We’ve spent the past week in Bend, OR and it’s just SPED by. This town is one of the most diverse and interesting places we’ve been to in a while. It owes it’s popularity in part due to excellent location. It sits just East of the Cascades which puts it nicely on the “dry” side of Oregon and yet West enough to avoid the arid desert just a few miles further on. It’s surrounded by 9,000 foot mountains which offers hundreds of thousands of acres of outdoor wilderness and yet it maintains a hip urban slant with craft breweries, restaurants & more in the bustling downtown. Add-in the pretty Deschutes River flowing through the middle and you’ve pretty much got it all. This excellent mélange is exactly what has made Bend one of the fastest growing towns in Oregon. In 2010 the population was ~52,000 and it’s already busting above 85,000 today. This place is rockin’ and people know it.
We just knew we were going to love it….
Now, there’s no way we could sample everything this town has to offer in a week so we decided, rather cunningly I thought, to focus on just two key areas -> Outdoor Adventures and Drinking Escapades. Turns out the two are superbly compatible since a nice hike in the woods is exactly the right prelude to a cool brew on the terrace (ingenious is it not?). Add-in the fact that Bend is extremely dog-friendly (yes, even for brews) and we were in our own version of hog heaven.
Even with that limited itinerary we were completely spoiled for choice. Thanks to our knowledgeable hosts & RV buddies Metamorphosis Road & Nealy’s On Wheels (who blogged through here last year) alot of the choosing was done for us so we were able to narrow it down & focus on the best of the best, crème de la crème, brew de la brew. This, my friends, is what I offer you:
Smith Rock State Park
If you only had time for a single hike in Bend, this is the area I would chose. I had imagined all kinds of scenery around Bend…pine trees, mountains, streams…but nothing like this. The majestic spires of Smith Rock State Park rise like a phoenix from the high desert ~25 miles northeast of Bend and it is a magnificent sight. The massive rocks are the hardened ash of eruptions 30 million years old, sculpted by lava flows and the Crooked River. The Tuffs provide world-class climbing as well as many miles of hiking trails. The most popular trail is the well-named Misery Ridge that goes over the top, but all of the hikes are super-scenic and you can’t help but gawk at the nutters who are climbing the sheer cliffs. A 5-star visit that everyone should do!
Note/ There is a $5 day-use fee for Smith Rock State Park. Dogs are allowed on leash on all trails. Beware of rattlesnakes on hotter days. Link to trail map HERE.
Tumalo Falls & North Fork Trail
I love me some good falls & turns out that just ~10 miles west of Bend you’ll find yourself a doozie. Tumalo Falls plunges over 89 feet along a forested drop of Tumalo Creek and is a great stop. There’s a 2-mile (good quality) dirt road to get to the falls, but then it’s only ~5 min walk to the overlook. Another 1/4 mile walk up the hill will get you to the top of the falls and (here’s the secret) if you continue hiking down North Fork trail you’ll hit at least 3 other, equally lovely falls further on. Parts of the trail are open to mountain bikes (uphill only) and there are several potential loop hikes for those wanting a longer trek.
Note/ There is a $5 day-use fee for the National Forest (or you can get in with your Interagency Annual Pass). Dogs are allowed along the entire North Forks Trail, but not in the adjacent Watershed area (so you can’t do a loop hike w/ dogs…only out & back). Link to map HERE.
Deschutes River Trail
The lovely Deschutes River runs ~252 miles from the Cascades to the mighty Columbia. You see it winding through downtown Bend and the city has done an excellent job of surrounding it with hiking, biking and paddling opportunities. The downtown area is gorgeous, but if you want to get a little away from it all I suggest the area ~7 miles southwest of town by Dillon Falls. This is just a great, relaxing walk along a really pretty river. Go as far as you wish.
Note/ There is a $5 day-use fee for the National Forest (or you can get in with your Interagency Annual Pass). Dogs are allowed along all the trails in the Deschutes River System. Link to general map HERE.
Mount Bachelor looms like a massive 9,065 ft high white ghost ~20 miles West of town. It’s a hugely popular ski area, but also flanks the pretty Cascade Lakes Scenic Highway which hides lots of interesting lakes & hikes. The highway was closed while we were here and the lakes under snow, but we managed a lovely short hike along one of the many ski-paths with doggie. Well worth the drive and the views even if you don’t hike it.
That’s about all we managed. Honestly, we just scratched the surface of hiking/biking in the area, but hopefully that gives you an overview of some cool spots to visit. What did we miss? Have YOU got any special hikes in the Bend area? Feel free to comment & add below. We’re definitely coming back so these will all go on the “list”.
Coming Up Next -> we sooth our parched palates with Bend beer, distilled creations and…we get naked…finally
Hiking & Biking Links
- Bend Urban Trail System -> Map of all trails within Bend city area. PDF download. Click HERE.
- Camping and Hiking Around Bend -> General map of hiking & camping in the surrounding forest & wilderness areas. PDF download. Click HERE.
- Popular Bend hiking trails -> List version. Click HERE.
- Bend biking guide -> Links to maps and info. Click HERE.
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