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Let’s go stargazing in Bend, Oregon

July 21st, 2016
Stargazing in Central Oregon is the stuff of magic. Photo by Nate Wyeth Photography

Stargazing in Central Oregon is the stuff of magic.
Photo by Nate Wyeth Photography

Is there anything more serene, more inspiring, more enchanting, than an evening spent gazing up at the stars in wonder?

While you can check out the astral wonders almost any time of year in Bend, summer is primo season for stargazing, with warmer nights and clear skies. Here are 6 spots in Bend and Central Oregon to get your star fix.

Pine Mountain Observatory

The crème de la crème when it comes to Central Oregon stargazing, the Pine Mountain Observatory is located 26 miles southeast of Bend at an elevation of 6,500. To put that into perspective, Bend is at 3,600 feet, so even during the warmest months of summer, you’ll want to pack a few extra layers to avoid freezing your butt off.

Photo by Nate Wyeth Photography

Photo by Nate Wyeth Photography

But oh what a view you’ll have once you get there! Since this observatory is part of the University of Oregon Physics Department, they have the biggest and best equipment you could possibly imagine. You can try out a telescope of aperture 15, 24, and 32-inches, or just wander around staring up at the sky with your naked eyes.

The facility is open to the public May through September, and hours are limited. Go here for schedule info, directions, and more useful details.


The Oregon Observatory at the Sunriver Nature Center

The stargazing in Central Oregon is so awesome, we have not one, but two observatories within 30 minutes of Bend!

Photo by Nate Wyeth Photography

Photo by Nate Wyeth Photography

Like Pine Mountain, the Oregon Observatory at the Sunriver Nature Center (which you’ll also see referenced as the Sunriver Observatory) requires a little drive time to reach. Located at the Sunriver Nature Center, the Observatory is about 19 miles southwest of Bend. They boast the largest collection of telescopes for public use in the entire country, which is pretty impressive. There are too many to describe them all, but you can go here to see a complete list of both lunar and solar telescopes.

The Oregon Observatory at the Sunriver Nature Center also boasts a nice, long season, with a schedule that spans from spring through fall and even offers some occasional wintertime hours. Their website has up-to-date info on everything from scheduled hours to private parties to school programs and more.

Bonus: Daytime viewings and solar telescopes give you a chance to scan the skies long before the sun sets.


Nighttime adventures with Wanderlust Tours

Looking for a way to combine outdoor adventure with a chance to be dazzled by the night sky? Wanderlust Tours has you covered whether it’s the height of summer or the chilly days of winter!

Stargazing with Wanderlust Tours.

Stargazing with Wanderlust Tours.

During the summer months, head out on one of the high Cascade Lakes with an epic Starlight or Moonlight Canoe Tour (the difference being the phase of the moon, of course). Your naturalist guide will point out constellations and planets, and pack your brain full of awesome information about everything from trees to animals to the geology of Central Oregon.

In the wintertime, take your pick between the Moonlight or Starlight Snowshoe Tours, or their ever-popular Bonfire on the Snow snowshoe tour. Both are a terrific way to revel in glittery fields of snow underfoot and glittery blankets of stars overhead.

No telescopes are needed, but they do provide all the gear you’ll need for canoeing or snowshoeing, plus snacks, transportation, and the best education you could possibly ask for on Bend’s natural wonders.


High Desert Museum

While there’s no planetarium or permanent exhibit devoted to the stars, you’ll frequently find programs and temporary exhibits celebrating the night sky at the High Desert Museum.

No need to venture far to see stars in Bend. This shot was taken in Drake Park! Photo by Nate Wyeth Photography

No need to venture far to see stars in Bend. This shot was taken in Drake Park!
Photo by Nate Wyeth Photography

For instance, next week (July 25-29, 2016) there’s a Kids’ Camp for second and third graders called Out of This World. Kids will learn about Sir Isaac Newton, investigate zero gravity, explore the solar system, and even launch a rocket. While next week’s camp is full, there’s currently a wait list, so contact them if your little astronaut would like a shot at getting called up.

And in the meantime, keep your eyes on their website for more amazing programs and exhibits being added to the schedule constantly.


Set out on your own

Prefer to have a little privacy for your stargazing adventures? There are lots of spots to throw down your blanket and gaze heavenward for a clear view of the night sky.

