The best things to do in Bend Oregon involve exploring the great outdoors. Bend is the ultimate destination for active travelers and adventurers. Read on to discover the top things to do in Bend Oregon and its surroundings.
Best Things to do in Bend Oregon
Table of Contents
- Best Things to do in Bend Oregon
- 1. Soak in Hot Springs
- 2. Visit Crater Lake
- 3. Explore the Painted Hills
- 4. Climb at Smith Rock State Park
- 5. Hike to No Name Lake
- 6. Swim at Sparks Lake
- 7. Hop on the Bend Ale Trail
- 8. Spelunk at the Skylight Cave
- 9. Discover the Newberry Volcano
- 10. Forage at the Fruit Loop
- 11. Check out the High Desert Museum
- 12. Ascend to Pilot Butte
- 13. Ski at Mt Bachelor
- 14. Dine in Downtown Bend
- 15. Shop in the Old Mill District
Bend is located in central Oregon. It’s a 3-hour drive from Portland. The nearest airport is the Portland International Airport. If you’re looking to explore the natural wonders of central Oregon, but you’d like to stay within civilization, Bend is the perfect place.
The best things to do in central Oregon include visiting national and state parks that are world-renowned for their beauty and unique topography. Most notably, Crater Lake National Park and the Newberry Volcano should be on your bucket list!
Best Things to do in Bend Oregon
Bend is a generally affordable US destination. There’s a lot of fun things to do in Bend Oregon for free! Although, this list includes activities in and around the city of Bend. Many of these attractions include a 1-3 hour drive.
Check out our Bend hotel guide.
The best time to visit Bend Oregon is June through September. Although, summers in Bend feel like the desert with hot sunny days and chilly evenings. The state of Oregon gets more rainfall and snow in late fall through May, so driving conditions won’t be as great during this time.
Although, the best time of year to visit Bend Oregon is whenever you have time! So, no matter if you are looking for things to do in Bend Oregon in summer, or things to do in Bend Oregon in winter, it’s all included in this list. We’ll also discuss the best places to eat in Bend Oregon. 😊
1. Soak in Hot Springs
Soaking in hot springs is one of the best things to do in Bend and the surrounding region. Just an hour’s drive outside of Bend, you’ll find the Bigelow Hot Springs (also called the Deer Creek Hot Springs). This cozy pool is 102-104° in the summer and fall months.
The most famous hot springs in Oregon are located in the Umpqua National Forest. Located 2.5 hour’s drive south of Bend, the Umpqua Hot Springs is one of the best places to visit in Bend Oregon’s surroundings. They’re also the most instagrammable hot springs in Oregon.
The Umpqua Hot Springs are accessed by a short hiking trail. Since this place is one of the popular attractions near Bend Oregon, it can get overcrowded at times. We arrived at sunrise for a private morning soak on our way to Crater Lake. Combining the Umpqua Hot Springs with a Crater Lake visit is one of the best day trips from Bend Oregon.
2. Visit Crater Lake
If you visit Bend Oregon, you have to make time to check out Crater Lake National Park. Some of the best trails near Bend Oregon are at Crater Lake. It’s a mecca for hikers and nature enthusiasts alike.
Crater Lake National Park is the 5th oldest national park in America. The park lies on the remains of Mount Mazama and its surrounding forests. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in America (9th deepest across the globe).
Crater Lake is a volcanic lake formed when Mount Mazama’s volcano collapsed onto itself. The ferocity of the chemical reaction that took place during the volcano’s last eruption resulted in the deep blue hue we see today. Seeing this color for yourself is one of the incredible things to do in Bend Oregon’s surroundings.
Crater Lake is a 2-hour drive south of Bend Oregon.
The most beautiful viewpoints at Crater Lake are Phantom Ship Overlook and Cloudcap Overlook. Some of the popular hiking trails include the Watchman Peak Trail, Discovery Point, or Sun Notch. These hikes are some of the best things to do in Bend Oregon in the summer.
3. Explore the Painted Hills
A visit to the Painted Hills is another one of the fun things to do in Bend Oregon. The Painted Hills are one of the lesser-known Bend attractions because they are a few hours out of town.
The Painted Hills are located a two hours drive north of Bend Oregon in the Ochoco National Forest.
Also known as the John Day Fossil Beds, the Painted Hills have a mesmerizing array of colors. Red, orange, tan, and black stripes are apparent in the landscape. The colors are especially pretty in the afternoon, and you can visit year-round. It’s one of the most instagrammable places to visit in Bend’s surroundings.
