Out of all 12 months, April marks Bend’s biggest time of change. Snow’s melting at low elevations, but Mt. Bachelor’s still going strong with spring skiing and snowboarding.
You might kayak on Tuesday in short sleeves and sunshine, then scrape snow off your car from five inches of fresh powder on Friday. In each tree you pass, birds call you to come play outside, then duck back in their cozy nests because hello…it’s snowing again?
Welcome to April in Bend. Here’s what’s fun to see, do, explore, and experience in Bend this time of year.
Let’s play outside!
For most of my 25+ years residing in Bend, April’s when I bust out my standup paddleboard or kayak with Wanderlust Tours for the first time that season. One memorable year, I went whitewater rafting with Sun Country Tours (though I’m pretty sure it snowed later that week).
All that to say, there’s no predicting what the climate elves might spring on us in April. If your weather app or Visit Bend’s weather page shows sunshine and temps in the 70s, that’s your cue to head for the nearest pod of Bend food carts for an outdoor meal. Don’t forget sunscreen, since Bend’s high elevation makes you more prone to sunburn.
Spring picnics make another great way to get outside with sandwiches, sushi, or deli items from locally-owned Newport Avenue Market. Scan the Bend Park & Rec page for Bend parks to find your perfect picnic spot. Some of my faves include Drake Park, Pioneer Park, and Sawyer Park.
While Bend’s disc golf courses and pickleball courts see plenty of year-round use, April’s when folks flock to those spots for fresh air and vitamin D. Plan on being patient if it’s the weekend and facilities are in high demand.
Find Bend’s best spring hiking
Come springtime, I’m hungry for something different from my favorite winter hikes. Then April swoops in and swipes snow off a whole new batch of trails. Game on!
This lovely trail around Suttle Lake is trekable most winters, but gets much easier once snow and ice dissipate in April. Bonus: springtime brings bright green leaves and a chorus of birdies to sing you around this lovely 3.6 mile loop.
April’s a great time to tackle the Alder Springs Trail down to Whychus Creek. You’ll see sagebrush-speckled plateaus and sweeping vistas all the way down to the bottom of the canyon. Be leery of crossing the creek if it’s running high and fast. Play it safe and park yourself beside it for a picnic instead.
Odds are good most snow will vanish from trails along the Metolius by now, so April’s a great time to explore this area near Camp Sherman. Start by scoping out the spot where the river gushes out from under a mossy hillside at the base of Black Butte. Then hit the West Metolius Trailhead and hike two miles through towering pines, gushing river views, and gobs of wildlife. Don’t miss the bright turquoise splendor of Wizard Falls, and be sure you bring a quarter for fish food to fling in the cement pools at the nearby fish hatchery.
April’s excellent for exploring the Ochoco National Forest near Prineville. If you’re headed that way, stop by the Bend Visitor Center first for maps and tips on which trails are accessible.
It pays to plan ahead
April’s when the Central Cascades Wilderness Permits system opens for the upcoming season. Follow this blog for details on new rules and important dates if you plan on hiking or camping in these areas in the coming months.
If you’ve camped in the past couple years, you know how crazynuts-bonkers it’s become to find last-minute camping reservations near Bend. While you can spend your summer stalking recreation.gov hoping to scoop up someone else’s cancellations, April’s when smart campers book ahead to score reservations at favorite Bend campgrounds.
Same goes for things like Bend concert tickets and high-demand activities like mountain bike tours, moonlight canoe adventures, and whitewater rafting. If it’s something you hope to do this summer, April’s when you want to get a jump on it.
Don’t forget there’s still skiing
It’s easy to get wrapped up in summer plans when April waves her sunshine wand, but don’t forget there’s still plenty of winter to savor.
Mt. Bachelor boasts one of the longest ski seasons in North America, with lifts that typically keep turning through late May. If you like bluebird skies and snowboarding in a T-shirt, plan a spring ski trip to Bend this April.
See Mother Nature strut her stuff
Maybe because April ushers us outside, I’m always more aware of how magical Mother Nature can be this time of year. Between wild weather, spring flowers, and all the baby animals, it’s a bouquet of amazement in Bend each April.
If you’re headed toward Smith Rock State Park, look east (or better yet, stop altogether) to see newborn alpacas trailing their fuzzy mamas at Crescent Moon Ranch. Hit their gift store for locally-made goodies, then impress your travel companions by informing them that baby alpacas are called “cria.”
Your drive time is also a good chance to spot more baby animals frolicking through farmland surrounding Bend. Watch for calves, lambs, and kids (the goat kind, not human) as the springtime baby boom unfolds across Central Oregon.
If wildlife’s more your jam, watch for otters bobbing around the Deschutes River. If you happen to spot a baby, keep your distance. Even if it appears to be abandoned, odds are good Mama tucked it someplace safe while she went to find food. If you have concerns, contact the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and let them know what you saw and where you saw it.
To see critters at a safer distance, pay a visit to the High Desert Museum and take in otters, porcupines, badgers, and so many birds of prey.
If spring flowers are your jam, April’s when you’ll spot all the usual suspects like tulips, crocuses, and even lilacs toward the end of the month. Watch for little desert wildflowers that spring up through the sand, including sand lilies and bitterroot blossom.
But don’t be surprised to see them dusted with white stuff at some point during the month.
Look at all the water!
With snowmelt flooding Bend’s creeks and rivers each April, it’s easy to forget our beloved high desert has been parched by perpetual drought for several years. Not to be a downer, but keep that in mind as you make choices like taking shorter showers or hanging hotel towels instead of asking for fresh ones every day.
With the springtime rush of water comes some of Bend’s best fishing. Whether you’re an angler who fancies lakes or a fly fishing enthusiast who flocks to the Lower Deschutes, it’s time to take stock of your fishing gear, make Bend hotel reservations, then get to work smashing barbs, packing your rubber mesh net, and plotting ways to make your fishing expedition as fish-friendly and eco-friendly as possible. For info on best practices and what’s open in April, check with local outfitters like Fly and Field Outfitters, Bend Fly Shop, and The Fly Fisher’s Place.
If you’re not into fishing, April’s a great time to dust off that kayak, wipe down the standup paddleboard, bust out the canoe, and start planning ways to enjoy our most precious natural resource.
Did someone say special events?
Event season in Bend never really hibernates, since you’ll find everything from festivals to foot races each month of the year.
But when April arrives, it’s like someone opens the floodgates on Bend special events.
From foodie-focused fundraisers to beer festivals to Easter egg hunts for two-legged children or fur kids, you’ll find a huge array of options on our Bend event calendar. Scope it out for the dates of your trip, or plan your trip around a special concert or First Friday Art Walk.
Welcome to springtime in Bend! How do you plan to enjoy it?