If you want to stick close to the center of Bend, just seek out spots a bit removed from the bright lights of downtown or surrounding neighborhoods. Sprawl out on a soccer field at Pine Nursery Park, or don your headlamp for a sunset hike up Pilot Butte (uh, you’ll want to switch off that light for the best star views!)

Camping is a great way to see stars around Central Oregon. Photo by Nate Wyeth Photography

Camping is a great way to see stars around Central Oregon.
Photo by Nate Wyeth Photography

Willing to drive a bit? The Oregon Badlands Wilderness just east of town is a nice wide-open area away from the city lights. Keep in mind you’re venturing into a wilderness area at night, so be smart about staying on the trails and sticking close to your vehicle.

Other primo spots for solo stargazing include the Dee Wright Observatory, anyplace east of Horse Butte, and any campsite up at the high Cascade Lakes.

Also, Brasada Ranch makes an excellent spot to enjoy a nice dinner and a bit of stargazing on the lawn before you head back to your Bend hotel or vacation rental.


Coming soon to Worthy Brewing

I’m jumping the gun a bit with this one, but I’m so freakin’ excited that it’s worth including!

Worthy Brewing is known for its killer beers, fabulous food, and unique location on the Northeast edge of Bend. It’s the unique location that puts them in a primo spot for stargazing, so the powers-that-be decided to do something about that.

An architect's rendering of the new Hopservatory at Worthy Brewing.

An architect’s rendering of the new Hopservatory at Worthy Brewing.

Earlier this summer, they began construction on a brand new Hopservatory. The dome was installed earlier this week, and the brewery has ordered a state-of-the-art telescope that customers will be able to use.

The Hopservatory is expected to be complete sometime in the fall of 2016, but for those who want to scope things out a little early, Worthy has partnered up with the Oregon Observatory at the Sunriver Nature Center. From 8:30-10 p.m. on Monday, July 25, and Mondays August 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29, Observatory staff will be on hand with a telescope for customers to use. They’ll also offer solar viewing on Saturdays from 12- 2 p.m. July 16, 23, and 30 as well as August 6, 13, 20, and 27.

Keep an eye on the Worthy Facebook page for news on grand openings and special star viewing parties. In the meantime, you’d better start sampling some Worthy beers so you know which pairs best with a heaping scoop of stars.


Smile. You’re in Bend.

July 14th, 2016
There's always something to smile about when you're strolling through Downtown Bend.

There’s always something to smile about when you’re strolling through Downtown Bend.

I was walking through Downtown Bend yesterday when I passed a guy smiling so wide I figured he’d just won a lifetime supply of beer on the Bend Ale Trail.

I was taken aback. Was he cuckoo? Was he on his phone? Was he smiling at me?

The answer seemed to be “no,” though I did smile back and he waved and we went our merry way in opposite directions.

But it got me thinking about how often I see people around Bend grinning from ear to ear for no apparent reason. Well, there’s one apparent reason. They’re in Bend.

So here are a four specific things about Bend that make me smile on a regular basis.


The people

There’s a reason I thought the aforementioned guy might be smiling at me, and it’s not that I’m too sexy for my shirt.

Strangers smile at each other all the time here, whether they’re passing one another on a mountain biking trail or while shopping in the Old Mill District. I’ve traveled a lot in my 41 years on this planet, and I haven’t been too many other places in the world where people are this outright friendly to folks they don’t know.

It’s one of the things I love best about Bend.


The smells

I’m not talking about the smells emanating from the backseat when you’re on a road trip with kids (those are rarely smile-worthy). I’m talking about the unique-to-Bend olfactory triggers that make you breathe a little deeper, then sigh and say, “Man, I’m glad to be here.”

You'll see smiles in the Old Mill District, too.

You’ll see smiles in the Old Mill District, too.

My two personal faves are the smell of desert sage warming in the sun and the oh-so-Bendesque scent of juniper after a rainstorm. And speaking of rainstorms, few things smell more amazing than the ozone in the high desert air when a mid-summer thunderstorm hits.

And let’s not forget food smells! Stroll around Downtown Bend or the Old Mill District about an hour before dinnertime to have your senses filled with the most delectable aromas wafting from dozens of award-winning restaurants lining the banks of the Deschutes River or dotting the quaint, historic downtown streets.

