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Hiking the High Roads


On my first trip to Bend, back in the 1980s when I still lived in Seattle, I spent my first high desert hour meandering along the Deschutes River Trail. This urban hike, five minutes from downtown Bend, and surrounded by Ponderosa pine trees, captivated me.
One year later, after a decade of moving around the west, Bend became my permanent home.
With Bend as your starting point, every direction you look beckons you to a hiking trail. Stroll the promenade in the Old Mill District or charge up Pilot Butte. Hike the upper Deschutes from one dramatic waterfall to the next, or conquer the 10,358 height of South Sister.
It’s hard to visit Bend without strapping on your walking shoes, if not your full-on hiking boots and backpack. And the best news is this: Bend offers trails near and far, steep and flat, in lake, river and desert territory. Below are some of my favorites. Link here for more fantastic hiking spots.


Deschutes River in Bend, OR

Deschutes River Trail
This river trail allows nearly uninterrupted access to the beautiful waterway that is the heart of the community. Once complete, the trail system will encompass 19 miles of trails. The current trail system is divided into five “reaches:” Awbrey Butte, River Run, Pioneer, Old Mill and South Canyon. The upper Deschutes trail system takes you outside the Bend city limits into the Deschutes National Forests and endless miles of fantastic hiking opportunities.

Pilot Butte
Power walk this steep, two-mile round trip, paved trail. The top of this 480-foot butte offers panoramic views of the Cascade Mountains to the west and the high desert to the east, with the city of Bend laid at your feet.

Mt Bachelor


Sparks Lake
Located about 25 miles west of Bend off the Cascade Lakes Highway, Sparks Lake offers camping, fishing, paddling and hiking opportunities. My favorite walkabout is the Ray Atkeson Memorial Trail – an easy 2.5 mile loop with gorgeous views of the Cascade mountains.
Mirror Lake
Located 30 miles west of Bend off Century Drive, this moderate hike passes beautiful mountain streams and lava flows, ending at the Pacific Crest Trail. The entire trail is seven miles round trip, so take plenty of water and snacks with you.

Metolius RiverMetolius River
There are many exquisite hikes in the Camp Sherman area. If you start at the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery you can hike upstream or downstream for miles in either direction. A short walk from your car will take you to the headwaters of the Metolius, where the river seems to seep up from ground, cool and clear and calm. From the Camp Sherman Store you can walk the river’s edge past some charming little cabins, two miles to the Allingham Bridge and back.

Smith Rock
While the rising basalt spires of Smith Rock State Park draw hardcore rock climbers from all over the world, kinder gentler hikes are available to the less extreme among Bend visitors. Hike along the Crooked River or climb the many routes through the steep canyon walls. Look for wildlife, including otters, eagles, deer and falcons.

Wherever you go, when the sun goes down on your adventure, you might want to quench your deserving thirst at one of Central Oregon’s many homegrown brewpubs. Link to Bend’s Ale Trail – featuring eight local breweries – here.

NOTE: Northwest Recreation Passes are required at some of these trailheads. More here.

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