20+ AMAZING things to do in Bend, Oregon (+ tips & itineraries for any season!)

In this guide we’re sharing some of the best things to do in Bend, Oregon, no matter the season, as well as where to stay, what to eat, and so much more!

We first visited Bend, Oregon back in September 2018 and let’s just say it was love at first sight. With a smaller city feel, epic mountains, rivers, and lakes, plus an awesome food and drink scene, it’s hard not to love Bend!  

So when we had the chance to visit Bend in April 2022 with Visit Bend, it was a no brainer! While our first visit was in the summer and included alpine lakes and warmer summer days, on this most recent trip, we were treated to a whole new experience…snow! 

Watch us spend 4 days exploring Bend, Oregon in the spring, including snowshoeing, hiking, volcanoes, and a waterfall!

We spent about a week enjoying Bend in the spring and while not everything we did on our previous trip was accessible due to the time of the year, we were able to experience things that we couldn’t have before, including snowshoeing to a warming hut (a HUGE highlight) and seeing a snowy waterfall. It was a blast and further proved that Bend is the ULTIMATE year-round outdoor playground! 

Ready to experience Bend for yourself? We are very excited to share this guide with 20+ fun things to do in Bend, including both summer and winter activities, plus activities you can do any time of the year. 

And on top of that, we’re also sharing the logistics you need to know before you go, such as how to get to Bend, where to stay, and permits you may need, as well as seasonal itinerary options to make planning your own Bend adventure a bit easier. We hope you love this gorgeous area of Oregon as much as we do!

This post is sponsored by Visit Bend, but reflects our honest opinions based on our personal experiences. 

Looking for more things to do in Oregon? Check out these guides & videos:

Note: this guide contains affiliate links, which means that if you use the links provided and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We will only ever recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!

About Bend, Oregon

Back in the early 1900s, Bend was a logging town, with two main logging companies dominating the area and bringing many people to the city for work. Although the logging operations ended in the 1990s, Bend has continued to flourish and has become one of the top outdoor cities in the Pacific Northwest.

Bend is located in central Oregon, just under 3.5 hours southeast of Portland and 2.5 hours east of Eugene, in what is known as the High Desert. This is an area that sits at higher elevation (3,623 feet), has drier climate, and sunnier weather than other parts of the state, making the climate ideal for year round adventuring. 

Bend, Oregon

And wow, is the city built for adventure! With the Deschutes River running through downtown, the Cascade Mountains (some of our favorite mountains!) to the west, and more desert-like terrain north and east, you can experience a wide variety of scenery both in town and just a short drive away.

But beyond its gorgeous nature, Bend is also a great city as a whole, with a charming downtown area, quaint neighborhoods, a community feel, and tons of local restaurants, coffee shops, and breweries (with over 22 just in the city alone!). There is truly something for everyone in Bend!

Before you plan to visit Bend, please read the Bend Pledge (and brush up on the 7 Leave No Trace principles) to learn how you can explore this area responsibly and respectfully. This is a very special place, so please do your part to help keep it that way. And bonus: if you sign the pledge you’ll have a chance to win a free trip to Bend too! 

Getting to + around Bend, Oregon

As we mentioned above, Bend is located in Central Oregon, which is a more remote part of the state, but regardless of how you decide to get to Bend, it’s still pretty easy to get to!

Flying to Bend

Although Bend is a few hours from Oregon’s largest city (and therefore larger airport), lucky for visitors, the Redmond Municipal Airport (RDM) is just 25 minutes up the road! The Redmond Municipal Airport offers nonstop flights to many large cities in the west, including Denver, Seattle, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and more. It is also home to several major airlines, including Alaska, American, Delta, and United. 

If you cannot find a flight to RDM that works well for you, we suggest flying into the Portland International Airport (PDX), which is the largest airport in the state, and road tripping 3.5 hours to Bend. You could also fly into the Eugene Airport (EUG), which is 2.5 hours, but it is a smaller airport and will not offer as many flights as Portland. 

Bend, Oregon

Driving to Bend

Driving to Bend instead? Bend makes for a great road trip stop if exploring the Pacific Northwest! Here is how long you can expect to drive from nearby popular areas:

  • Eugene, Oregon: 2.5 hours (128 miles)
  • Crater Lake National Park: 2.5 hours (144 miles)
  • Portland, Oregon: 3.5 hours (163 miles)
  • Cannon Beach, Oregon: 5 hours (242 miles)
  • Bandon, Oregon: 5 hours (255 miles)
  • Seattle, Washington: 6.5 hours (360 miles)
Warming Hut Bend

How to get around Bend, Oregon

Once in Bend, we highly recommend renting a car, as you’ll definitely want to be able to easily get out to the mountains and nearby parks. Any type of vehicle should work fine, although if you plan to take any rough roads, getting a vehicle with 4×4 will be helpful. 

If visiting in the winter, make sure to have chains on you, as some mountain passes may require them. We have these chains for our van (make sure to double check which kind your vehicle will need!), but have never had to use them.

When to visit Bend, Oregon

The best thing about Bend is that it is fun to visit any time of the year! While you may associate Oregon with gloomy, moody Pacific Northwest vibes, Bend is definitely an exception with 158 clear days and 105 mostly clear days per year. While it can get a bit gloomy, as we did experience on our most recent trip, it definitely doesn’t slow down the fun. 

Things to do in Bend Oregon in the spring

Winter

In the winter, the mountains near Bend get blanketed in snow, which means there are tons of snow sports to enjoy. However, the city itself doesn’t get nearly as much snow and if it does, it hardly sticks around for more than a day or two. So it’s the best of both worlds!

One thing to keep in mind is that due to how popular skiing and snowboarding is in Bend, it can get busy this time of year. So be prepared to share the slopes with others!

Spring

Springtime in Bend means continued snow in the mountains, but warming temperatures at the lower elevation. If you’re looking to hike, your options are more limited, but there are still tons of things to do in Bend in the spring, as we learned on our most recent visit in April 2022. But if you want a mix of snow activities + lower elevation trails, you’re in luck! 

