Visit Bend Blog

Category: Outdoor Recreation

What’s open for Memorial Weekend 2017 in Bend?

May 18th, 2017

It’s that time of year again, kids. ‘Tis the season for waking up to frost on the ground, and by lunchtime, stripping off those extra layers to bask in 80-degree sunshine.

The weeks surrounding Memorial Day Weekend also signal the opening of roadways and landmarks that have been buried under snow for the last five months. Heavy snowfall in 2017 has pushed many opening dates later and later, with some still up in the air as snow continues to fall in the mountains.

Here’s the current roundup of what’s open, what’s opening soon, and what’s still snowy in and around Bend as of May 18, 2017.


Already open and ready for play!

The road allowing guests to drive up and down Pilot Butte opened on April 15 in 2017, which is on par with a normal snow year. Watch for icy spots on cold mornings, but otherwise, you should be ready to roll.

The Lava Lands Visitor Center is open and ready for you to visit!

The Cascade Welcome Station (operated by the Forest Service near milepost seven on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway) is also open, and operating Friday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. That schedule will continue through May 30, when they’ll shift to summer hours and be open daily during those same hours.

Lava Lands Visitor Center is also open Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The road to the top of Lava Butte is open and drivable, and the shuttle will start Memorial Day weekend this year. Lava River Cave is also open already, and currently operating from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Monday until they shift to summer hours on Memorial Day weekend. New this year, there’s a 10-minute required orientation that all visitors must attend. You can learn more about that here.

The Tumalo Falls Trailhead is also open for the season, but be aware that the trail is still pretty packed with snow just above the overlook. Dress warmly, bring proper footwear, and be prepared to turn back when the snow gets too deep for hiking.


What’s opening soon?

Several weeks ago, folks were speculating the Cascade Lakes Highway would open on its usual timeframe around Memorial Day Weekend. Then Mother Nature laughed and laughed and laughed and dumped another couple feet of snow on us.

Newberry National Volcanic Monument is open in some areas, but be aware there’s still lots of snow up there.

As of today (May 18, 2017) they’re predicting an “early June” opening for the Cascade Lakes Highway between Mt. Bachelor and Elk Lake. As of now, the gates are still in place at Lava Lake. Crews are working nonstop on clearing the snow, and you can keep your eyes on this page for the latest updates.

Another hotly-anticipated opening date each year is the Old McKenzie Pass (242). Right now, they’re predicting a late-June opening date for roads to be cleared and the gates to open for cars. Cyclists, on the other hand, are welcome to head up now to enjoy car-free roads.

Newberry National Volcanic Monument is at least a little bit accessible right now. Paulina Lake Road (FS Road 21) will open the gate at 10-Mile Sno-Park on Friday, May 19, but access to the lakes is still limited by snow. The Paulina Peak Visitor Center is expected to open on May 27, but don’t expect Paulina Peak Road to open anytime soon—that bad boy is going to take a lot of clearing and snowmelt this year!


What if I still want to play in the snow?

You’re in luck! Spring skiing is in full swing at Mt. Bachelor, with lifts running every day from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. through Sunday, May 28. They’ve seen 604-inches of snow at mid-mountain since October 1, which is pretty impressive. Almost as impressive as their spring lift ticket prices, which are in effect for the remainder of the season.

There are still plenty of bluebird days up at Mt. Bachelor this season.

Can’t make it out for spring skiing? Prepare yourself for summer skiing. That’s right—Mt. Bachelor recently announced plans to open the Sunrise and Summit lifts from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. from July 2 through July 4. And while those lifts are spinning for skiers and snowboarders, the Pine Marten lift will be open (snowmelt permitting) for scenic rides and mountain biking.

How’s that for having the best of both worlds?


7 things in Bend that’ll totally screw you up

April 20th, 2017

Last week, a magazine fact-checker sent me an article with a caption touting the beauty of Tumalo Falls in Tumalo State Park. The problem? Tumalo Falls isn’t actually in Tumalo State Park. In fact, the two landmarks are miles apart.

It’s one of many things that throws Bend visitors for a loop, and I’m not here to snicker about it. I’m here to clear up 7 of them so you don’t feel like a doofus on your Bend vacation.

Tumalo Falls isn’t in Tumalo State Park?

Blogger Tawna got hitched at Tumalo State Park (which is NOT anywhere near Tumalo Falls).

Let’s start with the one that spawned this blog post, since it’s one of the most common things to trip up Bend visitors.

Tumalo Falls is located about 14 miles west of Bend off Skyliners Road. You can follow these Google Map directions to get you there from the Bend Visitor Center.

Tumalo State Park is about 19 miles northeast of Tumalo Falls, and while it offers a great campground and fab views of the Deschutes River, there’s no waterfall in sight.

Tumalo Mountain is another entity altogether, and isn’t near the waterfall or the State Park (but is worth a hike in the summer months, so add it to your bucket list!)

There’s also the quaint little town of Tumalo, which does happen to be quite close to Tumalo State Park.

Confused yet?


It’s the desert, right? So why is it cold?