If one of our local breweries is working up a fresh batch of beer (which is pretty much always) stop and savor the hoppy, malty fragrance drifting along the breeze. Consider it your own little reassurance that it’ll be even better once it’s poured into a pint glass and set down in front of you.



The critters

If you’re ever having a bad day, drive to one of Bend’s eight off-leash areas, sit yourself down on a bench, and observe. If you’re not smiling after five minutes of watching that parade of tail wagging, butt sniffing, giddy-doggy happiness, you’re probably dead inside.

You smiled just now, didn't you?

You smiled just now, didn’t you?

Bend is a dog town (as evidenced by Dog Fancy naming us the nation’s dog-friendliest city) so you’ll probably witness canine glee even if you don’t visit a dog park.

Not really a dog person? No problem! You’ll find plenty of fluffy and not-so-fluffy critters all over Bend, and their antics are sure to make your cheek muscles twitch. Scope out otters at the High Desert Museum, or ogle pigs and cows on the Farm & Ranch Tour from the Well Traveled Fork.

For a roundup of 10 places to get your critter fix in Bend, go here.


The views

I was running late for work the other day and got caught at a traffic light. As I sat there in my car muttering to myself about slow drivers and my own inability to dress myself in a hasty fashion, I caught sight of the mountains shimmering in the distance beyond the stoplight. I stopped muttering and thought, “Man, I’m lucky to be here.”

Hoooray for being in Bend!

Hoooray for being in Bend!

Plunk yourself down virtually anywhere in Bend I guarantee there’s a breathtaking view within a few hundred feet of where you’re standing. From the big things like rivers and mountains and sunsets, to the small things like the small, hopefully-bright wildflowers poking through a fissure in some lava rock, there are a million beautiful things in Bend that will put a smile on your face for no cost whatsoever. It’s the cheapest form of therapy around.

Now get out there and enjoy it.

11 tasty spots for the best fish tacos in Bend, Oregon

July 7th, 2016

There’s something about a good fish taco that just screams “summer.” This is probably why I love eating them even when it’s 30-degrees in the middle of December.

Despite being nearly 200 miles from the ocean, Bend has a deliciously abundant selection at fish tacos in fine restaurants, breweries, and little taquerias around the city. Here are eleven of the best.


Worthy Brewing

Blackened steelhead tacos at Worthy Brewing.

Blackened steelhead tacos at Worthy Brewing.

This is the fish taco that sparked this whole blog post. A friend recommend the blackened steelhead tacos at Worthy Brewing, I ordered them, and life has never been the same.

You get three tacos with your meal and a generous side of tropical fruit salsa. Both the salsa and the hearty slabs of avocado help tone down the spiciness just a touch, and the flavors blend together in a perfect medley of creamy, tangy, and peppy. The blackened steelhead is moist and flavorful and surrounding tortillas are made with a blend of corn and flour. The cilantro-kale slaw and chipotle aioli rounds out the flavor profile perfectly.

Use your Worthy time wisely by pairing your fish tacos with a tasty Worthy beer. The menu recommends the Coeur de la Peche Saison, which is a fine choice, but I was partial to the hoppy dimensions of the Tower Encode IPA. If the weather allows it, nab an outdoor table on Worthy’s expansive patio.


Parilla Grill

Ask any crowd of Bend locals to name their favorite fish tacos and I guarantee you’ll hear at least a couple votes for Parilla Grill. There’s a good reason for that.

Hefe's fish tacos at Parilla Grill.

Hefe’s fish tacos at Parilla Grill.

Parillla’s fish tacos are a carnival of textures and flavors that’ll make your mouth happy. There’s the crunch of the hand-breaded fish filets, the pillowy softness of their fresh flour tortillas, the zip of the corn salsa, and the creamy zing of their famous fish sauce. Add a sprinkle of cheese and a generous helping of spinach and cabbage, and you’ve got a meal that’s not only pleasing to the palate, but to your mother (who always reminded you to eat all four food groups in one sitting).

You can pick and choose your condiments as you move through the line, but I suggest just answering “yes” when they ask if you’d like the recommendations. That’ll ensure your tacos are served up exactly the way nature (or at least Parilla) intended. Personally, I sometimes request they go a little light on the fish sauce, since that flavor can dominate when applied too generously.

Since these are some of the largest tacos in the roundup, make sure you plan according to your appetite when deciding whether to order the trio or individual tacos. Leave room for the killer kombucha they have on tap, or better yet, one of their famous margaritas.


