There are certain things that make it on most visitors’ summer bucket list: Go hiking, catch an outdoor concert, then set out for a leisurely river float before ending your evening with a cold pint along the Bend Ale Trail.
They’re all pretty simple activities you can probably master all by yourself.
But there are special ways to take your enjoyment to the next level (not to mention leaving Bend’s special places even better than you found them). Here’s how to do it.
Head out for a hike
You’re already familiar with the concept of lacing up your shoes and putting one foot in front of the other, so you’ve nailed the first part of hiking.
Knowing where to hike is the second part of the equation. Spots like Pilot Butte and the Deschutes River Trail make awesome in-town options with minimal drive time.
Tumalo Falls is just a short drive away (though you’ll want to get there early to dodge crowds and find a parking spot).
For more ideas on where to hike around Central Oregon, check out this post.
How to do it better:
Okay, so let’s say you arrive at your chosen trailhead and find the parking lot full. It’s not uncommon this time of year, and what you don’t want to do is get frustrated and smash out your own parking spot atop delicate saplings and the fragile forest floor. Instead, have a backup plan for an alternate hike nearby. There are plenty to choose from, and it’s better for everyone if we all spread out. A great guidebook can help you get a good list going.
Next, make sure your pack is loaded with the essentials: No earth-harming disposable plastic bottles for you, no sir! You’ve got your reusable Hydro Flask tucked in your pack (we sell ‘em at the Visitor Center if you need one). You’ve also got your trusty map and the rest of your ten essentials tucked in your pack.
After you set out, make sure you stick to marked trails to help protect our forest areas. Follow Leave No Trace ethics while you’re out and about, and please, please don’t litter.
Want extra bonus points? Carry a small trash bag in your pack and pick up litter left behind by hikers less conscientious than you. Now that’s how you Visit Like a Local!
Float the river
No activity represents the quintessential Bend experience more than floating the river on a warm summer day. All you really need is a floatation device, a willingness to get a little wet, and a plan for getting back to your car at the end. You can learn everything you’ll need to know in this blog post.
How to do it better:
I know it looks crazy-fun to ride a giant inflatable swan down the Deschutes, but flimsy pool toys can get chewed up in the Passageway Channel of the Bend Whitewater Park. Since popped floaties create gobs of garbage at the takeout point, you should either plan on renting a more durable tube, or simply hoof it along the portage path around the Passageway and put in on the other side.
Next, take extra care with the footwear you choose. Flip-flops might protect the bottoms of your feet on the walk back to your car, but they also flop right off in the water or on the muddy river bottom. The result? You’re without shoes, and the river ends up clogged with them. Instead, choose sturdy water shoes like Tevas or Keens.
And speaking of your car, there’s no need to do the dual-car shuffle between your starting point and end point. Just buy a pass for the Ride the River Shuttle and leave the driving to someone else!
Catch a concert
Last year, Travel + Leisure named the Les Schwab Amphitheater one of America’s coolest music venues, so it’s no surprise if catching a concert there is on your summer bucket list.
Here are the bare basics you should know: Buy tickets early, since some shows sell out. Each concert has different rules for what you can bring, so go here to learn if your concert allows low-backed chairs and blankets or if those are a no-go for your show.
Empty water bottles are cool (remember those reusable Hydro Flasks we talked about earlier?) but no outside food or beverages are allowed. Oh, and plan for temperature shifts—even if it’s 90-degrees at the start of a show, you may need a jacket by the end.
How to do it better:
With help from The Broomsmen, the Les Schwab Amphitheater has gotten serious about reducing waste at concerts. The Take Note Initiative seeks to make Les Schwab a more sustainable venue by eliminating single-use plastic bottles and making sure vendors use 100% compostable cups, plates, and utensils. So what does this mean for your concert experience?
For one, it means you can buy a limited-edition Silipint for beer, cider, wine, or cocktails for just $20. Your first beverage is included in the price, and you get $1 off all subsequent beverages. Not only can you use it from one season to the next, but the thing glows in the dark. How cool is that?
Want to be an extra-super-duper informed consumer of live music? Check out this blog post featuring 15 tips for concert-going at the Les Schwab Amphitheater.