Yes, Bend is a desert. But it’s a mountainous high desert that sits at 3,600-feet above sea level. “High” is the key word there (and I promise it has nothing to do with legalized marijuana in Oregon).

Bend’s mountain elevation is what makes it a high desert (and also what makes it much colder than a low-elevation desert).

Bend’s altitude is responsible for our snowy winters and conditions that can fluctuate wildly. Even on scorching-hot summer days when temps reach the 90s or even break 100, odds are good you’ll still need a jacket at night. You also need to follow the high altitude instructions on the back of the brownie mix you’re baking at that Bend vacation rental (just sayin’).


So Fido can’t run free everywhere?

Bend was named the nation’s dog-friendliest city by Dog Fancy magazine, and the city’s abundance of off-leash dog parks was one reason.

Wanoga SnoPark is one of the places where Fido can run leash-free.

But that doesn’t mean Rover can roam anywhere he likes without a leash. In developed areas of Bend like neighborhoods, campgrounds, and even parking lots, your dog must be leashed at all times. Leash laws are enforced, and fines can be hefty.

Leash laws also apply between May 15 and September 15 on the Deschutes River Trail between Benham Falls and Meadow Camp, and in the Three Sisters Wilderness between the South Sisters climbers trail and Todd Lake.

Dogs are allowed off-leash when playing “river fetch” in National Forest areas, even along restricted trails. But make sure your pooch is well-trained to respond to voice commands and unlikely to tear off after deer or other wildlife.

For more info about doggy etiquette and laws in Bend, check out

And it goes without saying that no matter where you are, you should do your duty when Fido does his doody. Carry waste bags and clean up after your pooch everywhere you go. It’s part of how you Visit Like a Local when you’re in Bend.


The snow is gone, so why isn’t everything open?

Visitors are sometimes surprised to arrive in the spring and discover the town itself is snow-free, but major landmarks still closed. What gives?

The Lava Lands Visitor Center typically opens around Memorial Day.

Clearing snow from seasonally-shuttered roadways like the Cascade Lakes Highway and the McKenzie Pass can take a looong time, particularly after a heavy snow year like 2017.

It also affects landmarks like the Lava Lands Visitor Center and Pilot Butte, where safety dictates closures during icier months. Generally speaking, most sites open in the weeks surrounding Memorial Day, though it can take longer for high-elevation attractions.

If you’re wondering about a specific site, call or stop by the Bend Visitor Center for up-to-the-minute info about seasonal closures. You can also keep an eye on the Bend Buzz Blog, where we usually put up a post like this one giving opening dates for major landmarks and roadways.


The river runs which way?

For some odd reason, many Bend visitors are under the impression that all rivers flow south.

Ahhh, the beautiful and mighty Deschutes River.

But rivers follow the laws of gravity, and water flowing from the mountains takes the path of least resistance in its journey downhill. In Bend’s case, that means the mighty Deschutes River flows north.

Good to know for all that kayaking, rafting, floating, and standup paddleboarding you’re planning to do in Bend!


Around and around and around we go!

For folks living in cities that don’t have traffic circles, Bend’s roundabouts can seem daunting at first glance. My mother steadfastly refuses to drive through one, always petrified she’ll be seized by demons and tempted to drive the wrong way.

Bend’s traffic circles can be a source of confusion for some.

But roundabouts are actually pretty simple. Traffic flows counterclockwise, and traffic entering the roundabout must yield to vehicles already in it.

When you’re ready to exit, use your right turn signal to indicate your intent to leave the roundabout. Failure to signal is one of the most common mistakes drivers make, and you can be fined for not doing it.

Want more tips for navigating Bend’s roundabouts, including some of the multi-lane traffic circles? You’ll find several handy videos here.


Which day use park pass do I need?

State Parks Pass, NW Forest Pass, National Parks Pass . . . when it comes to day use permits, how the @#$% do you know which one you need to see all the landmarks on your Central Oregon bucket list?

Elk Lake is one spot where the NW Forest Pass will come in handy.

Let’s start with State Parks. The main ones in Central Oregon are Smith Rock State Park, Tumalo State Park, La Pine State Park, Cove Palisades State Park, and Pilot Butte State Park. Pilot Butte and La Pine are the only two on that roster that don’t require any sort of parking fee or pass. The others charge $5 per day, and there are machines on site that take credit cards to make it nice and easy. Planning to visit more than one state park on multiple days? Splurge for the $30 annual pass or the $50 two-year pass, which we sell here in the Bend Visitor Center. There are no senior discounts for State Park Passes.

Now let’s talk about the NW Forest Pass. This one is my personal fave, since it grants you access to a whole lotta great stuff you’ll want to see around Central Oregon. This includes all the trailheads on National Forest land, like Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Painted Hills National Monument, and all the awesome lakes and trails off the Cascade Lakes Highway. Day use passes are $5, and you’ll find envelopes and drop-boxes at most major sites. But honestly, you’re better off paying $30 for an annual pass that grants you access to everything for the entire year. We sell that in the Bend Visitor Center, too.

