Bend Oregon Blog | The Bend Buzz by Visit Bend
The first day of summer arrived earlier this week, with Summer Solstice ushering in Bend’s sunniest season on June 20, 2016.
I’ve admittedly been celebrating the arrival of a new season for several months already (occasionally while wearing mittens) but there are a few undeniable signs that summer has really, truly arrived in Bend. Here are five of ‘em.
Everyone’s playing on the Deschutes River
The most devoted river floaters started hitting the water before the icy edges were melted, but now you can stroll the Old Mill District any day of the week and see happy inner-tubers drifting along beside kayaks, canoes, standup paddleboards, and the occasional random dude riding in his recycling bin (yep, I saw this once). Visit our website to get the inside scoop on floating the river in Bend.
But there are other ways to play on the river if floating doesn’t float your boat (so to speak). Sun Country Tours is off and running for the season with their whitewater rafting trips. If you prefer a mellower form of water recreation, try a canoe outing with Wanderlust Tours or call Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe about their kayak adventures.
Got your doggie’s costume ready?
Fourth of July is my favorite holiday of the year, and the buzz has already begun for Independence Day 2016 celebrations in Bend.
There are tons of cool things scheduled for this year, ranging from Old Fashioned 4th of July Festival and pancake feed, to the annual fireworks display launched from atop Pilot Butte at 10 p.m.
But my very favorite event of all is Bend’s annual Pet Parade. It’s Bend’s largest parade, with 8,000+ spectators and participants, and it’s been happening since the 1930s. Critters and humans of all shapes and sizes march the route in costume, and it’s a display of small-town awesomeness guaranteed to warm your heart whether you’re participating or just watching. Make sure you arrive early for a good spot!
Catch a killer sunset
Bend’s sunsets are great all year long, but they take on an almost otherworldly magnificence in the summer months. Some of that is due to the prevalence of forest fires around the west throughout the summer and the way the light filters through drifting smoke.
Regardless of the reason, you haven’t truly experienced Bend until you’ve watched (and photographed!) at least one summer sunset in Bend. For ideas on the best spots to enjoy one, go here.
Hike at higher altitudes
But getting a look at high-elevation trails without the aid of snowshoes is a treat reserved for the warmer summer months. While you’ll still see chunks of snow dotting the ground the higher you get, now’s the time to visit favorite destinations off the Cascade Lakes Highway, including Devil’s Lake, Sparks Lake, Elk Lake, and more.
Don’t forget sunblock, extra layers, and a Hydro Flask of water to keep you hydrated!
Sip your suds and nosh your nibbles under the sun
Outdoor tables began popping up all over Bend a couple months ago, but now you can stroll past almost anytime and see people sitting at them in short sleeves and sundresses instead of winter coats.
Outdoor dining in Bend is one of my all-time favorite indulgences, with the smell of juniper wafting on the breeze and the high desert sun warming my shoulders. My favorite outdoor dining spots in Bend include Crux Fermentation Project and 900 Wall (which recently reopened after an impressively massive renovation). Ditto that for Currents, (the restaurant formerly known as Crossings at the Riverhouse) which just got an amazing renovation of the restaurant, lounge, and riverfront patio.
And speaking of riverfront dining, make sure you scope out my roundup of 11 great spots for riverfront dining in Bend.
Now get out there and enjoy your Bend summer!
I love animals. The fact that I live with nine of them (not counting children) should tip you off, as should the pet fur on my clothes.
But my beloved city of Bend offers more than cats and dogs and aquarium fish for the animal lovers among us. Here are 10 places you can easily get your critter fix in Bend.
The High Desert Museum
If you love animals, make sure this Central Oregon landmark is on your bucket list. Otters, porcupines, raccoons, fish, owls, eagles, hawks, tortoises, and even a bobcat are just a few of the creature highlights at the High Desert Museum.
Be sure and check their online schedule so you can time your visit with special presentations like their Raptors of the Desert Sky demo, the reptile encounter, carnivore talk, and more.
Birdwatching in the Old Mill District
If feathered friends are your thing, the Old Mill District makes it easy for you to fit a bit of birdwatching between shopping and your dinner reservation.
Stop by the Ticket Mill to pick up a free birdwatching guide and a pair of rental binoculars (also free!) Consult the schedule to find out about seasonal Nature Walks and Bird Walks with local experts who can help you identify all the little birdies you’re seeing.
Alpacas at Crescent Moon Ranch
Located less than 30 minutes north of Bend, Crescent Moon Alpaca Ranch has ranch visiting hours seven days a week in both winter and summer. This is your chance to scope out one of the largest alpaca breeders in the U.S., and to get up close and personal with these adorably fuzzy creatures.
Watch for cria (that’s a baby alpaca) in the springtime, then stop by their on-site boutique to shop for alpaca wool socks and sweaters.
The Farm & Ranch Tour with The Well Traveled Fork
Admittedly it might seem weird for an animal lover to go out and meet the creatures he or she intends to eat. But as a carnivorous animal lover myself, I love the Farm & Ranch Tour from The Well Traveled Fork precisely because it sets my mind at ease just a little.
The tours hit 3-4 farms and ranches around Central Oregon where you can see animals raised in humane, kind, compassionate environments. You also get a glimpse at organic farming practices in this tricky high desert climate.
Home on the range at DD Ranch
This beautiful ranch northeast of Bend is often one of the stops on the aforementioned Farm & Ranch tour, but if time is short or you prefer exploring alone, you can check out DD Ranch all by yourself.
This is a working ranch that’s home to cows, goats, sheep, chickens, and more. It’s known for seasonal events like the annual pumpkin patch and Easter egg hunt. They even have options for birthday parties and field trips. There’s an on-site café that’s open seasonally, along with a petting zoo the kids will love.
Check their website for visiting hours and seasonal happenings.
