The Local's Guide To Bend, Oregon
I didn’t discover Bend until years of living on the “green” side of the Cascade Mountains, but once I started hiking in the high desert and boating between the basalt columns in those river canyons, I was hooked. People who call Bend, Ore., home tend to not have just one outdoor passion. When you can ski, hike, climb and bike all in the same weekend, your garage becomes a “gear-age” and friends from out of town start visiting more and more frequently, especially on powder days. Here are a few of my favorite things about the area.
Where to stay
As a self-proclaimed dirtbag, I generally direct people toward camping spots in the nearby national forests. Devil’s Lake along the Cascade Lakes Highway is a crystal blue slip of water with walk-in camp spots on the far side of the lake. Bring your canoe or sea kayak to paddle away the afternoon. Devil’s Lake is also the trailhead to climb South Sister, one of our 10,000-foot volcanos. If it’s a town weekend, McMenamins is a popular place. Not only can you stay in a former catholic schoolhouse converted to a quirky hotel/brewery/movie theater, the open-aired soaking pool is a great way to end a day of adventure while enjoying a local IPA.
Where to play
Pick a direction, any direction. Bend is surrounded by a million things to do. As an avid backpacker, I like to head into the mountains or canyons; the trails out here link into the Pacific Crest Trail to the west, and the Oregon Desert Trail to the east. Most of the year the Badlands Wilderness east of town is snow free and nearby Horse Ridge is a popular mountain biking area when the western trails are muddy or snowy. Packrafting is a recent passion, and the new whitewater play park in the middle of town is a good place to practice surfing, but the real fun comes in hiking up a river or creek and then boating out.
Where to eat
With so many good restaurants in town, deciding where to grab dinner can actually become a crux. Spork on the west side of town is always busy, and their eclectic fusion menu is yummy. Make sure to try the spiced yucca chips. Food carts are taking hold in town, too, and I love to take people to The Lot. The outdoor patio (with HEATED benches in the winter) is surrounded by a bar with more than 10 different taps, and five or six rotating food carts.
Where to drink
Where to drink can also be a crux simply becaus of the wide range of options. We have more than 20 breweries, a couple of distilleries and plenty of great bars. Fortunately the rotating “locals nights” around town are a good way to sample the regional beers without going broke. On a Monday head to Deschutes Brewery. Tuesday it’s Bend Brewing Company, and Wednesday hit Cascade Lakes Brewery. On Thursday head to GoodLife, where you can often catch some live music in the summer months.
Where to hit night life
For a small town, we have some great live music options. In the summer it’s all about concerts at the Les Schwab Theater. The outdoor amphitheater regularly hosts favorites like Ben Harper and Michael Franti, and this year, The Alabama Shakes. Don’t worry if you don’t get a ticket before they sell out—you can float the river and watch the sun set behind the mountains while you listen from your canoe. The Volcanic Theater hosts lots of bands, and McMenamins is known for putting on a variety of free shows mid week. One of my favorite places to go is the Tin Pan Theater, a small indie movie house. Hit it on a Wednesday for their “Spaghetti Westerns,” where you can get a spaghetti dinner and watch an old western movie for $7.