Hit the Bend Ale Trail
The number of breweries in Bend seems to climb daily, and there are currently 15 on the Bend Ale Trail. That means you can grab a printed passport or download the free app to gather stamps as you sip your way around the trail of suds.
Before setting out, peruse the list of Bend Ale Trail breweries here, and get a feel for which one(s) you want to hit. Choosing one close to your hotel or vacation rental will make it easy for you to walk from brewery to brewery. Since most of them post current tap lists online, you can browse options beforehand to get a feel for what you’d like to try.
How to do it better:
The first rule of Fight Club is . . . wait, no. Wrong blog post.
The first rule of the Bend Ale Trail is NEVER DRINK AND DRIVE. Seriously. We have Uber, Lyft, taxis, guided tours, horse-drawn carriages, and a zillion other options to keep you alive and out of jail. Go here to learn more. As a matter of fact, read that entire blog post, since it has oodles of tips about navigating the nation’s most awesome trail of beer.
Chief among them: Pace yourself. Drink lots of water. Remember that you don’t have to drink a drop of alcohol to gather passport stamps and earn prizes (seriously—no purchase necessary). Eat hearty snacks or meals at the breweries not just because it’ll help absorb alcohol, but because the food is really freakin’ awesome.
And did I mention the part about not drinking and driving?
Summertime in Bend is when I catch myself walking down the street and smiling for no apparent reason.
Well, there is a reason. Did I mention the part about it being summertime in Bend?
But this summer—the summer of 2017—we all have a few extra reasons to grin like goobers. Here are six of them.
Getting around got easier
The increased volume of tourists between June and September has always made traffic more challenging in summer, but three things went into effect recently to make it all a bit easier.
The first was the arrival of Uber back in May 2017, followed by Lyft a few weeks later. While Bend has had regular taxis and cabs for eons, these rideshare programs offer added options at the click of an app. I’ve Ubered and Lyfted for several of this summer’s concerts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater, and found it speedy, convenient, and inexpensive. Bonus: no need to fight for parking or get behind the wheel after an evening of sipping wine in the grass.
The next traffic-related source of smiles is the new Ride Bend shuttle connecting greater Downtown Bend destinations from June 23 through Labor Day. The shuttle is free of charge, and runs every 15 minutes from 2-10 p.m. circulating in a clockwise loop between Downtown Bend, the Old Mill District, OSU-Cascades Campus, and Galveston Avenue. The free shuttle is made possible by a partnership between Visit Bend, the City of Bend, and Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council.
Thirdly, bike share programs have been popping up all over town in recent weeks, including in the Old Mill District, at Crux Fermentation Project, OSU Cascades, and in Downtown Bend at the corner of Franklin and Bond. There’s a new one coming to Drake Park in early-September near the parking area on Franklin. To use, download the Zagster app for your phone, head to a bike station, grab a bike, and go. When you’re done, return it to any Zagster staion.
So many new places to try!
In 20+ years of living in Bend, I’ve seen plenty of cycles with businesses opening and closing at a frantic rate. But I’ve never seen anything like 2017 where it seems there’s a hot new restaurant or retail shop opening almost every week.
Swoon-worthy dining establishments that popped up during the first half of the year include French Market (perfect date night dining!), Sora Sushi (yay for sushi trains!), and Moose Sisters (hooray for awesome north-end options).
On the retail front, my favorite newcomers include Hello Sunshine gift boutique in the Old Mill District (hint: it’s the same owners as uber-adorable Clementine Urban Mercantile in Downtown Bend) and Roundabout Books in Northwest Crossing (who doesn’t love a locally-owned indie bookstore awesome décor, great selection, and fab local author events?!)
We be jammin’ all summer
The summer may be almost half over, but concert season at the Les Schwab Amphitheater is just getting started.
So far, the 2017 season’s lineup has included John Mellencamp, Paul Simon, Pink Martini, Ween, and Deftones with Rise Against. I saw four of the five shows, and they all pretty much rocked my socks off.
But there’s plenty more to come!
