Bend, Oregon is something of a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. Situated along the Deschutes River, surrounded by national forests, and in close proximity to both mountains and desert, Bend offers a showcase of Pacific Northwest at its best — fishing, hiking, cycling, skiing, and lest we forget, beer. Below, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite things to do in Bend, Oregon.
Top things to do in Bend, Oregon
1. Tube down the Deschutes River
Getting out on the Deschutes River is by far one of the best ways to explore the city, especially if you’re visiting during the summer months when temperatures are routinely in the 80’s. The Deschutes River runs right through the city and offers scenic views of the city all along the way. For our river adventure, we rented tubes from Powder House, which we recommend.
To start your tubing adventure, launch your float at Riverbend Park which offers a sandy launchpad. A common route is to ultimately end up at Drake Park. This route takes about 90 minutes in total. Along this portion of the river, the water is anywhere from 3 ft. to 8 ft. deep. If you’re feeling adventurous, you will pass right through the man-made Bend Whitewater River Park, a series of slow, medium, and fast rapids. (If you’re not up for the rapids, you can easily navigate to the left bank of the river, hop out, and walk your tube around the rapids. There is plenty of signage overhead as you near the area so you won’t be able to miss the rapids coming up ahead.)
Looking for more adventure? You can also rent paddle boards, canoes, or kayaks, and take them out along the same route. We recommend Tumalo Creek Kayak and Paddle Board Rental since they have a kiosk located in Riverbend Park.
Tip: Due to coronavirus, no outfitters are offering shuttle rides for tubing, so you’ll need to organize your own transportation to and from your starting and ending points. Note that Power House, which is still offering tube rentals for the season, is not located directly on the river.
2. Explore breweries on the Bend Ale Trail
Bend boasts a buzzing craft beer scene, with over 22 breweries on the Bend Ale Trail. You’d be remiss not to make at least one stop while in Bend. The most well-recognized of the Bend breweries is Deschutes Brewery, but we also recommend Sunriver Brewing, 10 Barrel, Silver Moon, and Crux Fermentation Project. All of the aforementioned breweries have outdoor seating, and many offer food and snacks, from full-service kitchens to food trucks stationed outside. Crux Fermentation Project specifically has a large outdoor area, with food trucks, occasional live music, and ample room for lawn games, making it a great destination to prop up for a few hours.
3. Run or bike one of Bend’s many trails
Bend has a myriad of local running, biking, and walking trails. One of our favorite running trail systems is the Deschutes River Trail, a combination of both paved and unpaved trail running alongside the Deschutes River. A portion of the trail also takes you right through the Old Mill District where you’ll find shops and eateries.
4. Hike Tumalo Falls
Just 13 miles outside of Bend, Tumalo Falls can be a rewarding, short to half-day adventure. The trek to the Tumalo Falls viewpoint itself is just a 5-minute uphill walk from the trailhead parking lot – but if you’re willing to put in some extra miles, you can easily hike the area as a loop, giving you the opportunity to see a series of cascades and waterfalls along Tumalo Creek. Read about our experience hiking the Tumalo Falls loop trail.
5. Visit the last remaining Blockbuster on Earth
For a trip down memory lane, see the last remaining Blockbuster in Bend. As you browse the aisles of movies and games (which you can still rent!), remember when you could find a Blockbuster on every corner in the 90’s. The store also contains a small display of Blockbuster memorabilia.
6. Take a day trip to a Central Oregon landmark
While not specifically in Bend, part of Bend’s lure is its proximity to desert, mountains, and old-growth forests. Just 30 minutes away, visit Smith Rock State Park for unparalleled views of Oregon’s High Desert. For longer trips (2-3 hours drive one way), take a day trip to Oregon’s Painted Hills or Oregon’s only national park, Crater Lake National Park.
7. Explore Bend’s volcanic history
All around Bend are significant geographical formations worth exploring, the closest of which is Pilot Butte. Located smack dab in the middle of the city, a hike up Pilot Butte — a 500-ft. cinder cone — offers 360-degree views of snow-capped mountains, desert, and the city below. To extend your adventure, you can take a trip to the Newberry Volcanic National Monument where you can find waterfalls, lava flows, and scenic views.
Where to stay
- Budget: Loge Bend
- Mid-tier: Residence Inn by Marriott
- Luxury: Riverhouse on the Deschutes
Find more hotels in Bend:
When to visit
Bend is a fantastic city to visit year-round, with a hip food and beer scene. In the winter, Bend is a great destination for skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing given its proximity to Mt. Bachelor. In the warmer months, it is the perfect retreat for hiking, fishing, cycling, and kayaking.
3-Day Summer Itinerary
Day 1: Spend a day on the river, whether kayaking, tubing or paddle boarding. Once you’ve concluded your river adventure and had a chance to wash up, spend the remainder of the day exploring stops on the Bend Ale Trail.
Day 2: Dust off your hiking boots and take a day trip. Depending on what you fancy, you have plenty from which to choose — Crater Lake, Smith Rock State Park, Newberry Volcanic National Monument (all within 2 hours of Bend).
Day 3: Pack a picnic lunch, and hike nearby Tumalo Falls. Spend the afternoon perusing shops and eateries in the Old Mill District.