Visit a Fish Hatchery
While fish aren’t cute and cuddly like some of the other animals on the list, they’re still an important part of Bend’s ecosystem and pretty entertaining to boot. There are a couple different fish hatcheries in Central Oregon, including the Fall River Fish Hatchery and the Wizard Falls Hatchery.
My personal fave is Wizard Falls for the opportunity to scope out the spellbinding turquoise water on that section of the Metolius River. If you go, consider parking at the West Metolius Trailhead and hiking along the river to reach the hatchery. Don’t forget a pocketful of quarters so you can buy fish food to toss into the pond.
Visit a dog park (whether you brought Fido or not!)
Bend was named the nation’s dog-friendliest town by Dog Fancy magazine, and one of the reasons was the city’s abundance of off-leash dog parks.
Even if you don’t have a pooch of your own on vacation, it’s still fun to swing by one so you can watch the pups frolicking in the water or scampering around in grassy fields. Go here for a list of dog parks in Bend.
Scope out the Sunriver Nature Center
The Sunriver Nature Center is worth a drive any time of year for their awesome birds of prey exhibit, nature trail, and creature cave that includes snakes, frogs, lizards, and toads. But the big highlight right now is a pair of brand new baby swans (called “cygnets”) that just hatched last week.
The romance author in me loves the backstory of two hard-luck swans, Chuck and Gracie, who seemed destined to remain single forever. Chuck was known for years as a curmudgeonly biter who chased away humans and other swans. Gracie was a bit of an outcast among swans on the Deschutes River who routinely picked on her. She was found one frigid winter morning with a fishing lure stuck in her tongue, and went through surgery and rehab to save her life. To make a long story short, the two were introduced and it was (almost) love at first sight. Chuck doesn’t bite anymore, and their new swan babies are the cutest things ever. Plus there’s a live webcam so you can keep tabs on the little family after you’ve returned home.
Saddle up for some horseback riding
Want a little giddyup in your Bend vacation? There are several spots around Central Oregon where you can take in the stunning landscape from atop your trusty rented stead.
My step-kids particularly loved taking lessons at Rhinestone Ranch, and it’s conveniently located just a little east of Bend. For a more scenic outing, Brasada Ranch offers some of the most stunning 900 acres filled with mountain views and curvy trails.
Check this link for a complete roundup of horseback riding in Bend and all around Central Oregon.
Keep your eyes peeled on an outing with Wanderlust Tours
While Wanderlust Tours outings aren’t billed as animal-viewing adventures per se, their naturalist guides are experts in all kinds of critters around the high desert. If you let your guide know you’re especially interested in hearing about animals, you’ll be regaled with all sorts of info on everything from otters to owls to pine martens.
During the summer months, there’s always a good chance you’ll encounter otters, beavers, hawks, and osprey on one of their canoe tours. In the wintertime, they’ll show you how to study the snow for animal tracks when you’re out on one of their snowshoe tours.
My office in the Bend Visitor Center is roughly two kayak lengths from the front desk, which means I spend all day eavesdropping on conversations positively dripping with great Bend tips.
There’s an endless wealth of great Bend knowledge in my co-workers’ brains, so I asked them to crack those noggins wide open and share some of the best tips they have to offer. Below is very likely the best collection of insider information you’ll ever find about playing, eating, and navigating your way around Bend, Oregon.
- If someone is giving you directions and they say, “Just jump on Highway 97 and head north . . .” it means nothing, because there are two versions of Highway 97 that run north/south. They are referred to as The Parkway, and 3rd street. The distinction clears up a lot of confusion when giving newbies directions around town.
- If you can see the mountains, you are looking west.
- Make reservations for your summer trip to Bend. Otherwise, you may be pitching your tent on a dusty road in the BLM or spending your evenings in a motel 15 to 45 miles out of town.
Group Sales & Special Projects Manager
- Hiking and exploring with young children is a great way to introduce them to the great outdoors, but it’s important to plan ahead. I fill my day pack with the usual essentials like water, bug spray, and extra layers/jackets for changes in weather. It’s especially crucial to have lots of sunscreen, since the high elevation here requires frequent and careful application. Snacks are important not only to fuel little bodies, but as motivational tools for kids. Other kid-friendly hiking essentials include hats, sunglasses, and a way to clean grubby hands for snack time.
- It can be disheartening to see garbage left behind on trails and at picnic areas, and it makes me feel better to be part of the solution. I always stuff a garbage sack or dry bag into my day pack and make an effort to collect trash as I’m hiking. This is also a great way to teach my daughter about sustainability and leaving a place better than you found it.
PR & Communications Manager
- Wall and Bond are the two main streets that run parallel through Downtown Bend, and I spent at least a decade confusing the two until someone told me to remember the “W” in “Wall” is a memory jogger for “water.” In other words, Wall is the street closest to the Deschutes River, while Bond is one street over.
- When floating the river, DO remember shoes (particularly if you plan to hoof it back to your car) but DON’T wear flip-flops, as they easily slip off or get stuck in a muddy river bottom. Keens, Tevas, or water shoes are best!
- If you’re tackling a bunch of Bend Ale Trail breweries in one day, order a schooner instead of a full pint. You’ll still get to enjoy the beer (and you won’t feel like a cheapskate the way you might if you just stuck with free samples) but you won’t end up tipsy after two stops.
Vice President of Operations & Policy
- Don’t attend an evening concert at the Les Schwab Amphitheater without bringing a winter jacket—even if it’s a warm summer day when you head out!
- Bend is a surprisingly easy place to dine with special dietary needs, and most restaurants know how to accommodate requests. It’s also smart to check the Bend Buzz blog for ideas on things like gluten-free dining or vegan/vegetarian food in Bend.
Visitor Center Manager
- In addition to Tawna’s idea of ordering a schooner, I also tell folks just starting the Bend Ale Trail to share a flight and hang out at their favorite afterwards.
- A great time to paddle on Sparks Lake is late afternoon to early evening. Most folks are leaving by then, and you almost have the lake to yourselves. Even better is going out just before a full moon pops up! Early morning out on the lakes is also a quiet time to paddle. Usually the wind picks up in the early afternoon.
