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What to do in Bend in May

Fly fishing in the Crooked River near Bend, Oregon

Every month in Bend feels magical, but each offers something unique. Take May, for example. 

Mt. Bachelor

May is the month for bluebird skies at Mt. Bachelor.

It’s technically spring, and summer shines on the horizon like a bright, glowy ball. Then you wake up to three inches of snow and remember it’s Central Oregon––the land where you wear sandals and wool sweaters together, and it’s totally possible to ski and golf in the same afternoon.

With the caveat that all things hinge on random acts of Mother Nature, here’s what’s happening in Bend during the marvelous month of May.

Squeeze in some spring skiing

While snow conditions vary from year to year, it’s a safe bet Mt. Bachelor’s lifts are still churning as we head into May. Offering 4,300 skiable acres and 3,365 vertical drop, the season typically spans from mid-November through late May. Enjoy skiing and snowboarding under bluebird skies, or bust out the cross country gear to enjoy the longest groomed Nordic season in the nation. 

 

Bend Farmers Market

May brings a bounty of fresh produce to the Bend Farmers Market.

Grab some fresh veggies

As sunshine bathes area farms, the Bend Farmer’s Market springs to life in the Brooks Alley above Drake Park. The market operates from May to October, offering everything from fruits to flowers to meats to baked goods and more. Hours typically run from 2-6 each Wednesday, though it changes occasionally due to rain, extreme heat, or wildfire smoke. It’s a great stop to fit in after a late lunch in Downtown Bend, and a wonderful way to grab goodies for your Bend vacation rental kitchen while supporting small regional farms.

 

It’s fly fishing time

May is trophy fishing month on the Middle Deschutes between Benham Falls and Steelhead falls, so it’s time to bust out the flies. The bigger redsides and browns (rainbow and European brown trout) come out of their deep water lairs where they’ve been gobbling up leeches, crawdads, and smaller trout. They’re feeling fat and frisky and ready to feed on the surface for the legendary two-inch long salmon flies. 

Fly fishing in the Crooked River near Bend, Oregon

May makes for perfect fly fishing conditions.

The bugs themselves are a wonder to behold, even if you’re not into fishing. The males get helplessly windblown into water from trees and brush, while females slam their egg-laden bodies against the water’s surface to dislodge their progeny. The hatch moves gradually upriver from North to South during the month, so it’s a good thing to track for the fly fishing enthusiast. 

 

What’s blooming?

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 blossoms, sand lilies, desert phlox, buckwheats, mariposas, and dime-sized goldfields when you’re out and about. 

sand lily in Central Oregon

Sweet little sand lilies are gems of the high desert, and something to watch for in springtime.

Deschutes and Crooked River canyonlands are the perfect place to spot them, or plan a hike at Pilot Butte State Park or the Oregon Badlands Wilderness. Oh, and if you’ve got a non-fishing spouse paired with one who wants to cast a line, these activities go well together as the canyon landscape lends itself to both.

 

Swill suds at Bend Brewfest

Traditionally an August event, Bend Brewfest made a big change in 2022 by shifting to May. Bend’s most popular beer celebration is the second-largest craft beer festival in Oregon and takes place on the banks of the sparkling Deschutes River in the Old Mill District. In typical years, you’ll see around 65 breweries bringing 100+ innovative craft beers, along with ciders, seltzers, and even wine. Purchase pre-sale packages to save a few bucks, and learn more about the event in this blog post.

Bend Brewfest

Even if you’re not a beer fan, there’s plenty of cider, seltzer, and wine for you to enjoy at Bend Brewfest.

Want to keep your beer joy flowing? May’s also a great time to tackle the Bend Ale Trail as seasonal beer offerings shift from heavier stouts and porters to lighter, brighter picks like kolsch and pilsner. You also have extra offerings from Wanderlust Tours, which runs beer-centric outings like their Brews & Views Sunset Hike, Brews & Views Paddling, and sometimes even Shoes & Brews snowshoe adventure if there’s still enough white stuff on the ground.

 

Get your gravel on

Cycling’s a year-round sport in Bend, but May brings drier trails and dwindling snowpack that opens up some higher-elevation hikes. (Important sidenote: Stay off bike trails when they’re muddy so you don’t create tracks that’ll rattle the brain of every cyclist who hits them for next few months). 

Gravel cycling

Gravel cycling on seldom-used Forest Service road is one way to get fresh air in May or any time of year.

From road cycling to mountain biking, Bend’s bike scene has it all. Get a sense for all your options here

May is an especially good time to try gravel cycling, including specially curated rides on the Cascade Gravel Scenic Bikeway. Whether you’re feeling competitive or more like a spectator, the Cascade Gravel Grinder takes place each May in a three-day gravel extravaganza.

 

Throw open the gates

May is when some of us (*quietly raises hand*) keep a constant watch on announcements from the Forest Service, Deschutes County, and local land managers to know when high-elevation roads and trails are opening. Dates vary from year to year, but May is typically when you’ll see Pilot Butte State Park open for motorized vehicles instead of just foot traffic. 

Cascade Lakes Highway

May is typically when the Cascade Lakes Highway opens to vehicles for the season.

It’s also when attractions like the Lava Lands Visitor Center and Lava River Cave open for the season. The snow gate on the Cascade Lakes Highway typically opens near the end of May, as does the one in the Newberry Volcanic National Monument. Want an up-to-the-minute answer on whether something’s open? Swing by the Bend Visitor Center on the corner of Lava and Oregon Ave. in Downtown Bend, or give them a call at 541-382-8048.

 

PPP for you and me!

Pole Pedal Paddle

The Pole Pedal Paddle is a spectacle worth witnessing in May, whether you’re competing or watching.

No event screams “Bend!” more than the Pole, Pedal, Paddle. Bend’s quintessential, multi-sport relay race has six legs that include alpine skiing/snowboarding, cross country skiing, biking, running, canoeing/kayaking/SUPing, and a sprint to the finish. Compete by yourself or with a team, or simply show up to watch the eclectic mix of hardcore athletes, multi-generational family teams, and competitors decked out in some of the wackiest costumes you’ve ever witnessed.

 

Make Memorial Day Weekend plans early

Memorial Weekend marks the unofficial opening of Bend’s busiest season. Diehard Bend fans sometimes set reservations a year  in advance, so this isn’t the weekend to chance it on scoring a last-second Bend hotel or campsite. It pays to plan early, so browse the Visit Bend website to get the creative wheels turning for all your future lodging, dining, and Bend attractions. 

The Bend Adventure Journal

The Latest Happenings in Bend