El Sancho

Fish tacos and candied yams at El Sancho.

Fish tacos and candied yams at El Sancho.

I’m so in love with the tacos at El Sancho that I don’t even know where to begin singing their praises. Is it the tender mildness of the mahi mahi they use? Is it the perfect, simple freshness of their cabbage slaw with cilantro dressing? Is the creamy goodness of their fresh crema and avocado salsa? Is it the fact that they’re perfectly sized for easy eating with little risk of toppings glopping out onto your lap?

It’s all of those things, of course. But it’s also the friendly, bustling casual atmosphere of the place itself. Their taco menu is simply staggering, and everything on it is scrumptious. Though the focus of this post is fish tacos, the fact that you can order everything individually means you should leave room in your belly for a few other options like barbacoa, mushroom, or even lengua (yes, beef tongue) tacos.

But don’t fill up entirely on tacos. You haven’t lived until you’ve sampled their to-die-for candied yams, which make a great side dish for everyone to share. Pair it all with their refreshing passionfruit limeade, and you’ve got yourself a meal that’ll make your whole summer.



By now you’ve noticed everyone has a different opinion about which type of fish goes best in fish tacos. At Barrio, you’re not limited to one choice. Pick between salmon and grilled rockfish, or round out your taco trio by getting one of each, plus a third taco of your choosing.

Barrio fish tacos in their snazzy little taco holder.

Barrio fish tacos in their snazzy little taco holder.

This may be a silly detail to praise so heartily, but one of the best things about Barrio is the way they present their tacos in a spiffy little server that holds all three upright. Taco connoisseurs will appreciate how this keeps all the fixins’ in place and makes everything easy to eat.

Barrio tends to be extra-super-generous with the fish, so if you like the dominant ingredient to be of the finned variety, this is your go-to spot. If you’re looking to pair it with a cocktail, try their Tamarindo Whiskey Sour (a particularly good option when it’s discounted during happy hour).


Longboard Louie’s 

Two varieties of fish tacos wasn’t enough for you at Barrio? How about THREE choices at Longboard Louie’s?

Salsa-packed fish tacos in three varieties (rockfish, halibut, and salmon) at Longboard Louie's.

Salsa-packed fish tacos in three varieties (rockfish, halibut, and salmon) at Longboard Louie’s.

Their expansive fish taco menu includes rockfish, halibut, and salmon, and you can order individually or try all three (though make sure you have a hearty appetite if you go that route).

The rockfish is breaded, but the salmon is not. You have your choice between breaded or grilled with the halibut. All three are served in corn tortillas with pico de gallo, fish sauce, and generous helpings of cabbage and/or lettuce. I sampled all three and went back and forth swooning for different reasons. If pressed to pick a favorite, I’d have to vote for the breaded halibut. The fish is rich and flavorful, and a moist contrast to the crispy breading and the abundance of flavorful veggies.

You can opt to hit their famous salsa bar for an extra flavor boost, though I found these to be perfectly dressed already. Also, if you happen to be dining at the eastside Longboard Louie’s, you’ll find an infinite variety of customizable fish taco options in their build-your-own line. Both locations also have shrimp tacos, and depending on the season, I’ve occasionally been lucky enough to see crab on the menu.



I very rarely state my favorite when I do these “best of” blog posts for Visit Bend. But if someone put a gun to my head and forced me to choose only one set of fish tacos, I’d probably narrow it down to Spork and El Sancho. Then, after gauging the size of the gun and the proximity of the shooter, I would glance lovingly at the grilled sweet corn side dish and say, “Okay, Spork—you win this round.”

Catfish tacos and scrumptious grilled corn at Spork.

Catfish tacos and scrumptious grilled corn at Spork.

Setting aside from the nirvana that is the grilled sweet corn at Spork, the fish tacos here are mighty tasty. Made with battered and fried catfish, they’re piled with a scrumptious blend of cabbage, radish, cilantro, green onion, and a chili mayo that’s guaranteed to make your toes curl. You can add more spice if you like with the generous pile of jalapeño on the side, or squeeze on some extra lime for added zing. The grilled tortilla adds an extra smoky dimension that ties the whole thing together perfectly.