- In the summer heat, it’s best to visit Smith Rock State Park first thing in the morning.
- When exiting our plethora of roundabouts, ALWAYS signal—it makes the traffic flow much smoother. (We all have many skills, but mind reading isn’t one of them).
- Many of the streets, particularly in midtown, are in alphabetical order (starting with Alder and ending with Xerxes). Along that line, streets typically run north/south, whereas avenues run east/west.
- Here’s a tip to use in Bend (and just about everywhere in the US with a few exceptions): Highways running north/south are named with odd numbers (Hwy 97); east/west highways have even numbers (Hwy 20). So if you find yourself a bit turned around, remember this rule.
- When heading up to the Cascade Lakes Highway, make certain to take with you: extra layers, hat, sunscreen, water, and extra snacks. Temps drop dramatically when the sun sets. Gas up before you head out. Also, don’t make headlines because you were “one of those” who was unprepared. Depending on your cell phone for directions isn’t a good idea, as coverage can be spotty up there. Stop at the Visitor Center for area maps.
- Be nice, you’re in Bend!
But I’ve seen a lot of buzz lately about people playing outside and injuring themselves badly enough to require a helicopter rescue, all for the sake of snagging a scenic selfie or an epic Instagram shot. Guys, no! I want you to stay safe out there! I also want our superawesome outdoor spaces to stay superawesome, and I also want you to go home with some killer photos and vacation memories.
Sounds like a tall order, right? But we can all have our cake and eat it, too. Here’s how!
Stick to the trails
Bend has an abundance of killer hiking trails in every direction. Landscapes range from craggy lava fields to lakeside meadows to vast desert to lush forest to high-elevation alpine terrain, and there are well-marked trails through all of it.
We also have nearly 300-miles of singletrack mountain biking trails, including sweet, flowy rides, epic dirt-jumping, and even kid-friendly cross country.
With all those well-marked trails to choose from, there’s really no reason to wander off-trail and risk irreparable damage to ancient landscapes, delicate forest foliage, or to your own fine self.
Besides that, it’s pretty tough to get lost if you stay on the trail, which means you stay safe and live to hike and bike another day. Win/win!
Pack it in, pack it out
Probably one of the most essential rules of enjoying the great outdoors is to leave nothing behind but footprints (and maybe the occasional tear of joy shed while you paddle the mighty Deschutes, though please limit joyful tear shedding to three per person, lest you alter the salinity of our mighty river).
In any case, you’ll find trash receptacles at most parks and trailheads, and those make an awesome place to stash the remnants of your picnic or that tissue you used while weeping the aforementioned tears of joy.
Carrying reusable beverage bottles like the ones made by Hydro Flask or DrinkTanks is one handy way to reduce your trash production. Bonus: They keep your drink a whole lot colder than a flimsy plastic bottle. Double bonus: The Bend-logoed ones we sell in the Bend Visitor Center make great souvenirs!
If beer is your beverage of choice, several Bend Ale Trail breweries like Worthy, GoodLife, Silver Moon, Crux, and Three Creeks offer their tasty elixir in cans. They’re more lightweight (and less breakable) than glass bottles, plus empty cans can be crushed and packed out with more ease than you packed them in.
Signs and fences are our friends
When you see a sign telling you not to enter a particular area, or a fence that makes it tough to do so, that’s not because someone wants to put a damper on your adventure. It’s there to keep you (and the delicate landscape) safe and sound and able to be enjoyed by future generations.
I have it on good authority that future generations really want to enjoy you, so mind the signs, mind the fences, and stay safe out there.
Look out for Fido, too!
We love dogs in Bend—so much so, that we were named the nation’s dog-friendliest city. Fido is welcome in even the unlikeliest of areas ranging from breweries to downtown shops and even canoe trips with Wanderlust Tours.
First things first: It’s important to protect Fido from the high desert’s harsh elements. Consider a product like Musher’s Secret or some dog boots by Bend-based RuffWear in the winter months. In hot summer months, be aware that pavement and trails can be ridiculously hot, so be conscious of Fluffy’s paws. If you let your pooch cool off in our rivers, lakes, and streams, don’t forget your doggie life jacket!
Okay, now on to the (ahem) slightly less pleasant aspect of owning a dog. Unless you’ve trained your pooch to use an outhouse, there will come a time when Fido builds a little log cabin in the grass. When that happens, make sure you have your doody bags handy so you can follow the previous suggestion about packing it out.
Nearly all of the 80+ public parks in Bend have dog doo baggies free for the taking. While I’m not suggesting you stuff your pockets with them, I won’t tell anyone if you grab a spare for your hike into the wilderness later that day. Also, locally-owned Bend Pet Express is a great place to stock up on doody bags, dog safety gear, and more!
Don’t squish the flowers
We’ve all seen those Instagram pics of people sprawled on a blanket in a colorful meadow, or running merrily through a field of wildflowers, and yes, they’re pretty. But before you head out for your own flowery frolic, consider the fact that stomping, dancing, napping, rolling, picnicking, or camping on picturesque fields of flowers makes them not-so-picturesque for other people who want to enjoy them.
Not only that, but rolling around in the grass is a good way to find yourself wallowing on the aforementioned log cabin built by a pooch owned by someone less responsible than you are.
Keep our wildflowers (and your favorite shirt!) in pristine condition and refrain from flopping down on them.
But what if I want a super-awesome gnarly photo?
Hey, I don’t blame you. It’s fun to bring back cool photos from an epic vacation, and Bend has no shortage of great photo viewpoints.
But there’s no need to break a leg (or a tree branch) to get ‘em. Check out this handy guide for six places to go and a few angles to consider when trying to snag memorable photos of Bend.
Most of all, get out there and have some good, safe, healthy fun in Bend’s great outdoors!
