Trail of the Whispering Pines is an interpretive botanical trail highlighting high desert plants in Newberry National Volcanic Monument. This short and level paved path covers just a quarter mile. Trail of the Whispering Pines can easily be explored as a 0.4-mile walk beginning and ending at Lava Lands Visitor Center. This short hike can be connected to Trail of the Molten Land, which is even more impressive, for a 1.6-mile outing.
Walk out the back of Lava Lands Visitor Center and take the paved trail on the left, which heads west-northwest perpendicular to the parking area on the southwest side of the visitor center. You will soon find a gray painted wooden sign marking the start of Trail of the Whispering Pines.
Before you proceed up the trail, grab an interpretive guide with photos and descriptions of eight different high desert plants. These entries coincide with numbered markers placed along the trail next to examples of ponderosa pines, snowbrush, was currant, western serviceberry, lodgepole pines, bitterbrush, Greenleaf Manzanita, and pine drops. Trail of the Whispering Pines takes a U-shaped route through pines and brush bordering the basaltic mass of Lava Butte Lava Flow. Come to the first marker and read over the entry for ponderosa pines, which have needles in bundles of three, egg-shaped cones, and bark that looks like a jigsaw puzzle. Continue up the trail through a forest of spaced out pines and several types of brush. Read the entry for each marker that you pass, like the entry for bitterbrush:
This plant is often confused with sagebrush, but lacks the strong aroma. Bitterbrush is often found at the edge of forests on warm, dry sites. Bitterbrush is an important source of food during the winter for deer, antelope, and elk.
Round a bend in the trail and find a viewpoint that looks out over the lava flow toward Mount Bachelor and the Cascade Mountains to the west. Trail of the Whispering Pines Viewpoint is also a good spot to gaze north toward Lava Butte, the cinder cone that sourced Lava Butte Lava Flow. Sit on a bench to take in the surroundings.
Trail of the Whispering Pines Viewpoint is also the appropriate place to read the seventh entry, which is for Greenleaf Manzanita, an evergreen shrub that does well in arid northwestern climates. Manzanitas have identifiable red bark and oval leaves. Continue past the viewpoint to find the marker for the final entry in the guide, which is for a unique plant called pine drops:
This unmistakable plant is one of the most unique forms of plant life in the Deschutes National Forest. Unlike most plants, pine drops do not have green leaves and don’t use chlorophyll to produce energy. Instead, this plant lives off of dead and decaying organic material from a well-developed layer of forest litter, much like a fungus.
The educational portion of the hike comes to an end as Trail of the Whispering Pines runs up alongside Sun-Lava Trail, which heads south toward Sunriver. Stay to the left to continue on Trail of the Whispering Pines. Double back in the direction you came from. The trail ends in another hundred yards when it meets the sidewalk that runs along the parking area southwest of Lava Lands Visitor Center. You can talk this sidewalk back to the visitor center or simply find where your vehicle is parked. Oddly, there is not a paved path back to the start of Trail of the Whispering Pines, but you can easily cut through the open pine forest if you wish to do so.
Lava Lands Visitor Center is open from the May through October. Trails remain open in months when the visitor center is closed. A day use fee is charged during the season when the visitor center is open. The fee is $5 per vehicle (as of 2016). A Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful public lands pass can be used in place of the day use fee. The parking area southwest of Lava Lands Visitor Center remains open year-round and is open in the morning and evening even when the main entrance is closed. Bikes are allowed on Trail of the Whispering Pines but are forbidden on Trail of the Molten Land. Dogs are welcome on leashes. No permit is required for Trail of the Whispering Pines, so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: From Bend, travel south on US 97 for 11 miles. Take the Crawford Road exit, following a sign for Lava Lands Visitor Center and Benham Falls Trailhead. At the end of the offramp, come to an intersection and turn right to reach the entrance gate by Lava Lands Visitor Center. If that entrance is closed, drive another tenth of a mile down Crawford Road and turn right into the always-open parking area on the southwest side of Lava Lands Visitor Center.
From Sunriver, take US 97 north to exit 151. At the bottom of the offramp, turn right on Cottonwood Road and drive 2 miles to Crawford Road. Turn right for the main entrance or turn right for the off-hours parking.
Trailhead address: 58201 South Highway 97, Bend, OR 97707
Trailhead coordinates: 43.9093, -121.3576 (43° 54′ 33.48″N 121° 21′ 27.36″W)
You may also view a regional map of surrounding Oregon trails and campgrounds.
|Trail of the Molten Land |
This 1.1-mile long paved partial loop cuts through Lava Butte Lave Flow and is packed with information and views.
|Lava Butte |
This hike explores a cinder cone with a fire lookout tower and a crater-circling trail that offer panoramic views over Lava Butte Lava Flow and the Cascade Mountains.
|Lava River Cave |
This underground hike explores a lava tube south of Bend that is filled with fascinating volcanic features.
|Deschutes River Trail to Benham Falls |
This 1.9-mile hike follows a leisurely trail along the Deschutes River to aggressive cascades called Benham Falls where the river churns and tumbles through a gap between cliffs.
|Tumalo Falls |
See Bend's best waterfall on a short walk to a downstream viewpoint or a half-mile round trip hike to an overlook by the top of the falls.
|Tumalo Falls Loop |
This 7.4-mile circuit ventures above Tumalo Falls and explores numerous other waterfalls and cascades on Tumalo Creek, combining North Fork Trail, Swampy Lakes Trail, and Bridge Creek Trail.
|Pilot Butte |
This 1.8-mile hike ventures up the dominant landmark in Bend to offer sweeping views of the majestic surroundings.
|Shevlin Loop Trail |
This 4.75-mile tour of Shevlin Park just a few miles east of Bend explores pine forests on both sides of Tumalo Creek.
|Archie Briggs Canyon Trail |
This 1.25-mile hike descends a ravine to clifftop views over a dramatic canyon on the Deschutes River.
|More trails in Oregon |
Explore other hikes in Central Oregon, the Columbia River Gorge, and elsewhere.