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4 ways to get the heck away from people in Bend

1600 wanderlust canoe

People are swell and all, but everyone needs a break sometimes. By “sometimes” I mean “in the midst of a global pandemic in which we’re advised to stay the heck away from our germ-ridden fellow humans.”

I recognize the irony of posting to a blog with thousands of followers advising folks how to avoid each other. I’ll also state up front that Visit Bend still adamantly advises visitors to stay safe, stay home, and avoid traveling to Bend while Governor Brown’s stay-at-home order restricting recreational travel remains in effect (not to mention Bend’s lodging order limiting stays to essential travelers only).

Blogger Tawna and her family practice social distancing in the outdoors.

With those caveats out of the way, here are 4 tips for limiting your human contact in Bend. 


Skip the weekend rush

Let me start by reiterating that the statewide restriction on non-essential travel is still very much in effect, and Visit Bend urges folks to refrain from traveling to Bend at this time.

But if you’re planning ahead for a weekend getaway once the COVID crisis is behind us, think twice about the “weekend” part of that. Is there a midweek option that works for your schedule? If so, you’ll not only save money, but you’ll beat the Bend weekend rush that’s particularly zany in the summertime.

This also holds true if you’re a Bend local dipping a careful toe into camping close to home. While campgrounds operated by the Forest Service remain closed, dispersed camping is open (though please, please, for the love of all things holy, pack out your trash and carefully extinguish campfires).

The Bureau of Land Management has started opening select campgrounds around Central Oregon, and you can call or check their Facebook page to find out if your fave is on the list. If you can hold on to your tent poles just a wee bit longer and camp Monday through Thursday instead of on a weekend, you’re a lot more likely to have plenty of wide open space between you and your fellow campers.

Hiking close to sunset or sunrise makes it more likely you’ll have the place to yourself.

Also, keep an eye on Visit Bend’s COVID page for updated details about which areas are open and which ones aren’t quite there yet.


Hike or bike at odd hours

Weekends and evenings are prime time for people to hit the trails, so if you want to avoid said people, try planning your adventure outside those zones. 

Earlier morning hours before 9 or 10 tend to be quieter on most trails. Ditto that for later in the evening when everyone else is busy tucking into their takeout dinner. I’ve noticed, for instance, that if I wait until the hour before sunset to visit my favorite Bend off-leash area, I often have the place to myself.


Is it “linner” or “dunch?”

What’s the word for wedging a meal into that odd zone between lunchtime and dinner? Maybe it’s linner, maybe it’s dunch, but whatever it’s called, it’s a safe time to venture into Bend restaurants that are cautiously reopening under phase-one guidelines.

Dog Town USA Bend Oregon

Restaurants opening in phase one have been carefully spacing both indoor and outdoor tables to allow for social distancing.

The restaurants themselves are doing a bang-up job of spacing out tables and ensuring patrons keep their distance from one another, but that also means wait times for tables can be longer. If possible, call ahead to put your name on a waiting list or make a reservation. 

And if you can convince your belly to start growling in that zone between 2 and 4, odds are good you’ll find a lot fewer people lining up to score a table. This is an extra bonus for families, since you’ll often beat the not-so-kid-friendly crowds that congregate later in the day. You’ll also leave time for pre-bedtime treats like ice cream or popcorn and a movie.


An organized tour just for you

Ever wanted to try kayaking or mountain biking, but you wished for a wee bit of hand-holding? 

While social distancing rules preclude them from literally holding your hand, Bend tour operators like Cog Wild, Wanderlust Tours, and Bend Photo Tours were cleared to reopen in phase one with some pretty strict social distancing rules in place. 

What does that mean for you? Much smaller tour groups, for starters, and private tours in many cases. Some are even getting creative with self-guided tours or other clever ways to keep plenty of space between folks who don’t reside together. While details vary from company to company, one thing you can count on is that Bend tour operators are taking this seriously. Expect stringent policies around social distancing and sanitation, and don’t be surprised if you’re strongly urged to mask up.

Bend tour operators like Wanderlust are taking extra precautions to keep participants safe and healthy.

Check each Bend tour operator’s website for specifics, and also be on the lookout for special “locals only” discount codes that’ll help you save a few bucks on your outing. 

We’re all in this together, folks. Just six feet apart, K?


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