Black Butte Ranch: home base for Central Oregon outdoor recreation

Every time we visit Central Oregon, we discover yet another family-friendly resort. While some resorts are best for golf vacations, and others ski or luxury vacations, Black Butte Ranch just may come out on top for all-around outdoor recreation amid family-friendly conveniences.

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Located just outside Sisters, Oregon (approximately 40 minutes from Bend), Black Butte Ranch is comprised primary of vacation homes and cabins, though there are some condos to be had. This large community is set on two golf courses, with a lovely lodge (housing dining), a rec building, an outdoor activity rental shop, renting bikes in summer and snowshoes and cross country skis in winter, and three pool and sport complexes. Bike paths traverse the entire property, and an on-site stable offers horseback riding in the summer months.

Without even leaving Black Butte Ranch, families can keep their days filled with outdoor activities ranging from bike riding to tennis, golf, swimming, and walking. (This may be ideal for families with young kids.) Off property, excellent mountain biking trails can be found in nearby Sisters in the Deschutes National Forest, as well as hiking trails, lake swimming and kayaking, whitewater rafting, and cave spelunking. Families can explore all of the above on their own, or use one of several tour operators in the region (our pick is Wanderlust Tours).

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While many Central Oregon resorts are adjacent to outdoor recreation, Black Butte offers the most in close proximity, outside the metro area of Bend. If you’re looking to be close to Bend and Mt. Bachelor, Black Butte is not the most convenient, but if you plan to spend full days in the Deschutes National Forest and have less need for an easy commute to Bend, this is the place!

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We visited in early winter, and while we brought our snowshoes, the necessary six inches of snow wasn’t yet on the ground to permit the sport on Black Butte property. Good thing Hoodoo Ski Area is only 13 miles away. When Hoodoo isn’t up and running (this resort does not make its own snow, and depends on Mother Nature), Mt. Bachelor is less than one hour away by car. We spent one day enjoying the pool and walking paths of the resort, and the other at Mt. Bachelor at our visit, with evening entertainment ranging from dinner and a movie in Sisters (more on that below) and a quiet evening in our vacation home.

Vacation Houses:

We stayed in a beautiful three-bedroom home in Black Butte Ranch that backed right up to national forest service land, allowing our boys plenty of room to play. Our home had a full kitchen, of course, as well as a full washer and dryer, lots of storage space for our skis (or golf clubs in summer), a private hot tub, a wide deck overlooking the forest, and a cozy fireplace. It served as the perfect home base for outdoor recreation, and when we wanted to stay ‘closer to home’, swimming and exercise facilities were a five minute drive away.

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Resort amenities:

There are no fewer than three recreation centers at Black Butte. The biggest is at Glaze Meadow, which includes tennis courts, a fitness facility (with exercise classes), a large outdoor pool and toddler splash pad area (open in summer), a large indoor pool with slide (open year-round), hot tubs, and steam room. The Black Butte spa is also located on-site. Also at Glaze Meadow is a large children’s playground with a fun rock climbing structure.

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The Black Butte Stables are open during the summer months, and at the main lodge area, summer offers bike rentals. A basketball court is located near the main lodge (as is a rec barn with small arcade). A small general store is also on-site, plus sports shops at Glaze Meadow and the golf clubhouses.

Dining:

We loved breakfast at the Black Butte Ranch Lodge dining room! Eat around 9 am, and you’ll be full until dinner! From blueberry pancakes to salmon and dill omelets, breakfast is served in the lodge dining room overlooking the lake for wonderful views in every season. The dining room is also open for lunch and dinner year-round. Tip: Call the dining room and order take-and-bake pizza, which can be picked up and baked in your vacation home. Pizzas are $11-15, large in size, and very convenient!

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During the summer months, several additional dining options exist at the golf clubhouses, and in winter, guests can opt between the lodge dining room and the Glaze Meadow Golf Shop. Families will most likely cook most of their own food in vacation home kitchens (grab groceries at the Ray’s in Sisters), but good family-friendly dining also exists off-property. Our picks: the dining room at The Lodge at Suttle Lake (10 minutes away) and Bronco Bill’s in Sisters (10 minutes in the other direction). If you head into Sisters for dinner, consider buying tickets to the Sisters Movie Housefor an unique movie experience. This intimate theater serves high-quailty snacks and even IPA brews and local wines.

Rates:

Nightly rates vary greatly at Black Butte Ranch (depending on the size of your vacation home or condo). Start by perusing Black Butte’s great package deals. We sampled the ’Pray for Snow’ package, which included lift tickets to Hoodoo, movie tickets to Sisters Movie House, and a Black Butte Ranch credit (which we used for pizza). Deals abound in every season.

Directions:

Black Butte Ranch is located on Highway 20 ten minutes outside of Sisters, Oregon. It is 45 minutes from Bend and 2 hours from Salem, Oregon.

As I disclose whenever applicable, we experienced Black Butte Ranch as guests of the resort, for the purpose of review. All opinions remain our own.

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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