While the area is beautiful, it is also a window into history – a record of past climate and ecology. You can learn more about this at the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center. Although, it does operate with limited hours so be sure to check them out before you go.
There are 5 hiking trails at the park, the shortest is 0.25 miles and the longest at 1.6 miles. Overall, it’s an easy day trip and one of the best things to do near Bend Oregon.
4. Climb at Smith Rock State Park
Smith Rock State Park is another one of the epic things to see in Bend Oregon’s surroundings. Only 30 minutes drive outside of town, hiking here is one of the best free things to do in Bend Oregon.
Smith Rock is a popular spot among climbers with over a thousand bolted routes and several thousand total climbs. Rock climbing is one of the best things to do around Bend Oregon. There are also miles and miles of hiking and mountain biking trails (some of the best hiking in Bend Oregon). The most popular hike is the Misery Ridge Loop.
Smith Rock State Park features deep river canyons. It’s home to golden eagles, prairie falcons, mule deer, and beaver. Visit for yourself to see what makes this place one of the best photo spots in Bend Oregon.
5. Hike to No Name Lake
A visit to No Name Lake is one of the most rugged adventures you can have in Bend. No Name Lake is accessed by the Broken Top Trail –it’s one of the best hikes in Bend Oregon. This is an out and back trail rated as difficult. The hike is around 13 miles with a 2,400 ft elevation gain.
Broken Top is the name of a regional volcano, one that erupted over 100,000 years ago. It has a ‘broken top,’ since its cone was eroded by glacial moments. The Bend Glacier and the Crook Glacier are responsible for this. The Bend Glacier has fed into No Name Lake giving the lake a majestic greenish-blue hue.
Getting to the Broken Top Trailhead is the first part of your adventure. It’s about an hour and a 20-minute drive from Bend, but most of this time will be spent maneuvering a tiny dirt road. This requires a high clearance vehicle and some off-roading skills. The road is very rough, including massive potholes. It’s not uncommon for cars to turn around and give up.
Parking at the trailhead is very limited, and this is a popular hike, so arrive early or risk getting disappointed. A little planning and persistence are rewarded with a phenomenal hike. You’ll be able to enjoy views of Ball Butte, Cayuse Crater, and Mt Bachelor. It’s one of the cool things to do in Bend Oregon.
6. Swim at Sparks Lake
A visit to Sparks Lake is one of the top things to do in Bend. Sparks Lake is another excellent recreation area near Bend in the Deschutes National Forest. You can get there in about an hour and 40 minute drive from Bend.
All the best activities to do in Bend Oregon can be done here. This is a quaint area where visitors enjoy camping, boating, kayaking, fishing, swimming, and hiking. Trout is especially common in these cold waters. The depth of the lake doesn’t far exceed 10 feet – making it the perfect place to go swimming.
Sparks Lake was formed 10,000 years ago. At that time, lava flowed freely from the Mt. Bachelor volcanic chain, and the Deschutes River was blocked off forcing water to pool.
There are over 300 acres of wetland surrounded by meadows, marsh, and streams. It’s one of the really cool places in Bend Oregon’s surroundings. The most popular hike is the Ray Atkeson Trail, named for the famous photographer Ray Atkeson. Along the trail, you’ll be able to catch spectacular views of South Sister, Broken Top, and Bachelor Butte. The Ray Atkeson Trail is a 2.3-mile loop rated easy with very little elevation gain.
There is even a 0.25mile stretch that is wheelchair accessible.
7. Hop on the Bend Ale Trail
Even the most avid adventurer requires some rest and relaxation. Luckily, the city of Bend offers activities for every interest. If you’re a fan of Beer, the Bend Beer scene does not disappoint!
Enjoying the Bend Ale Trail is one of the best things to do in Bend Oregon in winter or the rain.
The Bend Ale Trail claims to be the first Ale Trail on America’s West Coast. It includes over 20 breweries each with a unique style and charm –the best bars in Bend Oregon. The best way to enjoy the Bend Ale Trail is to download a passport and ask for a stamp at each brewery you visit. You’ll earn prizes along the way.
One of the popular spots is the Crux Fermentation Project. It has a reputation for being one of the best breweries in Bend Oregon. They’re known for being non-traditional, and they’ve used decoction mashing, open fermentation, barrel aging, and other crafty experiments with their hops. Their tasting room is right in the middle of their brewery for an ultra-immersive experience.