Planning to drive the extra miles to Crater Lake National Park? Normal park entrance is $20 for seven days, but here’s a tip if you’re planning to hit gobs of parks on your Bend vacation: Splurge for the $80 Interagency Annual Pass and get access to all Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and US Fish & Wildlife Service sites that charge entry fees. Be aware, though, that none of these passes – or the NW Forest Pass – is valid at any of the Oregon State Parks. Oh, and if you’re 62 and older, pony up $10 for a lifetime America the Beautiful Senior Interagency Pass that gets you into everything except State Parks.

5 ways to get around Bend without driving 

December 15th, 2016

Bend schools are enjoying their second snow day in a row, and I just had to put on snowshoes to get my mail.

In other words, driving can be tricky with two feet of snow on the ground.

Walking is always a great way to get around, especially when it’s snowy.

It happens sometimes, which is why it’s good to know there are ways to get around our fair city without an automobile. Whether you’re cutting back on drive time to help the environment, or you hit one too many stops on the Bend Ale Trail, here are 5 ways to navigate Bend without getting behind the wheel.


Use your own two feet

Bend’s two most popular areas for shopping and dining are the Old Mill District and Downtown Bend. Lucky for you, there are plenty of Bend hotels in both locations, and it’s an easy walk to get from one area to the other.

Bonus: there’s no need to hassle with parking when you’re on foot!

Want to hoof it when the ground is covered in snow? Snowshoes, cross country skis, and fat bikes are easy to rent. Here’s a handy list of options for winter gear rentals.


Hop on the bus, Gus

While admittedly not as robust as the bus systems in larger cities, Bend’s Cascades East Transit bus system is a handy way to hop around town.

In the summer months, Cascades East Transit operates the Ride the River Shuttle. When the weather turns chilly, they’ve got the Mt. Bachelor shuttle. They also operate the city buses around Bend.

The system currently has 10 fixed routes in the city of Bend, with connections at transfer station in the center of town. Routes go as far south as Elk Meadow Elementary on Brookswood, and as far north at the Cascade Village Shopping Center. You can get west as far as Central Oregon Community College, and as far east as The Forum Shopping Center.

They also operate the Mt. Bachelor shuttle in wintertime and the Ride the River shuttle in the summer. You can even connect to other Central Oregon cities like Redmond and Madras.

For route information and schedules, go here.


Let tour operators do the driving

Want to venture into the wilderness without driving your own car? Book a trip with Wanderlust Tours! Not only will they provide round-trip transport from your hotel to the trailhead, they’ll supply all the gear and goodies, plus a naturalist guide who’ll tell you everything you want to know about Central Oregon’s unique landscapes. Snowshoeing is their most popular offering this time of year, but they have oodles of other outings ranging from canoeing to cave tours. They also operate the Bend Brew Bus that shuttles guests to breweries, distilleries, cideries, and more.

You can let someone else do all the heavy lifting when you head out with Cog Wild for a mountain bike adventure.

If mountain biking is on your agenda, hook yourself up with the folks from Cog Wild. They not only offer mountain biking tours, but shuttle services for cyclists who want to be dropped off and picked up at opposite ends of a trail.

If you’re looking to see more of the city itself, The Bend Tour Company has tons of offerings to pick from, including Segway tours, eBikes, and the ever-famous CyclePub.

For a complete list of tour operators in Bend, go here.


Catch a cab

Bend has a number of taxi operators and shuttle companies cruising the city, so go here for a listing of names and numbers.

And while Uber and Lyft haven’t made it to Bend just yet, odds are good it will happen in early 2017. Stay tuned for updates!


Try pedal power

Bend has been dubbed “Bike Town USA,” and there’s a good reason for that. You’ll find tons of great cycling trails and bike lanes all over town.

Blogger Tawna and some Visit Bend teammates enjoy an electric bike ride with Bend Electric Bikes.

Don’t feel like hauling your bike here? There are plenty of bike shops that rent everything you need. You’ll even find several companies that rent electric bikes if you’d prefer to have some extra push behind your pedaling.


Want more ideas for getting around Bend using alternate transportation? The folks at Commute Options have a ton of resources on their site, so check it out!

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to strap on my snowshoes and start heading to Visit Bend’s holiday party!

Ready for winter? We’ve got tips for kid-friendly and adult-only winter vacations in Bend!

November 17th, 2016

The clock is ticking, guys. It’s just a matter of weeks until Mt. Bachelor opens for another winter season, and it’s going to be AWESOME!

The newly-unveiled trail map for Mt. Bachelor.

The newly-unveiled trail map for Mt. Bachelor. Go here for a full-sized version.

Today they released their brand new Mt. Bachelor trail map and an exclusive 96-hour lift ticket sale that goes from noon on Thursday, Nov. 17 though noon on Monday, Nov. 21. There’s also a brand new chairlift under construction that’ll be complete sometime in December.

Besides scoring discounted lift tickets and having the new trail map tattooed across your chest, what should you be doing to get ready for winter fun in Bend? Here’s the inside scoop!

