It’s not tough to see why fall inspires fresh waves of love for Bend. Temperatures cool, along with the intensity of crowds, while our leaves turn to warm hues of red and orange. Bakery cases brim with pumpkin-spiced treats, while breweries bring out hearty porters and fresh hopped beer.
Want to embrace the best of Bend this autumn? Here’s how you do it.
Admire the fall colors
Summer’s end brings a flood of calls to the Bend Visitor Center wanting to know when trees change color here. Want the great news? Varying altitudes and types of trees give us an eight-week window where you’ll see a fireworks display of colors at various spots near Bend.
In mid-September, high-altitude aspens don their cloaks of bright gold. Head south toward the Newberry National Volcanic Monument and look for flutters of yellow.
Within a few weeks, trees at lower elevations follow suit and shift to brilliant shades of red, orange, amber, and other combinations of the leafy rainbow.
As September rolls toward October, take a drive through older neighborhoods in Northeast Bend or off Mt. Washington Drive where bigger deciduous trees spread splendorous branches draped in fiery cloaks of color.
Spots like Drake Park and Pioneer Park on the Deschutes River offer oodles of old oak trees bursting with bright autumnal hues. Shevlin Park’s famous aspens transform to bright gold a little later in the season, so there’s still time to see them.
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.
Spots like Chow, Ariana, Jackson’s Corner, and 900 Wall take pride in serving locally-sourced ingredients, and you’ll see menus shift in autumn to bring you the best of the season. Even cocktail options change to bring earthier spice and flavors like pumpkin and cranberry. Make reservations to ensure you get a spot, and prepare to be patient. The pandemic wreaked havoc on Bend’s workforce, so it’s tougher than it once was to grab a last-minute table at your favorite Bend restaurant.
The Bend Farmers Market keeps going 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 the amazing beers popping up on tap lists around the Bend Ale Trail this time of year. From pumpkin ales to hearty porters, the very best brews come out to play in fall. If you’re a hoppy beer fan, take a drive a few miles west of Bend for the Sisters Fresh Hop Festival happening Sept. 24. Don’t worry if you can’t make it––nearly every Bend brewery boasts a fresh hop beer or two on their tap list this time of year.
If wine’s more your style, don’t miss the first Bend Wine Month happening in October. Lots of new wine stops popped up around Bend in the past couple years, so treat yourself to a flight at the new(ish) Domaine Serene Wine Lounge, Stoller Wine Bar, Flights Wine Bar, or any other oenophile hotspot rounding out the Drinkable Diversions branch of the Bend Ale Trail.
Have the trails to yourself
May through September is Bend’s busiest season, with visitors packing hotels, hiking trails, and eateries. But crowds thin by mid-September, making it easier to claim that spot you couldn’t get in August.
While some trails still require a Central Cascades Wilderness Permit through October 15, those get a whole lot easier to nab this time of year.
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 the divine Rancher Butcher Chef (that’s RBC to the cool kids!) or at Yoli, the mouthwateringly-awesome new creation of famed Bend chef Joe Kim.
It’s also time to hit food cart pods like Crosscut Warming Hut and others from our food cart roundup. The weather’s still great for outdoor dining, so hit them all before snow starts to fly.
Don’t forget to browse the Visit Bend website for new businesses you might’ve missed while holed up in your pandemic hovel. From Ghost Tours to gravel bike trails to camper rentals, 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 enjoy 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.