Another must-see stop along the Bend Ale Trail is AVID Cider. This family-owned business prides itself on using sustainably sourced, local, ingredients. Their quality and variety is unmatched. It’s well-known to be one of the best brewpubs in Bend Oregon. Other breweries of note include Monkless Belgian Ales or Immersion Brewing. Grab your passport, and discover the best beer in Bend Oregon!
8. Spelunk at the Skylight Cave
One of the most unforgettable attractions in Bend Oregon is the Skylight Cave. You can get to the Skylight Cave in just under an hour from Bend.
The Skylight Cave is a lava tube within the Deschutes National Forest. There are some 300 caves like this one within the Deschutes National Forest, but none of the others provide such an impressive light show. Sometime between 8 AM and 10 AM, during the summer months, the sun will align just perfectly to create beams of light that shine through the cave. Watching the sun peek into the darkness of the cave is one of the most unique bend activities.
It’s a very small cave, and it’s nearly impossible to get lost inside. You can access the cave with a relatively short ladder. Remember that the light beams will not be visible on overcast days.
The Skylight Cave can only be visited from May through September. From October through April it is an important habitat for hibernating bats. Townsend’s big eared bats are named for their extremely long ears. They have a wingspan around 11 inches.
Unfortunately, these awesome creatures have been plagued by a disease called White Nose Syndrome. While spelunking is one of the unique things to do in Bend Oregon, it must be enjoyed responsibly:
*To protect Townsend’s big eared bats be sure to change clothes and shoes before going from one cave to another. Always remove dirt from your shoes after leaving a cave and clean your hands before getting back inside your car. The disease is spread from bat community to bat community in the soil that humans take with them.*
9. Discover the Newberry Volcano
Another fantastic attraction near Bend is the Newberry Volcano. The Newberry National Volcanic Monument includes over 50,000 acres of fabulous geography shaped by lava flow. While the region’s topography features a prominent crater, the volcano is still seismically and geothermically active today. This is where you’ll find some of the best hiking trails in Bend Oregon’s surroundings.
The Newberry Volcano is one of the largest shield volcanos in North America – one of the best things to see in Bend Oregon. A shield volcano is marked by its low profile. Its relatively low rise is thought to look like a warrior’s shield. The city of Bend actually sits right on top of the Newberry Volcano’s lava field!
The highest peak on the rim of the Newberry Volcano’s ‘crater’ is Paulina Peak at 7,985 ft. Sweeping views from Paulina Peak showcase the Cascade Mountain range among the high desert. It’s one of the most beautiful and breathtaking views around Bend. Visiting here with your significant other is one of the most romantic things to do in Bend Oregon.
Visitors can hike or drive to Paulina Peak. Driving is not allowed during the summer months due to traffic, but there is a shuttle. The hike to Paulina Peak is 6.1 miles. It’s a difficult out and back trail that gains 1,607 feet in elevation.
Another popular tourist spot within this national monument is the Lava River Tube Cave. This is a mile-long lava tube that you can hike through! This Lava River Cave was one of the first of its kind discovered in Oregon. It’s also the longest lava tube in the state of Oregon. Be sure to use the same tips from above to prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome.
Another highlight within the Newberry National Volcanic Monument is Paulina Lake. Paulina Lake offers campgrounds, hiking, fishing, and kayaking opportunities. The popular inhabitants are the kokanee salmon and brown trout. The largest trout ever caught in the state of Oregon was a brown trout weighing over 28 lb at Paulina Lake!
Paulina Lake also offers a small set of hot springs that can be accessed by the Hot Springs Spur Trail. Views of Paulina Lake are phenomenal from Paulina Peak!
10. Forage at the Fruit Loop
The Hood River Valley is a fertile mountain community near Mount Hood in Oregon. The valley is home to a collection of fruit stands, orchards, vineyards, and lavender fields. Depending on the season, you can enjoy a variety of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables.
The Hood River Valley is about 2.5 hours drive from Bend, and a visit here is one of the cool things to do around Bend Oregon. There are plenty of activities for adults and kids to enjoy.
Lavender Valley Farms is a particularly popular spot known for instagrammable lavender fields peeking out from below the majestic Mount Hood. Lavender products can be bought year-round, but the flowers generally bloom from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
One of the top places to eat in Hood Valley is the Grateful Vineyard, Cidery, and Pizzeria. They’re known for small craft hard cider and seasonal pizza. Other fabulous wineries include the Marchesi Vineyards and the Cathedral Ridge Winery. With rustic charm, farm-fresh foods, and spectacular views, you’ll quickly find out why a visit to Hood River Valley is one of the best things to do in Bend Oregon in summer.
