Beautiful Bend Part I – Outdoor Adventures

The lovely Deschutes River
The pretty Deschutes River

We’ve spent the past week in Bend, OR and it’s just SPED by. This town is one of the most diverse and interesting places we’ve been to in a while. It owes it’s popularity in part due to excellent location. It sits just East of the Cascades which puts it nicely on the “dry” side of Oregon and yet West enough to avoid the arid desert just a few miles further on. It’s surrounded by 9,000 foot mountains which offers hundreds of thousands of acres of outdoor wilderness and yet it maintains a hip urban slant with craft breweries, restaurants & more in the bustling downtown.  Add-in the pretty Deschutes River flowing through the middle and you’ve pretty much got it all. This excellent mélange is exactly what has made Bend one of the fastest growing towns in Oregon. In 2010 the population was ~52,000 and it’s already busting above 85,000 today. This place is rockin’ and people know it.

We just knew we were going to love it….

The Cascades Scenic Byway with Mt. Bachelor in the background
Driving the Cascades Lakes Scenic Byway with Mt. Bachelor in the background

Now, there’s no way we could sample everything this town has to offer in a week so we decided, rather cunningly I thought, to focus on just two key areas -> Outdoor Adventures and Drinking Escapades. Turns out the two are superbly compatible since a nice hike in the woods is exactly the right prelude to a cool brew on the terrace (ingenious is it not?). Add-in the fact that Bend is extremely dog-friendly (yes, even for brews) and we were in our own version of hog heaven.

Even with that limited itinerary we were completely spoiled for choice. Thanks to our knowledgeable hosts & RV buddies Metamorphosis Road & Nealy’s On Wheels (who blogged through here last year) alot of the choosing was done for us so we were able to narrow it down & focus on the best of the best, crème de la crème, brew de la brew. This, my friends, is what I offer you:

Smith Rock State Park

Hiking the river trail at Smith Rock SP
Hiking the river trail at Smith Rock SP

If you only had time for a single hike in Bend, this is the area I would chose. I had imagined all kinds of scenery around Bend…pine trees, mountains, streams…but nothing like this. The majestic spires of Smith Rock State Park rise like a phoenix from the high desert ~25 miles northeast of Bend and it is a magnificent sight. The massive rocks are the hardened ash of eruptions 30 million years old, sculpted by lava flows and the Crooked River. The Tuffs provide world-class climbing as well as many miles of hiking trails. The most popular trail is the well-named Misery Ridge that goes over the top, but all of the hikes are super-scenic and you can’t help but gawk at the nutters who are climbing the sheer cliffs. A 5-star visit that everyone should do!

Note/ There is a $5 day-use fee for Smith Rock State Park. Dogs are allowed on leash on all trails. Beware of rattlesnakes on hotter days. Link to trail map HERE.

Tumalo Falls & North Fork Trail

Lovely Tumalo Falls
Gorgeous Tumalo Falls

I love me some good falls & turns out that just ~10 miles west of Bend you’ll find yourself a doozie. Tumalo Falls plunges over 89 feet along a forested drop of Tumalo Creek and is a great stop. There’s a 2-mile (good quality) dirt road to get to the falls, but then it’s only ~5 min walk to the overlook. Another 1/4 mile walk up the hill will get you to the top of the falls and (here’s the secret) if you continue hiking down North Fork trail you’ll hit at least 3 other, equally lovely falls further on. Parts of the trail are open to mountain bikes (uphill only) and there are several potential loop hikes for those wanting a longer trek.

Note/ There is a $5 day-use fee for the National Forest (or you can get in with your Interagency Annual Pass). Dogs are allowed along the entire North Forks Trail, but not in the adjacent Watershed area (so you can’t do a loop hike w/ dogs…only out & back). Link to map HERE.