Just be prepared for a late season snow storm. During our visit, the area had just gotten quite a bit of snow, which was a magical surprise!

Because this is more of the shoulder season, prices will be lower, there will be more availability for lodging, and the crowds will be lighter. 

Summer

The summer in Bend is pretty glorious! The trails have thawed, the temperatures are a lot warmer, and it’s the perfect time to get out on the water.

If hiking, especially to alpine lakes and some of the higher peaks, is the top item on your Bend bucket list, summer will be the best time to go! Our first visit to Bend was in the summertime (Labor Day weekend in 2018) and it was absolute perfection.

Just keep in mind that this is the busy season, so plan ahead, start your days early, and pack some patience!  

Fall

While we have yet to experience fall in Bend, it’s the goal for our next visit! The temperatures are cooler than the summer, the leaves change in town, and the crowds are a lot lighter. And if you visit early enough in the fall season, you can likely still access some of the more popular summer hikes! However, be prepared for snow storms to come and change plans!

Weekends vs. weekdays

Weekdays will always be less busy than the weekends almost anywhere you go, but our local friends told us that Bend doesn’t seem to slow down as much as other places during the week. We found coffee shops, restaurants, and even trails to have a good amount of people during the week. So while we still suggest visiting on a weekday if possible, don’t expect full solitude! 

Where to stay in Bend, Oregon

Something great about Bend is that it offers something for any budget. And lodging is no exception! Here are some of the best places to stay in Bend, ranging from FREE to a bit pricier and more luxurious. 

Camping

The Camp
We stayed at The Camp on our most recent visit to Bend and loved it! This is an old RV park from the 50s that has been completely redone and is the ONLY RV park allowed in town! They have RV sites with full hookups, as well as a tiny cottage and some super cool renovated trailers.

The Camp also has showers, restrooms, and laundry, plus an area to let your dog play and a communal fire pit + two grills. Oh, and they have FREE coffee in the mornings! 

Oregon Badlands Wilderness (FREE)
During the nights we did not stay at The Camp, we boondocked for FREE in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness. This spot is a bit east of town, but it didn’t take too long to get into town and offered a good amount of solitude.

Some things to note is that it doesn’t have any restrooms and the cell service wasn’t the best (AT&T was better than Verizon). We were able to get work done, but not as quickly as we would’ve liked.

Lava Lake Campground
On our first trip to Bend we camped at the Lava Lake Campground, which is about an hour from downtown Bend, but located close to the mountains, so depending on how much you want to go into town, it could be a good spot. The views here are insane and while here we saw the Milky Way for the first time (truly a magical experience)!

Looking for a closer campground? You can find more here! Soda Creek Campground looks nice!

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The Camp Bend, Oregon

Airbnbs

For a local Bend experience, we recommend renting an Airbnb in one of its many charming neighborhoods! Here are a few that look to be pretty awesome:

Quiet 1/1 Near River & Old Mill (1 bedroom, 1 bathroom): This guest house is in a great location and has everything you need, including a full kitchen, washer and dryer, a nice outdoor patio, BIKES to borrow, and even a storage shed to use for your own gear!

Cozy and Convenient Downtown Cottage (1 bedroom, 1 bathroom): This cottage is a great price and is walkable to so many awesome spots in town! 

The August (1 bedroom, 1 bathroom): This loft is a 10 minute walk from many hot spots in town and is very nice and new on the inside! 

Dome Sweet Dome (Studio, 1 bathroom): For something unique, stay at this awesome geodesic dome! The dome has a kitchen and bathroom, so you’ll have the comforts of home while also having a very cool experience! 

Branch & Thistle (3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms): Traveling with a family or larger group? This house sleeps 6 and has a great outdoor space with a hot tub!

Hotels

Bend has many hotel options to choose from, including quite a few hotel chains (if you are loyal to a specific brand), as well as more local spots. Here are some good spots to check out, all of which are in a great location, but you can see more options here!

What to bring with you to Bend, Oregon

Snowshoeing in Bend, Oregon

Hiking + Outdoor Gear

Since you’ll likely be spending most of your time outdoors while in Bend, you’ll definitely want to bring some hiking and outdoor gear. To see everything we take hiking, check out our hiking gear as well as our guide about how to make a 10 essentials kit. Luckily if you forget something there are plenty of places in town to get gear!

Snowshoes or microspikes

If heading to Bend in the winter or spring, make sure to pack snowshoes or microspikes! Pine Mountain Sports does offer snowshoe rentals if you do not own any!

Layers

Due to the area’s higher elevation and high desert climate, it can be a bit chilly in the mornings or evenings, even if the afternoons are warmer. Make sure to pack layers so you can be comfortable any time of the day!

Sun Protection

With more sunny days than other areas of Oregon, you’ll definitely want to bring sunscreen and other sun protection, like sunglasses and hats, to protect yourself from the rays!

Sno-Park Permit Bend, Oregon

Trail permits

Many trails near Bend require specific permits to park, which you’ll want to get in advance. We will include which permits you need for the activities listed below, but a couple to be aware of are:

  • Sno-Park Permit: This pass is required to park at sno-parks from November 1-April 30. The cost varies whether you want 1 day, 3 days, or 1 year.
  • Northwest Forest Pass ($30/year): This pass covers parking at national forest sites in both Oregon and Washington. However, if you have the America the Beautiful Pass ($80/year), this pass will work as well, so no need to have both! You can also get single day passes for Northwest Forest Pass sites.
  • Central Cascades Wilderness Permit ($1): Between June 15 and October 15, you will need this permit to do day hikes from many popular trailheads in the area. 
  • Many hikes will require you to get a FREE permit at the trailhead. Failure to do so can result in a fine, so make sure to read signs at the trailhead before you hit the trail!

Things to know before visiting Bend, Oregon

Before we share some of the best things to do in Bend, Oregon, here are a few more tips to ensure you’re prepared for your trip!

Bend is very dog friendly!

