Bend, Oregon, is an outdoor lover’s dream. It offers almost anything an outdoor enthusiast could ask for. Straddling Oregon’s wet coastal region and its dry interior, complete with lakes and rivers, Bend boasts gorgeous scenery and outdoor options year round. Each season brings with it an abundance of outdoor activities — from mountain biking to skiing. Here are a few things to do in Bend during each of its four seasons.
Summer: hiking, biking, fishing, craft brews, and outdoor concerts
Summer is hands down the best time of year to make the most of this outdoor paradise. When the weather’s warm, Bend offers a plethora of things to do — from hiking to biking, rock climbing, rafting, golfing, fishing, and kayaking. The list is nearly endless.
Outdoor concerts at the Old Mill District in Bend kick off the sunny season during Memorial Day Weekend. Central Oregon Beer Week also starts the last week of May, celebrating Bend’s title of Beertown USA and its booming craft beer scene. You can also check out the Bend Ale Trail, the largest beer trail in the West with over two dozen breweries. Collect an official passport and get it stamped by breweries to earn a souvenir.
Most of the breweries in The Bend Ale Trail are within walking distance. For additional fun, though, you can ride the popular cycle pub, which looks like a smaller version of a trolley car with a bar in the middle. Guests sit on opposite sides of the bar and peddle for horsepower, but the main driver steers and takes you to your destination. You get to work out and drink a pint at the same time!
For a more legit workout, Bend has plenty of hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing options. Mt. Bachelor’s Bike Park converts ski pistes into high-speed downhill mountain bike trails. Alternatively, you can hike popular paths like the Upper Deschutes River Trail, Pilot Butte State Park, Canyon Creek Meadows, or Dry River Gorge. The Bend area also has several gorgeous waterfalls, a few of which — like Tumalo Falls, Sahalie, and Koosah Falls — are easily accessible for short hikes. Thirty minutes north of Bend, Smith Rock State Park offers incredible vistas and world-renowned rock climbing. Although temperatures can reach 100 in the high desert, summer mornings are a good time to visit.
The summer heat is a good time to get closer to the water. The Deschutes River features some Class III rapids for river rafting and will cool you off when you get soaked. For a gentler approach, try floating. On hot days, you’ll see crowds of people floating downriver on inner tubes. Plenty of signs at the various local parks show you where to go, certain rules, and shuttles to take you back to where you started.
Paddleboarding is another growing activity; beginners can sign up for lessons or simply rent stand-up paddleboards and cruise along. Lastly, the Deschutes River is home to trout, steelhead, salmon, and bass. Fly fishing is extremely popular in this area, and guides will show you the best spots to catch dinner.
Fall: fewer folks, farm-to-table feasts, and festivals
While you have the most outdoor options in summer, locals might argue that fall is, in fact, the ideal time of year in Bend. The weather is a perfect mix of cool and warm days, and the tourists are gone. In this shoulder season, when the summer crowds have gone but the skiers haven’t yet arrived, you can get lower prices and great deals on hotel stays. The hiking trails are also much more peaceful and less congested than in summer.
Fall is also the tastiest time of the year in Bend as the bounty of fruits and vegetables is plentiful. Bend has many farm-to-table restaurants that serve up seasonal, locally grown produce. The area’s high commitment to sustainability is clear in the number of local food markets.
Ariana Restaurant was one of the city’s first dining rooms to focus on hyper-local food and create Bend’s farm-to-table movement. Drake, an upscale neighborhood spot, serves local comfort food with a creative twist. At Jackalope Grill, the tasty osso bucco is slow cooked with Willamette Valley red wine and served atop sun-dried tomato polenta.
The Bend Fall Festival is a huge event in October with three days of live music, local food, and plenty of activities for the family. October also hosts the Tenth Month, which is a month-long celebration of innovation in art, film, design, marketing, and technology. Several conferences and festivals are held in Bend during this month to showcase the power and beauty of the arts. Popular events include the Bend Film Festival, Swivel Digital and Creative Marketing Conference, and Friday Art Walks in downtown Bend.
Winter: snow, snow, snow… and hot springs
Winter in Bend means snow. A lot of snow. Skiers and snowboarders flock to the trails on Mount Bachelor to enjoy an average of 30 feet of snow per year. Downhill skiing and snowboarding are extremely popular here, as winter on the mountain can last seven months. You can also enjoy Bend’s winter wonderland on a sled, snowshoes, cross-country skis, snowmobiles, ice skates, or even a fat bike on the snow.
Hiking remains popular even in the winter months due to Bend’s high desert climate. The Oregon Desert Trail crisscrosses nearly half of the state, which sees very little snow in the winter. Hikers can head to the badlands of eastern Oregon to explore its rugged canyons in mild daytime temperatures. Smith Rock State Park, popular year-round, is also a great place to hike or mountain bike.
Bend also has several volcanic caves. A walk through a lava river cave is a unique activity that you can do all year, given the steady 42-degree temps underground. With all of this volcanic activity, Bend is also home to a few hot springs. Winter is the perfect time to soak in the mineral-rich pools of Paulina Lake Hot Springs, Deer Creek, and McCredie Hot Springs.
Spring: an epic snowboarding contest and springtime hiking
The ski season in Bend is one of the longest in the country. It usually wraps up at the end of May. It’s not surprising that one of the most popular things to do is close out the ski season with a Sunchaser Spring Ski Pass. Available April and May, this pass offers skiers the chance to get in some runs before the season closes for under $200. With plenty of warmer days and fresh powder, many locals prefer tackling the mountain during spring.
Bend’s “Big Wave Challenge” kicks off the spring season with a well-known snowboarding competition. Snowboarders compete in various categories, and they’re judged as if they are competing in a surf contest. There’s also the added bonus of a Springtacular Concert Series every Friday at Mt. Bachelor.
Even more outdoor activities start to take off in the spring, like bike races and 5K events. Besides being Beer Town USA, Bend also calls itself “Bike Town USA” as it holds a number of cycling events throughout the year. The city has several scenic byways, mountain bike trails, and biking loops, and spring is when biking season picks up again.
The serious hiking season is back on as well. Although many of the higher elevation trails still have snow in May, there are still dozens of trails to choose from. The Deschutes River Trail, an urban path of dirt and paved roads, becomes popular with locals who want to get out and about. Smith Rock State Park and Pilot Butte State Park see more visitors who come out to hike, bike, rock climb, or fish in the milder temperatures. In addition, beer, food, and art festivals start back up in the spring, as people want to get outside and enjoy some fun in the sun.
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