Deschutes River Trail

The lovely Deschutes River Trail down by Dillon Falls area
The lovely Deschutes River Trail near Dillon Falls

The lovely Deschutes River runs ~252 miles from the Cascades to the mighty Columbia. You see it winding through downtown Bend and the city has done an excellent job of surrounding it with hiking, biking and paddling opportunities. The downtown area is gorgeous, but if you want to get a little away from it all I suggest the area ~7 miles southwest of town by Dillon Falls. This is just a great, relaxing walk along a really pretty river. Go as far as you wish.

Note/ There is a $5 day-use fee for the National Forest (or you can get in with your Interagency Annual Pass). Dogs are allowed along all the trails in the Deschutes River System. Link to general map HERE.

Mount Bachelor

How about that snow? Up by Mt. Bachelor
How about that snow? Up by Mt. Bachelor

Mount Bachelor looms like a massive 9,065 ft high white ghost ~20 miles West of town. It’s a hugely popular ski area, but also flanks the pretty Cascade Lakes Scenic Highway which hides lots of interesting lakes & hikes. The highway was closed while we were here and the lakes under snow, but we managed a lovely short hike along one of the many ski-paths with doggie. Well worth the drive and the views even if you don’t hike it.

That’s about all we managed. Honestly, we just scratched the surface of hiking/biking in the area, but hopefully that gives you an overview of some cool spots to visit. What did we miss? Have YOU got any special hikes in the Bend area? Feel free to comment & add below. We’re definitely coming back so these will all go on the “list”.

Coming Up Next -> we sooth our parched palates with Bend beer, distilled creations and…we get naked…finally :)

Hiking & Biking Links

  • Bend Urban Trail System -> Map of all trails within Bend city area. PDF download. Click HERE.
  • Camping and Hiking Around Bend -> General map of hiking & camping in the surrounding forest & wilderness areas. PDF download. Click HERE.
  • Popular Bend hiking trails -> List version. Click HERE.
  • Bend biking guide -> Links to maps and info. Click HERE.
Lovely Smith Rock State Park...totally unexpected!
Amazing Smith Rock State Park…an unexpected surprise!
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

  1. Jenny Waters says

    Beautiful pictures, it looks like you guys are having fun. I have been wondering, do RVers end up having to buy passes to the National Forests in all the states? I know Washington and Oregon share one, but if you visit 7-8 states in a year that is a lot of passes. Washington now also has a pass for state parks – the Discovery Pass, which is in addition to the NF pass. It seems like you could end up having to purchase a lot of passes every year. That Tumalo Falls looks great, I have hiked Smith Rock SP but have never seen the falls. Thank you for sharing all of your travels, I am saving up ideas for when we get to go. :)

    • libertatemamo says

      It really depends where you go. The National Parks (interagency) pass will actually get you into most of the National Forests and Parks, so that’s about the only one that most RVers regularly buy. The other passes we buy depending on State. We’ll probably need to buy the WA Discovery Pass this year (we may get one for free for our volunteering…not sure), but that’ll be likely the only pass we buy this year.


  2. Michael Mullin says

    Sorry we’re going to miss you but maybe the next time you’re in Bend – we’re moving there in two weeks. :)

    Dog friendly brew pub with great food and good vibe plus the best view in town – Crux, adjacent the Old Mill District.

    If you are still doing the outdoor thing two of our very most favorite spots are Todd Lake by Mt Bachelor. Very beautiful, short hike around the lake, and stunning views of Mt. Bachelor. Might still be snow though so ask before going.

    And South of town is Paulina Lakes and Peak – we take a portable BBQ to the top of the Peak (there is a tiny parking lot at the very top with 360 degree views) and have dinner while watching the sunset. Perfect!

    • libertatemamo says

      Cheers for the tips. We went to Crux (twice!) and I’ll be mentioning it in the next post. Didn’t get to see any of the lakes near Mt.Bachelor since they were all still snowed in. The hwy only opened up a few days ago. That’ll be one for the next time!


