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Sisters, Oregon
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Bridge at Sisters City ParkWhat’s to Love: I lived in Durango, Colorado for almost 6 years. The year I moved to town, it was voted by Outside Magazine as one of the best “outdoor towns” in the USA. While there, I backpacked, climbed mountains, mountain biked, rock climbed, backcountry skied, and had an incredible time being outside. When I left, I never thought I’d see another town that compares to Durango in terms of outdoor recreation. Yes, Hood River is very close, but water sports are the main attraction in Hood River. Sisters, Oregon is far more comparable to a town like Durango in so many ways. And, Sisters does it all with less ego, pretense and vanity than most outdoor towns.

Within 45 minutes of downtown Sisters, feast your eyes on one of the premiere rock climbing destinations in the world – Smith Rock State Park (read about climbing at Smith Rock with kids). If mountain biking is your thing, check-out the Sisters Community Trail System that surrounds the town and connects to larger trail systems in state and national forest land, or take a quick (22 mile drive) over to the town of Bend, Oregon – a town that has enough outdoor recreation to keep you busy for years.

Mountain Biking Sisters' Community TrailsWhen constructing the Sisters Community Trail System, the town of Sisters was smart to designate the trails as “multi-use.” Essentially, this means that the trails are used by hikers, bikers, trail runners, and horseback riders. My son and I did about 5 miles of mountain biking on sweet, single-track trails. As we passed other users, one thing was clearly evident – these trails foster a strong sense of community, exercise, love of the outdoors, and ol’ fashion friendliness. We stopped several times to chat with people, and they were all quick to give advice and/or tips.

Perhaps, you might feel like doing something a bit more adventurous like mountaineering, backpacking, downhill (please read my article on Hoodoo Ski Area) and/or backcountry skiing. If so, the town of Sisters has you covered with several peaks within striking distance (e.g., South Sister, Middle Sister, North Sister, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and Three Fingered Jack). Of course, there are many hikes all over the area around the Black Butte cinder cone that dominates the landscape outside Sisters.

I wish I could give you more details concerning specific adventures in and around town. Unfortunately, our time in Sisters, Oregon was limited and there is just so much to do. If you really want to get to know the town, plan on setting up base right near downtown. We recommend “The Five Pine Lodge,” which was, without a doubt, one of the nicest lodging facilities at which we’ve ever stayed. See “Insider Info” below for more information about the Five Pine and other lodging options outside Sisters. Here is a brief slide show of our visit to Sisters.

Caveats: Sisters is a small town, so don’t expect big town amenities or big-box-stores. Even though it’s close to the mountains, you’re still in the central Oregon desert. The summers can be extremely hot, dry and dusty. Basically, be prepared for huge shifts in weather patterns during the summer AND winter months.

Website: Sisters Chamber of Commerce; Sisters Community Trails; The Five Pine Lodge; Sisters Movie House; Three Creeks Brewing

Distance from Portland: 168 miles heading east out of Albany153 miles heading southeast out of Salem. I’ve traveled both routes, and they are both about the same in terms of time in the car.

Recommended Ages: Although very upscale in appearance and amenities, The Five Pine Lodge is very accommodating to families with kids. In my opinion, the ideal age is 5 and up – including teens! As far as a family vacation spot, Sisters is a great spot for the whole family, especially adventurous/outdoorsy teens.

Parental Stress Factor: Sisters is a very laid back town with friendly store/business owners. The only stress you’ll be feeling is from kid/family issues. This is definitely a great place for some rest and relaxation.

Physical Difficulty: The hiking/biking on the community trails is mostly flat around town. Of course, hikes in the surrounding foothills would be more of a challenge. Again, Sisters offers something for the novice as well as the extreme outdoor-enthusiast.

Family Fun Factor: High! If you’re an outdoor family, I would recommend packing your bags today while there is still some summer left! There are so many options for fun using Sisters as your base camp.

Weather Considerations: Ideal time for visiting Sisters is early summer through early fall. Of course, this depends on what your primary objective is at the time of travel. If you’re skiing at Hoodoo, you’ll obviously want to head to Sisters in winter.

Insider Info: For lodging options near Sisters, I recommend the Suttle Lake Lodge and Black Butte Ranch. If you want to stay downtown, we recommend The Five Pine Lodge. Here is some detailed information about our visit to the Five Pine, which is simply stunning.

The Five Pine LodgeFive Pine Lodge: How would you like to relax in a big, “soaker” tub that fills up with water poured from the ceiling? I’m not kidding! The water streams down in a beautiful one-inch column from 8 feet up. It seems almost magical, and that is a good metaphor for The Five Pine Lodge. It’s so beautiful and thoughtfully constructed (green certified!), that you will find yourself believing you’re in a magical place. Metaphors aside, the Five Pine Lodge is all about class, and serves up truly elegant style that is as family friendly as your local McMenamins’. Here is a short clip about the Five Pine Lodge.