Still on the docket are Slightly Stoopid, Jack Johnson, Avett Brothers (my personal fave!), Diana Krall, Michael Franti & Spearhead, and Modest Mouse. As of today (July 6) tickets are still available for all of them except the sold-out Jack Johnson show.
And that doesn’t even include all the awesome Free Summer Sunday Concerts happening through mid-July.
Bonus: For the second year in a row, the Amphitheater is offering the Take Note Initiative to promote a more environmentally-friendly concert experience. Purchase a reusable, limited-edition Silipint for beer, cider, wine, or cocktails for $20. Your first beverage is included in the price, and you get $1 off all subsequent beverages. I bought mine last season, and was thrilled to discover it’s still good this season.
Farmers Market selection
I’m not sure whether to credit lingering moisture from one of the best snow seasons on record, or the fact that we’ve had surprisingly consistent temperatures from late spring through early summer, but 2017 is shaping up to be one of the best seasons I’ve seen in my home garden.
That doesn’t mean I’m inviting you all to my backyard to snack on tomatoes and squash, but it does mean I’m seeing similar abundance at this year’s Bend Farmers Market. The berries look plumper, the kale looks leafier, and the overall harvest looks more plentiful.
The Bend Farmers Market takes place from 3-6 p.m. every Wednesday in the Brooks Alley just above Drake Park. The 2017 season will go through October 11.
New stuff on the Bend Ale Trail
Summertime is one of my favorite seasons to hit the Bend Ale Trail, since local breweries launch their flavorful, seasonal sippers that are perfect for enjoying on the patio on a warm summer evening.
Right now, I’ve been diggin’ the SUP Seasonal Ale from Sunriver Brewing, the French Connection from Crux Fermentation Project, and the Peaches Everyday sour at 10 Barrel (which has a brand new Eastside pub that’s been making me smile quite often by being mere steps from my front door).
Also new and worth a gander is the Hopservatory at Worthy Brewing. Guided tours offer an overview of our night skies and a chance to gaze through a high-powered telescope with the aid of experts from the Oregon Observatory in Sunriver. Kick off your stargazing experience with a stop in the brand new Star Bar and a pint of their tasty seasonal IPA, Strata.
Smile at a stranger
Ask regular visitors to Bend what they love best about this place and odds are good you’ll hear one answer again and again: The friendliness of the people.
It’s something you’ll see personified every time you stroll the streets of Downtown Bend or pass someone on a hiking trail—people smile at you. Like, total strangers, just grinning a greeting at everyone they see.
Don’t panic if that’s not the norm where you come from. Just smile back and give a little wave. If you’re feeling bold, try out a casual “hello!” or “have a great day!”
For more ideas on how to #VisitLikeALocal when you’re in Bend, check out this page.
Everyone has a favorite holiday. Maybe it’s Christmas or Valentine’s Day for you, but for me it will always be July 4.
The fact that I spend it in Bend every year has a lot to do with that.
From the waggy-tailed joy of the Pet Parade to the breathless speculation over which side of Pilot Butte will catch on fire (it’s a thing, people) I adore Independence Day in Bend.
Here’s what you should know if you plan to join us in 2017.
Q: Where can I watch Fourth of July fireworks in Bend?
A: Each year, fireworks are launched from the top of Pilot Butte at 10 p.m. If you have any friends who live in an elevated area of northeast Bend, try to procure an invitation to their Independence Day barbecue. Bring beer.
If that’s not an option, you can see fireworks from just about any spot in town with a view of Pilot Butte. City parks are popular viewing zones, so check the Parks & Rec site to find one near you. Al Moody Park (near the base of Pilot Butte) is a locals’ favorite, but you’ll want to get there early with a blanket or chairs.
Q: What special events are happening for July 4?
A: Bend’s old-fashioned 4th of July celebration is like something out of a Normal Rockwell painting. Pie-eating contests, dunk tanks, scavenger hunts, and sack races will keep you hopping (so to speak) all day long.
Things kick off early with the annual Pancake Breakfast in Drake Park sponsored by the Bend Sunrise Lion’s Club. This all-American meal is served from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., and proceeds support local charities.