Gearing up for a grownup getaway

Planning an adults-only winter vacation in Bend? Here are a few things you can do right now to make sure you’re ready for Mt. Bachelor’s opening day, along with all kinds of other winter recreation opportunities:

    • Get pumped up. Whether you’re a skier, an ice skater, or a competitive bobsledder, we want everyone to stay safe when playing in the snow this year. Now’s a good time to work some of those key muscle group like legs and core. Squats and hamstring stretches are a great place to start to ensure your legs are up to the task of transporting your body over slippery terrain. Go here for some pre-season workout ideas.
    • Tune it up. Since you have a little time to kill, it’s a great opportunity to prepare your gear for the season. Get your skis or board waxed (or find a local professional to do it for you). Dig through your garage for those missing poles and spend some time walking around the living room in your ski boots so your feet don’t scream in protest the first time you hit the slopes.

      Who's ready to carve some turns?

      Who’s ready to carve some turns?

    • Cyberstalk the mountain. If you have a little flexibility in your schedule, it’s a smart idea to bookmark the Bachelor conditions report on your desktop or mobile device. You’ll see daily details about trail conditions and lift schedules, along with webcam images that update every 15 minutes. When conditions look perfect, hop in your car and go!
    • Repair, reuse. While getting new gear can be fun, it’s kinder for the environment (not to mention your wallet) to repair the gear you already have. With a few weeks to go before winter sports season, now’s a good time to get that jacket patched and your busted goggles fixed. Same deal with sleds, which often get chucked in the landfill when they’re a little banged up. Start your season right by paying a little extra for high-quality gear that’s less prone to breakage. If your sled does sustain an injury, look into repairing it before you toss it (and whatever you do, please, PLEASE don’t stuff busted sleds in the garbage bins at Sno-Parks—it’s crazy expensive to have that trash hauled away at the end of a holiday weekend). For more tips on being kind to the environment and the Bend community when you visit, check out our Visit Like a Local
    • Prepare your tummy for goodness. In a matter of days, you’ll be able to cap off a day of skiing with a Nacho Mountain and a Bloody Mary in the Clearing Rock Bar at Mt. Bachelor. Start salivating now.
The Bloody Marys at Mt. Bachelor are legendary.

The Bloody Marys at Mt. Bachelor are legendary.

  • Nail down a place to stay. While winter is a quieter time to visit Bend than, say, mid-August, lodging can still book up fast on weekends and peak holiday dates. Whether you’re looking for a budget hotel or for a Bend vacation home to share with a big pack of pals, book nice and early to ensure you have the optimum spot to rest your bones.
  • Double check the safety gear. If you’re a back-country skiing enthusiast, you already know it’s crucial to have your safety tools in tip-top shape. Get out your beacon, probe, shovel, and other safety gear and inspect it with a fine-toothed comb to make sure everything is in good working order. For tips on back-country skiing around Bend, go here.
  • Plan your downtime activities wisely. As much as you might dream of eating powder for breakfast, lunch, and dinner when you’re in Bend, you want to sprinkle in a few non-snow activities, too. If the Bend Ale Trail is on your wish list, make plans beforehand to have the Bend Brew Bus haul you around so there’s no risk of driving while impaired. If you’re a foodie who wants to experience the best of Bend’s culinary scene, peruse our dining pages or skim the drinking and dining category on this blog for ideas. Then make reservations so you won’t miss out on any of your top spots.


Prep for your family-friendly winter adventure

While many of the tips above apply to traveling parties of all sizes, there’s an extra layer of planning when you’re vacationing with kids.

I just spent the weekend helping my stepkids purge ill-fitting snow gear from their closets, so I know what a pain it can be to get everyone ready for winter with no missing mittens. Here’s where to start if you’re gearing up for a family vacation this winter.

    • Try on all the gear. Yes, your kids will think it’s silly to pull on snow pants when it’s 65-degrees and sunny outside, but now’s the time to figure out what you’ve got to work with. Have the youngsters try on everything—jackets, snow pants, gloves, thermal underwear, hats, boots, wool socks, and hats. Look for rips, tears, or things they’ve outgrown, and get those items replaced or repaired so you don’t figure out someone’s boots are too small two miles into a snowshoe trip. BONUS: Places like Costco still have a good selection of quality winter gear right now, but that won’t be the case in a few weeks when everything’s been picked over.

      Is your family's winter gear ready for everything from snowshoeing to tubing at Mt. Bachelor?

      Is your family’s winter gear ready for everything from snowshoeing to tubing at Mt. Bachelor?

    • Wash everything. All those hats and gloves I mentioned? They’re carrying some serious stank after sitting in the closet all summer. Get everything washed and ready to wear. You’ll thank me in a few weeks when you’re not doing loads of laundry at 2 a.m. the night before your Bend vacation.
    • Stockpile necessities. Treats are crucial when you’re traveling with kids, so make sure you have goodies on hand like granola bars and fruit leather. Stock up on post-snow sustenance like cocoa and cider packets or easy-to-mix chai. My stepkids are nuts about Trader Joes’ seasonal spiced cider, so we buy bottles in bulk and keep them on hand to warm up after a day of snow play.
    • Buy snow chains. Most folks visiting Bend from less snowy areas don’t have snow tires the way locals do, so it’s smart to have a set of chains in your car and the ability to put them on. Trust me: it’s a lot easier to learn to put chains on your car in the comfort of your garage than it is when you’re face-down in a snowbank on the side of the highway. I’m a big fan of Les Schwab, where they’ll not only tell you what sort of chains your vehicle needs, they’ll show you in an idiot-friendly fashion how to put them on.
Snowshoeing is one of dozens of ways to play in the snow in Bend.

