Want to get away from it all and embark on a journey to become one with nature? Get ready to explore the best things to do in Bend, OR. Central Oregon’s most precious natural gem, Bend is a must-visit for any travelers venturing through the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
Bend is a small but beautiful city huddled around the Deschutes River, the high-desert plateau, and tucked between the peaks of the Cascade Mountain range. With marvelous biking trails, water sports, ski resorts, alpine lakes, ponderosa pines, thermal waters, and plenty of greenery to explore, Bend is the perfect place for outdoor activities, whether you’re an adventurer or just looking to unwind.
Looking to get lost discovering what to do in Bend? Get to know Central Oregon’s hidden treasures with this ultimate guide to the best places to visit in Bend, OR.
Best places to visit in Bend, OR
High Desert Museum
One of Central Oregon’s most prominent landmarks, the High Desert Museum is a must-see stop during your visit to Bend, OR. It’s a curious mixture between a zoo and a museum and is one of the top points of interest in Bend.
In this natural reserve, you’ll find different birds, squirrels, otters, and bobcats, among other animals typifying the city’s wildlife. Whether you’re a history buff or love animals, you’ll be in your element at the High Desert Museum.
Right in the heart of the city in Bend’s historic district, you’ll find one of its greenest areas: Drake Park. One of the loveliest places to see in Bend, this spectacular downtown park boasts some of the most beautiful views in Central Oregon.
From its perch along the Deschutes River, the 13-acre Drake Park offers a half-mile stretch of public river access. At this popular spot, the river creates a splendid patch of water called Mirror Pond—and it’s quite a marvel!
Take your time to stroll through miles of trails within this popular urban green space. Sit in peace on the benches, and enjoy picnics in the fresh air. And most importantly, be ready to soak up the fun outdoor activities!
Bachelor Ski & Sports
Visiting Bend during the winter months? You can’t miss out on Bachelor Ski & Sports, one of the best and largest ski resorts in Oregon, perched upon snow-capped Mt. Bachelor.
Mt. Bachelor stretches over 9,000 feet in elevation and has endless ski areas. You can find the mountain within the Deschutes National Forest, just a half-hour drive west of the city.
The biggest draw at Bachelor Ski & Sports is its dry snow for a perfect long ski season. But it also hides beautiful scenery for hiking and mountain biking during the summer months.
Mt. Bachelor also houses several restaurants and bars scattered around its peaks. You can eat and drink while enjoying panoramic views of the Cascade Mountains.
Tucked in the middle of the giant Cascade Range at an elevation of 1,000 feet, Tumalo Falls is one of the most beautiful places to go in Bend.
The white waters of Tumalo Falls stand out magnificently among their surroundings as they plunge into the Tumalo Creek tail. Here, you’ll get an incredible view that’ll also ensure awesome pics. This will be, hands down, a treat that you’ll never forget!
You can also find other small and natural attractions around Tumalo Falls, heading upstream along beautiful hiking trails. Or, if you’d like, you can explore the nearby mountain biking trails and venture into its dense forest. It’s the perfect spot for outdoor enthusiasts.
Head to the local Forest Service office to request tourist info or to buy parking passes.
Deschutes National Forest
Surrounding much of Central Oregon is the delightful Deschutes National Forest. This beautiful forest hosts some of the most incredible things to see in Bend. It has several scenic viewing platforms to appreciate the spectacular panoramic as you wander along the Deschutes River Trail.
Among the eastern slopes of the Cascades Mountain Range, you can find this magical forest. Get ready to marvel at towering mountains and wide valleys as well as beautiful lakes, rivers, and even some still-glowing lava flows.
All five wilderness areas within Deschutes National Forest are worth touring for their outstanding beauty and nature. There are also three scenic driving trails with plenty of viewing platforms.
Aside from hiking and mountain biking, you can also enjoy swimming, kayaking, and camping. Skiing and snowboarding are also available during the snowy winter months.