Fall is also an especially pretty time to visit the Hood River Fruit Loop. Imagine fresh cider, cider doughnuts, and, oh yeah, apples! Be sure to check out the Hood River U-Pick or the Apple Valley Country Store.
11. Check out the High Desert Museum
The High Desert Museum is one of the best places to go in Bend Oregon. It’s located 10 minutes south of Bend’s downtown. It is a natural history museum with engaging exhibits and artful displays.
The museum encompasses a 135-acre campus with multiple galleries, nature trails, and forest lands. There are often events, workshops, and activities to get involved in.
At the High Desert Museum, you’ll get a chance to learn about the early explorers of Oregon. See what a homestead in 1904 looked like. Also, Native American history and culture are featured.
12. Ascend to Pilot Butte
All of the trails at Pilot Butte lead to the spectacular summit. From the summit viewpoint, you’ll enjoy sweeping panoramic views of the desert and Cascade mountains. You can spot the Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Hood. It’s a must-see in Bend Oregon!
During peak season the summit road is closed, so you’ll have to hike if you visit between mid-April through November. The Pilot Butte hike is one of the best things to do. Bend Oregon does not offer so many easy 2-mile treks like this one! The trail only gains 450 ft in elevation.
Pilot Butte is the dome-shaped remnants of an extinct volcano. FUN FACT: Bend is one of only 4 US cities to have a volcano within its city limits! Visit for yourself to find out why Pilot Butte is one of the top things to see around Bend Oregon.
13. Ski at Mt Bachelor
Some of the interesting activities in Bend Oregon can be found on Mt. Bachelor. Just outside the city of Bend Oregon, you can get to Mt. Bachelor in only 30-minutes driving.
Mt. Bachelor is another stratovolcano. Also, it’s a winter vacation destination offering skiing and snowboarding opportunities. The Mt Bachelor Ski Resort also offers dog sledding, snowshoe tours, and tubing. The best things to do in Bend Oregon during winter are found at Mt. Bachelor!
During the summer, you may consider hiking Mt. Bachelor Trail. It’s a 6.5 mile out and back trail rated as difficult. There is a 2,700 ft elevation gain! No matter if you visit in summer or winter, Mt. Bachelor should be on your list of Bend Oregon points of interest.
14. Dine in Downtown Bend
Some of the best things to do in downtown Bend Oregon include shopping and dining. Bend has a charming downtown with plenty of opportunities to get a break from outdoor adventures.
The best food in Bend Oregon is at Ariana Restaurant. It’s Bend’s most esteemed fine dining establishment. Experiencing Ariana Restaurant’s carefully cultivated tasting menu is one of the top things to do at night in Bend Oregon.
Another one of the best dinner restaurants in Bend Oregon is the 900 Wall. Although, you may consider Zydeco or Drake.
The Sparrow Bakery is the best bakery in Bend Oregon is the Sparrow Bakery. Stop by for fresh baked bread and cookies, or try one of their signature sandwiches. If you are looking for a more formal brunch spot, the best breakfast in Bend Oregon is served at the Lemon Tree. Their desserts are to-die-for!
The best shopping in Bend Oregon is also found downtown, and shopping is one of the top winter activities in Bend Oregon. Check out small boutiques like Alchemy of Beauty, Cascade Cottons, or Bronwen Jewelry. There are also large outdoorsy retailers like Birkenstock.
15. Shop in the Old Mill District
The Old Mill District is a quaint commercial district. Visiting here is one of the fun things to do in Bend. Grab a bite to eat, or spend the afternoon shopping. The Old Mill District is a great place to slow down if you’ve been enjoying the more rugged Bend Oregon attractions.
The Old Mill District isn’t your average shopping mall. Its designers and boutiques line the Deschutes River and offer views of the Cascade Mountains. You’ll be able to enjoy the fresh air and take in the lovely scenery. Shopping is one of the best Bend Oregon activities because there is no sales tax in the state!
The Old Mill District is also a haven for art lovers. You’ll find celebrated local galleries, murals, and frequent cultural events and workshops.
Consider booking a massage at the Radiant Day Spa or get pampered at the Avalon Salon & Spa. The Old Mill District offers a much-needed break from driving, hiking, spelunking, and whatever else you’re into.