Want to bring your pup with you to Bend? You’re in luck! Bend is an extremely dog friendly city and it’s not uncommon to see many dogs out on patios or at breweries. Most trails around Bend do allow dogs, but please check and follow the leash rules (and PLEASE pack out any dog poop!). As owners of a reactive pup, nothing is worse (or more stressful) than taking Kona on a trail that requires leashes and having an off-leash dog (with horrible recall) come sprinting at us. 

One important thing to note is if you’re visiting in the winter, most sno-parks do NOT allow dogs. However, the Wanoga Snow Play Area and Edison Butte Sno-Park do allow dogs!

Download offline maps

While we had great cell service in town, things can be a bit spottier when venturing into the mountains, so we suggest downloading offline Google Maps and AllTrails maps in advance to ensure you do not get lost.

Start your exploring early

With how popular Bend is for outdoor recreation, popular spots can get very busy! We recommend starting your adventures as early as possible to ensure you get parking and can enjoy its beauty without tons of people around. 

Be prepared for summer wildfires

Like most spots out west, summertime means wildfires, which means smoky skies, even if there isn’t a fire directly nearby. Wildfires vary every year and smoke patterns can change day to day, so for more up to date information about conditions, check out the resources on Visit Bend’s website. We also have found this website to be very helpful in seeing how smokey the skies are where we plan to go!

How much time do you need in Bend?

Bend is one of those places that you could spend months in and not see, eat, and drink it all. But to see some of the major highlights, we’d suggest at least 3 days. This would give you the chance to explore the city a bit and go for a couple hikes. We’re including itinerary options for 3-5 days at the end of this guide!

20+ AMAZING things to do in Bend, Oregon

And now for the best part, what to do in Bend! While this is not a complete list of everything there is to do in Bend (there is a LOT to do!), this list is a great starting point if you want to visit the major highlights and experience what makes this area so special. A couple notes about this list:

  • We are listing these activities in order from closest to town to furthest away.
  • We are basing this list off of our experiences in both the summer and the spring, as well as including a couple items on our list for next time!

Make sure to scroll to the end for different itinerary options for multiple seasons and trip lengths!

Walk around Downtown

Downtown Bend, Oregon

One thing we love about Bend is its super walkable downtown area! You won’t find any skyscrapers here, but what you will find are lots of local shops and restaurants. If you find yourself in downtown Bend before or after your outdoor adventuring, here are some spots to check out!

Local shops

There are a handful of stores in downtown Bend that we really loved, whether you’re looking for a Bend related souvenir or a cool local product to take home with you. We suggest checking out Scout and Pine, Lark Mountain Modern, The Bend Store. Ju-bee-lee, and Cascade Cottons. Also, one thing we noticed in Bend is that some shops offer you a local beer while you shop. We aren’t sure if this is an always thing or not, but it was a neat touch!

First Friday Art Walk

On the first Friday of the month from 5-9 PM is Bend’s First Friday Art Walk, which takes place downtown as well as in the Old Mill District. During the First Friday Art Walk you can see different artists and live music, while you shop and enjoy local food and drinks!

Drake Park Bend, Oregon

Drake Park

As we mentioned earlier, the Deschutes River runs right through downtown Bend and Drake Park is a gorgeous stretch of the river, right behind downtown. We highly suggest grabbing a coffee from a local spot (more on that next!) and going for a stroll! 

Bend Farmers Market

On Wednesday afternoons (2-6 PM) from early May to mid October the Bend Farmers Market takes over Brooks Alley in downtown! This is a great way to support local farmers and other vendors, while buying delicious meats, produce, and treats.

Check out the local coffee scene

We LOVE coffee and Bend has a killer coffee scene! During both of our visits we have tried to visit as many local spots as we can. Some of our favorites are:

Spoken Moto: A SUPER cool motorcycle shop + coffee shop with beer and food trucks!

Lone Pine Coffee Roasters: This popular spot has a location downtown, but we went to their spot east of town twice during our trip and loved the drinks (solid caramel latte) and the vibe!

Thump Coffee: We have been to both their Bend and Denver locations and it’s solid everytime!

PALATE a coffee bar: We visited here on our first trip and loved it!

The Commons Cafe and Taproom: An old house turned coffee shop downtown and by the river!

We have quite a few more on our list for next time, including Backporch Coffee Roasters, Looney Bean of Bend, and Kevista Coffee, so we’ll make sure to update this list above as we continue to caffeine our way through Bend! 

Eat delicious food at a local spot

For a smaller city, Bend packs a BIG punch when it comes to local restaurants! While Bend isn’t known for a specific cuisine, it offers incredible restaurants with food from all over the world.

We struggled big time to narrow down where to eat on both visits to Bend, but luckily on our latest visit, we were able to try quite a few spots, all of which we loved! 

Wild Rose Northern Thai Eats

WOW, this place is amazing! Wild Rose specializes in Northern Thai food and their Khao Soi (Adam’s favorite Thai dish) was the best he has ever had (although we have yet to go to Thailand). I tried their lunch curry, which changes daily, and it was so delicious as well!

Tip: We hear for dinner you’ll want a reservation, but when we arrived before 11:30 AM for lunch on a weekday we had no issue getting a table. Also for lunch there is a lunch menu that is more affordable, although the portions are smaller.

Bo’s Falafel Bar

Bo’s Falafel Bar is hands down one of the best spots we ate in Bend! This spot serves falafel, chicken shawarma, and what we hear are some of the BEST bagels in the mornings (they can sell out!). We loved their spiced chicken shawarma bowls with lots of toppings and sauces, plus some falafel on the side.

Note: Check their schedule beforehand. During our visit they were only open certain days of the week. 

Spork

Spork is a unique spot with an Asian fusion + Mexican menu. You can try dishes like Lomo Saltado, curries, and tacos all in one spot! We have been here both times we visited Bend and loved their Thai steak salad, spicy fried chicken, and green curry! 

