Hey travelers! My name is Skylar and welcome to my vacation guide on Bend. I am originally from the Pacific Northwest of the United States and currently live in Seattle, Washington. I run a blog called The Daily Grog. The idea for this blog started a couple of years ago on a trip to Ireland.
I was touring the Jameson Distillery in Dublin and the guide said that, back in the day, the workers would get a small pour of whiskey at the end of the workday when they were unwinding. They called this “the daily grog”.
I have always been interested in the way alcohol ties into people’s history – it’s really quite fascinating. But when I heard about “the daily grog”, a light bulb went off in my head and I knew I had to start telling these stories.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I would take family trips down to Bend (since I was 10 years old). So Bend has always held a special place in my heart. For the last couple of years, living in Seattle, Bend has been an excellent meeting ground for all my friends who live on the west coast.
This year we went to Bend for a week and made a little different trip. One thing that Bend is famous for is all the breweries – there are a ton! There are so many that the city of Bend actually created an “Ale Trail Passport” that you can take around to different breweries to get some stamps.
They made a whole game out of it where if you collect enough stamps, you can win some cool prizes. I also got to go out and tour some old lava caves just outside of the city where they used to store and distill alcohol during the prohibition days. It was a fascinating experience, one full of rich history.
Why Bend Should be on your Bucket List
To put it simply: Bend is an outdoor paradise. Since it’s located in central Oregon, you don’t get as much rain as you do in the western part of Oregon/Washington – it’s actually closer to the Sierra Nevada’s in California.
There is so much to do year round in Bend. In the summer, you have an infinite amount of hikes, camping, river sports, lakes, you name it. And in the winter, Mt. Bachelor is the best mountain I have ever snowboarded on – the snow is lighter and drier than most of the snow you get in the Pacific Northwest. So there is something to do for all ages and experience levels.
Bend is a small city/town that has gone through some tremendous growth over the past several years. People up and down the west coast have realized how special it truly is and started to move there in droves, especially as remote work has become more of the norm these days. So there are definitely some growing pains such as skyrocketing house prices.
But even after the growth, the culture is all about the outdoors. When you talk to people, you realize hardly anyone works a typical 9-5 job. People work odd or seasonal jobs, like tour guides or ski instructors. Work is just a means to an end to go play in the mountains and live an active lifestyle.
Since I have been visiting for the past 20 years, the whole region is special to me and so it’s hard to have a favorite place. Smith Rock is maybe the most famous and unique geological feature in the area – rock climbers worldwide go there to climb. And Mt. Bachelor is an incredibly special place for any kind of snow sports. To me, all of the Bend area is great.
7 Best Things To Do in Bend
1. Pick a Hike in Bend, Any Hike
Bend is full of epic hiking trails that take you to mountain peaks, lakes and waterfalls. But since the region is seeing a large influx of hikers in recent years, there is now a permit system in place for certain trails. The best way to obtain permits is to apply through recreation.gov. Some notable hikes include Broken Top Trail to No Name Lake and Misery Ridge Trail.
2. Drink the Beer – It’s Some of the World’s Best
If you are a fan of lagers, porter, IPAs, sours, or beer in general then Bend is going to be your favorite place in the world. Spend afternoons couched up in a relaxing brewery with spectacular views of the town’s surroundings. Many of the breweries here have outdoor seating and fire pits that allow you to enjoy the scenery while sipping on some fantastic beer.
3. Try Snowshoeing for the First Time
Snowshoeing is an amazing experience to try in the Bend area as the town is usually blanketed in snow during winter. You can choose from snowshoeing adventures close to town (if there is enough snow) or head into regions like Century Drive or Virginia Meissner Sno-Park. There is also the option of booking a snowshoe tour if you don’t want to go by yourself.
4. Go Skiing or Snowboarding (If that’s your Thing)
Places like Mt. Bachelor offer some of the best slopes in Oregon where you can ski and snowboard from one powdery run to the next. Whether you are an experienced skier who loves steep runs, or a beginner skier who requires gentle slopes to learn on – Mt. Bachelor is a fantastic option. The other main alternative is Hoodoo Ski Area located less than one hour away.
5. Explore the Cave Systems around Bend
Since the area is very volcanic, there are a ton of caves you can tour. Most of these caves are lava tubes which were formed after volcanic eruptions occurred. From the cool forest and lava tubes of Sawyer Cave, to the large and beautiful Boyd Cave, to the hidden gem of Hidden Forest Cave – Central Oregon is one of the best places in the US for cave adventures.
6. Talk to Locals and Find a Hot Spring
In Bend, there are a couple of hot springs to soak in. The best way to find these hot springs is to ask locals as they normally have knowledge of hidden gems. Some of these spots will be located just out of town while others will require a longer drive. This is the perfect activity to enjoy in winter or after adventures when your body craves some much needed rest.
7. Visit the McMenamins in Downtown Bend
There is a speakeasy on the property called Broom Closet that is well worth visiting. It’s somewhat of a secret bar so try and keep it that way after you visit. The front door to the Broom Closet looks like a janitor’s closet but step inside – by pulling the right antique-looking broom on the wall – and you enter an atmospheric speakeasy with many fantastic beers being served.
Need to Know Before you Go
The food scene is solid and very casual. Not a lot of fine dining, but some nice grab-and-go spots or casual lunch spots. Of course, most of the breweries have great food. Some notable restaurants are Spork, Parilla Grill (been going here for 20 years), Sparrow Bakery (get the breakfast sandwich), and El Sancho. For drinks other than beer, San Simon is nice.
In Bend, you will need a car, so picking the right place to stay is less critical than in other cities. If you are going for outdoor activities, choose a place that is central or at least has easy access to where you want to go.
There are plenty of Airbnbs around the area if you have a big group and/or want to be in nature. The Old St. Francis School McMenamins is probably the coolest spot if you are looking for something downtown. Since you are going to be outside for most of your trip, respect nature and leave no trace.