Since it only officially became a town in 2006, not a lot of people have extensive knowledge about the town of La Pine. And that’s the perfect reason to spend some time here. La Pine is a bit undiscovered, a bit of an up and comer. That’s all part of its charm.
Stretching for 30 miles north and south along Highway 97, La Pine, Oregon is a tight-knit community of around 1,600 people surrounded by tall pines. Populated by cowboys, loggers, retirees and self-professed regular down-home folks, La Pine is more of a bottomless cup of coffee than an $8 siphon-pressed, free trade Americano kind of town. But that doesn’t mean these people don’t know how to party. Nearly every weekend of the year there are community events, ranging from a legit music and arts festival with a 20-band lineup, to an amazing 4th of July celebration and rodeo, to a humble Rhubarb Festival. It seems like no matter when visitors show up, the town is getting together to support or celebrate something. It’s no wonder Cycle Oregon is already on our fourth return visit to La Pine. It’s the hospitality and hard work of the Chamber of Commerce, La Pine Parks and Rec, the La Pine High Hawks, and the community in general that keeps us coming back again and again.
The landscape and climate of La Pine are quintessential high desert, with mostly dry, sunny days and crisp, cool nights. And since the town sits at 4,235 feet of elevation, they get a respectable amount of the white stuff each winter.
Even though La Pine is firmly situated in the high desert, that doesn’t mean they don’t have water. This is a great place for the amphibious and those with a strong affinity for water. The Little Deschutes River undulates through town providing miles and miles of banks, eddies and pocket water to explore, float or prospect with a trout line. And Wickiup Reservoir, the second largest reservoir in Oregon and largest of the Cascade Lakes, boasting famous monstrous Brown Trout, is less than an hour’s drive away. And as for staying closer to home, the Deschutes National Forest that surrounds the La Pine area has over 158 lakes and reservoirs, 100+ campgrounds and over 240 miles of streams. Water, water, everywhere indeed.
But what about dry land activities? Well, they’ve got them too. A short distance north of town lies La Pine State Park with 15 miles of some of the most beautiful singletrack you will ever pedal, hike or mosey on horseback. And nearby Newberry National Volcanic monument is a 500-square mile geographic smorgasbord of lava flows, lava tubes, waterfalls, cinder cones, basalt flows, and hot springs. Mountain biking the rim on Newberry Crater Trail is an epic other-worldly ride that every cyclist should make a mental note of. And for those with access to a car, a particularly worthwhile drive across Newberry’s 17-square mile caldera to the top of Lava Butte yields spectacular vistas of Mt. Bachelor, The Three Sisters, Three Finger Jack, Broken Top and Mt. Jefferson.
Speaking of drives, here’s one 3-hour tour that’s sure to please. La Pine is the hub of the Newberry Country Trail, a boot-shaped route connecting the cities of Sunriver, La Pine, Gilchrist, Crescent, Fort Rock, Christmas Valley and Silver Lake. From La Pine, a half hour’s drive in any direction results in every kind of landscape and activity imaginable, no matter the season. There are literally too many activities to list. Just load all the gear you own into the car, fill up the tank, and go. Adventure awaits!
If our stay here feels much too short, then a return trip is definitely in order. The more time you spend in La Pine, the more you find to see. That’s when you’ll come to appreciate that it’s not just some town off 97. It’s a town off 97 in close proximity to all kinds of outdoorsy adventures smack dab in the middle of some of Oregon’s most amazing country. And that’s our kind of town.