ParRilla Grill

Parrilla Grill is known for their very unique Mexican eats, such as burritos with unlikely fillings, like the Nashville, which has hot chicken, tater tots, pickles, slaw, and sauce. Adam gave this burrito a 10/10! I tried their CBCB in bowl form and it was simple and delicious!

Tacos Pihuamo

We’re always on the hunt for the best tacos wherever we go and Tacos Pihuamo in Bend was said to be some of the best in town! And while we have not tried them all, we agree that they are SOLID! We loved the carne asada, adovada, and carnitas! 

Miyagi Ramen

On a cold, gloomy Bend day, something hot and soupy sounded delicious, so we headed to Miyagi Ramen. We got their spicy miso ramen and it hit the spot! While we are definitely not ramen connoisseurs, we thought it was super good!

Note: This place is pretty small, so be prepared for a wait (you order at the counter, but you may have to wait for a seat). You can easily grab takeout and head to the river a couple blocks away for a picnic though. Also, the music is VERY loud!

The Sparrow Bakery

The Sparrow Bakery is a Bend institution for delicious baked goods, especially the Ocean Roll, which is croissant dough, vanilla, sugar, and cardamom. It is rolled like a cinnamon roll and has the perfect amount of sweetness + a bit of spice from the cardamom. We loved it!

Bonta Natural Artisan Gelato Bend, Oregon

Bontà Natural Artisan Gelato 

Bontà means “goodness” in Italian and boy, is Bontà Natural Artisan Gelato GOOD! We tried a handful of flavors, including their Dulce de Leche + Sea Salt (a MUST), Peanut Butter and Theo Chocolate Fudge, Coffee Break, and Stracciatella and every single one was creamy and delicious. It took a lot of self control to not go back daily! 

See Bend history in the Old Mill District

As we mentioned earlier, Bend was a mining town in the 1900s and the Old Mill District is the former home of some of the lumber mills. After years of poor forestry practices, the mills closed down in the 1990s and the property was bought and major renovations began to take place. 

The developers completely overhauled the area by cleaning up the river, which had been trashed by industrial debris over the years, and they also renovated buildings, while still keeping historical aspects, like the smokestacks. This all led to a restored habitat for fish, otters, and birds and created a beautiful area for the public to enjoy!

In the Old Mill District there are tons of shops, restaurants, the nation’s first permanent fly casting course, and access to the Deschutes River Trail! We spent quite a bit of time in this area accessing the river trail and it makes for a great starting point!

Admire the views from Pilot Butte

Pilot Butte Bend, Oregon

Pilot Butte is a cinder cone right in town that erupted around 250,000 years ago. And today it offers scenic views of Bend and the Cascade Mountains! To get to the top you can drive or walk just under 2 miles (all uphill) to the summit.

Note: As of May 2022, the road to the top of Pilot Butte, as well as the summit, are closed for repaving. You can see updates here. You can still hike most of the way to the top and thankfully there are still views without reaching the summit.

Drink your way through the Ale Trail

Photo Credit: Bend Ale Trail

If you’ve heard about Bend you’ve probably heard they have a hopping craft beer scene. How hopping? Well, they’ve created their own Ale Trail for locals and visitors to enjoy!

When the Ale Trail was established in 2010 it started with six breweries and today there are over two dozen spread out over seven territories across the greater Bend area! So how does the Bend Ale Trail work? First, you’ll need to download the app or buy a paper passport for $5 at the visitor center. Then, as you visit the breweries you can collect a stamp.

If you complete the Ale Trail by filling your passport you have the chance to win some sweet prizes! As you complete each of the territories, you’ll receive a commemorative taster glass for each territory and when you complete the entire trail you’ll earn a handmade taster tray to hold all of the seven glasses!

Don’t drink, but still want to partake in the fun? Collect five designated driver stamps on your passport and you’ll get a designated driver prize!

Since we do not drink we do not have specific brewery recommendations, but the Ale Trail is a great way to experience some of the best! 

PLEASE Drink Responsibly

Drinking and driving is the ultimate party foul so please go into your Ale Trail adventure with a plan. Many of the territories are walkable which makes it super easy to visit lots of breweries in one swoop. 

But if you cannot walk and do not have a designated driver, rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft are available in the area, as well as taxis. Or you can book one of the many beer tours in town like Bend Brew Bus and The Bend Tour Company, or if you’re really ballin’ with your crew, book Bend’s Party Bus.

Go to the only Blockbuster left in the world!

Blockbuster Bend, Oegon

Remember Blockbuster?! As a kid we both would spend too much time strolling down the aisles trying to pick the next movie we wanted to watch. Blockbuster used to be the largest movie rental business in the world, with over 9,000 locations, but in 2010 they filed for bankruptcy and their stores started to close. However, ONE Blockbuster still remains and it is in Bend, Oregon!

The Blockbuster in Bend is such a fun way to relive the days of VHS and DVDs, which you can still rent here! But if you’re just visiting and do not have access to a DVD player, you can buy Blockbuster merchandise or some candy to enjoy alongside a movie night!

Attend a local event

There is always something fun going on in Bend! From annual events, like Brewfest and Subaru Winterfest, to more frequent events like the First Friday Art Walk and Farmers Market we mentioned above, you can always find some sort of local event happening. And these are a great way to experience the area as a local. You can see the full event schedule here

Explore the Deschutes River Trail

Deschutes River Bend, Oregon

The Deschutes River runs right through the heart of Bend and to enjoy this scenic river there are over 12 miles of established trails.

During our visit, we enjoyed quite a few walks starting in The Old Mill District, going both north and south. We loved walking up to the Whitewater Park and then back down south towards the Riverbend Park, where it gets a bit more wooded. 

You can also ride bikes on parts of the trail, but make sure to pay attention to signage to know where bikes are not allowed. Dogs are also allowed on most of the trail, but must remain on leash.

Another fun way to the trails is to rent eBikes! We have used eBikes in several places across the US and they are a ton of fun! Some places in town to rent are Pedego Electric Bikes, Wheel Fun, or Bend Electric Bikes. You can also use the eBikes to visit downtown!