Once you’ve stuffed your face with hotcakes and bacon, stroll into Downtown Bend for the annual Pet Parade. It’s Bend’s largest parade, with 8,000 spectators and participants, and it’s been happening since the 1930s. Starting at 10 a.m., the parade winds its way through downtown with a kooky array of humans, canines, and farm animals, many of whom will be attired in bizarre costumes.
If you or your kids want to march in the parade, the lineup and decorating party takes place at 9 a.m. in the parking lot between Bond and Wall across from the Deschutes Public Library. Temps will likely be in the 80s this year, so keep your kids’ and pets’ comfort in mind when planning costumes.
If you just want to watch, you can park your chair pretty much anywhere in Downtown Bend. Streets will be closed from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and parking can be tough to find, so it’s a great chance to use alternative transportation like biking or walking.
After the parade, head over to Drake Park for the aforementioned Old Fashioned July 4 Festival. From 11-4, enjoy games, live music, a variety of food booths, kids’ activities, and more than 130 artisan booths.
Want to support a good cause with your July 4 festivities? Attend a benefit for the Central Oregon Veterans Organization from 6-10 p.m. at The Collective (62070 27th Street). Your $50 ticket gets you food, drinks, dancing, and a killer view of the fireworks, but hurry—the event is limited to 200 tickets. You can learn more by calling 541-390-5833.
If music is your jam, there are still tickets available for the July 4 Deftones concert at the Les Schwab Amphitheater.
Q: Uh-oh…I don’t have a place to stay.
A: Independence Day is typically one of the busiest times of the year in Bend, so pat yourself on the back if you’ve already nailed down lodging reservations.
If you haven’t, you can scope out our lodging pages as a starting point for deciding who to call about last-minute availability and cancellations. If you strike out in Bend, try one of our neighboring towns like Redmond (20 minutes away), Sisters (25-30 minutes away), Sunriver (25-30 minutes away), La Pine (45 minutes away), or Prineville (45 minutes away).
If you’re hoping to camp, check out Visit Bend’s complete roundup of campgrounds and RV parks. While we can’t guarantee availability on a busy holiday weekend, these campgrounds might be worth trying if you strike out elsewhere:
- Near Newberry Crater, try Cinder Hill campground.
- Want to stay near Sisters? Try Perry South or Sisters Creekside Campground.
- State Parks are another option for those willing to drive 20-40 minutes. Smith Rock State Parkhas great spots for tent campers, while La Pine State Park, Cove Palisades, and Prineville Reservoir can all accommodate both RVs and tents.
- Some tent campers might enjoy the solitude and primitive experience of dispersed campingin the Ochoco or Deschutes National forests.
- RV enthusiasts will also find hookups and bathrooms with showers at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds RV Park. Though Bachelordoesn’t have hookups, they do offer bathrooms and showers in the Guest Services building for those who want to park their RVs in the designated area at the mountain.
Q: Where can I play in the Deschutes River?
A: We have a whole web page devoted to this! Find out about canoeing, kayaking, standup paddling, and river float trips in Bend. To get the inside scoop on floating on the Deschutes River the way the locals do it, check out this blog post on how to float the river like a pro.
Q: What hikes are open?
A: This page from the Forest Service offers up-to-the-minute trail conditions and closure info. You can also refer to Visit Bend’s hiking page for ideas about where to go. Cascade Hiking Adventures is another terrific resource for hiking ideas.
Q: What else is open July 4?
A: Mt. Bachelor has a special treat this year for fans of both summer and winter sports. Bend’s record winter snowfall means the snow is still 10 feet deep in some spots at Mt. Bachelor, so the mountain will be open July 2-July 4 for skiing and snowboarding. Learn more about lift ticket prices and schedules right here. In addition, Bachelor’s summer sports season kicks off July 1, including the downhill mountain bike park, disc golf, and lunches at the Pine Marten Lodge. Basically, it’s the first time in the resort’s 58 year history that you can ski and downhill mountain bike on the same visit, so you won’t want to miss it.
Though the High Desert Museum is closed on Independence Day, be sure to stop by on a different day during your trip. Check their schedule and time your visit for one of their stellar Raptors of the High Desert shows. Lava Lands Visitor Center is Open July 4. The Deschutes Historical Museum is not only open, but offers free admission and free ice cream cups while supplies last on July 4.