Newberry National Volcanic Monument
A must-see stop on your way through Bend, Oregon, is the outstanding Newberry National Volcanic Monument. It’ll only take you twenty minutes from downtown Bend to reach this outdoor paradise. Beautiful landscapes covered with lava scars and incredible views will be just a taste of what this place has to offer.
Venture to the top of Lava Butte, a terrific cinder cone that stretches 500 feet over a volcanic landscape. Or if you’re more interested in discovering the area’s history, you can get in through the Chitwood Exhibit Hall. Here, you’ll find a lot of info about the Newberry National Volcanic Monumentgeology.
Just 15 minutes beyond the Lava Lands Visitor Center, off Highway 97, you’ll find Paulina Lake Road. Drive along the alpine route that encompasses Paulina Lake and East Lake. During the winter months, this road is closed. Be sure to plan your road trip during the summer months.
Once there, you can head to the lakes, perched at an elevation of over 6,300 feet. But this isn’t even its highest point. As you move further up, you’ll find Paulina Peak, soaring at a stunning elevation of 7,984 feet!
In the Newberry Caldera, you’ll also find amazing hike trails, campgrounds, and lakeside relaxation areas. And, of course, you can’t miss the chance to capture pics of the beautiful Paulina Falls.
Neighboring the Old Mill District and alongside the Deschutes River is the iconic Riverbend Park. Its main attraction is its well-preserved green areas to safeguard the local wildlife.
During the summer months, Riverbend Park becomes the perfect spot for locals and visitors to hike and bike trails. With its central location, the gives access to several beautiful rivers. It’s hands down one of the best places to go in Bend during the year’s warmest days.
Smith Rock State Park
Want something more adventurous like rock climbing and hiking amazing trails? Don’t even think about skipping a stop at Smith Rock State Park. One of the most interesting spots in Central Oregon, it’s considered the pioneer park of modern sports climbing in the United States. And not for nothing: Smith Rock State Park has about 2,000 climbing routes!
Some of the routes at Smith Rock State Park are relatively simple and can be easily handled by beginners. Others are more demanding and require long, challenging climbs. The Monkey Face, Misery Ridge Trail, and Picnic Lunch Wall are some of its most popular areas for adventure-seekers.
If you’re not much of a climber and prefer peacefulness, it’s also worthwhile to stop by the Oregon state park to appreciate the views. Marvel at the magnificent landscape of the enormous Smith Rock, rising to an impressive 3,250 feet high.
Old Mill District
If you want to shop, dine and go out in the city in a more urban setting, check out the Old Mill District, a five-minute drive south of downtown Bend. With its three silver smokestacks, the district is easy to recognize. Here, you’ll find stores, and restaurants, art galleries that’ll make you fall in love with Bend’s local art scene.
Though rejuvenated, the Old Mill District is still steeped in history. Once home to two lumber mills, its historic buildings now serve as local boutiques and restaurants. The historic district is the ideal place to discover Bend’s history firsthand. You can also enjoy the exquisite views of the Deschutes River and several spectacular trails around it.
While at the Les Schwab Amphitheater, facing the river, you can enjoy concerts, cultural events, and festivals. It’s a great way to soak in and better understand Bend’s culture.
Deschutes is not just a famous river in Bend; it’s also the name of Oregon’s most famous beer! Deschutes Brewery is the oldest craft brewery in the Bend area, boasting a three-decade history. For beer lovers, it tops the list of where to go in Bend.
Located in downtown Bend, the Deschutes Brewery features beer gardens with a full menu of tasty dishes and some of Deschutes’ most beloved craft beers.
You can also hop onto one of the daily public brewery tours, beginning in the tasting rooms and ending with free samples of the brewery’s most popular brews.
Lava River Cave
One of Bend’s most precious hidden treasures, the Lava River Cave is a mile-long lava tube beneath the Deschutes National Forest. If you’re a nature lover embarking on the ultimate Oregon road trip, this natural beauty is one of the top tourist attractions in Bend.
The beautiful Lava River Cave was formed by a volcanic eruption around 80,000 years ago. It’s a natural reminder of how the forces of nature can shape the landscape into something remarkable.