Get out on the Deschutes River 

Besides walking or riding a traditional bike, you can also experience the Deschutes River by getting out onto the water! There are a couple different ways to enjoy the river:

River Tubing

Possibly the most popular activity on the Deschutes River, especially in the summer, is to tube it! What’s really neat about floating is you can have that chill floating experience or you can add a little whitewater rapid fun if you’re up for it!

There are a few ways to float the river (see all options here), but the most popular is to start at Riverbend Park and float all the way to Drake Park in the north, which will take you over some rapids (you can skip the rapids if you do not feel comfortable). When you’re done, you can hop on the shuttle (first pick up is at 12 PM and the last is at 7 PM) for $6!

Need a tube? You can rent one from Tumalo Creek for $24, which includes the shuttle! Their reservations for 2022 open on June 1st.

Kayaking and Standup Paddle Boarding

Kayaking and Standup Paddle Boarding are also popular ways to enjoy the Deschutes River. On a kayak or SUP board, you can enjoy the calmer parts of the river, by going both up and downstream. Tumalo Creek offers 2 hour (or all day) kayak and SUP rentals.

Rafting

Want a thrilling experience on the Deschutes River? Go rafting! Sun Country Tours offers guided rafting tours, including some that start right in Bend, plus others 2 hours north in Maupin. 

Before you go…

A few things to know before hitting the water:

  • Wear water shoes, like Chacos, to protect your feet when getting in and out of the river.
  • Pack out ALL of your trash!
  • Have waterproof bags for your phone and other gear.
  • Life jackets are required on kayaks, rafts, and stand up paddle boards.
  • Alcohol is NOT allowed, so please enjoy Bend’s craft beer after you float!

Watch the surfers at Whitewater Park

Bend Whitewater Park

Did you know that you can SURF in Bend? Even without the ocean nearby, locals and visitors can shred some waves at the Bend Whitewater Park

This section of the river has 26 underwater pneumatic bladders that help create the waves, which can be manipulated 24/7 to create the best conditions, not only for the surfers, but to ensure that irrigation needs are met and to help the wildlife that live in the water.

This park offers two different levels of waves, one for surfers that is more expert level (and open year round) and one for floaters that is a bit milder (and only open in the summer). We saw surfers every day while in Bend in April, even on days that were only 40 degrees!

Want to give river surfing a shot? You can rent boards from Tumalo Creek! And even if you’re not down to surf, it’s a ton of fun to watch the surfers from the bridge or from the river trail.

Visit The High Desert Museum

High Desert Museum Bend, Oregon

While we do love museums, it’s normally not our go-to vacation activity, as we prefer to be outdoors and also try to travel as cheap or free as possible. However, during our time in Bend in the spring, we spent a few hours at The High Desert Museum and it was such a treat!

This museum is a mix of outdoor and indoor exhibits and shares the history of the High Desert region, which not only encapsulates this part of Oregon, but also parts of Idaho, Nevada, and Utah. It talks about the indigenous people that call this land home and how they have adapted over time, shares how mining and logging impacted the area, and discusses the local plants and animals. 

In fact, there are even some animals you’ll get to see, including a gray fox, porcupine, bald eagle and other birds, and our favorite…the otters, which are INSANELY cute! We tend to not be huge zoo people, but the animals at the High Desert Museum are all rescued and are all unable to live in the wild due to different injuries they sustained. 

The museum is open daily and costs between $17-$20 per adult depending on the season (and is less for seniors, students, and children). If you’re short on time in Bend, we’d suggest sticking to outdoor activities, but if you’re visiting on a rainy or gloomy day and want a fun (mostly) indoor activity, we highly recommend it! 

PS: If you visit in the summer, they have crates that you can leave your dog in so you can visit the museum. 

Explore the Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Newberry National Volcanic Monument - Things to do in Bend, Oregon

The Newberry National Volcanic Monument is home to the Newberry Volcano, the largest volcano in the Cascade Range. When including all of its lava, it’s about the size of Rhode Island! While it hasn’t erupted in 1,300 years, it’s considered to be one of the higher threat volcanoes in the United States.

A couple things to know before visiting:

  • You will need a Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass to park here. Otherwise, it is $5/day.
  • Some of these activities are pretty spread out. Lava River Cave, Trail of Molten Land, and Lava Butte are the closest to Bend. Make sure to check a map beforehand to ensure you include enough time to drive between everything!

While at Newberry National Volcanic Monument, there are tons of things to see and do! Here’s a quick rundown on what we’d suggest looking into. 

Trail of Molten Land (year-round)

Miles (roundtrip): 1.0
Elevation gain: 124 feet
Dog friendly?: Yes 
Trail reviews & conditions

This short trail takes you through tons of lava flow and up to a viewpoint that has an amazing perspective of how much lava there is in the area! 

Lava Butte (year-round)

Miles (roundtrip): 3.8
Elevation gain: 593 feet
Dog friendly?: Yes 
Trail reviews & conditions

Lava Butte is a cinder cone that erupted over 7,000 years ago and is the reason for all of the lava on the Trail of Molten Land. At the top there are not only great views of the lava below, as well as the mountains around, but there is also a fire tower! This fire tower is one of three in the Deschutes National Forest and the most active in the Pacific Northwest, with 125 first fire reports on an average summer.

You can also drive to the top, but there is a vehicle limit of 22 feet. Between mid-April to mid-June and after Labor Day to mid-October, you will need a timed permit to drive to the top. During peak season, from mid-June until Labor Day, you’re required to take a shuttle to the top ($3 per person), which leaves every 20 minutes from the Lava Lands Visitor Center between 10 AM and 4 PM.

Lava River Cave (summer)

Miles (roundtrip): 2.2
Elevation gain: 55 stairs, but otherwise flat
Dog friendly?: No 
Trail reviews & conditions

Want to explore a lava tube? The Lava River Cave is a publicly accessible lava cave and is the longest one in the state! On a self guided tour you’ll be able to walk across boardwalks as you venture into the cave, which is 42 degrees year round and very dark, so make sure to bring a jacket and multiple light sources (you can also rent a light for $5)! 

