Near Bend, Three All-Encompassing Communities Lure Vacationers

Find the getaway you're looking for in central Oregon.

By Danielle Centoni June 19, 2017


This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Seattle magazine.

The Bend area in central Oregon is renowned for its high desert beauty and preponderance of planned vacation communities—in particular, Sunriver Resort and Black Butte Ranch, the granddaddies that started it all, and the upscale upstart Brasada Ranch. These resorts have everything: hiking and biking trails, golf courses, horseback riding, pools, spas and restaurants. Follow our guide to find the best fit for you.

What’s Your Type? 

1. Are you a country mouse?
Brasada Ranch is small compared with Sunriver; and though Black Butte is similar in size to Sunriver, its emphasis is residences. Both Brasada and Black Butte have a quiet, secluded vibe. And unlike Sunriver’s facilities, to which the general public can buy a recreation pass, facilities at both Brasada and Black Butte are available only to residents and overnight guests. That means fewer crowds, even during peak summer months.

Enjoy a peaceful swim at Brasada Ranch
Image Credit: Brasada Ranch

…or a city mouse? 
Sprawling Sunriver feels less like a sleepy resort and more like a quaint town; it even has its own bookstore, grocery store and Starbucks. And Bend, with its long list of breweries, restaurants and nightlife, is only a 20-minute drive north. Brasada Ranch is 30 minutes from Bend, while the nearest town to Black Butte is the hamlet of Sisters, 15 minutes away.  

What Do You Want to Do?

2. Want to splash in a lake?
Black Butte Ranch’s Phalarope Lake, with its gorgeous mountain views, is a pretty spot for catch-and-release fly-fishing, stand-up paddleboarding and canoeing. 

…float on a river?
The Deschutes, gentle in this stretch, runs through Sunriver, and floating along in a tube, raft or kayak is one the resort’s most beloved activities. Anglers can fly-fish from its banks.

…or soak up the sagebrush?
Brasada Ranch has two ponds for catch-and-release fishing. But what it lacks in large bodies of water, it makes up for with serene views of rolling, sage-studded ranchland. 

What Vibe Do You Want?

3. Looking for luxe?
Only a little more than a decade old, LEED Gold–certified Brasada Ranch radiates an upscale ambiance popular with honeymooners. It’s the chic little black dress to Sunriver’s elastic-waistband jeans. But Black Butte is the happy medium. Built in the 1970s, it’s maturing gracefully, with recent multimillion-dollar improvements to its recreation complex and Glaze Meadow Golf Course.

…or bringing the kids?
Brasada Ranch welcomes little ones with its cool waterslide, but Sunriver and Black Butte offer the broadest range of activities. Sunriver is tops—more tennis courts, more parks and sports fields, a giant aquatic center, plus bumper cars, ice skating and snow tubing. However, activities here require additional fees, even for guests. Black Butte is nearly all inclusive and offers parents the chance to drop off the kids for day camp or a night out. 

Opt for a trail riding adventure at Sunriver 
Image Credit: Sunriver Resort

Sporty Type?

4. Are you a golf addict?
You truly can’t go wrong at any of the resorts, but Sunriver’s four courses include Crosswater, which was named one of the best in the nation by Golf Digest magazine and will host the PGA Professional Championship this June.

…or a ski bunny?
Both Sunriver and Black Butte offer miles of groomed cross-country trails, but the former is just 30 minutes from the top-ranked Mt. Bachelor ski resort. The latter is closest to the smaller (and cheaper) Hoodoo Ski Area. You can snowshoe around Brasada Ranch, but it’s about an hour’s drive from any ski resort and most sno-play areas.

Check out the rest of our 12 Best Northwest Vacations here.

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