Bend has often been dubbed the “Outdoor playground of the West” and with good reason! With spectacular hiking trails, old growth ponderosa pines, and lava tubes standing in the shadow of the Cascade Mountains’ snow capped peaks this little slice of heaven is a must visit on any trip to Oregon. We enjoyed an amazing tour of hiking, biking and sampling its microbreweries while taking in the incredible scenery. These are some of the best things to do in Bend, Oregon to make the most of your stay. Golfing, fishing, hiking, biking, rafting, skiing and snowboarding, Bend has it all!
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The Best Things to do in Bend Oregon
Bend, Oregon is world famous for both its year round outdoor activities and pristine beauty. Dine at an award-winning restaurants, spoil yourself at the spa or climb South Sister, Oregon’s third highest peak. What will your Bend adventure be? Keep reading to find out about all of these fun things to do and places to visit in Bend.
Where is Bend, Oregon?
Bend is a central Oregon town located on the Deschutes River in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. It is three hours southeast of Portland. We visited Bend by car on a road trip through Oregon and found this gave us freedom to explore the State Parks and historic sites with ease. You can check compare rental prices at RentalCars.com. You can also fly into Bend, the closest airport is Roberts Field Airport (RDM).
1. Hike the Misery Ridge Trail at Smith Rock
One of the top things to do in Bend Oregon, isn’t exactly in downtown Bend proper, but about 20 minutes out of town. It was Smith Rock State Park that drew us to Bend though, so we have it at the top of our list! Smith Rock State Park offers some of the best hiking in Oregon and The Misery Ridge Loop Trail is one of the best hikes in the park. It is a fun and steep hike up a rocky path offering views of the high desert landscape.
The scramble to the top of Misery Ridge is worth the effort with one postcard-perfect stop after another. Reaching the top offers spectacular views of the rock formations in the park. The highlight of the trail is a view of the famous Monkey Face rock formation. The 350-foot tall rock spire resembles a monkey’s face and is popular for climbers to tackle its famous route.
2. Go Rock Climbing
If you want to try rock climbing, Smith Rock State Park is the place to do it. There are some easier routes for beginners to try, but it is popular with expert climbers as Smith Rock houses some of the toughest sport and traditional climbing routes in the world!
3. Visit Newberry National Volcanic Monument
The Newberry National Volcanic Monument is a spectacular outdoor destination that spans 54,000 acres of the Deschutes National forest. It is filled with lava flows and cinder cones, lakes, and the 7985 foot high (2433 meters) Paulina Peak. There are plenty of things to keep you busy in this natural area located just south of Bend.
4. Explore Lava Tubes
Located just outside of Bend within the Newberry National Volcanic Monument are 1,000-year-old lava tubes. There are 400 lava tubes in Deschutes County encompassing the communities of Bend, Sisters, and Redmond but only a few are open to the public. We explored the caves with Wanderlust Tours. It is fun to explore with them as they take you away from the publicly accessible tours.
A unique way to visit the Newberry National Volcanic Monument is one this Lava Rush Off Road Adventure where you’ll drive a four wheel Polaris XP1000 across ancient volcanic lava flows and buttes. If you want to explore the lava fields near Bend, Oregon on a guided tour this highly rated tour is good for the whole family. It includes hikes totalling just under 2 miles as you explore the geological history of Central Oregon.
5. Boyd Lava Tube
We explored Boyd Lava Tube with Wanderlust Tours. Taking us off the beaten path and into caves where they are the only operator allowed to enter. Located just 12 miles from Bend, this 1880 foot long cave is a fascinating visit. Tours take you 60 feet underground where you explore the full 1800 feet (600 metres) where we squeezed and scrambled our way through some narrow openings and wide caverns. Check out more here. Exploring the Lava Tubes of Bend, Oregon
6. Lava River Cave
This popular lava tube to visit is located in Deschutes National Forest. You can visit Lava River Cave on your own. Get ready to descent 150 stairs to explore this 1 mile long underground cavern. Make sure you have a flashlight (An extra is a good idea with spare batteries), a jacket and sturdy shoes.
7. Tumalo Falls
Bend is known for its great hiking and a popular trail that you must not miss is hiking out to Tumalo Falls. But even if you don’t want to hike and simply want to see the beautiful 89 foot cascade of Tumalo Falls, don’t worry, the waterfall view is near the entrance of the trailhead.
8. The Trail of the Molten Land
Another fun and popular thing to do in Bend is to hike the Trail of the Molten Land. Leaving from the Lava Lands Visitor Center, at the hub of the Newberry National Monument, this mile long trail takes you through a basalt lava flow. The first third of the trail is wheelchair accessible where you’ll follow interpretive signs learning about the ancient lava flow.
