch kennel for Siberian huskies here in Prineville and your Central Oregon mushing headquarters.
Karen raises AKC racing Siberian huskies. Her team travels to races throughout the west, competing primarily in all-breed races. She runs 4-, 6-, and 8-dog sprints as well as 6- to 8-dog mid-distance races. She really knows her stuff and is an excellent teacher.
With a little help from Karen and her friend Jane, you can be off and mushing in no time. Tumnatki Siberians offers group outings for urban mushers and classes in mushing techniques. These techniques apply for scootering, skijoring, sledding, or snowshoeing - basically any type of mushing activity that involves dogs pulling.
The kennel also can set you up with mushing products from scooters and sleds to harnesses and lines.
Better yet, attend one of the workshops on mushing or a dog outing. Check out her website for more information on upcoming events.
The Cascade Sled Dog Club holds a yearly pull training clinic, usually the 3rd or 4th week in September in Portland, OR. This is where it all starts.
Why Pet-Friendly Trails Are Good for Us and the Economy
Good for Well-Being
Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are great aerobic exercise. You can burn as much as 600 calories per hour cross-country skiing, while using most major muscle groups at the same time.
The added benefit of exercising Fido is icing on the cake, but substantial. Most dogs that participate in winter sports or other "working' behavior" are healthier for the effort and more content than dogs who are left to their own devices and not properly exercised.
And winter sports are also mentally stimulating and encourage socialization—both for the human and for the pet!
Good for Tourism
That establishments or activities be pet-friendly is becoming an important point for many pet owners. Pet owners are much more likely to rent a house or room to go on vacation, or dine out somewhere, if they can take their pets. The same goes for dining out.
Pet-friendly establishments tend to be doing better and better while some of the places that refuse animals are seeing a reduction in business. People do not want to spend the money to kennel their pets as it gets expensive, and they know how frustrated their pets get when they are left alone or left in someone else's care.
People seem to be more attached to their pets as well these days and want to train them to be sociable and capable of interacting in public places. If a pet is well-mannered and well-trained, I say go for it! I applaud and am a regular customer of establishments that allow me to bring my dogs with me—because my dogs are well-mannered and well-behaved. I don't frequent non-pet-friendly establishments unless I have no other choice.
DogPAC.org Lobbies for Pet Friendliness
Check out dogpac.org if you are in the Central Oregon area and want more pet-friendly trails and parks in the future. This group is working diligently to bring our sno-parks and trail systems into the here and now when it comes to dog access.
The Bend/Central Oregon area is well known for its pet friendliness, but there is a heated debate about opening up more areas or creating pet-friendly only areas for winter sports with dogs. Many areas across the country have the best of both worlds, with trails for people only and trails that are all pet friendly for winter sports and year round.
DogPAC has been instrumental in increasing the number of off-leash areas in Bend (from 1 to 7) and they continue to fight for more pet-friendly areas in terms of hiking and winter sports trails in the area.
Check out their website and if you feel so inclined, you can support them simply by emailing the Forest Service and making your feelings known on the subject – pro or con!
Pet-Friendly Winter Sports Opportunities Elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest
To get an idea of other parts of the Pacific Northwest and their pet-friendly winter sports trail policies, here are some facts:
- Sun Valley lists their pet-friendly opportunities in the getaway guide to attract visitors
- Local parks and recreation areas in Sun Valley maintain trails and welcome pets, selling 'passes' - to the tune of at least a thousand or so per year.
- Sun Valley has 70 km of groomed dog-friendly trails and numerous ungroomed ski and snowshoe trails.
- Methow Valley encourages you to bring your dog because they boast 56 km of dog-friendly ski trails.
- Jug Mountain, in McCall, Idaho, operates a ski ranch which is open to the public and includes dogs.
- Also in McCall, Idaho, many trail systems are dog-friendly: at Tamarack Resort, Jug Mountain Ranch, Little Bear Basin, and The Activity Barn.
- No restrictions are imposed on the trails in Diamond Lake Ranger District of the Umpqua National Forest.
- Mt. Hood has restrictions on some groomed trails but most winter trails allow dogs.