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Bend is a true mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, nestled between snow-covered peaks and a high desert plateau on the east side of the Cascade Mountain Range. But this picturesque mountain town that enjoys frequent sunny skies offers a whole lot more for those who come to explore. In fact, you’ll discover a vibrant atmosphere with a wide range of things to do, including everything from recreational opportunities to shopping and sipping outstanding local brews.
Bend is surrounded by famous streams, rivers and lakes that make it an anglers’ paradise. In fact, it was rated as one of the top 10 fly-fishing towns in the entire nation by Fly-Fisherman Magazine. Locals and visitors enjoy world-class fishing year-round for steelhead and trout, with four primary river systems and countless smaller creeks and streams. Through all four seasons there is somewhere to hook a fish with an hour’s drive of downtown Bend. The city’s landmark waterway, the Deschutes River, is a highly popular destination for many fly-fishing men and women across the Pacific Northwest.
Crane Prairie Reservoir is situated in Deschutes National Forest, just off the scenic Cascade Lakes Highway. Only about 40 miles southwest of Bend, if you’re into bird watching, this may be your ultimate paradise. One of central Oregon’s premier wildlife viewing areas, an astounding range of waterfowl can be found in here, like Sandhill cranes, Canada geese, bald eagles and osprey. Go to Osprey Point to learn more via the interpretive signs which display information about the local fauna, and to see artificial osprey nesting platforms erected after natural snags toppled from age. On a summer morning, you’re likely to spot elk grazing in lakeside meadows, and lots of deer as well.
Don’t miss taking in the one of the best views around of Bend as well as the breathtaking Cascade range and high desert landscapes. While you could drive, hiking is really the best way to experience Bend’s largest landmark which is visible from nearly every vantage point in the city. An awe-inspiring collection of mountains that includes Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, the Three Sisters and Mount Bachelor all come into view on a clear day, and the round trip hike is just under two miles, ascending 475 feet from the base to the top.
Deschutes is not only a river, it’s arguably the most famous name in Oregon beer. The Deschutes Brewery is also the oldest, opening its doors three decades ago. It first became known for its best-selling Black Butte Porter, but it’s gone on to make a number of other favorites too, like the Obsidian Stout and the Mirror Pond Pale Ale. Tours are offered daily to the public and depart from the tasting room – and, the best part is that it includes free samples afterward. The original brewery, the Deschutes Brewery and Public House, is located downtown and includes a brewpub with a full menu of tasty fare and some of Deschutes’ most beloved beers.
Smith Rock State Park is just a little over a half-hour’s drive from downtown Bend and offers gorgeous deep river canyons and picturesque vistas as well as the opportunity for renowned rock climbing, hiking and wildlife watching for golden eagles, prairie falcons, mule deer, river otter and beaver. There are a few thousand climb options along with miles and miles of scenic trails, and, for the ideal selfie souvenir, capture a photo of yourself with the monkey face in the background, or, if you’re an experienced, brave climber, have someone take a shot of you standing on top of it.
When you visit Bend, you can go underground too by visiting the mile-long Lava River Cave in the Deschutes National Forest. It was formed from a volcanic eruption roughly 80,000 years ago, and self-guided tours are available which are especially refreshing on a hot summer’s day in the cool, dark, yet fascinating environment. This is the longest, continuous lava tube in Oregon, and it’s ideal for beginning cave explorers with reinforcements like railings and concrete steps to help guide you along the way. Lantern rentals are available at the visitor center along with interpretive maps.
If you’re looking for an upscale mountain town experience, you may want to consider a stay at Bend’s famous Sunriver. Set at the foot of the lush Cascade Mountains across 3,300 acres along the Deschutes River, this luxurious destination resort is a AAA Four-Diamond award winning property that offers something for everyone. It’s not only a golfer’s paradise, featuring four magnificent golf courses graced with forested meadows and sparkling waters, guests can enjoy horseback riding, rafting, a fitness center, day spa, an outdoor pool and seven dining options. Choose from a wide variety of accommodation options, including everything from a luxury vacation home and cabins to upscale lodge guestrooms.
Drive the Cascade Lakes Highway
If you visit Bend during the warmer months of the year, generally June through October, you don’t want to miss taking a scenic drive on the Cascade Lakes Highway. It climbs up to the Mount Bachelor ski area and passes many gorgeous alpine lakes while providing jaw-dropping views of the Three Sisters and Broken Top mountains. The byway starts on the west side of Bend, where the road quickly begins its climb toward Mount Bachelor. Your journey ends near Crescent Lake and Odell Lake, which also happen to be great spots for fishing or paddling.
The Five Pine Lodge and Spa isn’t just for overnight stays – although it makes for an ideal place to base yourself you can simply take advantage of its amazing spa. The Shibui Spa is located onsite and offers a range of wellness classes and workshops like meditation, journaling and detox retreats as well as massage, body wraps, facials and all types of other holistic treatments.