When we think summer, we also think of the great outdoors! With all the crazy weather we’ve been experiencing this year, we are ALL itching to get outside, and warm our souls with some vitamin D! Bend, Oregon and the greater Central Oregon area has so many amazing places to explore that we know it can be hard choosing what to do on any given day. As warmer days start coming through, here are some helpful tips on where to go, what to do, and how to do it! All from a local’s point of view!
Things to Do in Bend
Pilot Butte (easy): An extinct volcano that is situated in the center of Bend. A popular visual landmark AND an equally popular hiking destination. There are two trails that will lead you to the summit, one is the road access and one is a small dirt footpath that wraps around the butte. The hike is a total of 1.8 miles and the top of Pilot Butte offers a beautiful panoramic view of the High Desert and the Cascade Mountain Range. (Dogs welcome! Must be on leash). Locals tip: Hike just before sunset and wait at the top to watch the sun go down behind the mountains.
Deschutes River South Canyon Trail (easy): This trail is great for running or walking, depending on what you’re into! Stroll along the Deschutes River for a three mile loop and see all types of trees, flowers, and wildlife. (Dogs welcome! Must be on leash). Locals tip: Once you finish your hike, have a picnic at Farewell Bend Park, located at the the start of the river trail.
Float/Kayak/Stand Up Paddle Board on the Deschutes River (moderate): One of the most popular things to do in Bend during the summer is float the Deschutes River. Didn’t pack your floatation device? No worries, Bend Parks and Recreation has a rental station set up at Riverbend Park, where everyone starts their voyage down the river. There you can choose between inflatable tubes or Stand Up Paddle (SUP) boards. Several retailers in town also have kayaks available to rent by the day or the hour. The river flows through the Old Mill District and the Les Schwab Amphitheatre, then leads you to the Colorado Bridge Rapids (make sure to read about safety precautions and more here). There, you can ride some waves before your float ends in Downtown Bend. Once your float is over, take the River Shuttle back to where the adventure began! Locals tip: Float the river during a concert at the Les Schwab amphitheatre. It beats dinner and a movie any day!
Things to Do Just Outside of Bend
Tumalo Creek trail to Tumalo Falls (easy): Depending on the time of season, this hike can be either 5.7 miles from the gate, or you can drive to the base of the falls if the gate is open. This in and out hike is worth every step, from beginning to end. The breathtaking waterfall you’ll encounter stands at a whopping 98 feet and is surrounded by several types of indigenous trees to Central Oregon. (Dogs welcome! Must be on leash) Locals Tip: If you’ve got time, there are a few more secret waterfalls further behind Tumalo Falls. The incline gets rough at points, so make sure you’re ready!
Dillon Falls to Benham Falls (easy): This of the most scenic trail in Central Oregon and is a total of seven miles out and back. Start at Dillon Falls and walk along the Deschute River that flows through lava rock formations creating the Big Eddy Rapids, a popular whitewater rafting destination! Maybe you’ll see some people getting soaked on their river rafts. (Keep reading to learn how you can be one of those people!) (Dogs welcome! Must be on leash) Locals Tip: Make sure to pack a lunch as there are many picnic tables along the way to stop and take in the views.
Whitewater Rafting Down the Big Eddy (moderate): One of the most adventurous experiences you can have on the Deschutes river, if you ask us. The Big Eddy is one of the most accessible Class III rapids in Central Oregon. The excursion takes about an hour and half to complete the entire three miles of river. Enjoy the slow movement of the Deschutes between the rapids and keep an eye out for wildlife! There is always a wide variety of birds, reptiles, and more to see. Locals Tip: Sign up with a local whitewater rafting guide to raft Big Eddy! They’ll drive you to and from the rapids, guide you, and more!
Things to Do off the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway
Kayak Elk Lake (easy): With so many lakes off of Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway (fourteen to be exact) it is hard to choose which one is best! We chose Elk lake because it offers so much to the avid explorer. Here you can rent kayaks of any size, SUP boards, and peddle boats. With magnificent views of the mountains, a lodge that offers food and drinks, and a trail that loops around the entire lake, what else can you ask for?! Locals Tip: Camp or stay in a cabin at Elk Lake! With a variety of accommodations like simple tent camping to luxurious log cabins, there is something anyone can enjoy!
Summit Broken Top Mountain (hard): There is no better feeling in this world, than feeling like you’re ON TOP of the world! Broken Top Mountain is an extinct stratovolcano that had its top eroded over the many, many, many years, hence the name “Broken Top”. The crater at the summit of this mountain contains a very photogenic glacier lake: No Name Lake. You’ll have to see it to believe it! Although, this isn't the biggest mountain in the Cascade Lakes Mountain Range, this 15.7 mile out and back hike can make it feel like it is! You can start this epic journey in many places along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, however Todd Lake is the easiest to access. (Dogs welcome! They’re free to explore at owners discretion) This is a long journey, so make sure you're fully prepared with snacks, sunscreen, water, and first aid kit. Locals Tip: Hike Broken Top in the early Summer and you’ll be able to see the wildflowers that bloom around the base.
Mount Bachelor (hard): A popular destination year-round, you can summit Mount Bachelor by foot. Although a difficult three mile hike to the top, it is well worth the view of the wildflowers and other mountains along the range. If you’re not interested in hiking to the top, take a scenic chairlift ride instead. Also, over the summer, Mount Bachelor has a downhill mountain bike park for those who like to play hard in the dirt, along with a disc golf course that's growing more popular each year. (Dogs welcome! Must be on leash) Locals Tip: Reserve a fine dining date at the Lodge on Mount Bachelor after your adventure, for a romantic sunset dinner on the mountain.
Things to Do Around Central Oregon
Terrebonne- Smith Rock (moderate/hard): One of the most stunning views to see in all of Oregon is Smith Rock. There are so many hiking trails to choose from, ranging in difficulty. There are several easy trails around the base of Smith Rock that lead you around the river, but the most popular trail has to be Misery Ridge. Don’t let the name scare you, it’s only four miles long… at a very steep incline! Make sure to wear hiking shoes with traction and bring enough water. Once you make it to the top, try and see if you can find “Monkey Face”, a rock formation that looks… well… like a monkey face! (Dogs welcome! Must be on leash) Locals Tip: The best time to experience Smith Rock is just before sunset, the colors of the landscape will inspire any adventurer.
Sisters- Mckenzie Scenic Byway: This scenic byway connects you from Sisters onto Santiam Pass and has lots to do and see along the way! Experience the Dee Wright Observatory settled in the middle of old lava flow. There are many turn offs that lead to hiking trails and lakes. Sahalie and Koosah Falls are some must see waterfalls off the byway as well. Locals Tip: Stop by Snowcap diner in Sisters either before or after your adventure for some old time food! The best burgers and shakes around.
One of the greatest things about Bend and the greater Central Oregon area is that there is something for everyone no matter the age or fitness level. Whether you’re looking to summit some mountains, take a stroll by the river, or kayak some beautiful lakes, you'll find it here. To make your visit to Bend, Oregon complete, choose one of our Local Experts for a personalized travel itinerary!