Book early to make sure you don’t miss out on snow-play with Wanderlust Tours.

  • Plan early for tours and special adventures. Last year my whole extended family visited Mt. Bachelor the day after Christmas to enjoy the Snowblast Tubing Park. While we were there, we watched the sled dog teams from Oregon Trail of Dreams and called to inquire about booking. The person who answered was kind enough not to laugh, but she did point out that the two weeks around Christmas had been booked solid for months. Lesson learned! I won’t make that mistake twice, whether I’m planning a snowshoe adventure with Wanderlust Tours or booking a snowmobiling tour. Book early at peak times so you don’t end up missing out!
  • Read up on deals and discounts. There are oodles of great promotions out there for families on a budget. Besides the 96-hour lift ticket sale I mentioned earlier, there’s the popular Kids Ski Free option and the Ski or Ride in 5 program for lessons. Off the snow, you’ll find several local restaurants with special deals for families. Both 900 Wall and Fire in Bend have kids-eat-free deals on Sundays, and Longboard Louie’s does it all weekend (that’s assuming you pay for adult meals, too). If you plan to do some ice skating at The Pavillion, buy a punch pass or season pass to save a bundle for the whole fam.


10 Essentials for a Bend vacation, whether you’re adventurous or lazy

August 25th, 2016

The headlines are freaking me out, guys. No, it’s not the politics.

It’s a scary uptick in the number of hikers, river floaters, and other recreation lovers forced to summon Deschutes County Search & Rescue when a day of outdoor play goes awry in Bend.

Just a few of the essentials you should have when venturing into the great outdoors.

Just a few of the essentials you should have when venturing into the great outdoors.

Our VP of Sales & Marketing suggested we share the “Ten Essentials” for camping and hiking in the wilderness, which is a darn fine idea. In fact, you should have it tattooed on your forearm.

But since not everyone visiting Bend has outdoor adventure on the agenda, I assembled my own “Ten Essentials” for the laidback traveler. The un-adventurer, if you will.

Behold, we give you Ten Essentials for an active (and a not-so-active) Bend vacation.


Ten Essentials, Nate Wyeth style

I live for exploring Bend’s outdoor landscapes, so I know the weather can change in mere seconds. That’s why it’s crucial to have the following ten items in your pack anytime you’re heading out camping, hiking, or exploring.

    • A map and compass. Don’t count on Siri to get you where you’re going in the great outdoors. Coverage can be spotty in the wilderness, and you’re better off with one of the sturdy hard-copy maps you’ll find in the Bend Visitor Center or the Deschutes National Forest Welcome Station.
    • Sun protection. The sun can be fierce in the high desert, so remember your shades and sunblock even if it’s cloudy.
    • Extra clothing. Temps can fluctuate wildly in Central Oregon, so don’t forget layers. Gloves, hats, jackets, sweatshirts—even if you think you don’t need them, you want to be prepared.
Having the right gear is essential to a safe and fun high desert adventure.

Having the right gear is essential to a safe and fun high desert adventure.

  • Illumination. Again, don’t rely on your cell phone. Pack a headlamp in case of an unplanned sleepover or a hike that goes later than expected.
  • First aid supplies. You can find awesome little kits at outdoor equipment retailers like REI.
  • Fire. A lighter or waterproof matches are essential when venturing into the outdoors. Just make sure you check first to be sure fires aren’t restricted in the area you’re hiking or camping.
  • Tools. No, you don’t need a chainsaw on your hiking adventure. But you do need a good multipurpose tool like a Leatherman or pocketknife.
  • Extra food. Snacks, particularly high-protein ones, are essential. Think about how hungry you might get if your four-hour hike turned into a twenty-four-hour hike and pack accordingly.
  • Extra water. This is a biggie, especially here in the high desert. Plan on drinking at least ½ cup to a cup of water every 30-40 minutes. A good water filtration system can work if you’re hiking along creeks or lakes, but don’t count on finding water everywhere. Always pack more H2O than you think you’ll need.
  • Emergency shelter. Day-trippers getting caught unexpectedly overnight is frighteningly common, and smart adventurers always pack an ultralight tarp or emergency space blanket. Even a large plastic bag will do in a pinch (plus you can use it to collect trash and feel good about leaving your favorite adventure spot nicer than you found it).


Ten Essentials, Tawna Fenske style

Blogger Tawna reading on the shore of Crescent Lake (about 1.5 hours from Bend) on a lazy late-September morning.

Blogger Tawna reading on the shore of Crescent Lake (about 1.5 hours from Bend) on a lazy late-September morning.

