Surrounded by volcanic areas, scenic lakes, rock climbing hubs, and the Badlands, Bend is a must-visit for the outdoor types. Only 3 hours away from Portland, Oregon, this small city in Deschutes County is one of the most beautiful cities in the USA.
This city in Oregon also has lush green parks, quaint neighborhoods and easy access to some of the most spectacular scenery in the region so if you’re not quite the active type, this is still a great place to be.
Whatever type of adventure you’re into, this city has something for you so plan your trip early with this list of things to do in Bend, Oregon.
10 Things To Do in Bend, Oregon
1. Trek Through Smith Rock State Park
The 651-acre Smith Rock State Park is open throughout the year and a great place to visit in Bend at any season. It is a haven for those into hiking as it has scenic trails that offer unparalleled views of its stunning geography that goes on for miles wherever you look.
At 3,000 feet above sea level, this state park is also part of the High Desert plateau. If you’re into rock climbing, the Smith Rock State Park has a thousand climbing areas.
It can be very hot in this area during the summer months though so if you’re planning to visit and want to explore this place, spring is the best time to go.
2. Drive the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway
Considered as one of the most scenic rides in the United States’ Western region, the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway takes you through eight stunning lakes. You can stop at each lake to take in the view and for done photos, even a bit of exploring.
The magnificent Cultus Lake is worth stopping by for a longer time, even spending a night in if you want to enjoy some quiet time with nature.
The area has well-developed tourism facilities that include a restaurant and accommodations or if you want, you can also pitch a tent by the lake.
3. See Stars at the Pine Mountain Observatory
A sparkly Bend, Oregon treat awaits at the Pine Mountain Observatory, which is just a quick drive from Bend. This is considered as one of the best stargazing areas in the region, and a definite must-do when in Bend.
Located inside the University of Oregon, this observatory is one of the leading astronomical research hubs in the US.
It is accessible to the public every summer and is equipped with high-powered telescopes. The observatory is open to the public during Saturdays and Sundays from May to September, making it one of the best things to do in Bend on weekends.
4. Newberry National Volcanic Monument & Lava River Cave
One of the most exciting things to do in Bend involves volcanoes, right at the Newberry National Volcanic Monument which is just a short drive away. There are rangers in the area who will happily help you around as you embark on your one-of-a-kind volcanic adventure.
Be sure to take that hike up ‘The Lava Butte’ or the cinder cone volcanic mountain, where you can ride a car up then stop at a certain point for you to take the rest of the way on foot. That’s where you can hike around the crater for some amazing views of the lava fields.
The park also has several lava cave tubes that you can explore, whether with a guide to assist you or you can do it yourself. However, you need to have a proper lantern or flashlight that’ll last for at least two hours for you to be allowed inside the cave.
5. Tumalo Falls
Plunging off a sheer wall to a roaring river below, the 97-foot Tumalo Falls is one of the best things to see if you’re in Bend as it’s just 10 miles west of the city. Spend an entire morning and afternoon here with a packed picnic as you explore a bit of the area.
The Tumalo Falls is best viewed from a designated observation deck close to the parking area, where you get to see up the river towards the curtain of a waterfall that pours from the cliff.
If you want a closer look, you can take the two-mile hike that starts from the picnic area. Just be sure to have a map or that you know exactly where you’re going before you start.
6. Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint
Both among the city’s best attractions and a favorite recreation area among the locals, a drive or (preferably) a drive up Pilot Butte is one of the best activities to do in Bend. This is where you get some excellent views over the city, where you could also start or end your day as it’s an ideal spot to watch the sunrise or sunset.
From afar, Pilot Butte looks like a massive anthill. The drive or hike up is quite scenic, where the road or trail winds up the hill until it reaches a parking area.
The peak offers picturesque 360-degree views over Bend as well as some information plaques you can look at while you relax on top.
7. Deschutes Historical Museum
A must visit whether you’re a history buff or simply curious to know more about Bend, is the Deschutes Historical Museum. The displays and exhibits here focus on the history of Native American tribes. Here, you’ll get to learn more about their early exploration as well as fur trapping, living in the High Desert, and their lives over the years.
The displays are quite diverse, with details and information depicted or represented through artifacts, dioramas, documents such as letters, artworks like paintings and photographs.
The Deschutes Historical Museum is one of the best things to see in Bend, as it allows you glimpses of some of the most significant parts in Oregon’s history. It’s also a good way to take a bit of a break from all the more physical activities in the area so be sure to stop by.
8. Oregon Badlands Wilderness Area
Experience something unique and unforgettable while in Bend as you explore 29,180 acres of the Oregon Badlands Wilderness Area. This is where you literally get lost in the wild and enjoy the diverse landscape and geological wonders of the area.
If you’re the active type who enjoys bonding with nature, then spend more time here as it’s among the best things to do in Bend on weekends. This area has about 50 miles of trails for anyone who’s up for a Badlands adventure, so get ready to explore by biking, hiking or horseback riding.
There’s a lot to see and do, but while you’re here, be sure to check out the Dry River. During the Ice Age, there used to be flowing water in this area, which now separates the Badlands volcano and the Horse Ridge volcano.
The stunning Oregon Wilderness Area also boasts of thriving wildlife, where you’ll most likely come across antelopes, bobcats, deer, elk, mule and yellow-bellied marmots. Look up and you may see some golden eagles or prairie falcons.
9. Goody’s Chocolate and Ice Cream Factory Tour
Treat yourself to some chocolates or ice cream after all that exploring or sightseeing and visit Goody’s Chocolate and Ice Cream Factory. One of the best attractions in Bend, this place that produces sweet delights has been around for thirty years.
It is already an institution in Bend, that even local residents recommend it. Go on a guided tour and see how they come up with all these treats for those with a sweet tooth, and reward yourself some of their best offerings.
10. Hit the Slopes at Mount Bachelor
If you happen to be in Bend during winter and you haven’t tried skiing, then this is the perfect opportunity. Mount Bachelor is easily accessible from Bend, and the short drive even passes through the beautiful scenery in the Century Drive Highway.
Hands down one of the best things to do in Bend during this season, as this is the top area to be for skiing. This is the largest in Oregon at 1,000 acres, and famous for its high-quality snow that’s naturally dry.
Visitors flock here to enjoy the slopes from the middle of November to the end of May when it gets an average of 450 inches of snow every year. Mount Bachelor maybe your magical winter paradise for moat of the year, but during summer, it also becomes a top destination for mountain biking.
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