Paulina Plunge Mountain Bike Tour Bend

Paulina Plunge Mountain Bike Tour Bend

Central Oregon Travel – Bend Oregon

If you are looking for a great vacation spot, Central Oregon and specifically Bend Oregon and Sunriver Oregon will give you memories you will never forget.

Central Oregon and in particular Bend Oregon and Sunriver Oregon have some of the most pristine travel destinations anywhere in the country but most specifically in the Northwest.

If you are an outdoors type person, Central Oregon and the Bend and Sunriver Oregon areas are the place to travel to spend a vacation as the opportunities for enjoyment are endless. From the lakes to the mountains, to the rivers and the meadows, hiking, camping, river rafting, rock climbing, boating, fishing, kayaking, horseback riding and many other sports abound.

However, one of the most memorable experiences of my many years vacationing in Central Oregon in Sunriver or Bend has been participating in the Paulina Plunge – a downhill waterfall mountain bike tour. It is something you cannot forget.

Public Domain Wikicommons

Bend Oregon/Central Oregon – The Paulina Plunge

Years ago on a summer vacation to Sunriver Oregon here in beautiful Central Oregon where I now reside, we had a family reunion. We spent most of our time in Sunriver but also time in the Bend Oregon region. We also got to know Central Oregon on that trip more than we had ever gotten to know it before.

One of the most enjoyable things we did that summer was to sign up for the Paulina Plunge. This is a recreation company out of Bend Oregon who sets up the day trip. For our group of people, we signed up for a bus leaving out of Sunriver Oregon because that is where we were staying. However, if you were staying in Bend Oregon instead of Sunriver, you could always sign up for a tour from there. 

The Paulina Plunge is a downhill mountain biking tour that covers between 4 and 6 waterfalls depending on the runoff. The company supplies the bus to trek you to the forest (which is part of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument), the mountain bikes and helmets you will need, and they even supply a boxed lunch (fried chicken) if you request it for the tour.

You are picked up at the meeting place and then you ride the bus into the forest. This forest is part of the Deschutes National Forest – and part of the forest became a national monument in 1990. It is a geological wonder all by itself. The Newberry Crater actually is a 17 square mile caldera which is at the summit of a 500 square mile volcano (which is incidentally still active). The mountain bike tour takes place within the 50,000+ acres of the Newberry National Monument which is a beautiful combination of lakes, lava flows, forest and wildlife.

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The Mountain Bike Tour Itself

My first time, I was a little skeptical. I was concerned that perhaps the tour could be too strenuous but they advertise the tour as something that anyone from age 4 to 70 can do – if you are in halfway decent shape it should be mentioned!

You start at the highest waterfall and then you bike in roughly four 1-1/2 mile segments to each waterfall. Some of the time you will have a short hike in to the waterfall but others are right there after you finish your mountain biking run. The mountain biking is over rutted trails so it is a true mountain bike tour, but it never got so strenuous that it was in any way taxing. My legally blind son went on the tour as well – although he biffed once when he hit a sandy patch in the trail, he was completely unharmed and totally thrilled by the experience! (The tour – not the fall)

The days that we have gone it has been about 90-100 degrees and sunny. The climate of Central Oregon and Bend Oregon, Sunriver Oregon is termed steppe climate or high mountain desert. It is extremely dry and the summers are absolutely beautiful – no humidity and the bluest sky I have ever seen. By the time though that you have biked a few of the 1-1/2 mile parts of the trails and hiked in a few times, needless to say, you are getting warm.

We stopped by one of the waterfalls and we indulged in our prepared lunches. If you prefer, you can of course bring your own lunch – just remember to bring food if you have not ordered in advance because it is a rather long day. We left at 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning and came back about 4:00 or 4:30 in the afternoon. It was a very full and enchanting day!

There is much to see on the bike tour as you are going through ancient forests of the volcanic monument. The area is lush with vegetation up top but as you come lower in elevation, you experience the devastation of forest fire. Much of the forest and the volcanic moment is obviously made of volcanic rock – added to that the ash from the fire and at times, it felt like you were walking through layers and layers of silt.

Much of the fire damage that we saw was actually caused by a fire jumper in the 1990’s who was out of work and purposefully set the forest on fire trying to ‘stir up’ work. At the time the fire broke out, there was a mountain bike tour on the mountain and they had to be evacuated.

The guides are very knowledgeable and during the day, you learn much about the topography, the Native American heritage of the area, as well as so much fascinating geological information. All the while you are tooling through the forest from one beautiful waterfall to the next!

But….that is not the very best part!

The Waterfall Experience

The most magical thing about the Paulina Plunge Mountain Bike Tour is that you actually get to go into the waterfalls!

Again, I was a bit skeptical and thinking it could possibly be too dangerous. However, these particular falls were magnificent in beauty and tame in their presentation so as it turned out, it was one of the most wonderful experiences I had ever had. I did not come dressed for the day per se. I had on ‘wash and wear’ hiking shorts, a tube top and Teva sandals. I had not known about the swimming in the waterfalls part but on trekking around for hours and working up quite a sweat, I decided I would eventually dry off – and probably very quickly! (I did)

The thrill of actually swimming in a pool of fresh mountain runoff and then actually going UNDER a waterfall is spectacular! I only wish I had had a water camera so I could have taken a picture of it from behind the falls. Bob and I held hands and plunged under the falls only to come up behind the waterfall. I could have stayed there for a long, long time as it was just mesmerizing to be in a kind of cave behind all that force of the waterfall. It almost took your breath away it was so clean and so pure.

On exiting from under the waterfall, we held hands and as we went under the falls, we were caught in a bit of a riptide that shot us out from under the falls and we surfaced a little downstream in another pool. It was totally awesome!

But there’s more….because of the volcanic composition of this particular part of the Newberry Volcanic National Monument, there are 2 perfectly formed ‘natural’ water slides made from the volcanic rock that have been worn smooth by the continued waterfalls. It was hard to drag people away from the sheer delight of climbing up and sliding down the perfectly smooth water slides and to tell the truth, I have never seen adults act more like kids in my life! It was a delightful experience to coast down the natural water slides and plunge into the pool at the bottom.

After everyone was soaking wet and happily so, we finished up the tour and road the last little bit of the trails back to the bus. I don’t think I’ve been on a more enjoyable outdoor tour to be honest. It was just incredibly simple but breathtakingly beautiful. It was an experience that I will always remember and treasure. Our kids have been on it many more times than we have but they still go back as it is that impressive.

Summing It Up

If you’re looking for an adventure that is one-of-a-kind and something you’ll never forget, the Bend Oregon Paulina Plunge is your ticket.  It is a delightful way to spend family time together and enjoy nature, get exercise, and have a waterpark kind of experience! All as a gift from Mother Nature herself.

There is much to do and explore in this region I now call home – Central Oregon – but one of my all-time favorites will always be doing the Paulina Plunge. 

For other natural waterslides, visit this website.

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