Land and water adventures abound in and around Bend, Oregon (Gabriel Amadeus/Flickr)
“This is like Disneyland for grown-ups,” my friend Chris says as he leans in closer to one of the fire pits in the McMenamins back patio in Bend, Ore. We are deep into our third local microbrew of the evening. Our legs are tired because we rode mountain bikes all afternoon, and our arms are cashed because this morning we went paddleboarding on a mountain lake so clear you could see fish twitching at the bottom. If you designed a dream town for outdoorsy folks who also love beer, food, and live music, it would probably look a lot like Bend. It has trails, rivers, and ski slopes, as well as the most breweries per capita in the country. So, with all of those options, how do you make the most of your time in Bend?
Bend is a bike town — as the professional road bikers who train here can verify (Photo: cyclotourist/Flickr)
Get on a Bike
Bend is a bike town. Locals cruise around on single-speeds, 500 miles of singletrack lace through the surrounding forest, and professional road bikers live there to train. It’s best known for its mountain biking; Phil’s Complex, which has looping trails that you could ride forever, is the marquee zone. It’s a mix of flowy singletrack and technical rocky sections.
A pint at Deschutes Brewery (Photo: Ian Carvell/Flickr)
Bend often gets called “The Napa of Beer” because there are 19 breweries in town. Deschutes, which started in 1988, is the oldest and has been the genesis for a lot of the others; the head brewers at some of the newer breweries, like Crux and The Ale Apothecary, came from Deschutes. You can sip experimental beers at Deschutes’s original brewery right downtown, although they now brew most of the beer in a bigger facility across the river. From there, bike down the Bend Ale Trail and check out some of the newbies.
Tetherow gold course (Photo: Courtesy of Tetherow)
Bend has about 25 golf courses, so you have plenty to choose from, but Tetherow might be the most fun. The club, which opened in 2008 and has a tough course built by famed golf architect David McLay Kidd, is trying to make a name for itself as a less stuffy golf resort. It’s one of the first places in the country where you can rent GolfBoards, motorized skateboards that stand in for golf carts.
Behold, your reward for a hard day’s hike: an ocean roll at Sparrow Bakery (Photo: Katherine/Flickr)
The Sparrow Bakery, tucked under the Bend Parkway on the east side of downtown, is worth a visit. Their ocean rolls — hand-rolled cardamom croissants — might be the most delicious in town. And if you’re biking and hiking all day, you definitely deserve a pastry.
You can paddle the Deschutes River the easy way or the hard way (Photo: College Outdoors/Flickr)
Get on board
You can standup paddle the Deschutes River right through town. If you want a rapid-free float, drive out of town to the southwest to the Cascade Lakes to float on crystal clear alpine lakes.
Fly fishing on the Metolius (James Kellerman/Flickr)
Catch your dinner
Speaking of rivers, there’s world-class fly-fishing in the rivers around Bend. The upper Deschutes holds trout, and there’s steelhead fishing on the lower Deschutes, where the fish run up from the Columbia. The nearby Metolius is known as one of the best and most difficult streams in the country. If your casting skills need work, there’s an 18-hole fishing golf course in Riverbend Park, where you can practice.
You can catch free concerts and big names at the Les Schwab Amphitheater (Photo: Rachel Wente-Chaney/Flickr)
Catch a show
The best venue in town is the outdoor Les Schwab Amphitheater in the Old Mill district. There are free Sunday concerts, and big names like Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews Band are coming through this summer, too. If you want to eat before the show, there’s good food in the Old Mill, including pizza with locally grown toppings at Flatbread Community Oven.
A good place to fill-up before the show: Flatbread Community Oven (Photo: Flatbread Community Oven)
(Photo: Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe)
Shop (and drink)
Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe, named after a much-loved (and recently deceased) dog, is a great local bookstore that also, because it’s Bend, serves beer. Crow’s Feet Commons is your go-to outdoor gear store. They serve beer, too. Down the street, in classic Bend fashion,Bronwen Jewelry makes what its founder, Bronwen Lodato, calls “active jewelry” — delicate-looking necklaces and wrap bracelets that won’t get wrecked if you wear them biking.
The canyons at Smith Rock State Park (Photo: Amy Meredith/Flickr)
Take a hike
Bend is a mix of high desert, ponderosa forests, and volcanic peaks, so you’ll have your pick of trails and scenery. Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint right outside of town is a local standby, Tumalo Falls is one of the most beautiful places in the area, and the red rock canyons ofSmith Rock State Park, just north of town, will make you feel like you’re on Mars.
The spectacular scenery at Tumalo Falls (Photo: Smitha/Flickr)
Get There: Bend is a three-hour drive from Portland. Or you can fly into Redmond, 20 minutes away.
Stay There: Tetherow just opened a 50-room hotel in mid-April, so you can make that your home base. It’s a short ride to town and directly across the street from the bike trails of Phil’s Complex.