  3. Upriverdavid says

    You will definitely will need more time, but I love Lake Paulina and East Lake. There are hot springs and the clear sky brings the stars right into your lap. Oh! It is such a special place, I try to spend a week at least when in the area.
    Next time eh?

  4. Gary Kinsler says

    I am amazed. This is one of the most interesting and informative Full Timer websites out there. PROFESSIONAL.
    My wife and I are getting ready to make the move, so to speak, to full timing, shopping for our rig now. Your site is a blessing, as we have so many questions. Keep up the GREAT work.

    • libertatemamo says

      Thanks for the compliment and good luck on the rig shopping…it’s exciting stuff! Hope you find a sweet deal.


  5. says

    I knew we needed to visit this area after we followed Hans and Lisa in the area. You have just reinforced our need to get there for sure. Thanks for so much for all the valuable info:) Glad Polly could join your fun:)

    • libertatemamo says

      This is a great area! Hard to do it justice. We’ve taken Polly everywhere here…it’s a super dog friendly town which adds many stars to it’s appeal, at least for us.


  6. says

    I swear we are just going to get in the motorhome and follow you guys around to all these stunning places!! You do such a good job describing and photographing–thanks!!

  7. says

    Glad you enjoyed one of our very favorite towns in the country! It’s an outdoor lovers mecca with a cool vibe to boot! And, love the fact that you snagged a very neat place to stay! Perhaps one day we will have a property there…

    • libertatemamo says

      Your blogs from this area were really helpful! I think you did it right when you chose to spend a whole month here.


  8. Beartracksblog says

    Looks like an area that we would love! Can’t wait to spend more time in Oregon. Bend is officially on the list! Thanks for the great hiking info and pics. -Linda

    • libertatemamo says

      This is a great area. I highly recommend at least 2 weeks. Our one week here was really far too rushed.


  9. Gingersnap says

    We have lived in Bend for 40 years……please come back when you can spend at least a couple of weeks. That would be a “beginning”. It is spectacular and summer and fall are the best!!! Shhhhhhh……don’t tell the whole world about this amazing place!!!

    • libertatemamo says

      I agree…at least a couple of weeks (a few months?) are needed to fully appreciate this area. Lots we missed!


  10. says

    Looks fabulous! I too would like to just follow you around. You pick all the sorts of places I love. Speaking of which, love the picture of you and Polly. If you could have stayed at Smith Rock State Park, would you have?

    • libertatemamo says

      Surprisingly there is no RV camping at Smith Rock. There is a walk-in campground (tent only) and you can bivouac if you’re climbing, but otherwise there are no facilities. Nearest state park with RV camping is Tumalo State Park which I do recommend. It’s very popular and gets booked quickly though.


  11. Bill & Ann says

    We also live in Bend, just below Sunriver. We are back home after eight months on the road, including six months hosting at state parks and wildlife refuges. Don’t forget kayaking in the Bend area. Wonderful!

    • libertatemamo says

      Ah yes, the water sports. We didn’t even touch them this trip. So much to do in the area from kayaking to stand-up paddle boarding. Next time!


  12. Luke Alexander says

    In 2006, we blew a head gasket on our motorhome, coming into Bend. Monaco covered a new motor under warranty, but we were stuck in Bend for five weeks, waiting to get it installed. Bend turns out to be a great place to be stuck for five weeks. Don’t be in a hurry to move on.

    • libertatemamo says

      Now that WAS a lucky place to be broken down! Sometimes our worst RV moments turn out to be some of our most interesting memories.


  13. says

    When we were at the Columbia Gorge last year, we met someone from Bend who urged us to visit it. Now I can see why…will be there for sure. Nina, i think you are now getting the hang of HDR! Pretty cool.

  14. Jil says

    OK OK Bend is now on our list…we have been there before rving but only stayed a day or two…but as I have mentioned several times we really do think Oregon is totally under visited and a place I would love to visit for a few months…

    • libertatemamo says

      My only advice if you come is book ahead unless you’re planning to boondock. The main State Park in the area (Tumalo) books up really fast, esp. in spring/summer. There are private parks in the area, but they are pricey.


