Autumn is arguably the best time of year in Bend. Crowds get smaller, treats get tastier, and Mother Nature sweeps through with her colorful cloak of colors and wild weather.
Want to experience the best of Bend in the fall? Here’s how you do it.
Scope out fall colors
As summer ends, the Bend Visitor Center floods with calls from folks eager to know when the trees change color in Bend. It’s tough to plan around the splendor, since varying temps give us an eight-week window when it could, maybe, possibly happen.
But I have the answer for 2021, and the answer is….right freakin’ now!
No joke, this week’s fall colors are some of the brightest, most brilliant hues of reds, oranges, and golds I’ve witnessed in a quarter-century living in Bend.
Take a drive around town, particularly established neighborhoods like those off Mt. Washington or the older subdivisions in Northeast Bend with well-aged, leafy trees.
Spots like Drake Park and Pioneer Park on the Deschutes River offer oodles of old oak trees bursting with bright flames of color. Shevlin Park’s famous aspens transform to bright gold a little later in the season, so there’s still time to see them if you can’t visit right this moment.
For more ideas on where to spot fall colors in Bend, check out this post from 2013 (a date that certifies me as older than the aforementioned trees).
Savor the flavor of autumn
It’s the tastiest time of year in Bend, with fall’s bounty bringing the best fresh produce to local restaurants.
Places like Chow, Ariana, Jackson’s Corner, and 900 Wall take great pride in serving locally-sourced ingredients, so book a reservation to ensure you get a spot. Since the pandemic wreaked havoc on Bend’s workforce, prepare to be patient and know it’s tougher than it used to be to grab a last-minute table.
The Bend Farmers Market will keep rolling through October 13 this year, so head there on Wednesdays for the region’s best seasonal fruits, veggies, baked goods, meats, and more. Central Oregon Locavore offers more great ways to support local farmers and score the freshest goods around, or take a drive to Rainshadow Organics to shop their farm store for locally-raised meats, fresh produce, and organic flour and grains.
And don’t get me started on how many amazing beers appear on the Bend Ale Trail this time of year. From pumpkin ales to hearty porters, the very best brews grace tap lists in autumn. If you’re a hoppy beer fan, Bevel Brewing’s new fresh hop blend is seriously the best fresh hop beer I’ve ever tasted. Stop for a pint and grab a passport stamp while you’re at it.
Get the trails to yourself
May through September is Bend’s busiest season, with visitors packing hotels, hiking trails, and eateries. But crowds thin by September’s end, making it easier to claim that spot you couldn’t get in August.
The Bend bucket list you made last spring? Dust it off before the snow flies. Whether canoeing is on your agenda, or a Bend hike or fishing adventure, now’s the time when weather’s still awesome but you won’t have to arm wrestle someone for a parking spot.
Try something new
Those summer crowds I mentioned make me less likely to try new restaurants and attractions during Bend’s busier months.
Autumn’s when I make reservations at newer eateries like Bosa, Sen Hotpot, or Roam Restaurant opening soon at The Oxford Hotel. It’s also time to hit food cart pods I haven’t tried like The Office behind Silver Moon Brewery. The weather’s still great for outdoor dining, so return a few times to choose your favorite cart.
If you’re cautiously popping your head out of your pandemic burrow, peruse the Visit Bend website for new businesses you might’ve missed. From Ghost Tours to gravel bike trails, there’s a whole lot happening out there!
Bask in the best of both worlds
Can’t decide whether you want warm, wooly sweater weather or a sunny shorts-n-sandals stroll in the park? Fall brings you both in one day. It’s not uncommon to scan the week’s forecast and see snowflakes and eighty-degree temps in close proximity.
What’s great about this is a chance to experience two kinds of Bend in a short span. Spend a chilly fall morning hiking a frost-speckled trail off the Cascade Lakes Highway, then head back to town for a sunny kayak paddle on the Deschutes. Go golfing in the afternoon, then bust out the gloves and puffy coat for a crisp evening at a fire pit on the Bend Ale Trail.
Autumn means you don’t have to choose which Bend you most want to experience. You really can have it all.