And of course, the Bend Visitor Center will be open on Independence Day from 9-5 for all your visitor information needs (and to redeem Bend Ale Trail atlases, of course!)
Q: We enjoy the Bend Buzz blog so much that we’d like to buy you a beer. What do you like?
A: Why thank you! I’ll take anything from around the Bend Ale Trail, but my current favorites include Life’s a Peach and Then You Die (a Milkshake NE IPA from Riverbend Brewing), the Half Hitch Imperial IPA from Crux Fermentation Project, the Cherry Card-a-Bomb from Worthy Brewing, Ching Ching from Bend Brewing Company, and pretty much any sour they happen to be serving up at 10 Barrel.
This past Wednesday marked the official first day of summer, which means Bend’s peak season is officially in full swing. Planning a summer vacation to the outdoor playground of the West? Here’s what you need to know!
Visit Like a Local
Want the inside scoop on everything from trail etiquette to the right way to navigate Bend’s roundabouts? Check out our Visit Like a Local page!
In a matter of minutes, you’ll be an expert on leash laws, the best beverage receptacles, and the proper footwear to don for a river float (hint: NOT flip-flops)!
There’s a lot happening in Bend during the summer months, from concerts to art festivals to sporting events. Many’s the time I’ve heard visitors lament that if only they’d known the dates for Bite of Bend or the Michael Franti concert, they would have planned their trip around it.
Here’s a tip: Check out the Visit Bend Event Calendar to see the full scope of what’s going on during the times you’re considering a visit.
I won’t lie—traffic can be tricky in Bend’s peak summer months, with everyone scrambling to see the same sights, shop the same stores, and dine in the same fabulous restaurants. This summer, you have two brand new options for navigating without the need to drive your own car.
The first is the new Ride Bend shuttle connecting greater Downtown Bend destinations from June 23 through Labor Day. The shuttle is free of charge, and runs every 15 minutes circulating in a clockwise loop between Downtown Bend, the Old Mill District, OSU-Cascades Campus, and Galveston Avenue. The free shuttle is made possible by a partnership between Visit Bend, the City of Bend, and Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council.
The second option is a new bike share program that has stations popping up all over town, including in the Old Mill District, Downtown Bend, and at OSU-Cascades. Download the Zagster app for your phone to get started.
And of course, an organized tour is another way to make sure you don’t have to haggle for parking at popular trailheads. Book a canoe outing or volcanic adventure with Wanderlust Tours and leave the driving, planning, and gear to someone else.
Yes, you really do need reservations
Folks with fond childhood memories of cruising into Bend on a Saturday and having plenty of Bend hotel rooms to pick from can get a pretty rude awakening in mid- summer.
Times have changed, and the city’s lodging operates at or near capacity from June through September. That means you need to plan ahead, especially if there’s a special Bend vacation home or bed and breakfast you’ve been eyeing.
Don’t risk having your summer vacation plans torpedoed by a lack of lodging. Plan ahead, then kick back and relax knowing you have a place to bunk down for the night.
Pick your play
Bend is a cornucopia of outdoor activities year-round, but that’s especially true in summer. On a shorter trip, it can be tough to choose between activities, so you owe it to yourself to study up.
Consider what forms of water recreation you want on your roster—Kayaking? Canoeing? Standup paddleboarding? Fishing? Pick your faves, and study up. It’s especially crucial to understand the rules of floating the river if that’s on your agenda.
Investigate your options for hiking and identify a top choice hike or two.
Knowing you have at least one designated day for play (and what it’s going to be) is a great way to give yourself something to anticipate for your Bend vacation.
Indoorsy options for all
The dry heat of our Central Oregon high desert takes some getting used to, so it’s smart to plan at least one “indoorsy” day filled with air conditioning and a bit of culture.
Visit the High Desert Museum to scope out the cool critters and exhibits. Explore art galleries or see a show at the Tower Theatre. Learn about Bend history with a visit to the Deschutes Historical Museum.