  15. says

    We are really looking forward to spending some time in Bend after reading everyone’s blogs about the area. Hope to do some hiking, mountain biking, and breweries!
    We stayed in Newberry Volcanic NM in ’09 and loved it but for some reason hadn’t heard much about Bend back then so just passed through.

    • libertatemamo says

      The same thing happened to us a few years back. We stayed at LaPine just south of Bend and never made it up here to see the city. We didn’t know what we were missing!


  16. Rowanova says

    Nice pics, Nina. Amd a great post as well, thanks. Glad to see you’re enjoying the Bend area so much. It is a lovely area with much to offer.
    I didn’t realize you and Paul are microbrew fans, tho I’m happy to hear it. You’ll certainly find a plentiful array of breweries, wineries, and spirit distilleries here in the Pacific Northwest. I’ll toast ya this afternoon with a local brew. :)

    • libertatemamo says

      We limit our brew experiences due to gluten sensitivities (I just can’t drink beer too often), but otherwise we LOVE them. Wish I had more time to do more of the breweries in Bend. You could spend several months just on beer there!


  17. Ron&Marie says

    Have been enjoying your site, wow what an adventure. We have a converted Eagle coach and are planning to follow in your footsteps, lots to do to get rid of stuff. I turns out we have a niece that lives in Mcminnnville. Talked to her this morning, thanks for that.
    Keep updating as we are getting anxious to go

    • libertatemamo says

      Well congrats on the upcoming travel adventures! Sounds like you’ve got yourselves a sweet ride.


  18. says

    Your photos are breathtaking Nina. We did not get to Bend when we were last in Oregon so you have given us yet another little gem to visit, hopefully next year.

  19. Tamara/SoCal says

    Bless you! We will be in Bend for four nights this August as we RV back home from Glacier Nat’l Park, and you have just filled in all the gaps on what we’ll be doing while there.

    May you all continue to have a most wonderful stay. :-)

    • libertatemamo says

      Aug should be a nice time to be here. Might still be a tad hot, but that’s nothing a few cool brews can’t solve :) the lakes should be wonderful.


  20. says

    We’re in Bend now also, and appreciate the tips about what to do and see. There’s so much!!! We loved Smith Rock SP too. Loving your pictures BTW. Do you use a filter on your camera that enables you to shoot into the sun with such success?

    • libertatemamo says

      I have a polarizer on my SLR camera which helps to darken the sky and saturate some of the colors. If I’m taking a shot with a lot of contrast (light to dark) or where the sun is in the frame I’ll take a double exposure (one for the background, one for the foreground) and then either combine them in Photoshop or tone-map them into HDR with Photomatix.

      Enjoy the area! As you can tell we absolutely loved it!


    • libertatemamo says

      No sorry we don’t. We boondocked at a friends place (private property) so we didn’t actually stay at any of the campgrounds in the area. However I drove through Tumalo State Park and liked it. Great location for the town and the area.


  21. Kathy says

    Good Morning,
    First following your site. We are new to RVing, and still not lucky enough to enjoy it full time. But, we have been to some amazing places, and Bend in next on our list for 2015. We have a 39 ft fifth wheel, with 3 large slides. I’m hoping you can provide some suggestions for parks in Bend. I’ve already printed all of the links you provided for hiking and biking. Thank you so much for providing such an amazing blog…yours I the best of the best!! Kathy

    • libertatemamo says

      We liked the look of the State Park just north of town (Tumalo). It’s a great location with some nice trails, but it is also popular so if you go there during reservation season, book well ahead.

      Our second choice, although a bit further away is the city park at Sisters. It’s inexpensive and nicely located:

      If neither of these work out there are several very nice private parks in the area, but they are expensive. Crown Villa Resort gets especially good reviews:



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