9. Lava Butte
If you don’t want to hike, you can drive to the top of Lava Butte. There is limited parking and you need to get a 30 minute pass at the visitor’s center, or you can take the shuttle to the top to take in the view. Located along the Northwest Rift of Newberry Volcano Lava Butte is a 500 foot high cinder cone. There is a shuttle that can take you to the top from the Lava Lands Visitor Center as well. Details here.
Recreation Pass Site – Vehicle Permit: $5 Day Pass or $30.00 Annual Pass or other valid Recreation Passes.
10. Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint
Pilot Butte is another scenic lookout Pilot Butte State Scenic Lookout. It is a lava dome that offers views of the Cascade mountains. The hike from the parking lot is a two mile round trip and takes about 30 to get to the top of this extinct cinder cone.
11. Paulina Peak
The highest point within Newberry National Volcanic Monument is the summit Paulina Peak (7,985 ft.), showcasing views of the Cascades, Newberry Caldera and across the High Desert. You can hike to the top of Paulina Peak. It is considered a moderately difficult climb that is 4 to 6 miles return depending on where you start your climb. We didn’t do this climb, but you can find more information at HikeOregon.
12. Cycle Sisters to Smith Rock Scenic Bikeway
The Sisters to Smith Rock Scenic Bikeway provides riders with one of the most scenic and rewarding rides in Central Oregon. The Old West town of Sisters is just 22 miles from Bend. Our bike ride started in the town of Sisters and ended at Smith Rock State Park. It is one of the most fun things to do near Bend and it wasn’t a hard ride at all as it was mostly downhill! We had an amazing ride cycling along the gentle curves of the Deschutes River while stopping at historic sites and ending at the cliffs of Smith Rock State Park.
13. Mountain Biking Trails
There are more than 300 miles of trails to mountain bike southwest of the city of Bend. Mountain biking is one of the top outdoor activities to do around Bend and Central Oregon attracting avid mountain bikers from around the country to suit every need. Some of the top mountain biking trails near Bend include McKenzie River Trail , the downhill trails at Mt. Bachelor and the cross country trails at Phil’s. For a full directory of Mountain biking trails visit the MTB Project.
14. High Desert Museum
One of the more popular thing s to do in Bend for families is to visit the High Desert Museum. Staying true to the outdoor adventurous spirit of Bend, the High Desert Museum spans on 135 acres of forest lands. Filled with nature trails and outdoor exhibits the museum shares stories of the people, places and wildlife of the area. There are permanent and changing exhibits offering workshops, animal shows and lectures.
15. Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway
If you are looking for a road trip near Bend, the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is a 66 mile drive that starts downtown Bend at 14th and Galveston. This drive passes through many of the top places to visit in Bend including Deschutes National Forest, the Deschutes River, Mt. Bachelor, Three Sisters and Cascade Lakes. It takes anywhere from 3 to 5 hours to complete and it is only open seasonally from June to October.
16. Paddle the Deschutes River
The Deschutes River winds right beside Bend and there are several adventures to be had. There are hiking trails along the river, you can go river tubing and you can rent a canoe to go paddling. For tubing, hop on the
Ride the River shuttle which takes you to the Park & Float with stops at Riverbend Park and Drake Park. You can rent kayaks, canoes, stand up paddle boards and river tubes.
17. Bend Whitewater Park
If you want something more adventurous, head to the Bend Whitewater Park. River surfing has been catching on around the world and one of the more unique things to do in Bend, Oregon is to go surfing on the Deschutes River. Located in the Old Mill District, the Bend Whitewater Park not only offers surfing, but you can also hit the chutes for whitewater kayaking. There are four wave features in the park designated for surfing, paddling and even catching a bit of whitewater on the tubes.
This Kayaking tour of the Cascade Lakes takes you on a guided tour in search of wildlife and the majestic mountain views of Central Oregon. Meet up in downtown Bend and be transported to the Cascade Lakes to kayak through caves, bays, and wetlands while keeping a lookout for otters, mink, osprey and eagles.
18. Whitewater Rafting
If you are looking for something a little more challenging, you can book half day whitewater rafting trips from downtown Bend. The 13 mile trip takes you through class 2 and 3 rapids along the Deschutes River. Meeting at the Bend headquarters, the tour takes you to Maupin which is located between Portland and Bend to drop in for your day of rafting. Lunch is included.
19. Cowboy up at Brasada Ranch
Brasada Ranch is an outstanding piece of property in Central Oregon. It is located just 30 minutes from Bend and offers country hospitality with five star service. We took a trail ride at Brasada Ranch that was spectacular. The trails run over 900 acres and riding is good for everyone from beginners to experts. Our ride took us out to Spirit Rock where the smell of sage filled the air, desert shrubs lined the dusty trail, and Oregon mountains could be seen in the distance. We ambled through the trails up to a high plateau where we could look at 360 degree views of the surrounding area.