The first official day of summer 2016 isn’t until June 20, but that’s not how we see it here. In Bend, Memorial Day Weekend always marks a surge in visitor traffic and the opening of some of our best attractions for the season.
Here’s a handy roundup of what’s already open and what you can expect to see opening very soon in Bend and around Central Oregon.
The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway
The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is the gateway to dozens of breathtaking high Cascade lakes and oodles of great fishing, boating, floating, canoeing, and more. It’s also just a darn pretty drive.
Heavy snowfall prompts the seasonal closure during late-fall each year, but the gates were thrown open this year on May 23. Expect to still see a fair amount of snow scattered around, particularly at higher elevations. If you’re hoping to camp, make sure you’ve got gear that protects you when temps dip below freezing (they will!)
But for now, get up there and enjoy!
While this Bend landmark remains accessible year-round, it’s somewhat less accessible during the winter months when the seasonal gate closure at FS Road 4603 puts the main trailhead about two miles (rather than 200 feet) from where you park your car.
Compounding the issue in recent months has been a waterline project that’s limited trail access for what seems like for-EVAH to those of us itching to get back out there.
While we’ve heard mixed information on this one over the last couple days, the most recent official word from our local newspaper is that it’s scheduled to open this Saturday, May 28. Get out there and enjoy it!
While the hiking route up and down Pilot Butte is open year-round, the paved road for vehicles is only open when you’re less likely to hit patches of ice and go sliding off the side of this 500-foot cinder cone.
This year, the road opened to cars a little earlier than normal at the end of April. That means you’re free to drive up and down to get your fill of killer views of the city. If you prefer to hike it (which I highly recommend) you’ll want to keep a close eye out for cars if you’re hoofing it along the paved road instead of the dirt path.
Newberry National Volcanic Monument
The Newberry National Volcanic Monument spans more than 54,000 acres ranging from craggy lava fields to turquoise lakes to 7,984-foot Paulina Peak. As you might guess from the sheer size and diversity of this volcanic wonderland, not everything opens at the same time.
The Lava Lands Visitor Center opened May 1 with limited hours, but on May 26 they launch into full summer operations. That means they’re open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through September 5. Daily shuttle up Lava Butte will start May 28.
Most of the major roads and campgrounds are open now as well, but the road up Paulina Peak is always slow to thaw, and will likely remain closed until late-June. Check here for up-to-date info on road openings and closures.
McKenzie Highway (OR 242)
Crews began plowing this popular stretch of highway in April to remove gobs of snow and a few fallen trees that accumulated over the winter months. It’s not slated to open to vehicles until around June 20 this year, which is actually good news for road cyclists.
Each year, there’s a stretch of time when the roads are mostly cleared but the cars haven’t started flowing yet. It makes an excellent time embark on an epic road cycling adventure, so check out this article to learn more.
Crater Lake National Park
Located a little over two hours from Bend, Crater Lake National Park is one of the most popular road trips for people staying in Bend. While the park itself is open year-round, some roads, trails, and facilities are closed seasonally for snow.
In particular, the park’s North Entrance Road and Rim Drive close to vehicles in November each year. Crews started plowing in April, and they’re on track to have it open sometime in early June. East Rim Drive will open in early July.
But never fear! The Road to Rim Village is open year-round, as is Highway 62. Those are easy ways to access this spellbindingly beautiful area and cross Crater Lake off your bucket list. For up-to-the-minute info on conditions and closures, go here.
Other cool stuff
A few other cool attractions opening soon for the 2016 summer season:
- Bend Farmer’s Market: opening June 1.
- Central Oregon Saturday Market: Opening Saturday, June 28-29 with a special two-day event.
- High Desert Museum: Officially on summer hours now. Go here for a detailed schedule.
There might still be snow in the mountains, but Bend locals and visitors alike are already tidying their camping gear and getting ready for nights spent snoozing under the stars.
To help give you some ideas, we asked Visit Bend staff and volunteers to name some of their favorite camping spots around Central Oregon. Here’s what everyone had to say
Name: Tawna Fenske
Position at Visit Bend: PR and Communications Manager (and regular author of this blog)
Campground of choice: Swamp Wells Campground
Tell us about it! While I love spending time on Central Oregon’s lakes and rivers, I prefer quieter spots when it comes to camping. Swamp Wells offers that, with the added bonus of being close to town (12 miles) and offering easy access to nearby lava tubes like Boyd Cave and Arnold Ice Cave.
Operated by the U.S. Forest Service, Swamp Wells Campground is technically a “horse camp,” and you’ll see hitching posts and the occasional pile of horse doody lying around. But we’ve frequently had the place to ourselves and had a dandy time exploring the high desert terrain on our own two feet. At nighttime, the stars are incredible, and you’ll likely hear coyotes howling in the not-so-distant distance.
Facilities out here are rustic, with just a vault toilet and no running water. The upside is that it’s free, which makes it a nice place to be if you’re trying to stick close to Bend and don’t have much money to spend. Be careful with fires, and heed warnings and restrictions during periods when campfires are banned altogether.
Name: Kevney Dugan
Position at Visit Bend: Executive Director
Campground of choice: Point Campground on Elk Lake
Tell us about it! This is a great lake for standup paddleboarding, skipping rocks, and camp fires under the stars. It has a boat launch and pit toilets, though no running water, so bring your own.
Get there early and take the spot all the way at the end. It’s close to the boat ramp, but the boat ramp isn’t busy so it’s fine. This is a great place for kids to play in shallow water. It has awesome views of Mt. Bachelor to the east and South Sister and Broken top to the north.
Our favorite activity is paddleboarding to the north end of the lake for a treat at the Elk Lake store. If you’re ambitious, go out at night when the lake is calm, the stars are out, and you will have the whole lake to yourself! This campground remains quiet even though it is busy. Bring firewood.
Names: Chip and Josefa LaFurney
Position at Visit Bend: Volunteers
Campground of choice: Lower Palisades Campground on the Crooked River
Tell us about it! This campground is run by the BLM so it’s very basic and has no facilities, although it does have an outhouse.
