Shooting up 3,623 feet above sea level, Bend, Oregon is a sunny, dry, high-desert, central Oregon city with 82,000 nature-loving residents that is all about outdoor adventures — year round. In fact, Bend is the perfect home base for travel to nearby Crater Lake National Park (90 miles), Mt. Bachelor (22 miles) and Smith Rock State Park (26 miles).
If you love beer, you’ll be in heaven here — Bend has more breweries per capita than any other Oregon city, and there are many tours you can take along the Bend Ale Trail to explore a variety of lagers, pilsners, ales, porters, stouts, Belgians, and wheats.
Bend is also the winner for the highest per capita dog population and Dog Fancy magazine awarded Bend the “DogTown USA” honor as dogs are welcome at many restaurants, businesses, and hotels, not to mention city parks, National Forests, and in-town urban trails. Yes, this mountain town has it all: nature, beer, and dogs. Spending a spell in Bend — taking time to smell the Lodge Pole Pines and Douglas-firs — is definitely a must-do, and here are some adventures to explore while you’re there.
Wanderlust Tours has a vast summer and winter lineup of half-day guided happenings in Bend, Sunriver, and Sisters, Oregon. They specialize in explorations all over Central Oregon: Cascade lakes, rivers, forests, and caves. In the summer, you can join a canoeing or kayaking tour (with or without a beer component and in the a.m. or p.m.), a lava tube cave excursion, sightseeing on a volcano, and a Bend Brew Bus or Local Pour Tour. Winter is fun too — Wanderlust arranges for sunlight or moonlight snowshoe tours (yay or nay beer), bonfires in the snow, and lava tube cave tours once again. If you have a large group or want bespoke travel, Wanderlust can help with that too. Personally, I went for the Lava Tube Cave Tour with my 10-year-old son. We had so much fun wiggling through tight tunnels, bouldering over lava rocks, snaking through lava ash, and clicking off our headlamps to sit in total darkness and in total quiet — a rare occurrence in a world of constant stimulation and light pollution. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and personable; our guide asked my son if he liked Sour Patch Kids, and then proceeded to pick an ant off of a log and eat it whole. Apparently — and we took his word for it — the native ants have a similar acidic taste.
Sun Country Tours
Sun Country Tours is another great outfit for thrilling escapades. They are best known for their whitewater rafting trips: Big Eddy Thriller, Mckenzie Magic Half Day, Lower Deschutes All Day Adventure, North Umpqua Premier, Raft N’ Brew (do you notice a theme here in Bend?), and Choose Your Adventure. Multi-generational, family-friendly activities like stand-up paddle-boarding and river tubing are also fan favorites. Sun Country Tours will help you get your feet wet to the alfresco-centric ethos in Bend.
A great place to stay is the spread-out luxury lodge, Sunriver Resort, and here’s why. Not only do they have excellent dining options with award-winning chefs (from the likes of Iron Chef Oregon and Bite of Bend), but they can also arrange for any activity you crave. Practice your swing at one of the three championship golf courses (private adult and/or kid lessons are available); indulge in a soothing spa treatment at the Sage Springs Club & Spa; take a dip in the outdoor pool complex, The Cove (there’s an indoor pool at the spa); visit the Sunriver Observatory; take a rafting trip down the Deschutes River; rent bikes at the Bike Barn to explore over 40 miles of wooded and winding trails; or, my favorite, take a horseback trail ride via Sunriver Stables. At the end of the day, you can sun yourself on your back deck in an Adirondack chair or curl up by the fireplace in your cozy lodge or vacation rental.
For more information, detailed itineraries, and inspiring photography, visit Travel Oregon’s website.