Then get back out there and soak up the sun. With sunscreen, of course.
Whether you’re drawn to Bend by the breweries, the hiking trails, or the mountain biking, there’s one activity that’s almost certainly on your to-do list if you visit between June and September: Floating the river.
I know this because previous blogs I’ve written on the subject remain our most highly-trafficked posts even seven years later. Since the rules and even the river change from year to year (more on that in a sec!), it’s time for an updated, latest-and-greatest blog post featuring everything you need to know about floating the Deschutes River in the summer of 2017.
Start with the right gear
First things first: Here’s what you’ll need to safely (and legally) float the river:
- A high-quality inner tube or floatation device. While you’ll see plenty of folks out there on pool toys, that’s risky if you want to cruise through the passageway channel in the Bend Whitewater Park. Rocks and rapids lead to popped and tumbled cheap floaties (which leaves us with garbage bins stuffed with ruined inflatables). You can rent durable float tubes from a number of local retailers including Sun Country and Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe.
- I’ve witnessed many a ruined vacation when visitors didn’t realize the strength of the sun in our high-altitude desert town. Slather up, guys. You’ll thank me later.
- Proper footwear. You’ll want something on your feet for hoofing it back to your car or around the passageway, but whatever you do, DON’T WEAR FLIP FLOPS! They’ll come off in the water or mud to become litter in our pristine river. Instead, opt for sturdy footwear like Keens or Tevas.
- Secure your personal items. Plan to keep your keys, phones, trash and other belongings with you, not on the river’s bottom. Want to ruin your trip in a hurry? Just lose your car keys (or wallet, phone, camera, prescription glasses and so on) in the passageway. No Bueno.
- Life jacket. State law requires that each boat or paddleboard carry one Coast Guard approved life jacket for each person on board, and children age 12 and under are required to wear life jackets. If you lash several float tubes together, that counts as a boat. Play it safe and snag yourself and the kids a free rental life jacket from the Sun Country kiosk at Riverbend Park.
Okay, now what?
Since the Deschutes River does not flow in a circle like a carnival ride, you need to make a plan before you set foot in the water. While some folks opt for a long walk back to their car, or do the multi-car shuffle by leaving a vehicle at the takeout point, you’ll be much, much happier if you leave the driving to someone else by taking the Ride the River Shuttle. It’ll save you tons of headaches with parking.
Now that you’ve got a plan, you’re ready to roll!
Most floaters put in at the shallow beach area in Riverbend Park. Paddle out into the water and let the current start your journey downstream. Keep in mind the water is fed by snowmelt and icy springs, so it’ll be chilly even at the height of summer.
As you approach the Colorado Avenue Bridge, you’ve got a decision to make . . .
To ride or not to ride?
In 2015, the Bend Whitewater Park opened at the site of the former Colorado Avenue dam, opening up an access that previously didn’t exist. It has three distinct channels that include a habitat area for wildlife, a whitewater channel for surfing and whitewater kayaking, and a passageway meant for river floaters.
If this is your first time through, hop out here and study the passageway. It includes a series of rapids that’ll be a little bumpy and could wreck your ride (not to mention your backside) if you’re not using a sturdy floatation device. If you’re on a flatwater boat or paddleboard instead of a float tube, you’ll want to exit the river here as the rapids will likely damage your boat or board.
Feeling up to it? If you’re riding on through the passageway, do your best to keep your feet downstream and your float tube in the whitewater section of the channel.
If you have small children with you or if you’d rather walk around it, just hoof it along the portage trail and hop back in the water on the other end of the channel.
You can also call it a day at the bridge and enjoy a relatively short walk back to the put-in point.
Or you can keep on floating . . .
Got it. Let’s keep going!
If you choose to continue floating past the Colorado Avenue Bridge, you’ll eventually find yourself drifting into Drake Park. As you approach the Galveston Avenue Bridge, start making your way to the right.
Just past the bridge, you’ll see a small beach on the right side of the river. That’s where you’ll want to hop out.
And since you already made plans to Ride the River Shuttle, you’ll have an easy time getting back to your vehicle or to the put-in spot so you can do the whole thing all over again.
What else do I need to know?
