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Why not explore this scenic and accessible gem in Central Oregon, our columnist writes.

CONTRIBUTED - Located just 15 minutes south of Bend, Benham Falls is an easy 1.5-mile hike near the Deschutes River.It's no secret Central Oregon is awash in natural beauty, majestic mountain peak views and exciting rushing rivers.

But, with so many choices how does one know what trail or hike to do that is easily accessible and walkable for all ages and fitness levels? The hike can't be too hard and won't take all day to do, and of course, it has to be along the river.

CONTRIBUTED - Lila ReedI have your solution.

Benham Falls is all those things and easily accessed just 15 minutes south of Bend. Most of us take a weekend or week vacation in Bend or Sunriver, so this little hike would be the perfect addition to get the whole gang outdoors enjoying nature together.

Benham Falls is actually a rapids portion of the Upper Deschutes River located between Bend and Sunriver. The eastside trailhead is easy to get to. Simply take a right at the Lava Lands Visitor Center off Highway 97, hang an immediate left and follow the road for about 3 miles to the trailhead. You will be required to have a Northwest Forest Pass or you can spring for the $5 day fee to park.

Once you enter the trail, it's an easy and picturesque 1.5-mile walk out and back. You will first cross over the Deschutes River via a footbridge and see a man-made log jam. This allows for lots of birds and fish to inhabit the log jam area, so bring the camera! You will notice some jagged rocks on the hillsides to the right of the trail across the river. This is the Lava Butte Lava Flow. It helped shape the path of the river.

CONTRIBUTED - The mostly wide, flat trail is shaded by tall Ponderosa pine trees, making the hike comfortable even during the warmest central Oregon late summer days.

Most of the wide and flat trail is shaded with tall Ponderosa pines, so you can feel comfortable hiking even in the heat of the day.

But, be aware mosquitos like this trail too, so bring some form of bug repellent to enjoy this hike unbitten.

Speaking of "unbitten," dogs are allowed on this trail but are required to be leashed, so if your significant other is canine, no problem.

As you work your way along the river, the pace of the water picks up, and a meander turns into a tumble of whitewater. You can scramble down to the water's edge and really get engulfed in the loud rush of the rapids and the cool mist that comes off the river.

CONTRIBUTED - A quick climb down to the water's edge brings you up close and personal with the thunder of the rapids in Benham Falls.The trail steepens just a bit, and there are big rocks that lead to a viewpoint at the most picturesque curve of the river.

This section of the trail has a stopping point at the west-end trailhead. There is a vault toilet there and parking. I turned around here and made my way back, having wandered just enough from daily activities and gotten my nature fix.

In any season, Benham Falls is a quick, easy jaunt that re-energizes the nature-lover in you.

Lila Reed is co-owner of Mt. Hood Athletic Club in Sandy. Reed is an explorer having visited nine countries and 33 U.S. states. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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