It’s only an hour’s drive from our house (Overturf Butte location). Our favorite campsite is number 11, and it’s RIGHT on the river and close to the outhouse. The stars out there are absolutely incredible! Chimney Rock is close by for hiking, as is the Prineville Reservoir where we took the canoe (the Reservoir is 5 miles away).
Insider tip? GET THERE EARLY. You can’t reserve and it does fill up. We got there at noon on a Friday and got the site we liked, but it was pretty full by about 4 p.m. We met the other campers and they brought firewood and we hung out by their fire. There were other campgrounds very close and we checked them out but found this one to be the best.
Name: Nate Wyeth
Position at Visit Bend: Marketing Director
Campground of choice: Wyeth Campground
Most of my favorite camping spots are dispersed and backpack-in only, but for a more accessible option, I like Wyeth Campground because, well, the name. It’s also less busy than most other popular spots, and although there are only five sites, it still fills up less quickly than campgrounds on the nearby Cascade Lakes Highway.
Besides the name, I love that it’s on a beautiful section of the Upper Deschutes, and still very close to all of the great hikes along the Cascade Lakes Highway. As the sites have a mixture of sun and shade, it’s a great place to just be lazy all weekend, maybe wet a line, and toss the ball in to the river for the pup. The best sites are 2 and 4 and are on the water.
In terms of facilities, it’s pretty bare bones, with pit toilets and a boat ramp, which means you’ll have to bring your own water and firewood (there’s no buying it onsite). On busy weekends, it does fill up quickly since there are only a few sites.
Name: Linda Orcelletto
Position at Visit Bend: Visitor Information Specialist
Campground of choice: Dispersed camping
Tell us about it! I think we all go camping to get away from the urban sights and sounds. So our favorite spots aren’t in campgrounds, but dispersed areas that are close to water. For some reason the air is fresher, food tastes better, sleep is deeper and the stars shine brighter when you are surrounded by trees instead of RVs, tents, and other folks.
Camping in areas outside campgrounds requires extra care such as bringing your own water, a porta potty, a roll up table, and being conscientious enough take your trash with you. Unless there is an established fire ring, no fires are allowed. Even then, make certain to check on fire regulations. Always bring enough water. This type of camping isn’t for everyone (especially large groups), so if you are new to this type of camping, check out this link so you know before you go.
Go early (or during the week) so you aren’t disappointed if your site is already taken. Most dirt roads aren’t maintained and require high ground clearance vehicles. Most of all, follow the rules of leaving no trace so others can enjoy the tranquility of the spot after you leave.
For tips and information on dispersed camping on U.S. Forest Service land, check out this link.
Name: Lisa Sidor
Position at Visit Bend: Visitor Center Manager
Campground of Choice: Sparks Lake
Tell us about it! Last summer, my husband and I kayak camped for the first time at Sparks Lake. The lake was low, and we had to portage a bit, but ended up having the lake to ourselves.
Camping at Sparks Lake varies with one campground near the Cascade Lakes Highway, dispersed camping along the forest service road to the lake, and dispersed camping by boat along the lake’s shores.
If you pull up on the western shore, you have a beautiful view of Mt. Bachelor. Bring your own water and firewood. Weekdays are best to avoid crowds at the launch ramp.
Normal lake levels will see more kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddle boarders out exploring. Sparks Lake is wonderful to explore, with lots of nooks and crannies. The lake drains into the aquifer by fall, and you can see where the lake is draining. There are several places to camp along the shore, but you need to bring everything in by boat. Don’t forget all the necessary permits for water craft and your Northwest Forest Pass!
Name: Hank Therien
Position at Visit Bend: Group Sales and Special Projects Manager
Campground of Choice: Little Crater Campground
Tell us about it! The campground is on Paulina Lake and is a great home base to explore the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. The sites are big enough to accommodate RVs, and there’s a dump station on site. There’s also running water, fire rings, a boat launch, and more. You can even reserve ahead through this link.
This campground sees heavy summer use, so stick to shoulder season times to avoid crowds. Be sure to arrive early, because this campground tends to fill by Thursday afternoon for most weekends.
If you can get your hands on one of the last campsites that you come to near the campground turnaround, you will have quick access to a trail that will lead you to a pair of natural hot springs on the opposite side of the lake.
Yesterday I got an email from a colleague seeking a roundup of “best of” lists Bend has made in recent years. It was tough to narrow it down.
Did she want to know about the time Outside magazine named Bend the top standup paddleboarding getaway in the world? Or maybe when USA Today claimed we’re one of the nation’s top cycling towns? Or how about when the New York Times ranked Bend one of the top 52 destinations in the world to visit? What about when Livability.com named us one of America’s most romantic cities, or the time Dog Fancy declared us the dog-friendliest city in the U.S.?
Bend has been lauded for everything from mountain biking to fishing to the city’s amazing beer scene. But scrolling through all those “best of” lists got me thinking about other (admittedly nonexistent) lists Bend would totally rock if there were such a thing.
5 great spots to wear boots and a bikini in the same day
Spring is the best time of year to visit Bend if you want to find skiable snow still in the mountains, and paddle-worthy conditions on the Deschutes River all in the same day.
Head up to Mt. Bachelor for a morning of spring skiing or a bit of snowshoeing. Then drive 25 minutes to plop your kayak in the river or maybe hit a mountain biking trail. There aren’t too many places in the world where you can do that in a span of only a couple hours.
The world’s 10 most scenic places to have an allergy attack
While spring is an amazing time of year to visit Bend, it’s also a not-so-great time of year for those who suffer from allergies to juniper pollen. The thing is, you’re unlikely to care.
I can’t tell you how many people I know who’ve lived in Bend for eons and simply accept the fact that they’ll spend a few days each spring sneezing and sniffling uncontrollably. When asked if they’d ever consider leaving, every single one of them declares a vehement, “No way!” in between sniffles.