A few more rules, tips, and general advice to avoid breaking the law or being a jerk:
- There are local ordinances that make it illegal to drink alcohol on the Deschutes River or in a Bend park, so leave the brews at home. You know what’s also illegal? Sinking your beer cans or bottles in the water. If the cops catch you doing it, they’ll fine you. If a local catches you doing it, you’ll get a pretty serious tongue-lashing about littering and the importance of protecting Bend’s natural beauty.
- Despite the fact that marijuana is legal in Oregon, it’s not legal to blaze up in public places. Leave the bong behind, guys.
- Keep in mind that the full float will take anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes. Plan on half that time if you jump out at the Colorado Avenue Bridge.
- Parking can be crowded at Riverbend Park, but it’s downright insane at Drake Park. Seriously, Ride the River Shuttle. I promise you’ll thank me.
- Bend Park and Rec offers an amazing virtual tour for how to float the river. You can check that out here.
- Want a big-picture overview of the Deschutes River and where all the hazards lie? The Bulletin recently ran an excellent graphic you can scope out right here.
- Want more tips on navigating Bend like a pro? Check out our Visit Like a Local page!
Happy floating, everyone!
It’s still April, and odds are good we’ll see snow at least once more before warm weather arrives in Bend and decides to stick around.
You might think that means you’ve got plenty of time to plan your Bend summer vacation, but you’d be wrong. Here are 5 things you need to do RIGHT NOW if you want to visit Bend during peak summer season.
Book your lodging
I know this seems premature if you have fond memories of the days you could cruise into town on a Saturday in July and expect to have your pick of Bend hotel rooms.
But times have changed, and the city’s lodging operates at or near capacity from June through September. That means you need to plan ahead, especially if there’s a special Bend vacation home or bed and breakfast you’ve been eyeing.
Don’t risk having your summer vacation plans torpedoed by a lack of lodging. Plan ahead, then kick back and relax for another couple months.
Get your gear ready
Most folks journeying to Bend have outdoor recreation on their minds, whether it’s skiing and snowboarding in the winter, or rafting and hiking in the summer.
Don’t make the mistake I’ve made and discover hours before a big hike that your twenty-year-old hiking boots are on their last legs (no pun intended). Plan ahead by inspecting your boots and other outdoorsy attire right now and figuring out what to repair or replace. Bonus: You’ll have time to break in new footwear before hiking season really heats up.
This is also a great time to inventory and inspect things like camping gear or specialty recreation items. Are all your tent stakes present and accounted for? Do the float tubes hold air? Does your bike need a tune-up? Does your sleeping bag smell like something crawled inside and died?
Make sure everything is in working order so there are no unpleasant surprises when it’s time to throw everything in the car for your Bend vacation.
Make a bucket list and a schedule
Last year I was lucky enough to spend three weeks traveling all over New Zealand. I sat down beforehand and sketched out which towns we’d visit and what activities we’d enjoy on each day of the trip. Then I heard echoes of my twenty-something self scoffing about how I used to be a free-spirited, seat-of-her-pants adventurer who never planned ahead, and now I’m just a huge dork.
But my dorkiness paid off.
With pre-made reservations in hand, we didn’t panic when a massive mountain biking event booked up every hotel room, kayak trip, and wine tour in town.
We also didn’t have to spend precious vacation time making phone calls, doing internet research, and trying to plot out the best route from point A to point B.
A Bend vacation is a special thing, so you owe it to yourself to make the most of it. Spend some time researching beforehand at www.visitbend.com and decide what activities belong on your Bend bucket list. You can even peruse this blog for specific recommendations on tours, drinking and dining, and kid-friendly attractions.
Then make a list, make a schedule, make reservations, and kick back knowing you will maximize the ever lovin’ heck out of your Bend vacation.
Watch for special events
Concerts, festivals, and special events are abundant in the summer months, and if there’s some flexibility in your dates, it pays to sync your visit with the ones that cater to your interests.
The Les Schwab Amphitheater has already announced dozens of summer 2017 shows, including Paul Simon, the Avett Brothers, Steve Miller Band, Michael Franti, Jack Johnson, Diana Krall, Ween, and more.
