A Winter Afternoon: Oregon Sno-parks

Oregon sno-parks are designated Winter Recreation Areas. You should purchase a sno-park pass ahead of time. Information about passes can be found here.

Ray Benson sno-park is near HooDoo Ski Area in the Deschutes National Forest and is one of the more popular sledding, cross country skiing, and snow shoeing spots. The parking area is large enough to allow space, even on a busy day. The trail system is extensive and, although many people tend to flock to one area, there is plenty of room to spread out if you wish. Here are 5 ways to enjoy an afternoon at an Oregon sno-park.

There is tons of parking, remarkable views, and easy access to the trails.

1. Try out your new cross country skis!

Ray Benson offers a complex trail system. You can chose to stick to the groomed trail or venture into the woods. Either way, it is guarenteed to be a good time!

The trail is shared with snowmobiles, families snowshoeing, people hiking, and most likely some rogue sledders but don’t let that deter you, there is plenty of space. I chose the off-piste route on the way down as it turns out that I am still totally out of control on cross country skis. I wrongly assumed that somehow my skills improved since ten years ago when I last hurled myself, arms flailing, down a trail in Montezuma, Colorado.

2. Get some exercise with the reliable stand by, snowshoeing.

I can always count on snowshoeing for safe, effective, and fun exercise! Whether you are on the trail, off trail, or hucking a tiny cliff, snowshoeing is a guarenteed to be a good time. Remember your poles for the best work out and the best chance of making it back to the parking lot without tripping and taking a header.

3. Join the gang of sledders.

We steered clear of the crowds due to Covid but there was still plenty of amazing sledding. Our preferred vehicle are snotubes that were given to us by my grandma for Christmas a few years ago. If you chose a tube, consider inflating it to its maximum capacity. The extra inflation really steps the fun up the next level!

We chose to sled mid-day in the sun and again at 3:30 after the sun was behind the trees. The move from sunny and 40s to shady and 30s provided a super speed icy track to really put the sledding over the top for the kids while also just pushing my mom anxiety up a notch. Sledding was the biggest hit of the day for sure!

Even though the picture doesn’t do Oregon sno-parks justice, this is an intense sledding hill, complete with an icy sink hole at the bottom!

4. Set up for tailgating.

What is better than a campstove and chairs were set against the backdrop of moutains and fresh snow? Cheese and crackers, lunch hot off the griddle, and a couple of servings of hot chocolate with marshmallows seemed to keep my crew in top condition. Next time I think I will expand the menu and include myself when packing mugs for the hot chocolate.

Our first trip in the new Sprinter 4 x 4. We sat on boxes and spent the morning putting paneling back in for the trip but it was a success!

5. Come prepared to stay all day.

An afternoon at Oregon sno-parks require spare socks, spare gloves, different boots for different sports, spare hats, layers, windbreakers, down jackets, fleece … the list goes on and on. I never would have packed like this in Colorado but Oregon is different. The snow is wetter here. If you have seen it, you know what I mean. So, come prepared because everyone will want to stay all day and they minds well be dry and warm!

Please follow our adventures as we convert our latest Sprinter van into a camper for our family of 4!

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35 thoughts on “A Winter Afternoon: Oregon Sno-parks

  1. I recently took my first skiing lesson and it was so fun! Oregon sno-parks sound like they would be a great place to continue that fun. I haven’t been to Oregon yet, but I’d love to visit when it’s snowing to do these activities.

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  2. This looks like such an awesome area to be in winter. I can’t believe I haven’t heard of it before. And love the idea of tailgating

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  3. Looks like so much fun – I’d be more than happy to spend a day there! The first time I wore snowshoes was last year in Antarctica, they are quite tricky. I remember sledding at university, made me feel like a kid again!

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  4. Looks like a lot of fun to me, with plenty of interesting things to do. I miss having snow, since London doesn’t get a lot of snow. Would love sledging the slopes!

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  5. I’m really not a winter person. Therefore, all I do during winter is waiting for the spring to come 😀 This is also one of the reasons I never learned skiing. Although I must admit that the winter landscape on your pix looks just dreamy…and might change my attitude.

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  6. Huh, I have never really heard of the concept of a Sno-park or at least that term. But sounds like a fun spot to set up for some great winter adventure activities. Not sure if I want to sweat to death snow shoeing but I am definitely down for some sledding. Havent ridden a sled in 20 years! I hope those stoves are pretty strong cause this cuban boy would freeze to death at an outdoor winter tailgate at Ray Benson Sno-park or any other Oregon Sno-park from the looks of them.

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  7. Winter activities require a lot of gear, but it’s worth it to play in the snow 🙂 I’ve never tried snowshoeing and would love to give that a go since snowboarding is a no-go for me. I have always enjoyed sledding and can do that all day!

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  8. What a fun day out for the family! I can imagine setting up a little day camp with the hot food and drinks in between heading out for adventure. My kids would love to do that! Good to know that the snow is wetter in Oregon, so spare everything is necessary.

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  9. As a downhill skier, I tried cross-country skiing once and hated it because I just wanted to go downhill. But I do like snowshoeing, although that makes no sense. I also love the idea of tailgating after some sledding.

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  10. This must be a great place to spend a day or two with the family because there’s something fun for everyone. Love the tailgating aspect too – having a base camp for snacks without having to go anywhere would be awesome! Next time I’m in Oregon in the winter I’ll have to check it out.

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  11. I’d not heard of a sno-park before but it sounds amazing. Would love a chance to visit and go snowshoeing or embrace my inner child and go sledding. There are so many choices!

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  12. The only snow ‘sport’ I’ve ever tried is sledding. And it was a lot of fun! As I think it might take me at least a few winters to be any good at other advanced sports like skiing, I think I’ll stick to sledding if I go to any sno-parks for now, and maybe snowshoeing.

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  13. Oregon is my favorite state right after Alaska. I also had the opportunity to visit him in winter. Oregon snow-park is a perfect idea for active winter holidays for families. I love snowshoeing and sledding. BI love the idea that you are traveling in a Sprinter van! Is my dream!

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    1. This looks like the perfect place for a winter getaway. I definitely would like to visit the state of Oregon one day. It’s one of my bucket list states in the United States. I live in the Alps currently so all these activities I can totally relate with and I’ll probably have fun with. Snow shoeing or raquettes as we call them here is the best!

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  14. I love snow as I live in hot climate and therefore I would love spending winter afternoon at these sno parks in Oregon. Sledding on snow would be fun with those snotubes. Good to know that snow here is more wetter and we need more water proof and extra clothes, compared to other destinations. Setting up campstove and having hot chocolate here must be truly a memorable experience.

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  15. This area sounds perfect to embrace winter! I went snowshoeing for the first time yesterday. I’m looking into van camping so looking forward to your adventures in your Sprinter!

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  16. The one thing that I have not done so far is sledging and skiing. The only snow/ ice activity that I have tried is ice skating. I sure would want to get to this place to do not just the two that I have not done but also, snowshoeing. That is quite novel to me!

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