There’s a reason allergy-prone folks are willing to put up with a tiny bit of suffering. It’s a small price to pay for endless access to glorious mountain views, abundant recreational opportunities, and the friendliest people you’ll ever hope to meet.
The top U.S. destinations to ogle beautiful people
I suppose this isn’t the most politically-correct addition to the list, but it’s true. Everywhere you go in Bend, you’ll see beautiful, fit, smiling people strolling around in cycling shorts or running gear like it’s the most natural thing in the word. In Bend, it kinda is.
Maybe it’s the preponderance of outdoor activities that keeps everyone so fit, or maybe it’s just being in Bend that makes everyone so beautifully smiley all the time. Either way, we’ll take it!
15 great places you can wear jeans to a fancy dinner
But Bend also has the most unpretentious culinary scene you’ll find. You can stroll into any one of the city’s award-winning eateries in a pair of jeans and a clean fleece and no one will look twice. The food and beer will be outstanding, and you’ll be comfortable in your casual best.
America’s top destinations to get a sunburn
People boast that Bend gets an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, and while I won’t claim the sun is blazing every hour, it’s true we’ve got a whole lot of sun here. Combine with the fact that everyone loves to play outdoors in Bend (and then mix in the albedo effect of spending prolonged time on a bright white surface like snow or a reflective surface like a lake or river) and….well….yeah. You might get a little pink in the cheeks.
Fortunately, you can enjoy Bend without the sunburn as long as you regularly reapply your sunscreen. Try Bend-made T’s Tonics, which offer sweat-proof SPF 30 protection with the added bonus of healing oils that leave your skin soft and nourished.
But if the red demon of sun exposure does strike you down, I can promise there are few places in the country that make a more beautiful setting to smear aloe on your naked body.
The best U.S. destinations to count Subarus
If you’ve spent more than an hour in Bend, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Stand on any street corner in Bend on any day of the year and I guarantee you’ll see at least a dozen Subarus cruise past in fifteen minutes or less.
Most of them will have racks on top that are loaded with bikes, kayaks, ski gear, or all of the above. Do not attempt to play the “slug bug” game here with Subarus or you will never recover from the bruises.
Whether you’re a mom to humans, a mom to four-legged creatures, or a childfree visitor looking for a way to celebrate your own mother, Bend makes a pretty fab place to spend Mother’s Day.
In 2016, the big day falls on Sunday, May 8, and there are a number of ways you can commemorate the holiday in Bend. Here are a few of my faves.
Mother’s day brunch, coming up!
If you asked my step-kids to name their favorite places in Central Oregon, I’m positive Brasada Ranch would make the list. Though the kids won’t be with us for Mother’s Day this year, I’m still seizing the opportunity to head out there for Brasada Ranch’s annual Mother’s Day Brunch, complete with seasonal, farm-fresh cuisine, lawn games, and more. The event is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and I recommend getting there early so you can enjoy the whole day out there.
If you’d prefer to stay right in the Bend city limits, McMenamins Saint Francis School also hosts an annual Mother’s Day brunch from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a menu that includes French toast, biscuits with sausage gravy, specialty salads, fresh fruit, eggs, maple-glazed ham with Hammerhead sauce, and a selection of desserts.
Other Central Oregon hotspots offering Mother’s Day Brunch include Sunriver Resort, Pronghorn Resort, Tetherow Resort, and Faith, Hope and Charity Vineyards. Be sure to call for reservations, since these events are quite popular and tend to sell out.
Not in the mood for brunch?
It’s true Mother’s Day brunch is kind of a thing, and I’m positive any of the brunches I mentioned above will be a big win for the mom in your life.
But if that’s not your scene, consider offering mom something besides the traditional breakfast/lunch hybrid. The Bend Ale Trail is a fabulous place to start if mom’s a fan of craft beer. To make it extra special, pick up a beer-themed gift for her a Hydro Flask or DrinkTanks growler (both of which are sold in the Bend Visitor Center). If bling is more her thing, consider a pair of hop-inspired earrings from Hopped Up Jewelry.
If Mom is less into food and more into enjoying the great outdoors, try planning a family-friendly hike or an afternoon picnic in one of nearly 80 parks in Bend. I rounded up my favorite parks in this blog post.
Another option for the non-brunch-seeking crowd is the special Mother’s Day prime rib dinner at Currents at the Riverhouse. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s because the restaurant attached to Riverhouse on the Deschutes used to be known as Crossings. In recent months, the space got a HUGE overhaul, including a new name, a new chef, and a dining area that looks so dramatically different you won’t recognize it. They’ve only recently re-opened, so call 541-389-8810 to book your spot at the Mother’s Day dinner and check out what’s new.
Dog moms unite!
Not all moms have kids who walk upright on two legs. For mothers whose beloved babies wag their tails and snack from the cat box, Downtown Bend’s annual Dog Daze event takes place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 7 (the day before Mother’s Day).
Sponsored by Riverside Animal Hospital, the event kicks off in Mirror Pond Plaza with pet-themed booths and animals available for adoption. That’s where you’ll grab your “dog passport,” which will lead you (and your leashed, furry friend!) on a journey to different Downtown Bend businesses to collect paw print stamps. Turn in your passport by 3 p.m. for a chance to win prizes valued at more than $300.
Get her some flowers…or a barbecue
If you’re a traditionalist who wants to buy Mom a nice floral arrangement for Mother’s Day, you’ll certainly find those at the Central Oregon Builders Association Home and Garden Show.
But you’ll also find booths featuring everything from grills to birdhouses to RVs, along with a huge array of educational offerings from cooking to gardening.
The event is held out at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond, and features free admission and parking. Stop by May 6 or 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., or on May 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Treat mom to some pampering
You know what mom wants more than anything else, but is afraid to tell you because she doesn’t want to seem pretentious? A spa day.