The fish tacos are made even tastier with a one of their creative cocktail concoctions. I fancied the Smoky Sunset made with rye, Townshend’s Tea Spirit Smoke Tea Liqueur, fresh lemon and orange juice, and a hint of sugar.

Did I mention the corn?


El Rancho Grande

This north-end option is a good choice for families shopping at the Cascade Village Shopping Center or returning from an afternoon of hiking at Smith Rock State Park.

Parmesan-dusted halibut tacos at El Rancho Grande.

Parmesan-dusted halibut tacos at El Rancho Grande.

The fish tacos here are made with top-quality halibut, which is a point of pride for the staff at El Rancho Grande. The fish is sautéed with onions, tomatoes, and cilantro, wrapped in soft corn tortillas, dipped in red sauce, lightly fried, and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. The whole thing is topped with avocado slices and pico de gallo.

If you’re thinking that sounds like a taco you’d need to eat with a fork, you’re right. If you’re thinking parmesan sounds a little odd on a fish taco, you’re wrong. It actually lends a unique flavor to these gooey, hearty tacos that come with a generous serving of beans and rice.

This restaurant is one of my step-kids’ favorite spots for family-friendly dining, and they make a fun presentation out of birthdays. Order the fresh guacamole (made right at your table) for an extra treat!



If you’re a sucker for grilled food, Hola! is the spot for you. Both the halibut and the soft corn tortillas are grilled here, which lends a scrumptious, smoky flavor to the dish. The pico de gallo is fresh and flavorful and serves as a zingy contrast to the creaminess of avocado and sour cream.

Tasty fish tacos and a cocktail at Hola!

Tasty fish tacos and a cocktail at Hola!

There’s a handy convenience factor with Hola!, since they have five locations around Central Oregon. Swing by the Old Mill location if you’re shopping or watching a movie there, or stop at the Downtown Bend restaurant when you’re strolling Drake Park or hitting the historic Tower Theatre.

If you’re a cocktail aficionado, make sure you have a designated driver lined up. Unique offerings like the Vanilla Mango Mojito, the Pisco Sour (Peru’s national drink), and the Capirinhas (Brazil’s national drink) are sure to be palate pleasers and a tasty complement to your fish taco binge.


Real Food Street Bistro

This is one of two food carts at The Lot that offers fish tacos (the other is A La Carte, but more on that later). When polling local pals on their favorite spots for fish tacos, Real Food Street Bistro is one of the names I heard pretty frequently.

Panko and feta add extra dimensions of crunch and flavor to the fish tacos at Real Food Street Bistro.

Panko and feta add extra dimensions of crunch and flavor to the fish tacos at Real Food Street Bistro.

Panko-breaded Pacific cod is the centerpiece, and the panko adds an extra-crunchy dimension that’s a lovely contrast to the mildness of the cod. The tacos are rounded out with a chipotle avocado aioli, cilantro, feta cheese, and a pickled veggie blend that showcases this food cart’s flair for fermented food (they’re famous for their kimchee).

My favorite part of ordering at Real Food Street Bistro is their fondness for itty-bitty sides that let you try a few different things without filling up. The tacos come with a side of Himalayan red rice and black bean salad that’s a delicious accompaniment to the main dish. For an extra couple bucks, you can add another little side salad like the cucumber/carrot/sesame one I chose.

Insider tip: I found the double tortillas a little overkill here, so ditch the outside one if you prefer more focus on the taco guts than the taco wrapper.


A la Carte

While you’ll occasionally spot fish tacos on the specialty menu at A La Carte, they’re not a regular menu staple here.  But don’t let that stop you from hitting this tasty little food cart and grabbing an order of their shrimp tacos to keep your tastebuds on their toes.

Okay, so shrimp isn't "technically" a fish. You'll still love these tacos at A La Carte!

Okay, so shrimp isn’t “technically” a fish. You’ll still love these tacos at A La Carte!

Served in a smoky grilled tortilla, these tacos feature a handful of plump shrimp nestled in a flavorful blend of pineapple salsa, cotija, sweet onion, cilantro, radis, cabbage, and a drizzle of their tasty citrus sour cream. The overall flavor profile is very tropical, so go here if you’re feeling extra beachy.

Bonus: A La Carte sells the most deliciously sinful fries you’ll ever taste. If you’ve hit the Bend Ale Trail a little too hard, get your grease fix with their gorgonzola bacon fries cooked in peanut oil and served with gorgonzola aioli, chopped bacon, green onions, Cajun seasoning, and fresh gorgonzola.