I’m not lazy. Okay, I’m not always lazy. I do love hiking and snowshoeing and standup paddleboarding, and you’ll find me enjoying those things pretty often in Bend.

But there are times I just want to go full-on vacation mode when reveling in my hometown. For those who want to experience Bend in a more laidback fashion, here are my ten essentials:

    • A good book. First things first. If you’re lounging lakeside or by your hotel pool, you need good reading material. Hit a quirky local bookstore like Dudley’s Bookshop Café (where they also make a mean cup of coffee).
    • Super-cute sandals or slip-ons. If you’re a dude, omit “super-cute.” But you do need good slip-ons, because tying shoes is sooooo tedious. Resist flip-flop temptation, since those slip off when floating the river. Tevas, Chacos, or Keens are perfect for summer. In wintertime, Downtown Bend retailers like North Soles and CC McKenzie have a great array of clogs and loafers.
    • Sunscreen. Here’s one of several items you’ll find on both lists. To make things easier, opt for a locally-made spray like T’s Tonics SPF 30 Sunscreen so you don’t have to rub in a pesky cream. You can also go the pampering route with luxurious suncare products from local fave Angelina’s.
    • Tickets. Even if you plan to spend 90% of your Bend vacation lazing in a float tube on the river, save one evening for dinner and a show. Maybe it’s a concert at the Tower Theatre or an indy movie during BendFilm, but you’re gonna want to sample Bend’s lively arts and culture scene.
    • Postcard stamps. You want to gloat to all your friends about how awesome your vacation is, right? Hit the Bend Visitor Center for a great selection of postcards. And if you forget the stamps, we’re just 100 feet from the closest post office.
    • Waterproof case for your iPod or phone. Whether you’re on the river or near a pool, there’s a good chance you’ll interact with a body of water in Bend. I’ve lost enough phones to know a LifeProof case or OtterBox is a smart idea.
    • Gourmet snacks. When you’re treating yourself, no ordinary Doritos will do. Hit Newport Market for the best selection of gourmet goodies and locally-made specialty items, or hit Devore’s across the street for killer wraps and salads.
Yala Bamboo sleepwear from Oregon Body & Bath is essential for a relaxing Bend vacation.

Yala Bamboo sleepwear from Oregon Body & Bath is essential for a relaxing Bend vacation.

  • Beverages in good containers. Water is essential whether you’re trudging up a mountain or lounging by a lake, but don’t forget to sample Bend’s craft beer scene, too. Fill a couple Hydro Flasks with ice and water, then stock a DrinkTank Growler with Keg Cap Accessory Kit with your favorite brew from the Bend Ale Trail. Just make sure you pack out all cups and trash or I will hunt you down and pee on your lawn.
  • Cash. Whether you’re tipping the bartender or just trying to keep track of your vacation budget, an ample stash of cash is a good idea for a lazy vacation. Bonus: When small local retailers aren’t hit with credit card fees, it helps keep prices low for all of us.
  • Cozy loungewear. Yala Bamboo Dreams clothing made from breathable, anti-microbial, temperature-regulating bamboo is the most comfortable stuff imaginable. I have nighties, a robe, and even a skirt purchased from Oregon Body and Bath in Downtown Bend. Bonus: they have a great stock of bath products so you can really pamper yourself.

6 ways to get dirty in Bend

August 18th, 2016

Sometimes, you just want to be dirty. I mean really dirty.

Those of you who don’t have your minds in the gutter know I’m talking about mud, dust, dirt-inspired culinary treats, and all the ways you can enjoy those things in Bend.

Churn up some dust in the Downhill Bike Park at Mt. Bachelor.

Churn up some dust in the Downhill Bike Park at Mt. Bachelor.

Here are six ideas for how to get your fill of dirty deeds and delights in Bend.


Gobble some gravel on a mountain bike trail

Mountain biking is one of those sports where you kinda expect to get a little grubby. If that’s your cup of tea, you’ll be delighted to know Bend has nearly 300 miles of singletrack ranging from sweet, flowy dirt to kid-friendly trails to epic dirt jumps. Scope out our mountain biking page for details.

Remember to follow respectful trail etiquette by staying off muddy trails so ruts don’t form, and never skid on corners or blow out berms.

Want to enjoy Bend’s epic mountain biking dirt to its fullest? Book a guided trip with Cog Wild. They’ll not only hook you up with all the right gear, but they’ll show you where to go and how to ride whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned expert. They also offer shuttles for mountain bikers who want to avoid the need to do the double-car shuffle.


Let your young’uns get filthy

Kids love mud, and while parents might not always love doing the laundry, you’ve gotta admit it’s pretty fun to see your offspring grinning ear-to-ear while covered head-to-toe in dirt.


Make sure to register your kid (and yourself!) for the Kids Obstacle Challenge at Mt. Bachelor on August 20, 2016.

For the ultimate kid-friendly mud adventure, sign your child up for the Kids Obstacle Challenge at Mt. Bachelor on August 20, 2016. Kids ages 5-16 will have a chance to rope swing into a mud pit, army crawl through tough terrain, scale up rugged cargo nets, and slide into a muddy paradise.