Trust me, it’s true. Even the mom who insists she doesn’t need a massage or a facial would be absolutely ecstatic if you got her a gift certificate for one.
Luckily, Bend has oodles of amazing day spas for you to choose from if you want to snag a gift certificate or two. Check out Visit Bend’s roundup of Bend spas and day spas to pick one that sounds right for the lady in your life.
Oh, and if you want in on the action, consider booking the Couple’s Massage Workshop at Brasada Ranch so you can use your skills on each other for many years to come.
Experiences, not things
A few weeks before Christmas, I wrote this blog post about the benefits of giving experiences instead of things. It’s as true for Mother’s Day as it was for Christmas, and I guarantee mom will treasure the memories she makes during that adventure from Wanderlust Tours or the cooking class from Well Traveled Fork.
And if you’d like to plan a single, amazing day to honor the special lady in your life, check out the itinerary in this blog post on planning a perfect day in Bend.
Last week someone asked me to recommend a list of must-do Bend experiences and adventures.
I started to email her a link to this blog post I wrote to answer that question. Then I looked at the date. March 2012? Huh.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve changed a lot in four years. I got married and acquired a couple amazing step-kids. I discovered awesome new adventures and experiences in this town I call home. Heck, even the town itself has changed in the 1,511 days since I wrote that post.
Based on the popularity of that previous post, it seems wise to offer a new one for 2016. Here, without further ado, are Tawna’s top 10 experiences for Bend visitors.
1) Hike Pilot Butte.
If you’re not up for hiking this 500-foot cinder cone in the center of town, you can drive it in the warmer months between May and October(ish). But one way or another, you need to make the journey to the summit of Pilot Butte. There, you’ll have 360-degree views of mountains, desert, and the entire city of Bend. It’s a terrific way to orient yourself to the city, plus you’ll have bragging rights for summiting one of the only city-dwelling volcanoes in the U.S.
2) Hit at least one stop on the Bend Ale Trail.
Craft beer is an integral part of Bend’s culture and history. Even if you think you’re not a beer fan, you’ll be fascinated by the science lesson you get on a brewery tour (I recommend the one at Deschutes Brewery, or hit four stops and get sober transportation and snacks with the Bend Brew Bus). Nearly all the breweries along the Bend Ale Trail are family-friendly, so you can make it a casual lunch with the kids, or go whole-hog and hit a dozen or more breweries with your Bend Ale Trail passport in hand. Most breweries offer taster trays, so seize the opportunity to try several styles and varieties.
3) Day trip to a major Central Oregon landmark.
I’m cheating a little with this one, but it’s my way of acknowledging you’re unlikely to have time to hit all the major state parks, national monuments, and other bucket-list landmarks during your Central Oregon vacation. But make sure you hit at least Drive 40 minutes to Smith Rock State Park to see the towering basalt cliffs, or make the two-hour trek to Crater Lake National Park to see the deepest lake in the U.S., which formed when a volcano collapsed on itself. The Painted Hills Unit of the John Day National Monument is less than two hours away and features stunning multicolored hillsides and sweeping views. You can also day trip to see things like the spellbinding turquoise waters of the Metolius River (40 minutes) or take a two-hour drive and a woodsy hike to see the stunning depths of Tamolitch Pool (also known as Blue Pool). You can read more about must-do Bend day trips here.
4) Try an adventure with Wanderlust Tours.
I’ve been lucky enough to sample nearly every tour offered by this phenomenal company, from moonlight snowshoe tours to canoe trips to cave adventures and much more. There is simply no better way to experience a once-in-a-lifetime Central Oregon adventure than to go with a knowledgeable, engaging naturalist guide who provides all your transportation, gear, and a wealth of knowledge about this region. Trust me—this will be some of the best money you spend on your Bend vacation. Go here to check out the offerings from Wanderlust Tours.
5) Play on water (liquid or frozen).
Whether you prefer to paddle the pristine waters of the Deschutes River or ski the powdery slopes at Bachelor, your Bend vacation needs to include some form of water adventure. Take a drive up the Cascade Lakes Highway in summertime to splash around in one of the lakes. If there’s snow on the ground, head the same direction, but bust out the snowshoes when you reach the gate that closes seasonally. At visitbend.com, you’ll find oodles of summer recreation ideas ranging from canoeing to standup paddleboarding to floating the river on an inner tube. You’ll also learn about winter recreation ideas that run the gamut from ice skating to skiing to sled dog rides. Pick one according to your interests and the season, and prepare to enjoy the best H2O has to offer.
6) Get your foodie fix.
Bend’s culinary scene is mouthwateringly, dizzyingly good for a city this size, and you’ll find everything from Asian fusion prepared by a James Beard-nominated chef, to creative twists on Pacific Northwest and European cuisine. If you’re a true foodie, you might enjoy a culinary tour or cooking class from The Well Traveled Fork. You can also sample pub fare along the Bend Ale Trail or consult the drinking and dining category on this blog to find posts about everything from Bend’s best burgers to gluten-free dining to vegan and vegetarian fare. Just make sure you step out of your comfort zone a few times instead of sticking with chain restaurants you recognize from home. I promise you’ll thank me!
7) Soak in some arts and culture.
Even if you don’t frequent art galleries in your hometown, you owe it to yourself to take a gander at Bend’s unique art scene. We have an amazing array of outdoor public art you can scope out with the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection or the Roundabout Art Route. We also have a terrific lineup of museums, theaters, concerts, and more, which you can learn about on the arts and culture page of the Visit Bend website. Prefer to have someone else do the driving while giving you oodles of local insights? Check out the Art Safari Tour with The Bend Tour Company.
8) Show me some lava!
One of the most unique things about Bend’s landscape is the volcanic history of the area and the abundance of unique geological features everywhere. You’ll get a taste of it with the aforementioned hike up Pilot Butte, but you can take it a step further by exploring the Newberry Volcanic National Monument or the vast Oregon Badlands Wilderness. You can also enjoy a volcano tour from Wanderlust Tours, or hoof it along the Deschutes River Trail on your own to scope out Lava Island Falls. To take a little piece of it home, try some rockhounding around Central Oregon and scope out massive lava flows and glassy obsidian.
