I honestly cannot believe after going to Bend, Oregon every summer for the past three years, that I haven’t written more about it. The reason I say this, is because, quite literally, Bend is my wife and I’s favorite mountain town we’ve ever been to. Which makes more sense why we’ve made the 12 hour drive here every year, without ever being disappointed. Quite frankly, the mountain town vibe, the endless River activities, the incredible breweries scene, and of course the amazing mountain biking are just the tip of the iceberg of reasons why Bend is the best mountain town in the West.
I’ll start by mentioning the Deschutes River, which is the center, and focal point of downtown Bend. Every day we’ve been here, has ended up on the river at some point in the day. Most start by inflating our raft, tube, or SUP at Riverbend Park. Then we hop in with the dog and cruise down river towards town, relaxing and enjoying the warm weather. Halfway down the river, we reach the exciting part, a white water park. And what I mean by this is a section of river intentionally diverted to create little rapids for the tubers to flow down, and also bigger rapids for those looking to surf a standing wave or kayak bigger rapids. Here we usually pull over to let the dog run alongside us as we roll down the half dozen rapids! But the float isn’t over, because the second half has you cruising the water passing by some beautiful homes that line the river. But like all things, the river float has to come to an end in Drake Park, but that doesn’t mean fun has to end.
Once in town, you have walk-access to over a dozen breweries that make some of the best IPAs you’ve ever had. And of course we bring the dog with us, because the entire town is dog friendly! So whether it’s sitting out at Bend Brewery or Deschutes riverside beer gardens, Crux’s outdoor venue, or Crosscut’s picnic tables, you will not find a bad beer in this town. And because the secret of Bend is out, you won’t be the only ones walking around or floating on the river. There is always a constant stream of folks walking in town, wandering Main Street, and rafting on the Deschutes.
But for those looking to get off the beaten path or into the mountains, well you’re in luck. Bordering the West side of town is the massive Deschutes National Forest, highlighted by the year-round snow capped volcano peaks. Just a 20 minute drive will have you at the base of Mt. Bachelor and at the trailheads to access the Three Sisters which are all massive, glaciated peaks. Plus, incredible alpine lakes that are nestled in the valleys of those peaks, just beyond the parking lots of Mt. Bachelor Ski Area. But between town and those peaks is an endless trail network in the national forest to camp and adventure in, both in summer and winter. Similar to Salt Lake City, you can be downtown for lunch, and up on a side of the mountain for sunset if you wanted. Or you can do what we do and camp just outside of town and roll into town every day, getting to live the best of both worlds.
The camping spots here are incredible, find here on Google, mostly because they are tied into the extensive mountain bike trail system. For the past three summers, we’ve camped in the same area for this reason. You can wake up, roll out of your tent, and never be more than 100ft from a trail to hop on which connects to over 100miles of trails. Plus, getting back to some of these camping areas can be fun too. Not that the off-roading is too technical, but just technical enough too keep things interesting and to make the effort even more worth it!
The terrain is some of the best cross country style riding. Check out the trails here on Trailforks. Winding through a pine forest over a pine needle and sandy trail. The climbs here can be just as much fun as the descents, which makes no sense, but is just because of the well built trails always being entertaining and keeping a great flow. The descents; however, are amazing. Not full downhill mode, but flowing berms, short technical rock gardens, and twist and turns that will make an entire day on the bike feel amazing. My favorites are Phil’s, COD, KGB, and Grand Slam! Such fun and endless loops to be had here. If you’re in to jumps, you’ll have to do some exploring to find a hidden place called, “The Lair.”
Of course, this is all just our opinion. We’ve only been here a few weekends in total, but I really do think it has something for everyone here. And to be honest, we’ve only scratched the surface of things to do. There are still so many more trails, mountains, lakes, rivers, and breweries to explore! Which is why we can’t wait for our next trip back there, even if I still haven’t recovered from that 12hour drive back!
My name is Zachary Kenney and I’m an adventure filmmaker & photographer. My passion is to tell stories that will hopefully motivate you to go live a more adventurous life. Whether that is to experience the view from the summit of a mountain, or wandering through a new town on a road trip. Currently based out of Park City, UT.