Top 5 Instagram-worthy spots in Central Oregon

Chris Smith | 09.28.21

If you’re looking to add some incredible shots to your Instagram, consider making a trip to Central Oregon. The area is full of photo-worthy places that can bring some real flair to your feed, from lush landscapes to rushing rivers and more. If you visit these top five scenic sites, you may just make your mark as an Instagram influencer and make some amazing memories along the way!

McKenzie Pass

The ancient lava fields that sit atop McKenzie Pass aren’t seen on your average postcard – but that’s exactly what makes them so post-worthy. The lava landscape is barren yet beautiful, its rocky surface resembling something closer to the moon than a Central Oregon landscape. The Three Sisters mountains present a bold backdrop as their glacial peaks soar into the skyline, offering an incredible shot for your Instagram feed. 

McKenzie Pass is located just 20 miles west of Sisters on McKenzie Highway (Highway 242). A downtown rental like our Sisters Home Lower would be the perfect spot for a short drive to McKenzie Pass!

Paulina Peak

At nearly 8,000 feet in elevation, the highest point of Newberry Volcano offers beautiful and broad vistas that span across most of Central Oregon’s mountains and meadows – and that’s on a cloudy day. When the sky is clear, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the Cascade Mountains that stretch well into California and Washington. Some of the more stunning scenes include two crater lakes, an obsidian lava flow, and the craggy walls of Newberry Caldera.

Visitors to Deschutes National Forest can reach Paulina Peak by car during the warmer months, but a scenic hike from Paulina Peak Trailhead will give you some stunning shots of placid lakes and conifer forests. 

The Metolius River

This magical river springs fully formed from the base of Black Butte Mountain before winding its way through the heart of Central Oregon. Every bend presents a beautiful photo-op, from fantastic foliage and fly fishermen in the fall to vibrant forests and pretty nature scenes in the spring and summer. You can even capture some stunning snowy shots during the winter (if you can brave the frigid waters). 

There are plenty of paths that wind near the Metolius River, and a few of them are right near Sisters. For an intriguing shot of the Metolius River Head, take the short, paved path near Camp Sherman in the Deschutes National Forest. You can even book one of our Metolius River cabins to stay in a scenic spot right on the shore! 

Sahalie Falls

Just south of Sisters on Highway 126, Sahalie Falls is a powerful plunge waterfall that cascades more than 100 feet down a naturally-formed lava ledge. The result is a wonderful white foam that pounds against the river below before rising into a rainbow-colored mist. A few feet downstream is Koosha Falls, a partnering plunge that’s a bit smaller but no less stunning. Both waterfalls are surrounded by miles of mossy evergreens, creating a picture that’s straight out of a Central Oregon fairytale. 

Sahalie and Koosha Falls can both be reached by the Waterfalls Loop Trail, an easy trek inside the Willamette National Forest that explores the east side of the McKenzie River. Observation areas keep you well away from the spray, but you may want to bring protective gear just in case. 

Smith Rock State Park

As one of the seven natural wonders of Oregon, Smith Rock State Park is sure to make the list of scenic spots. While the high desert landscape is Instagram-worthy in itself – think craggy cliffs, colorful rock formations, and stunning sunsets – it’s also a great spot for capturing amazing adventure shots. With the right gear, you could fill your feed with photos of you and your group rock climbing, walking a slackline, horseback riding, and more. 

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