The 10 Best Things to Do in Bend's Outdoors

A sweeping stretch of evergreens and cinder cones near Bend, OR.
A sweeping stretch of evergreens and cinder cones near Bend, OR. Sheila Sund
Made Possible by
Curated by

Situated in central-Oregon between the Cascade Range and the high desert, Bend seems to make its way onto just about every “best adventure town” round-up these days—and it's all too easy to see why. With its desirable location in the Deschutes River Valley at the base of the Cascade foothills, the geography offers up an outdoor playground that's irresistible for everyone from powderhounds, to singletrack junkies, to river rats, to casual day hikers. Whether you choose to carve down the slopes at Mount Bachelor, navigate the Deschutes River, or simply amble around town sampling the local brews on offer, this town offers up a near-endless supply of adventures. Here are some of the best to have on your radar:

1. Sample Brews Along the Bend Ale Trail

Summertime, and the livin' is easy at Worthy Brewing Company.
Summertime, and the livin' is easy at Worthy Brewing Company. The Audettes

With no less than 16 microbreweries within town limits, Bend has a booming craft beer scene that rivals any you might find in Colorado, SoCal, or Western Carolina. So, it's no surprise that it's also home to a killer beer trail. Pick up a Bend Ale Trail passport (or print your own at home) and get it stamped at each brewery you visit (no purchase necessary). Once you have 10 stamps, you can turn it in at the Bend Visitor Center and receive a commemorative Bend Ale Trail Silipint. Where to begin? Check out the trail’s map to plan your beer-tasting adventure.

2. Cycle the Three Sisters Scenic Bikeway

It's now surprise that—among its many monikers—Bend is known as "Bike City, USA." The riding here is simply amazing. For roadies, the Three Sisters Scenic Bikeway is a staple that showcases stunning and frequent views of the namesake trio of towering volcanic peaks in the Cascade Range. Try the 36-mile Twin Bridges Loop which starts downtown or pedal the Princeville Century Loop for 98 miles and 2,418 vertical feet and breathtaking scenery.

3. Plunge into the Abyss on a Bungee Jump

Peering into Crooked River Gorge isn’t for the faint of heart. Jumping down into it is pure insanity. But intrepid adrenaline junkies do just that with Central Oregon Bungee Adventures. The company offers a 250-foot plummet (on a bungee) into the gorge, which is the highest bungee jump in the entire state.

4. Ski Mt. Bachelor

On the way up the lift at Mt. Bachelor Ski Area.
On the way up the lift at Mt. Bachelor Ski Area. goodmami

Experts say Mount Bachelor last erupted about 9,500 years ago, but these days this stratovolcano isn’t spewing ash. It now boasts a different type of powder: snow—and lots of it. Each year the mountain boasts an average of 462 issues of the white stuff and the mountain’s ski resort lets skiers and snowboarders enjoy a 3,365-foot vertical drop and 71 runs. Or try some tricks out at the snowboard park which features an Olympic-sized Superpipe.

5. Take a hike up Pilot Butte

For a quick sweat and spectacular scenery, it doesn't get much better than the 2-mile loop hike up Pilot Butte—an ancient cinder cone and one of only three inactive volcanoes located within city limits in the US. Three trails offer different ways to the top, but whichever way you reach the summit, incredible mountain and desert views await. Once you’re done with this simple mountain stroll, plenty of other hiking routes are nearby, including the 7-mile Sisters Mirror Lake Loop and the easy 1-mile Sparks Lake loop.

6. Go Mountain Biking...Anywhere

Finishing up a ride at Phil's Trail.
Finishing up a ride at Phil's Trail. Brian Holsclaw

A great mountain biking town might boast a hundred or so miles of singletrack. Where does that leave Bend with 277 miles of the sweet stuff? Stupendous? World-class? The best of its kind? Whatever you call it, the town is a magnet for mountain bikers from around the world, boasting not only hundreds of miles of trail but also a lift-accessed bike park at Mount Bachelor with 13 miles of trails. From technical descents through lava fields and gap jumps, to easy breezy beginner runs, Bend has it all. Bend Trails offers up the latest trail info with trail maps, conditions, and more.

7. Navigate the Deschutes River

The Deschutes River is not only geographically in the heart of Bend; it’s also embedded in the hearts of this river-loving city’s inhabitants. And water-based recreation on this river abounds. Kayak, float, or tube the river, or stop by the Bend Whitewater Park (located right in the Deschutes River) to enjoy three different channels for different types of adventure. The habitat channel offers calmer recreation and a chance to explore the environment, while the whitewater channel boasts four exciting wave features for adrenaline-packed thrills. Oh, and don't forget about stand-up paddleboarding on this river! Back in 2014, Bend was named Outside Magazine’s “best SUP getaway”, and with a number of local outfitters that offer classes and rentals, it's easy to get on the water.

8. Go on a Spelunking Adventure

Central Oregon’s volcanic landscape isn’t just an above-ground wonder. Delve deep into some of the area’s 400 lava tube caves to see a whole new side to the region. Inexperienced cavers can find a world of trouble, so go with a guide to make the experience as safe as possible. The caves’ 45-degree year-round temperatures make it a pleasant activity even if it’s scorching outside or well below freezing.

9. Snowshoe at a Sno-Park

Five Sno-parks sit alongside the Cascade Lakes Highway, making it simple to strap on some snowshoes and go for a hike. Grab some snowshoes, pick up a trail map, walk through the serene and snowy pines, and don’t forget your Snow-park permit ($4/day, $25/annual) before you head out. Also, be sure to practice proper snowshoe etiquette and don’t walk in cross-country ski tracks.

10. Climb at Smith Rock

Parallel climbs at Oregon's famous Smith Rock.
Parallel climbs at Oregon's famous Smith Rock. Benjamin Hollis

Known as the “birthplace of modern American sport climbing,” Smith River State Park is a bucket list destination for climbers who come from around the world to take on this park’s 1,800-plus routes. Monkey Face was the first 5.14c-rated route in the U.S., but the 550-foot-high welded tuff basalt walls (made of compressed volcanic ash) have plenty of routes for everyone. Spring and fall are prime time for climbing, but hardy climbers hit the walls year-round, braving sub-freezing temperatures and 100-plus degree scorchers to get their fix. A day use pass is $5 ($30/annual).

Last Updated:

Next Up