We were unable to do this due to it being closed during our visit, but it’s high on the list for next time!

Paulina Lake Loop (summer)

Miles (roundtrip): 7.5
Elevation gain: 426 feet
Dog friendly?: Yes
Trail reviews & conditions

This trail takes you around the perimeter of Paulina Lake (pronounced Pol-EYE-nuh), which is located within the caldera of the Newberry Volcano. Along this trail you’ll have great views of the caldera and there is even a side trail to a natural hot spring right along the lake!

Paulina Peak (summer)

Miles (roundtrip): 6.1
Elevation gain: 1,607 feet
Dog friendly?: Yes
Trail reviews & conditions

This trail is HIGH up on our list for next time! While a bit more challenging, you will have incredible views of Paulina Lake and the surrounding area from the top! AND you’ll be at the highest point on the Newberry Volcano at 7,984 feet.

Paulina Falls (summer)

Miles (roundtrip): 0.5
Elevation gain: 108 feet
Dog friendly?: Yes
Trail reviews & conditions

This waterfall looks incredible! It is made up of two 80 foot waterfalls that fall side by side, with a giant rock face separating the two. While you can visit the falls in the winter, the road is closed and it will be a longer hike at about 2.5 miles each way.

See the beautiful Tumalo Falls

One of the things we wanted to do the most on our last visit was visit Tumalo Falls, which is a stunning 97 foot tall waterfall! There are three overlooks of the falls, one which is more head on and further away, one that is closer and at an angle, and one that is at the top of the falls. All of them are beautiful!

If you visit in the summertime, it’s an easy walk from the parking lot to the different overlook areas. In the winter, the road is closed, so you’ll need to walk the road or hike to the falls on a 6.5 mile trail that goes through the forest and along the river. 

Note: You will need a Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass to park here. Otherwise, it is $5/day.

To learn more about Tumalo Falls, check out our detailed guide, where we share info about parking, permits, and how to access the falls any time of year!

Hike in the Cascades

The Cascade Mountains is one of our favorite mountain ranges in the entire United States. And lucky for Bend, they have quite a few peaks right by town! Between the Deschutes National Forest and Three Sisters Wilderness, there are miles of trails, skiing and snowshoeing in the winter, lakes, rivers, and so much more, it offers a TON for outdoor lovers. And one of the best activities to do in the Cascades is go for a hike! 

While we have only hiked once in the Cascades, we plan to spend a lot more time here in the future. Here are a few hikes to check out, including one we have hiked and a few that we plan to do in the future. 

No Name Lake

Miles (roundtrip): 13.3
Elevation gain: 2,657 feet
Dog friendly?: Yes
Permit needed: Central Cascades Wilderness Permit (choose the Todd Lake option) + Northwest Forest Pass/America the Beautiful.
Trail reviews & conditions

We did this hike on our first visit to Bend and it was incredible! The trail is very exposed, so the views along the way are phenomenal, but the real treat is the lake at the end, which has a gorgeous blue color against a rugged, pink and brown crater. Once at the lake, you can also go towards the right up more rocks to get a view of the lake from above and more views of the area…it’s totally worth it!

Fun fact: it was on this hike that we officially decided we would convert a van and travel full time…so this lake is a pretty monumental piece of our story!

A couple things to note about this hike: We did get a bit turned around on this hike, so make sure to download the offline AllTrails map! Also, there is a shorter trail option, but the road to the trailhead is very rough.

Tumalo Mountain

Miles (roundtrip): 4.0
Elevation gain: 1,423 feet
Dog friendly?: Yes, in the summer
Permit needed: None
Trail reviews & conditions

This trail has epic views of Mount Bachelor, the Three Sisters, and Broken Top, for only 4 miles roundtrip! We had planned to snowshoe this on our most recent visit, but due to cloudier weather we didn’t think we would get the payoff at the end we were hoping for. Despite the shorter mileage, this hike is pretty steep, so be prepared for a good workout.

Green Lakes

Miles (roundtrip): 9.1
Elevation gain: 1,187 feet
Dog friendly?: Yes
Permit needed: Central Cascades Wilderness Permit (choose the Green Lake option) + Northwest Forest Pass/America the Beautiful.
Trail reviews & conditions

This hike features a river, waterfalls, volcanic rocks, views of South Sister and other peaks, and a gorgeous lake at the end! 

South Sister

Miles (roundtrip): 11.6
Elevation gain: 4,986 feet
Dog friendly?: Yes
Permit needed: Central Cascades Wilderness Permit (choose the Devils Lake/Wickiup Trailhead option)
Trail reviews & conditions

South Sister is the third highest peak in Oregon at 10,358 feet. And for those who are experienced hikers, summiting it is one of the best hiking experiences in the area (so we hear). While we personally have not summited this, we have summited similar and taller peaks and cannot wait to attempt this one someday! 

Despite this being a higher summit and having a 4,986 foot elevation gain, this isn’t a technical hike, although it IS tough and should only be attempted by those in great hiking shape and who have done hikes at higher elevations, as altitude sickness can occur above 7,000 feet. You will also want to start very early to give yourself plenty of time to conquer this beast!

Play in the snow!

If you visit Bend in the winter or spring, you’ll be treated to a winter wonderland! While there may not be snow in town, head 30 minutes to the mountains and you’ll have tons of powder to play in! 

Snowshoeing Bend, Oregon

Ski or Snowboard 

Skiing and snowboarding are definitely the top winter activities to do in Bend! Mount Bachelor is only 30 minutes from Bend and is the 6th largest ski resort in North America, with 4,300 acres and 101 runs. Besides hitting the slopes, Mount Bachelor also offers sled dog rides, FREE snowshoeing tours, dining options, and different events, so there is something for everyone!

While Mount Bachelor is definitely the most popular spot to go, we hear the Hoodoo Ski Area, which is just under an hour from Bend, is a great, cheaper and less crowded spot to check out! 