9) Stroll the Old Mill District and Downtown Bend.
Every town you visit is going to have some form of souvenir shopping, but ours looks a little different in Bend. Historic Downtown Bend is dotted with quaint, locally-owned shops and unique historic architecture, with the added bonus of being right on the fringe of Bend’s famous Drake Park. The Old Mill District has a delightful mix of well-known chain stores and locally-owned boutiques, along with a plethora of great restaurants lining the Deschutes riverfront that beckons you to stroll while you’re shopping there. With roughly a mile separating the two areas, you can easily walk or bike between the two on a nice afternoon.
10) Play Outside.
We kinda already covered this base with the aforementioned suggestions to play in or on water and hike Pilot Butte. But let’s take it a step further, shall we? Vacation is an excellent time to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. For some, that might involve bungee jumping, an Ultralite ride, or some other source of adrenaline rush. For others, it might be something like a mountain bike tour with Cog Wild or a kayak lesson from Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe. Find the edge of your outdoorsy comfort zone and take one step out of it. You’ll be glad you did!
It’s still April in Bend, and a week ago I was looking out my office window at snow piled around tulips in the yard of a neighboring business.
We have about two more months of vacillating between sunshine and freezing temps in Bend, which might lead you to think you have all the time in the world to schedule a summer vacation in Bend. Don’t be fooled. Here are five reasons you really need to get a jump on it NOW.
Choose where you snooze
Bend’s summers are hot in more ways than temperature. Between June and September, the city sees a staggering surge in tourists coming here for warm-weather activities like hiking, biking, kayaking, rafting, camping, or all of the above in Bend’s great outdoors.
It’s no wonder, since the abundance of blue skies, warm weather, and epic rivers, lakes, and trails makes this the perfect summertime playground. But that means lodging books up super-early in summer months, with many regular visitors scheduling their trips more than a year in advance.
Last-minute lodging can be impossible to find at the height of summer, regardless of whether you plan to stay in a Bend resort, a vacation home, a hotel, or even an RV park. Now’s the time to start nailing down a place to stay if you’re hoping to visit during peak months, so start your search right here.
Don’t miss that once-in-a-lifetime concert
When the Les Schwab Amphitheater announced several months ago that Alabama Shakes would play the venue Memorial Day Weekend, plenty of folks got giddy. When the band won a Grammy a few weeks later, it didn’t take long for the Bend show to sell out.
A lot of would-be concert-goers were bummed. They had no idea some of the hottest shows at this awesome outdoor venue can sell out before you’ve made up your mind to buy tickets.
Don’t miss out on that concert you’ve been dying to see. The 2016 summer lineup promises a diverse and awesome lineup of artists ranging from Jackson Browne to Steve Miller Band to Slightly Stoopid to Brandi Carlile to Michael Franti and sooooooo many more. Go here to check out the complete lineup, then nab your tickets early to avoid the heartbreak of missing your favorite show.
Predicting the weather isn’t tough
When you plan a Bend vacation in October, November, December, January, February, March, April, May, or early-June, you might get snow. Or you might get rain. Or you might get blazing hot sunshine. Heck, you might get all those things in one day.
The weather is unpredictable from fall to spring, which is one of the amazing things about Bend. (I actually blogged about it last week in this post on embracing Bend’s yo-yo springtime weather).
But if you’re planning something like a family reunion or a once-in-a-lifetime vacation that absolutely, positively requires great weather, you can almost guarantee you’ll get that if you visit Bend between late-June and early-September. That’s when our high desert weather is at its finest (in my humble opinion) with dry, hot, cloudless days and clear, starry, cool nights.
One of many upsides to this is the fact that you can pre-book weather-dependent activities with some relative certainty the weather will cooperate. While Sun Country Tours is unlikely to sign a document in blood promising sunshine on the day of your whitewater raft trip, odds are good it’ll be plenty warm in July or August. Ditto that for things like canoe outings with Wanderlust Tours or a mountain biking adventure with Cog Wild.
Just remember to pack your sunscreen, okay?
Consult the calendar to know what’s happening
Not sure which summer month to pick for your Bend summer vacation? Visit Bend’s Event Calendar can help you plan around special events to suit your interests and schedule.
You can narrow your Event Calendar search to look for things happening in the arts community, for concerts, or for sporting events that tickle your fancy.
Booking ahead isn’t for losers. I promise.
Ahem. A personal story.
I spent a big chunk of my 20s and 30s globetrotting all over the world, roaming from Australia to Italy to Venezuela to Morocco to Barbados and a zillion other places in between. I very rarely made reservations anywhere, preferring to roam freely with my grungy backpack and the knowledge I could decide on a whim where to lay my head that night.
Now I’m 41, and when my husband and I sat down to plan our three-week vacation in New Zealand, I was aghast at his suggestion that we pre-book all our lodging. What if I liked Blenheim better than Dunedin and wanted to stay there longer? Or what if the Coromandel Peninsula wasn’t what I expected and I wanted to keep moving?
But after a bit of discussion, I agreed to try it my husband’s way.
You know what, guys? I learned something on that trip. I learned that pre-booking my lodging let me research ahead of time to make sure I get the best lodging deals in areas that suit my style and budget. I learned that not having to scramble with last-minute phone calls and driving around looking for vacancy signs makes vacation a whole lot more restful. And I learned that I would have been in deep doo-doo if I’d shown up in Rotorua (a town we absolutely adored) without a reservation on the day a massive bike race booked every single room in that little city.
So yeah, booking ahead takes a bit of the spontaneity out of travel. But it also takes away a lot of the stress. Do yourself a favor, especially if you’re visiting Bend during peak summer season—BOOK AHEAD!