Bend Brewing Company

Bend’s second-oldest brewery has long been one of my favorites for their proximity to the Deschutes River, their super-awesome kids’ menu, and for Ching Ching (their oh-so-yummy sour beer). But their brand new, recently-unveiled menu featured something I hadn’t seen there before—fish tacos!

Mahi mahi tacos on the brand new menu at Bend Brewing Company.

Mahi mahi tacos on the brand new menu at Bend Brewing Company.

Bend Brewing Company’s version features sriracha-seasoned mahi mahi in white corn tortillas with cabbage, cilantro, lime sour cream, and pineapple pico de gallo. The pineapple is what really makes this dish, plus the perfectly-petite size of these tacos makes them a lovely lighter lunch fare. They’re served with a side of chips and locally-made O’Hana salsa.

And since you’re on vacation anyway, go ahead and pair that lunch with a 22-ounce bottle of Ching Ching (since it’s only available on draft at certain times of the year) or a pint of their tasty Elk Lake IPA. Cheers!




Celebrating Independence Day 2016 in Bend? Here’s what you need to know!

June 30th, 2016
The annual Pet Parade is one of Bend's most popular July 4 traditions.

The annual Pet Parade is one of Bend’s most popular July 4 traditions.

There’s a reason Travel + Leisure just named Bend one of America’s best towns for 4th of July.

Actually, there are about a million reasons. From old-fashioned pancake feeds and sack races, to bountiful opportunities to hike, bike, paddle, and explore the great outdoors, Bend has everything you could possibly want for an Independence Day celebration.

If you’re lucky enough to spend Independence Day 2016  in Bend, here’s what you need to know!


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.

Fireworks burst above Pilot Butte.

Fireworks burst above Pilot Butte.

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 spots, 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. Watermelon-eating contests, dunk tanks, scavenger hunts, and sack races will keep you hopping (so to speak) all day long.

The annual Pet Parade is the best show in town!

The annual Pet Parade is the best show in town!

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 9:30 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 get there nice and early.

The route for the 2016 4th of July parade.

The route for the 2016 4th of July parade.

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.

Craving a more intimate celebration? Brasada Ranch (just 16 miles northeast of Bend ) is hosting a variety of Independence Day events including a traditional county fair and old-fashioned barbecue. You can enjoy great food, live music, lawn games, and panoramic views of three (yes, THREE) firework shows across the region. Go here for pricing and event schedule.

Need more ideas? Check out Visit Bend’s event calendar or previous posts on the Bend Buzz Blog for oodles of options!



Q: Uh-oh…Tumalo State Park is full. Where can I camp?

A: Independence Day is typically one of the busiest times of the year in Bend, and 2016 will be especially crazy with the holiday falling on a Saturday. A good starting point is Visit Bend’s complete roundup of campgrounds and RV parks. While we can’t guarantee availability on a busy holiday weekend, these might be worth trying if you strike out elsewhere:

Finding a campsite for Independence Day can be tough, but you've got a few options.

Finding a campsite for Independence Day can be tough, but you’ve got a few options.


Q: What about hotels?

A: Bend has tons of amazing hotels, but the odds of you scoring a last-minute room for 4th of July weekend are about the same as the odds it will snow that day.

Luckily, there are a number of neighboring towns that may (emphasis on may) have rooms available. Try Redmond (20 minutes away), Sisters (25-30 minutes away), Sunriver (25-30 minutes away), La Pine (45 minutes away), or Prineville (45 minutes away).


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.

There are tons of options for hiking around Central Oregon this time of year.

There are tons of options for hiking around Central Oregon this time of year.

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 things are open on July 4?

A: Mt. Bachelor will launch their official summer operations on July 4 this year. That’s a great opportunity to head up there for scenic lift rides, lunch at Pine Marten Lodge, disc golf, and downhill mountain biking off the Sunshine Accelerator Lift. The sunset dinners and sled dog rides will open the following week on July 8, 2016.

Downhill mountain biking season is kicking off July 4 at Mt. Bachelor.

Downhill mountain biking season is kicking off July 4 at Mt. Bachelor.