Snowshoe or Cross Country Ski to a warming shelter

In the winter and spring, hiking the trails above may be tricky, but one fun way to get out on the trails is snowshoeing or cross country skiing! Especially if you choose a route that takes you to a warming shelter, which is a wooden shelter that has a wood burning stove inside!

There are a handful of shelters in the area, with a popular one being Virginia Meissner, but during our visit we snowshoed to the Swampy Lake Shelter, which was our favorite thing we did in Bend in the spring!

The trail to the Swampy Lakes Shelter is a relatively flat 1.75 mile (one way) walk through the forest. But the best part is hands down the warming shelter! This shelter has been redone in the last few years and has a sliding door (we hear not all shelters have a door) and a nice stove inside. We were lucky to have it all to ourselves and made a fire and some backpacking meals to enjoy. It was such a cool and unique experience! 

A couple reminders and things to know:

  • You’ll need a sno-park permit to access these trailheads and dogs are not allowed at most sno-parks!
  • Please do not snowshoe on cross country skiing tracks! Make sure to walk alongside the tracks to not mess them up.

Go fishing!

Adam finally got something he has wanted for years while in Bend…a fly fishing rod and reel (from Bend Fly Shop)! And for all of the anglers out there, Bend is a great spot to go fly fishing! 

The Deschutes River is a popular place to fish, as well as Fall River and Hosmer Lake. If you’re new to fly fishing or just want local guidance, you can hire a guide with Fly & Field Outfitters. You can even practice before hitting the river at the Old Mill Fly Fishing & Casting Course

Note: Fishing permits are required for anyone over 18 years old (with a youth permit for those 12-18) to fish in Oregon. You can find all of the steps to get one here!

Drive the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway

The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is a 66 mile road that starts in Bend and winds through the Cascades, going by 14 alpine lakes along the way. During our first visit, we camped and spent some time at Lava Lake, which has a gorgeous mountain backdrop, but there are tons of other great lakes to visit as well! 

We’d suggest spending half a day driving the byway and stopping at a lake of your choosing to kayak. If you need a kayak rental, Tumalo Creek offers them in town, but you will need to have a truck or a roof rack to transport it. We have this inflatable kayak and it’s great for calmer waters! 

Make sure to pack a lunch for the day trip, but if you do get hungry, the Elk Lake Resort has food to enjoy!

Note: The road is usually closed from October until June past Mount Bachelor, so while it’s not the best winter or spring activity, it’s a great drive to make in the summer.

Check out a cave

The Lava River Cave we mentioned above isn’t the only cave to explore near Bend! Another public accessible cave in the area is Boyd Cave, which is a lava tube that is estimated to have formed 10,000 years ago.

If you’re a bit nervous to explore on your own or just want to learn more about the cave as you explore, book a tour with Wanderlust Tours. We had hoped to do their cave tour, but due to logistics with our pup, we had to skip it. But it looks like a blast! 

Hike at Smith Rock State Park

Smith Rock State Park | Things to do in Bend, Oregon

Smith Rock State Park is not technically in Bend, but is only a 40 minute drive north and is a MUST visit while in the area! This park is known for its striking rock walls and spires, which are made up of volcanic ash from volcanic activity millions of years ago and shaped over time by the Crooked River below. 

It is a popular rock climbing spot, but if you’re like us and prefer to stay on solid ground, we highly recommend hiking Misery Ridge, which as the name implies, is a steep trail that may cause a bit of misery, but is totally worth the huffing and puffing for the incredible views of the park! You can either hike the Misery Ridge and River Trail Loop (3.5 miles, 948 feet) or Misery Ridge and Summit Trail Loop (6 miles, 1,774 feet of elevation gain). We have done both and recommend the Misery Ridge and Summit Trail Loop if you have enough time, as it offers some great views of the park as you come down from the summit. 

And the best part? You can visit this state park year round! So it’s the perfect addition to your Bend adventure no matter what month you visit. Although, keep in mind summers can be pretty hot in the park and there is very little shade.

Note: There is a $5 day use fee to park at Smith Rock and they have pay stations that take credit cards. Dogs are also allowed on trails, but must be kept on leash.

To learn more about hiking the Misery Ridge Trail at Smith Rock State Park, check out our detailed guide (coming soon!), where we share the different routes, what to expect, what to bring, and more!

Visit Steelhead Falls

Steelhead Falls is located about 45 minutes north of Bend, close to Smith Rock State Park, and makes for a great add on after hiking the Misery Ridge Trail. This waterfall may not be the tallest in the area, but it is very wide and scenic. And it’s only a 0.5 mile walk from the parking area, so it’s the perfect quick stop!

Go on a day trip to Crater Lake National Park

Last, but definitely not least, we highly recommend adding on a day trip to Crater Lake National Park while in Bend, if visiting in the summer (when more of the park is accessible).

This national park is located a little over 2 hours from Bend, so it’s a bit of a trek, but if you have a free day and can start early and don’t mind a late return, it is more than worth it!

Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States at 1,943 feet deep and has some of the deepest bluest waters we have ever seen (the photos are not photoshopped…it is that blue!). It gets this color from snow or rain, which are its only sources…there are NO rivers or other waterways that flow into the lake, making it one of the cleanest and clearest lakes in the world. 

There is a lot to do at Crater Lake National Park, but the major highlights can be done in one day. We took a day trip from Bend to Crater Lake on our first visit to the area and while it was a long day, we had a blast. To see what all we accomplished in a day, check out this guide!

Bend, Oregon Itinerary

It can be a bit overwhelming trying to squeeze in as many Bend adventures as possible in just a handful of days. Here are some sample itinerary options for each season, ranging from 3 to 5 days!

Summer + Early Fall Itinerary

This itinerary is best for the summer and early fall, when the roads to trailheads are still open and the trails are more snow free.

