The 10 best spring experiences in Bend, Oregon
Springtime in Bend: It’s the season of sunny skies and snowy ski slopes all magically existing in the same astral plane. It’s the season of mitten-free hiking, itty-bitty wildflowers, and the sort of yo-yo weather that has you blasting the heater at 7 a.m. and the air conditioner by noon.
Whether you’re planning a family spring break adventure, a friends’ getaway, or just a basic Bend vacay, spring’s the perfect time to do it. It’s a magnificent melding of all the best things Bend has to offer, including these 10 awesome experiences.
While occasional trail muck forms following spring showers, our high desert oasis sees much less moisture than the rainier side of the state. That opens up an awesome new realm of trails as the snow starts to vanish.
The Oregon Badlands Wilderness is especially nice this time of year, with Bend’s bright blue skies offering a stunning contrast to ancient junipers and craggy lava rock. Spots like Suttle Lake, the Deschutes River Trail, and Tam-A-Lau Trail in Cove Palisades State Park make for excellent spring hiking, and seldom have the ice and snow of higher elevations.
Now’s also a good time to scope out areas that are still closed to vehicles. Hoof it up the wide, paved road to the top of Pilot Butte without fretting about cars. Head to Tumalo Falls knowing you may have to hike a couple miles to reach the main trailhead, but you won’t have to fight crowds like you do in mid-summer.
For more ideas on hikes that are awesome this time of year, check out this post.
Three sports in one day
Bend has been lauded as one of the few spots in the nation where it’s easy to do three outdoor sports in a day, and no season makes that simpler than spring.
Spend your morning shredding the slopes at Mt. Bachelor, then head downhill for a bit of mountain biking, followed by a round of golf.
If skiing’s not your jam, take a twirl on the ice at the Pavilion, then cruise to the nearby Bend Whitewater Park to practice your surfing or kayak rolls (don’t forget the dry suit!) Cap it off with climbing out at Smith Rock State Park.
There’s also hiking, fat biking, paddling, and a variety of other sports to fit into your vacay. Pick the ones that pique your interest and get out there with a plan.
Here, fishy fishy…
Whether you’re a fly-fishing enthusiast or a spin-fishing fan—or heck, just someone who wants to try it—Bend’s a great spot to cast a line.
When springtime rolls around, the water warms to the perfect temps for trout. Fish start feeding more aggressively, and practically trip over one another to hop on the end of your line.
For up-to-the-minute info about details like opening dates for certain lakes and stretches of river, check with Confluence or Fly & Field. They’ll also have insights about water flow levels, dams, and other details that can impact fishing in Bend.
To make things even easier on yourself, check out our fishing page to learn more about booking a guided fishing adventure.
Look for wildflowers
Bend’s springtime blooms aren’t the flashy sort you’ll find on the rainy side of the mountains. But there’s something wondrous about the tiny desert flowers that spring up through soft sand and lava rock in Central Oregon’s high desert.
Keep your eyes peeled for bitterroot blossom, sand lilies, and dime-sized goldfields, which are often the first blooms of the season.
Pilot Butte and the Oregon Badlands Wilderness are excellent places to watch for bright little bits of color. For more info on our native desert wildflowers, check out this post from our friends at Deschutes Land Trust.
Score deals on lodging
If you’ve ever tried to book Bend lodging in the middle of summer, you’re familiar with the sticker shock that comes with high season.
That’s not the case in shoulder seasons like spring and fall when plenty of Bend hotels offer screamin’ deals for visitors willing to travel during off-peak times.
To score the best prices on Bend hotels and vacation rentals, peruse the websites for your top picks to see if anyone’s offering special perks like lift tickets or extra nights free. Also consider traveling mid-week and avoiding holidays to ensure you’re not paying a premium for your Bend lodging.
Snow and sunshine
While things are winding down at plenty of ski resorts across the country, Mt. Bachelor is still going strong for a few more months. Bend’s beloved ski hill has one of the longest seasons in the nation, lasting from around Thanksgiving each year through Memorial Weekend.
Mt. Bachelor is famous for its bluebird days throughout spring, and it’s not uncommon to spot skiers carving up the slopes in short sleeves and sunscreen.
Keep a close eye on the Mt. Bachelor website for announcements of their annual Springtacular deals, which score you some killer prices on lift tickets in April and May.
Barbecue, beer, and Bontá
While walking the dogs last night, I strolled into a cloud of barbecue smoke so deliciously fragrant, I time-traveled to mid-August. There are certain foods and beverages that invoke the magic of warmer weather, and now’s a great time to steal an early taste.
Embrace the beginnings of spring by ordering mouthwatering barbecue at spots like Baldy’s or The Pickled Pig. If you’re a DIY kinda barbecue fan, plenty of Bend vacation rentals and even Bend hotels boast grills guests can use.
Wander the Bend Ale Trail in search of lighter pilsners, lagers, and spring seasonals that seem to pop up each year when the weather shifts.
Consider it a training regimen for your taste buds.
Fun times for tours
As we ease into spring, things get more interesting for organized tours. There’s still enough snow for Wanderlust Tours to offer their popular snowshoe outings, but they also sprinkle Deschutes River kayak tours into the mix.
Now’s also a good time for horseback riding tours, since we’re in the perfect zone of not-too-cold, not-too-hot. Ditto that for photography tours, with the bonus of spectacular spring sunrises and sunsets posing all pretty for you.
Savor that stroll outside
When the weather’s not awesome, I catch myself sprinting from the car to my favorite Bend restaurant like wild badgers are chasing me.
But when weather turns warm, I take my time strolling. It’s a pleasure to amble between shops during First Friday Art Walk, or to walk from brewery to brewery collecting Bend Ale Trail stamps.
It’s even an official “thing,” with the annual Foodie Crawl offering an excuse to eat, drink, and be merry by the power of your own two feet.
Bonus: It’s great for the environment to walk instead of drive (plus no need for a DD if you’re drinking). For more tips on eco-friendly ways to do this, check out our Visit Like a Local page.
Play indoors without guilt
Anyone else get twitchy at the thought of being stuck inside when it’s warm and sunny? My husband will switch on a movie and I run screaming from the house to frolic on the playground across the street.
The nice thing about Bend’s unpredictable spring weather is the built-in excuse to enjoy more indoorsy activities. Spend the day at the High Desert Museum. Take the kids to play games at Sun Mountain Fun Center or zip around the indoor kart racing track at K1.
Head to McMenamins Old St. Francis and cross several things off your Bend bucket list with a stamp in your Bend Ale Trail passport, a movie at their on-site theater, and a blissful float in their semi-enclosed soaking tub.
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