Though the High Desert Museum is closed on Independence Day, be sure to stop by on a different day during your trip. The newly-renovated otter exhibit opened recently, so it’s a good chance to get a look at these playful creatures in their brand new habitat. You should also 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 kind do you like?

A: Why thank you! I’ll take anything from around the Bend Ale Trail, but my personal faves are Hop Venom from Boneyard Brewing, Off Leash from Crux Fermentation Project, Pinedrops from Deschutes Brewery, Ching Ching from Bend Brewing Company, and pretty much any sour they happen to be serving up at 10 Barrel.

5 signs it’s officially summer in Bend, Oregon

June 23rd, 2016

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 companies renting boards and offering lessons, 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.

The annual Pet Parade is one of Bend's most popular July 4 traditions.

The annual Pet Parade is one of Bend’s most popular July 4 traditions.

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.

Sunsets in Bend are something to celebrate, especially in summertime.

Sunsets in Bend are something to celebrate, especially in summertime.

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

You can hike year-round in Bend at lower-elevation spots like the Oregon Badlands Wilderness, Pilot Butte, and the Deschutes River Trail.

Summer's the time for high-elevation hiking around Bend.

Summer’s the time for high-elevation hiking around Bend.

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.

Bend has oodles of great spots to dine outdoors this time of year.

Bend has oodles of great spots to dine outdoors this time of year.

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!

10 places to go in Bend if you’re an animal nut

June 16th, 2016

I love animals. The fact that I live with nine of them (not counting children) should tip you off, as should the pet fur on my clothes.

But my beloved city of Bend offers more than cats and dogs and aquarium fish for the animal lovers among us. Here are 10 places you can easily get your critter fix in Bend.


Porcupines are one of many critters you'll get to meet at the High Desert Museum.

Porcupines are one of many critters you’ll get to meet at the High Desert Museum.

The High Desert Museum

If you love animals, make sure this Central Oregon landmark is on your bucket list. Otters, porcupines, raccoons, fish, owls, eagles, hawks, tortoises, and even a bobcat are just a few of the creature highlights at the High Desert Museum.

Be sure and check their online schedule so you can time your visit with special presentations like their Raptors of the Desert Sky demo, the reptile encounter, carnivore talk, and more.


Birdwatching in the Old Mill District

If feathered friends are your thing, the Old Mill District makes it easy for you to fit a bit of birdwatching between shopping and your dinner reservation.

One of hundreds of alpacas at Crescent Moon Ranch.

One of hundreds of alpacas at Crescent Moon Ranch.

Stop by the Ticket Mill to pick up a free birdwatching guide and a pair of rental binoculars (also free!) Consult the schedule to find out about seasonal Nature Walks and Bird Walks with local experts who can help you identify all the little birdies you’re seeing.


Alpacas at Crescent Moon Ranch

Located less than 30 minutes north of Bend, Crescent Moon Alpaca Ranch has ranch visiting hours seven days a week in both winter and summer. This is your chance to scope out one of the largest alpaca breeders in the U.S., and to get up close and personal with these adorably fuzzy creatures.

Watch for cria (that’s a baby alpaca) in the springtime, then stop by their on-site boutique to shop for alpaca wool socks and sweaters.


The Farm & Ranch Tour with The Well Traveled Fork

Admittedly it might seem weird for an animal lover to go out and meet the creatures he or she intends to eat. But as a carnivorous animal lover myself, I love the Farm & Ranch Tour from The Well Traveled Fork precisely because it sets my mind at ease just a little.

The tours hit 3-4 farms and ranches around Central Oregon where you can see animals raised in humane, kind, compassionate environments. You also get a glimpse at organic farming practices in this tricky high desert climate.


Home on the range at DD Ranch

This beautiful ranch northeast of Bend is often one of the stops on the aforementioned Farm & Ranch tour, but if time is short or you prefer exploring alone, you can check out DD Ranch all by yourself.

Get up close and personal with farm animals on the Farm & Ranch tour.

Get up close and personal with farm animals on the Farm & Ranch tour.

This is a working ranch that’s home to cows, goats, sheep, chickens, and more. It’s known for seasonal events like the annual pumpkin patch and Easter egg hunt. They even have options for birthday parties and field trips. There’s an on-site café that’s open seasonally, along with a petting zoo the kids will love.

Check their website for visiting hours and seasonal happenings.


