Bend, Oregon has become an outdoor adventure mecca for hikers, skiers, snowboarders, mountain bikers, climbers, backpackers and even spelunkers. It is a perfect, cheap location for a week or weekend outdoor getaway.
(Right: Cascade Highway and the Three Sisters. Left: Mirror Pond, the center of Bend)
Located in Central Oregon, Bend has become has big of an icon in the way of adventure towns as Moab, Utah, Mammoth California, Crestted Butte, Colorado, and North Conway, New Hampshire. Like these other destinations, there's a full range of summer and winter activities for every level of outdoorsman. Theres never any "off-season".
Bend itself is a mid-sized city of about 75,000 of the healthiest people in the country. Everybody runs, everybody skies, everyone is active! It has been somewhat of a boom-bust city in the last ten years. This does mean that accomidations are generally on the cheaper side and low-budget vacations are possible. Its a town with a soul and enough adventures to keep you coming back as often as you can!
Pilot Butte, another icon of Bend
Overview and Profile of Bend
Bend is located on the leeward side of the Cascade Mountain Range in Central Oregon. It sits at 3,600ft in the High Desert that takes up most of the Southern and Central parts of the state. Technically its considered part of the Great Basin, but there are still pleanty of forests and plains to make you think you're not in a desert. However, you can almost plan on it will being sunny 9 days out of 10 in the summer! Its only a half an hour drive from Ski Resorts and the 10,000ft-Three Sisters Mountains which makes it an ideal ski season destination. The Deschutes River rips through the middle of the city- its a wild and scenic river with opportunites for pleasant hiking and intense whitewater rafting and kayaking.
The Three Sisters from the Air
The city itself is a cultural and economical hub for Central Oregon. The downtown area has a strong but friendly local vibe and all varieties of microbrewries and restaurants to keep you fed and watered. The town's park along Mirror Pond will often have free concerts and local gatherings which are also welcoming to tourists. It classic Western Hospitality!
Top 10 Outdoor Adventures in Bend, Oregon: Map Here is a map of what I consider to be 10 must-do adventures in and around Bend. I've classified the adventues as green, blue, and red as far as difficulty. Green markers are for easier and more relaxed activities, blue are longer hikes, and red is for the die-hard adventurers. You can get directions for each location using this map
View Bend, Oregon Outdoor Adventures in a larger map
Easy Outdoor Activities Hike or Run Pilot Butte Difficulty: Easy Distance from City Center: 1.8 miles, 5 minutes Pilot Butte is like a natural observation point of Bend and offers excellent views of the Cascades and the Desert. It rises rather abruptly in the middle of the town and there are several trails on and around it. For the easy hiker, there is a steep but short .7 mile long trail which will take you to the top. Many locals also love to trail run the butte- there's also a trail which circumnavigates it as well. Lastly, there's a paved summit road if you'd rather drive up. Which every way you chose to climb Pilot Butte, you'll be happy you did- most days you can see Mt Hood which is over 90 miles away!
Belham Falls, Descutes River
Hike or Mountain Bike the Deschutes River and Belham Falls Difficulty: Easy to Medium Distance from City Center: 15 miles, 30 minutes The Descutes River and surrounding forests are the reason Bend exists. Although the logging industry is no longer as much of the town, the heart and soul of Bend still flows from this wild river! Further upstream from Bend is Belham and Dillon Falls which are part of the larger Newberry Volcanic National Monument. The forest service has placed a great hiking trail which follows the river along the scenic and very turbulent falls. Open to hikers and mountain bikers, the hike to the falls is less than 2 miles, round trip. There are also perhaps hundreds of single-track mountain biking trails which also permeate the forest. Other than the falls, you will catch glimpses of the massive and ancient lava flows which have continually shaped the way the river runs. At times it seems as if the river is the only thing bringing life to the otherwise lifeless lava flows! Hiking the Descutes River is one of those "why-go-to-Egypt-and-not-see-the-Pyramids" kind of thing!
View from the Summit of Lava Butte
Easy Scenic Hiking on Lava Butte Difficulty: Easy Distance from City Center: 13 miles, 20 minutes Driving Directions Lava Butte is a little outside of town and is the best place to see the massive lava flows that cover the landscape of Central Oregon. The road that takes you to the top is paved and accesible by all vehicles except possibly longer RV's. This Butte has a small crater at the top which you can hike around in 20 minutes. Similar to Pilot Butte, the summit views will give you perspective on the Cascades and the arid desert of the state. You will be able to see the Three Sisters Mountains, Mt Bachelor, and some of the less famous Central Cascades from this viewpoint as well. The High Desert Museum is also near the butte which is an interpretive center showcasing the natual and human history of the area. This should be enough to get you started! If you're a more hardcore adventurer, don't worry- my next post will highlight some of the climbing and big hiking opportunites of Central Oregon. Read. Plan. Get Out There!