But the very best thing? Parents are invited to run for FREE! You can pretend you’re just supporting your offspring, when in reality you’re seizing the opportunity to get just as muddy as your kiddo.

For details and signup info, go here.


Let mud make you glow

If mud is your thing, you’ll find a number of Bend day spas that can leave you feeling dirty and pampered all at once.

Get muddy in a good way at Spa W.

Get muddy in a good way at Spa W.

Spa W offers a Moor Mud Body Mask that’s simply divine. They start with a dry brush exfoliation before smoothing on generous portions of Moor Mud and wrapping you in a cocoon. Next comes a facial massage, followed by a serene Vichy shower and light moisturizing application. You can read more about it here.

Prefer to get your mud on in the privacy of your Bend vacation home or hotel? Bend favorite Angelina Skincare has a Terramoor Restorative Herbal Mud Mask designed to remove impurities and leave skin feeling refreshed and smooth. Swing by their shop in Downtown Bend to check it out in-person.


Scope out the cyclocross scene

If you’re not familiar with cyclocross, it’s a type of off-road bike racing with competitors navigating grass, dirt, mud, gravel, sand, and a variety of obstacles along the course. In other words, it’s crazy fun to watch.

Mud cyclocross

Cyclocross: The sport for those who love mud (or love watching others love mud).

If you are familiar with it and you feel like scoping out the scene, you’ll find all kinds of cyclocross listings on Visit Bend’s event calendar. Most events take place in late-fall through early winter, offering a fun shoulder-season activity whether you’re warching or participating.

Bend’s biggest and most spectator-friendly cyclocross event is the Halloween Cross Crusades in October. Check out the schedule online, then show up to watch riders get covered head-to-toe in dust and mud and sweat and blood.

Er, that sounded more sadistic than I meant it to.


Need more mud-themed events?

Cyclocross isn’t the only mud-sport around.

Don’t forget the Dirty Half Marathon happening every June in Bend. There’s also the Sunriver March Mudness (formerly the Sunriver Mudslinger) happening in March.

You’ll see other mud-themed races popping up from time to time on the calendar, so try searching the keyword “mud” at and look for events happening in the coming year.


Fill your belly with dirt

A dirty martini and a mudslide at Astro Lounge in Bend.

A dirty martini and a mudslide at Astro Lounge in Bend.

It might not sound appetizing, but there are lots of ways to get a delicious dirt fix around Bend. Plenty of local watering holes can hook you up with a delicious mudslide or a dirty martini. Make sure you request locally-made spirits from Bendistillery, Oregon Spirit Distillers, or Cascade Alchemy.

Looking for a dirt-inspired entrée? You can make these scrumptious Sloppy Joes using Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Porter. Yummy! You’ll also find dirty rice popping up alongside Cajun-inspired entrees at places like Zydeco or Fat Tuesday’s.

Mud Pie from Pine Tavern.

Mud Pie from Pine Tavern.

Ready for dessert? Don’t forget the famous Mud Pie at the Pine Tavern (one of Bend’s longest-standing restaurants in business for more than 80 years). It’s creamy and sweet and oh-so-delicious when paired with a selection from their impressive list of dessert wines.


Get dirty, then clean, then dirty again on the Paulina Plunge

If you ask my stepkids their favorite Bend activity they’ve enjoyed over the years, I guarantee they’ll mention the Paulina Plunge. This is a full-day adventure tour that includes mountain biking, hiking, and visits to half-a-dozen pristine waterfalls for swimming, splashing, jumping, and sliding.

Rinse off the trail dirt on a natural waterfall slide when you book a tour with the Paulina Plunge.

Rinse off the trail dirt on a natural waterfall slide when you book a tour with the Paulina Plunge.

As you might imagine, splashing in a waterfall and then hopping on a mountain bike will leave your legs a little muddy. And your arms. And probably other parts of your body, too. But that’s half the fun, and if you find yourself feeling too gritty, there’s bound to be another waterfall to rinse off in along the way.

Make sure you book your Paulina Plunge outing in advance of your vacation, since this family-friendly adventure tends to fill up early. And if you want my full recap on my family’s experience with the Paulina Plunge, go here.


Time to clean up now!

Cleaning up after a full day of frolicking in mud can be half the fun if you know how to do it right.

You’ll find many Bend hotels, Bend vacation homes, and Bend B&Bs have bike wash stations, so phone ahead and make sure your chosen home-away-from-home has what you need if you’re planning to get grubby on a bike.

When your mud-fest is complete, get your pup cleaned off right at Bend Pet Express.

When your mud-fest is complete, get your pup cleaned off right at Bend Pet Express.

Did you bring your four-legged friend with you? You’ll find plenty of awesome u-wash dog spots in Bend. I’m partial to locally-owned Bend Pet Express where the oatmeal shampoo leaves my pup smelling like cookies for days afterward.

And speaking of cleaning up, make sure you’re practicing leave-no-trace ethics when you’re out there enjoying the wilderness. Bring a trash bag with you when you hike and leave your favorite trail even nicer than you found it.

Now go out there and get dirty!