Visit a Fish Hatchery

While fish aren’t cute and cuddly like some of the other animals on the list, they’re still an important part of Bend’s ecosystem and pretty entertaining to boot. There are a couple different fish hatcheries in Central Oregon, including the Fall River Fish Hatchery and the Wizard Falls Hatchery.

Blogger Tawna's family feeding fish at the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery.

Blogger Tawna’s family feeding fish at the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery.

My personal fave is Wizard Falls for the opportunity to scope out the spellbinding turquoise water on that section of the Metolius River. If you go, consider parking at the West Metolius Trailhead and hiking along the river to reach the hatchery. Don’t forget a pocketful of quarters so you can buy fish food to toss into the pond.


Visit a dog park (whether you brought Fido or not!)

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

The water feature at the Bob Wenger Memorial Off-Leash Area.

The water feature at the Bob Wenger Memorial Off-Leash Area.

Even if you don’t have a pooch of your own on vacation, it’s still fun to swing by one so you can watch the pups frolicking in the water or scampering around in grassy fields. Go here for a list of dog parks in Bend.


Scope out the Sunriver Nature Center

The Sunriver Nature Center is worth a drive any time of year for their awesome birds of prey exhibit, nature trail, and creature cave that includes snakes, frogs, lizards, and toads. But the big highlight right now is a pair of brand new baby swans (called “cygnets”) that just hatched last week.

The romance author in me loves the backstory of two hard-luck swans, Chuck and Gracie, who seemed destined to remain single forever. Chuck was known for years as a curmudgeonly biter who chased away humans and other swans. Gracie was a bit of an outcast among swans on the Deschutes River who routinely picked on her. She was found one frigid winter morning with a fishing lure stuck in her tongue, and went through surgery and rehab to save her life. To make a long story short, the two were introduced and it was (almost) love at first sight. Chuck doesn’t bite anymore, and their new swan babies are the cutest things ever. Plus there’s a live webcam so you can keep tabs on the little family after you’ve returned home.


Saddle up for some horseback riding

Want a little giddyup in your Bend vacation? There are several spots around Central Oregon where you can take in the stunning landscape from atop your trusty rented stead.

My step-kids particularly loved taking lessons at Rhinestone Ranch, and it’s conveniently located just a little east of Bend. For a more scenic outing, Brasada Ranch offers some of the most stunning 900 acres filled with mountain views and curvy trails.

Even on a cloudy morning, the mountain views from the Brasada Ranch trail ride are breathtaking.

Even on a cloudy morning, the mountain views from the Brasada Ranch trail ride are breathtaking.

Check this link for a complete roundup of horseback riding in Bend and all around Central Oregon.


Keep your eyes peeled on an outing with Wanderlust Tours

While Wanderlust Tours outings aren’t billed as animal-viewing adventures per se, their naturalist guides are experts in all kinds of critters around the high desert. If you let your guide know you’re especially interested in hearing about animals, you’ll be regaled with all sorts of info on everything from otters to owls to pine martens.

During the summer months, there’s always a good chance you’ll encounter otters, beavers, hawks, and osprey on one of their canoe tours. In the wintertime, they’ll show you how to study the snow for animal tracks when you’re out on one of their snowshoe tours.




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!

What’s open (and what’s opening soon!) as Memorial Weekend 2016 kicks off summertime in Bend

May 26th, 2016

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.

The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway opened earlier this week.

The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway opened earlier this week.

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!


Tumalo Falls

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.

Whether you hike 2 miles or 200 yards to reach it, Tumalo Falls is a gorgeous place to be.

Whether you hike 2 miles or 200 yards to reach it, Tumalo Falls is a gorgeous place to be.

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!


Pilot Butte

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.

The paved road up Pilot Butte is open to vehicular traffic for the season, so watch for cars if you hike along the road.

The paved road up Pilot Butte is open to vehicular traffic for the season, so watch for cars if you hike along the road.

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.

Cedar and Violet skip rocks by the lodge before we set out on the next stage of our adventure.

Cedar and Violet skip rocks by the lodge before we set out on the next stage of our adventure.

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.

Road Cycling on the McKenzie Pass is a special treat this time of year.

Road Cycling on the McKenzie Pass is a special treat this time of year.

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.

Ahhh, Crater Lake. Is there anyplace more majestic?

Ahhh, Crater Lake. Is there anyplace more majestic?

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:


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.

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