Bend, Oregon is a town I have heard so much about yet somehow managed to avoid visiting until recently. Located in the Central Oregon High Desert, Bend is often referred to as an outdoor enthusiats dream destination year round. In winter the region gets a decent amount of snow which makes the nearby Cascade Range Mountains, like the majestic Mount Bachelor, a winter sports playground with skiing and snowshoeing activities popular. In the summer months, the Deschutes River that winds through town provides ample paddling oportunities while the Deschutes National Forest has endless hiking trails to explore.
The good news is you don’t have to be super outdoorsy to enjoy this town! So far I have only visited in the summer but I will definitely be back in winter to experience another side to the town. Check out my top activitiess below for spending the perfect summer weekend in Bend.
Float or Paddle Down the Deschutes River
This is a quintessential summer activity in Oregon. Summers are hot and what better way is there to stay cool than to play in the river? The Deschutes River cuts through the middle of town and has a nice current to push you along. Walk talong the river and you will see it packed on the weekends with inner tubes, kayaks, and paddle boards. Typically, you can start the float or paddle at Riverbend Park and float over a mile to the Galveston Avenue Bridge, then catch a shuttle back to the starting point.
I visited during summer 2020, the summer of Covid-19, so myexperience floating was a bit different than a normal year. I started at Riverbend Park and floated down to the rapids at the Colorado Avenue Bridge. Here you have the option to either float over the rapids before getting out of the river, or getting out before the rapids. I thought they were a blast to ride over, so I would definitely recommend trying at least once! From here, I walked about 0.5 miles back to Riverbend Park and started the float again. It was so relaxing and enjoyable that I did this loop over and over and over!
Take a Leisurely Hike on the Deschutes River Trail
A short walk from Riverbend Park along the river leads to the Deschutes River Trail. This 3 mile loop trail takes you along the rivers edge and provides beautiful scenery. Although it is still in Bend, the rushing river and pine trees make you feel like you’ve left town for a bit. Even the river seems to change as you start the hike. It shifts from the calm, floatable river you see downtown to a more wild, rocky river with rapids. It’s beautiful and a great way to spend a morning.
Take in the Panoramic Mountain View from the Top of Pilot Butte
Pilot Butte is a 500 foot tall cinder cone (extinctg volcano) in Bend. Driving around town, you’ll turn a corner and all of a sudden see it rising above the city. It is a really cool site to see! But an even cooler site comes from the top of Pilot Butte, which you can either drive up or hike up. I opted for the 2 mile round trip hike up to the top since I visited during Covid-19 and the road to the top was closed. Once you reach the top, you’ll have a 360 degree view looking over the city, which is a beautiful site to see. On a clear day you’ll be able to see many of the volcanoes in the Oregon Cascade Range including Mount Bachelor, Mount Jefferson and maybe even Mount Hood all the way in Portland!
Please don’t judge this point based on my picture, it was cloudy the morning I visited. It is absolutely worth a visit in any weather, but I’ll be back one day with clear skies to take in the hole view.
Grab a Local Beer or Two
Bend loves craft beer. I might even go so far as to say it is one of the best cities for craft beer in Oregon! Bend has more than 20 craft breweries in town. Some, like 10 Barrel Brewing and Deschutes, have brew pups in other cities like Portland, while others are local only to Bend. Take a day or afternoon and brewery hop around town. A few of my favorites include Crux, Good Life, Sunriver, Monkless and Bend Brewing, but there are so many others!
Watch the Surfers on the River
Yep, you read that right. People actually surf on the Deschutes River, in the middle of the central Oregon high desert. The Bend Whitewater Park is located under the Colorado Avenue Bridge. This man-made whitewater park has different rapid levels for floating as well as a section for surfers to catch a wave. Take a stroll over the bridge and watch the surfers riding their wave. Who needs an ocean anyways?
Relive the 90’s with a Visit to Blockbuster
Does anyone remember the good ol’ days before everyone used streaming services and you actually had to go to a store to rent a movie? Well, those good ol’ days are still alive and well in Bend, where the last Blockbuster on earth is still opening and operating. Take a walk down memory lane as you wander the aisles of DVD’s, browsing current and older channels. I did buy a DVD while I was there and really wished my hotel room had a DVD player!
Get Out of the City
With a little driving, you can experience so much nature and expnd your options of activities while visiting the Bend. There are options for day trips or just a few hours that can greatly enhance your visit. A few options of places outside the city to visit include the Painted Hills to explore a unique landscape, driving the Cascade Lakes Highway to swim in a crystal clear alpine lake, hiking to Tumalo Falls, or visiting any of the nearby volcanoes for an epic hike.