Conference CenterThe Five Pine Lodge sits on a large piece of property featuring a beautiful Conference Center, Shibui Spa, rental cottages (built in the same style as the Lodge), Sisters Movie House, Chloe Restaurant, Three Creeks Brewery, and the Sisters Athletic Club. If that were not enough, hike and/or bike the infinite trails that surround the property as part of the Sisters Community Trails project. While staying at the Five Pine Lodge, it seemed like every room, walkway, cottage, stone, staircase, etc., was carefully considered in painstaking detail. We stayed in the townhouse suites inside the Lodge, which provides an upstairs bedroom with a downstairs sofa sleeper, which was perfect for our two kids.

Cottages at The Five Pine LodgeThe beauty of staying at the Five Pine is that you’re right in downtown Sisters, which is a very cute town! With all the other amenities at the Lodge, you’ll be all set for several days or an extended stay in this scenic little town. The cottages seem like an excellent option as well, especially if you’re looking for a romantic getaway without the kids. If you’re concerned about your family size, give the Lodge a call, and their friendly employees will help get you settled into the perfect spot.

Out back at the Five Pine LodgeThe pool was adequate for kids. As a parent, I always hope for zero-entry, plenty of shallow areas, and a spray feature of some type. The Five Pine’s pool is more like a backyard pool that you’d find behind a palatial estate. Swimming is at your own risk, so bring whatever flotation devices are necessary to help keep your kids safe. There are plenty of patio chairs, and the pool is in a nice quiet section of the property.

Cottage at The Five Pine LodgeA very nice touch -if you’re into lawn games – check out the Bocce Ball, Croquet and Badminton games kept behind the front desk. There is a very nice lawn space behind the pool where you can set-up and play until your heart’s content. Playing games with the kids was definitely a highlight of our stay.

If you like mountain biking and/or hiking with your kids do not miss the Sisters Community Trails! I rode these trails with my son who just started riding a 20″ mountain bike. There is very little elevation gain, and the trails are excellent for beginning riders. Just get on your bikes right behind the Five Pine Lodge and ride their trail onto the surrounding network of trails. The folks at the front desk can point you in the right direction.

Family Tips: If your kids need a little room to move, but you’re not necessarily up for a hike, try out the Sisters’ State Park, which is right near The Five Pine Lodge. This series of parks, as well as the “Village Green” park kept us entertained for hours. Your kids will enjoy playing on the banks of the river. There is also camping at “Three Sisters Overnight Park,” which is right near downtown.

Sisters Movie HouseWhen you’ve had about all you can handle outside, head to the Sisters Movie House, which has four screens of cinema magic for the whole family. The theater has a small cafe that serves light meals (e.g., wraps, salads, pizza, sandwiches, etc.) to your party right while you’re watching the movie. Just place your order and head into the theater! The Sisters Movie House sponsors community events around cinema, film making, and film appreciation. Please visit their site to learn more about the theater. In my opinion, this is one of the coolest movie theaters I’ve ever seen, and it would be a shame to miss out on the experience of watching a film at the Movie House.

Three Creeks BrewingFinally, after an afternoon film, stroll about 50 yards to the Three Creeks Brewing for one of their marvelously-crafted beers, lunch or dinner. Your family will love the open design with plenty of room for your kids to roam. Again, my prime objective is never to review the food, because I’m not an official “food critic.” As a parent, I know what you’re looking for – good food with a family-friendly atmosphere. You want a place where your kids will feel comfortable, and you don’t have to stress-out about noise, spilled drinks, food on the floor, other patrons staring you down, etc.

Three Creeks BrewingWell, please rest assured that Three Creeks offers some excellent, reasonably priced food with a vibe that is totally family-friendly. The staff obviously knows how difficult it is to dine-out with kids, and they were super attentive during our entire meal. We rarely had to ask for anything, and when we did, the items were quickly delivered with a smile. Kids will love the sweet potato fries, and beer drinkers, make sure to get their sampler-tray, which offers a nice variety of their hand-crafted beer. Sisters Movie House and dinner at Three Creeks – it doesn’t get much better than this!

[myebay]kids mountain bike[/myebay]

Technorati Tags: Sisters, Oregon, central, mountaineering, mountain, rock climbing, smith rock, Five Pine Lodge, Sisters Movie House, Chloe, Three Creeks Brewery, Shibui, spa, athletic, club, community trails, hiking, biking, Black Butte Ranch, Suttle Lake, Lodge, Hoodoo, Ski, area

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Fernhill Park on August 7th, 2010

Magnolia Park - Hillsboro on May 22nd, 2012

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  1. This is really good published article. Such a great yet interesting post. Thank you very much for sharing this useful stuff.

  2. This is a really good published article. Such a great yet interesting post. Thank you very much for sharing this useful stuff

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