The best collection of Bend tips in the whole wide universe

June 9th, 2016

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 you can see the mountains, you're looking west. That's a handy navigational tool in Bend!

If you can see the mountains, you’re looking west. That’s a handy navigational tool in Bend!

Jason Lusk

Information Specialist

  • 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.



Hank Therien

Group Sales & Special Projects Manager

Hank's daughter, Rose, gets a taste of the outdoors with canine companion, Toby.

Hank’s daughter, Rose, gets a taste of the outdoors exploring Bessie Butte with canine companion, Toby.

  • 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.



Tawna Fenske

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.

    Blogger Tawna learned the hard way to remember good river shoes when planning a float that involves walking any distance back to the car.

    Blogger Tawna learned the hard way to remember good river shoes when planning a float that involves walking any distance back to the car.

  • 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.


Even at the height of summer, you'll want to remember a jacket when you hit an evening concert at the Les Schwab Amphitheater.

Even at the height of summer, you’ll want to remember a jacket when you hit an evening concert at the Les Schwab Amphitheater.

Valerie Warren

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.



If you time your visit to Sparks Lake just right, you might have the place to yourself.

If you time your visit to Sparks Lake just right, you might have the place to yourself.

Lisa Sidor

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.


Linda Orcelletto

Information Specialist

    • 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).
Heading up the Cascade Lakes Highway? There are a few things you should remember to bring!

Heading up the Cascade Lakes Highway? There are a few things you should remember to bring!

  • 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!


6 ways to keep yourself (and Bend’s outdoor spaces!) in perfect working order

June 1st, 2016

I don’t like to get preachy on this blog. Mostly I enjoy writing about things like my favorite Bend parks or Bend’s best bacon.

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.

Marked trails in the wilderness keep you (and the wilderness!) safe from harm.

Marked trails in the wilderness keep you (and the wilderness!) safe from harm.

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.

Canned beer is portable and packable!

Canned beer is portable and packable!

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.

Blogger Tawna enjoys standup paddleboarding with Bindi (who wears her life vest for safety's sake!)

Blogger Tawna enjoys standup paddleboarding with Bindi (who wears her life vest for safety’s sake!)

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.

Enjoy Bend's wildflowers from the trail, and resist the urge to squish them.

Enjoy Bend’s wildflowers from the trail, and resist the urge to squish 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!

Visit Bend staffers share their top spots for camping in Central Oregon

May 19th, 2016

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


Blogger Tawna hanging around the campsite at Swamp Wells with her dog, Bindi.

Blogger Tawna hanging around the campsite at Swamp Wells with her dog, Bindi.

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.

Kevney's kids frolic with their grandpa on the shore of Elk Lake.

Kevney’s kids frolic with their grandpa on the shore of Elk Lake.

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

Chip and Jo get set up at Lower Palisades Campground site 11.

Chip and Jo get set up at Lower Palisades Campground site 11.

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

Nate Wyeth always takes the best camping pictures, especially at Wyeth Campground.

Nate Wyeth always takes the best camping pictures, especially at Wyeth Campground.

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

Linda and her husband know how to do dispersed camping right!

Linda and her husband know how to do dispersed camping right!

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

Larry Sidor (husband of Lisa Sidor and head brewer/owner at Crux Fermentation Project) enjoys the good life at Sparks Lake.

Larry Sidor (husband of Lisa Sidor and head brewer/owner at Crux Fermentation Project) enjoys the good life at 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

One of many breathtaking sights you'll see while camping at Paulina Lake.

One of many breathtaking sights you’ll see while camping at Paulina Lake.

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.

10 things you MUST do on a Bend vacation

April 28th, 2016

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.

The views from the top of Pilot Butte are well worth a little hiking and sweating to get there.

The views from the top of Pilot Butte are well worth a little hiking and sweating to get there.

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.

Whether you're a beer fan or not, plan at least one stop along the Bend Ale Trail.

Whether you’re a beer fan or not, plan at least one stop along 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.

Crater Lake is well worth a road trip during one of the days of your Bend vacation.

Crater Lake is well worth a road trip during one of the days of your Bend vacation.

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.

A cave adventure with Wanderlust Tours makes an excellent addition to your Bend vacation any time of year.

A cave adventure with Wanderlust Tours makes an excellent addition to your Bend vacation any time of year.

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).

Standup paddleboarding is a great way to experience Bend's beautiful waterways.

Standup paddleboarding is a great way to experience Bend’s beautiful waterways.

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, 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 well worth experiencing.

Bend’s culinary scene is well worth experiencing.

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.

Enjoying the artwork in the Tin Pan Alley art collection is as simple as walking down the street.

Enjoying the artwork in the Tin Pan Alley art collection is as simple as walking down the street.

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!

Wanderlust's Volcano Tour is a must-do if you're interested in Central Oregon's volcanic landscapes.

Wanderlust’s Volcano Tour is a must-do if you’re interested in Central Oregon’s volcanic landscapes.

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.

Strolling Bend's Old Mill District is a scenic way to get your shopping fix.

Strolling Bend’s Old Mill District is a scenic way to get your shopping fix.

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!

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