As the longest lava cave in Oregon, the Lava River Cave is the ideal place for explorers and adventurers to see subterranean nature at its finest.
Bend Whitewater Park
Bend is famed for its water activities, and there’s nowhere better in the city to try them out than Bend Whitewater Park.
Located in McKay Park southwest of the city center, Bend Whitewater Park churns out three rapids sections of varying intensity. The fun activities at the in-water park cover water sports ranging from tubing to kayaking.
If you want to walk the river trails, you can do so using the necessary safety equipment. Likewise, if you want to surf or kayak, bring along the proper river gear and put your safety first.
Bend Ale Trail
Interested in exploring the many breweries in this Central Oregon city? Set your compass for the Bend Ale Trail. The route spans seven “territories,” connecting 30 local breweries that brew some of Oregon’s finest craft beers.
Besides getting to know the area’s craft beer scene, the Bend Ale Trail hops past 17 “drinkable diversions” and 21 “perfect pairings.” These special stops feature everything from spirits, cider, and wine to hiking trails and an art walk.
To soak up more of Bend’s nature, pencil in a visit to Shevlin Park. Located less than 10 minutes northwest of downtown by car, the park straddles Tumalo Creek and spreads over 1,000 acres of old-growth forest and high-desert landscapes.
The best way to experience Shevlin Park is to hit up own of its main hiking trails. Smell the scents of old-growth ponderosa pine on the Loop Trail, meandering six miles along the canyon rim.
Or follow along the Tumalo Creek Trail with the creek bubbling as your soundtrack. The 2.5-mile trail also connects to the Deschutes National Forest if you’d like to extend your Oregon hiking adventure.
Rather hit the trails at Shevlin Park with a little more gusto? Spin up a little dirt with a mountain biking excursion along the Mountain Bike Trail. From here, you can also access several longer rides within the Forest Service trail system.
Shevlin Park is open from sunrise to sunset.
Tumalo State Park
Masterfully situated along the Deschutes River, Tumalo State Park is the perfect spot for filling the day with recreational activities on your Oregon trip. On your visit to the state park, you can meander along scenic hiking trails, drop a line into the river, or spend the evening camping under the stars.
Venture over to Tumalo State Park in the wee hours of the dawn to snag a rainbow trout from the banks of the Deschutes River. Later in the day, cool down with a dip in the river in one of the swimming areas.
For a more active outing in Tumalo State Park, lace up your boots for a jaunt along the park’s 2.4-mile segment of the Deschutes River Trail. To extend your hike, follow the river south to Riley Ranch Nature Reserve, where you’ll find several other hiking trails.
Nothing beats ending your Tumalo State Park visit by pitching a tent and gazing at stars in the Central Oregon sky. The park offers almost two dozen full-hookup camping sites along with several dozen tent sites and seven yurts.
Need a morning jolt of ‘jo? Slip over to Spoken Moto, an innovative Bend coffee shop that’ll give you a trip back in time with their old-school vintage motorcycles. The cafe occupies a former mechanic’s shop, retaining much of its rustic industrial charm.
Enjoy a cup of hand-roasted coffee or sip of craft beer as you admire the craftsmanship of this hip cafe. If you’re lucky, you might catch one of Spoken Moto’s many fun events, including concerts, bike races, and car shows.
Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint
Want to take home an unforgettable memory of Bend, Oregon? Zip over to the iconic Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint. A 10-minute drive east of downtown, this incredible cinder cone, now guarded as a state scenic overlook, offers a host of outdoor activities.
The great lava dome at Pilot Butte Scenic Viewpoint reaches almost 500 feet high. From its summit, you’ll dazzle at spectacular views of the city and its surroundings.
Gazing upon the Cascades, you’ll spy distinctive peaks like Broken Top, Three Sisters, Mount Hood, and Mount Bachelor. Winding along the side of the cinder cone are several scenic trails and a scenic road.
Maximize your Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint experience by visiting at dusk to soak up an impressive fiery sunset.