There are also oodles of events like foot races, mountain bike competitions, kayak classes, and more.
For the most comprehensive Bend event calendar on the interwebz, go here.
Grab a good guidebook
I’m a sucker for good guidebooks, and you’ll never catch me boarding an international flight without at least one good tome outlining the top attractions at my destination.
A few of my favorite Bend guides include Bend Overall by Scott Cook (notice all the sticky-tabs in my copy?!), Bend, Oregon Daycations (Day Trips for Curious Families) by Kim Cooper Findling, and Day Hiking: Bend and Central Oregon by Brittany Manwell.
Grab whichever guide interests you most and study up. There will be a quiz later, and I promise you’ll love it.
August is here, so it’s officially my birthday month in Bend.
Thank you, thank you . . . you can go ahead and send gifts to the Bend Visitor Center.
In all seriousness, just being in Bend right now is a gift for me. The weather is warm, the nights are starry, and there’s an air of festivity that (much to my amazement) has little to do with strangers wanting to celebrate the month of my birth.
Here are five reasons I love August—my birthday month—in Bend, Oregon.
A high-altitude dinner
One of my favorite summertime rituals is dining at the stunning altitude of 7,800 feet above sea level. If you think the views would be incredible, you’re absolutely right. If you think August (with its warm temps and getting-earlier-every-evening sunsets) would be the best time to enjoy it, you’re also right.
Each year, Mt. Bachelor serves up sunset dinners at their Pine Marten Lodge beginning in July and going through early September. It’s a narrow window of time, and reservations go super-quick, but oh, what a view!
The food is spectacular, the wine and beer list impressive, and did I mention the views?
Visit their website for dates, times, and reservation info. Also, remember to bundle up and bring extra layers. It gets chilly up there!
The sunsets, oh, the sunsets!
Sunsets are spectacular all year long in Bend, but there’s something about sunsets in August that makes them extra colorful.
Okay, fine. That “something” might be smoke from forest fires around the Pacific Northwest, which turns normal sunset hues into Technicolor glory. Reds, oranges, pinks, purples . . . you’ll see all the colors of the Crayola box in August’s evening skies.
Check out this post for ideas on the best spots to catch a summertime sunset in Bend.
Wanna get fresh?
Our growing season is short in Central Oregon, which can be tricky for local restaurants that specialize in locally-sourced food. But August is a time of bounty, so it’s a great time to hit dining spots with on-site gardens or a reputation for snagging the best local produce.
Chow has a glorious array of garden beds on their property, and their menu reflects it this time of year. Ask your server what’s fresh that day, and choose your meal based on what’s being harvested just a few feet away at that very moment.
Worthy Brewing is another spot with on-site gardens that yield much of the restaurant’s produce. They also have their own hop growing yard, which doubles as a research facility for Oregon State University. That means you can eat and drink the best of what’s fresh and local.
Some like it hot
I’m perpetually freezing, which might be attributable to a low-functioning thyroid or to my co-workers’ great love of air conditioning. Take your pick.
But since August brings some of the high desert’s toastiest temperatures, I absolutely revel in it. I could spend all day out on my standup paddleboard letting the bright sun beat down on me, and then head to happy hour at Anthony’s or Greg’s Grill or one of Bend’s other amazing riverfront dining spots (there are 11 of them!) to soak up the last rays of sunshine.
If you share my fondness for long days with glorious, warm sunshine, you’ll love August in Bend.
What’s got everyone so giddy?
There’s a noticeable jubilation in the air when it’s August in Bend. People are skipping along hiking trails or dancing at concerts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater. They’re strolling hand-in-hand around Downtown Bend, and they’re splashing on the beach at Riverbend Park.
Yes, I’ll be the first to admit there are a lot of people in Bend when August rolls around. It’s peak tourist season, and that means a whole lot of bodies are packed together.
But the happy, smiling, laughing faces attached to those bodies? Priceless.
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.
If you want to try your hand at standup paddleboarding, you’ll find several local standup paddleboard rental companies offering lessons + boards including Stand on Liquid, Standup Paddle Bend, and many more.
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!
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.