3 Days

Day 1:

  • Grab coffee from one of the coffee shops we listed. We especially recommend Lone Pine or Spoken Moto! They also both offer Ocean Rolls if you want to try one of those!
  • Check out the views from Pilot Butte.
  • Walk around the Deschutes River Trail near the Old Mill and see the river surfers. This will also give you the chance to get acquainted with your next activity!
  • Spend the late morning and afternoon going tubing!
  • After tubing, hit up some spots on the Ale Trail (if you are a beer drinker), most of which also have food to enjoy for lunch. If you’re not into beer, grab some quick tacos at Tacos Pihuamo. 
  • Explore downtown and its many shops.
  • Freshen up a bit and have dinner at Wild Rose Northern Thai Eats.
  • End the day with gelato from Bontà Natural Artisan Gelato.

Day 2:

  • Get an early start and head to one of the epic hikes out in the Deschutes National Forest or Three Sisters Wilderness. This will likely take most of your day, so pack water, lunch, and snacks!
  • Head back to Bend and check out the ONLY Blockbuster left in the world!
  • Rest up a bit and have dinner at Spork or continue to conquer the Ale Trail!

Day 3:

  • Hike at Smith Rock State Park in the morning.
  • Grab lunch at Bo’s Falafel Bar.
  • Visit Tumalo Falls.
  • Enjoy dinner at Parrilla Grill.

4 Days

Follow days 1-3 as listed above and add the following for day 4:

  • Get a quick breakfast and coffee at The Sparrow Bakery. Make sure to try an Ocean Roll if you haven’t yet! Or you can head back to Bo’s Falafel Bar for a bagel!
  • Drive part of the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway and stop to kayak (if you’d like) at one of the many lakes! We suggest bringing a packed lunch for this adventure.
  • Stop by Newberry Volcanic National Monument and hike one of the trails we listed on this guide.
  • Head back to Bend for dinner at Miyagi Ramen!

5 Days

Follow days 1-4 as listed above and add the following for day 5:

  • Take a day trip to Crater Lake National Park! If this is a bit too much driving for you, pick another activity from this guide that we listed. 

Winter + Spring Itinerary

This itinerary is best for the winter and spring, when the mountains have snow and the popular summer hikes are not accessible.

3 Days

Day 1:

  • Grab coffee from one of the coffee shops we listed. We especially recommend Lone Pine or Spoken Moto! They also both offer Ocean Rolls if you want to try one of those!
  • Check out the views from Pilot Butte.
  • Walk around the Deschutes River Trail near the Old Mill and see the river surfers. 
  • Explore downtown and its many shops.
  • Have lunch at Wild Rose Northern Thai Eats.
  • Enjoy gelato from Bontà Natural Artisan Gelato.
  • Head to the Newberry National Volcanic Monument and hike the Trail of the Molten Land and Lava Butte!
  • Grab some tacos at Tacos Pihuamo for dinner.

Day 2:

  • Get a quick breakfast and coffee at The Sparrow Bakery. Make sure to try an Ocean Roll if you haven’t yet! 
  • Play in the snow! Whether you decide to ski, snowboard, or snowshoe, we suggest spending most of the morning and afternoon enjoying winter in Bend.
  • Spend the rest of the afternoon hitting up some spots on the Ale Trail (if you are a beer drinker), most of which also have food to enjoy too!

Day 3:

  • Hike at Smith Rock State Park in the morning. Try to head to the park early so you have enough time for the rest of the activities today!
  • Grab lunch at Bo’s Falafel Bar.
  • Visit Tumalo Falls, which will require a 5 mile walk, but it is flat and easy. You may need snowshoes or microspikes. 
  • Enjoy dinner at Parrilla Grill or Spork!

4 Days

Day 1:

  • Grab coffee from one of the coffee shops we listed. We especially recommend Lone Pine or Spoken Moto! They also both offer Ocean Rolls if you want to try one of those!
  • Check out the views from Pilot Butte.
  • Walk around the Deschutes River Trail near the Old Mill and see the river surfers. 
  • Explore downtown and its many shops.
  • Have lunch at Wild Rose Northern Thai Eats.
  • Enjoy gelato from Bontà Natural Artisan Gelato.
  • Head to the Newberry National Volcanic Monument and hike the Trail of the Molten Land and Lava Butte!
  • Grab some tacos at Tacos Pihuamo for dinner.

Day 2:

  • Play in the snow! Whether you decide to ski, snowboard, or snowshoe, we suggest spending most of the morning and afternoon enjoying winter in Bend.
  • Spend the rest of the afternoon hitting up some spots on the Ale Trail (if you are a beer drinker), most of which also have food to enjoy too!

Day 3:

  • Get a quick breakfast and coffee at The Sparrow Bakery. Make sure to try an Ocean Roll if you haven’t yet! 
  • Hike at Smith Rock State Park in the morning and afternoon. We recommend packing a lunch!
  • Visit Steelhead Falls while in the area.
  • Head back to Bend and enjoy dinner at Spork!

Day 4

  • Visit Tumalo Falls, which will require a 5 mile walk, but it is flat and easy. You may need snowshoes or microspikes. 
  • Grab lunch at Bo’s Falafel Bar.
  • Check out the ONLY Blockbuster left in the world!
  • Continue exploring the Ale Trail and enjoy dinner at one of the breweries or go to Parrilla Grill!

5 Days

Follow the 4 day itinerary listed above and add the following for day 5:

  • Grab coffee at one of the coffee shops we listed. Most offer breakfast items too!
  • Explore Boyd Cave on your own or with Wanderlust Tours!
  • Visit the High Desert Museum! This is a great winter or spring activity and we especially recommend saving it for a rainy or cloudy day.
  • Enjoy dinner at Miyagi Ramen.

Ready to explore Bend, Oregon?

Pin this guide with the best things to do in Bend, Oregon to help plan your trip!

about us

Hi y’all! We’re Adam, Kathryn, and Kona, an adventurous married couple (+ pup!) living on the road in our self-converted sprinter van! You can often find us driving all around the US and Canada, scoping out the best coffee shops, eating tacos and ice cream (we’re a 5+ taco and 2+ scoop household), and enjoying nature.

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