After our ride, we spent the night at the ranch where we enjoyed their five star spa followed by cocktails around the wood burning fireplaces. We made sure to cook S’mores over an open flame.
20. Go shopping in the Old Mill District
Located on the banks of the Deschutes River, The Old Mill District is the place to hang out in Bend, Oregon. Located at the site of the old Brooks-Scanlon lumber mill, this area about a mile from downtown Bend. The Old Mill District warehouses have been transformed to chic boutiques with dining and shopping for name brand and smaller retailers. There are boutique shops, cafés and a brewery in the Old Mill District making it a fantastic place to hang out for an afternoon.
21. Les Schwab Amphitheater
The Les Schwab Amphitheater offers live shows and music nearby. Grab a spot at one of the patios in the Old Mill District for sunset before enjoying the evening festivities. The Craft Kitchen Brewery is a great place to have a pint before catching a flick at the cinema, or you can even see a live show at the nearby Les Schwab Amphitheater.
22. Adventures at Mt. Bachelor
If you are visiting Bend in the winter, make your way to the local ski hill at Mt. Bachelor. In the summer there is mountain biking and ziplining making Mt. Bachelor a year round vacation destination.
Visiting Bend in Winter? Book this half day snowshoe tour in the Cascade mountain range with an award-winning professional naturalist guide as you explore the wilderness around Mt. Bachelor and the Deschutes National Forest.
23. Explore Downtown Bend
We’ve been talking a lot about all the places to visit around Bend but there are a lot of fun things to do in Bend downtown too! This charming downtown has cobblestone sidewalks and treelined streets mixed with chic restaurants and boutique chopping. Spend some time exploring Bends galleries, dining options and clothing stores.
24. Bend Ale Trail
The craft beer scene is booming in Bend and no trip to this Central Oregon town would be complete without sampling its IPAs, Lagers, Porters, and brews. There are more than two dozen craft breweries and besides beer, you can sample distilleries, cideries, wineries, and kombucha brewers. Now that’s a craft beverage scene like no other. You can download the app to truly immerse in Bend, Oregon brews.
Suggested Breweries to visit
Crux Fermentation Project – “Fermentation lies at the crux, or pivotal point, of the brewing process,” explains the Crux website. “It’s that critical moment where everything comes together.” Pints up! Address: 50 SW Division St, Bend, OR 97702
10 Barrel Brewing Company – Gourmet pizzas that can be eaten around the fire pit at the outdoor patio, along with any great beer from brewmaster Jimmy Seifrit and senior brewer Dan Olsen. 1135 NW Galveston Ave, Bend, OR 97701
Worthy Brewing Company – east side brewery – and with a beer garden, hop garden and crazy wood to boot! What is crazy wood you ask? Well, you can read about it all you want on their website, or better yet, stop by to see for yourself! Address: 495 NE Bellevue Dr, Bend, OR 97701
One of the more fun things to do in Bend is to take a guided brew tour and this unique Brews and Views Canoe Tour mixes a sampling of the best micro brews with a boat tour. How cool is that?
25. Deschutes Brewery Tour
Book a Brewery Tour that includes a stop at Bend’s first craft brewery, Deschutes Brewery. Deschutes Beer is sold in 32 states and produces 225,000 barrels of beer a year. Brewery tours are a fun way to learn how beer is made while enjoying a sample of the brews. They have now expanded from their Bond Street Public House, to a brewery and tasting room half a mile across town on the banks of the Deschutes River. This tour will also take you through the Old Mill District, and the Bend historical district where you’ll stop at Boneyard Beer.
26. Faith, Hope and Charity Vineyards
Bend isn’t all about microbrews, there is a vineyard in Central Oregon where you can taste award-winning wines. Located 35 minutes from Bend, The Faith, Hope and Charity Vineyard is a 15 acre vineyard that produces fantastic red and white wines. The have a wine tasting room or you can simply sit back, relax and enjoy a glass while taking in the gorgeous views of Central Oregon.
Where to Eat in Bend
10 Below (at the Oxford Hotel) – Supporting the increasingly popular sustainable food movement, they prepare all their creations using fresh, local ingredients whenever possible, complementing their meals with fine wines and a variety of beers from Northwest wineries and local breweries.
Where to Stay in Bend
Tethrow Hotel is an award winning hotel located on a golf course. This luxury property is 10 minutes from downtown, 7 minutes from the Old Mill District, and 20 minutes from Mt. Bachelor with shuttle service.
Five Pine Lodge offers unique lodging in the nearby Central Oregon town of Three Sisters. We stayed here the night before our cycling trip. It had a romantic cabin setting in a beautiful pine forest located at the base of the Three Sisters mountains. Each room provides serenity and privacy and creates an ideal setting for quiet contemplation and intimate meals
And these are some of the best things to do in Bend Oregon. Have you been to Bend? What’s your favourite Central Oregon adventure?