Whether you’re looking for a jam-packed day of adventure or a relaxing night at a brewery, Bend has just what you need.
Between the miles of hiking trails, charming downtown streets, and views right from the center of town, you’ll find no shortage of things to do in Bend, Oregon, during your visit.
Enjoy this list of outdoor, indoor, and free activities to help you create your perfect central Oregon itinerary.
Outdoor Things to Do in Bend, Oregon
Central Oregon is one of the best places in the state for outdoor adventuring and seeing some of the Pacific Northwest’s beauty. Within just miles of Bend, plenty of outdoor adventures await.
Explore Oregon’s Largest Volcano
Perhaps one of the most popular places to visit when in Bend is the Newberry Volcanic National Monument.
Known as the largest volcano in all of Oregon, this area has over 54,000 acres of land filled with volcanoes, mountains, lakes, rivers, and land to explore. It’s a unique area, as it doesn’t look like the other volcanoes in the area. Instead of a towering peak, Newberry is a caldera, or a large depression formed after a volcano erupts and collapses. Imagine Crater Lake but on a much larger scale.
While visiting, hike to the tallest peak in the monument, Paulina Peak, sitting almost 8,000 feet above sea level. Just below the peak, Paulina Lake is a beautiful body of water with hot springs, which allow for soaking, scattered around the shore. Big Obsidian Flow is a unique walk-through containing pieces of obsidian, which are essentially tiny shards of glass formed when lava quickly cools.
Visiting Newberry Volcanic National Monument is one of the best things to do in Bend, Oregon.
Explore Lava Lands
The interpretive hub of the Newberry National Monument and just a short drive from downtown Bend, adults and children alike can get up close and personal with Oregon’s volcanic history at Lava Lands Visitor Center.
Visitors can view the Monument through a 3D topographic map, meander through exhibits featuring geologic and cultural history, view films, and stroll the Trail of Molten Land and the Trail of the Whispering Pines. Those up for a more significant hike can take the fully accessible five-and-a-half-mile Sun-Lava path. Other activities include picnic spots and ranger talks.
The culmination of your visit should be a trip to the top of Lava Butte, a cinder cone, to take in the spectacular views of Central Oregon. A shuttle runs every 20 minutes that will take you straight to the top.
Because of the volcanic activity that makes up the majority of Oregon, you’ll find plenty of caves and lava tubes to explore.
Just about 25 minutes from the center of Bend, you’ll find Boyd Cave. This is one of the most popular caves to explore. Also down that same road are Hidden Forest Cave and Arnold Ice Caves. These are all short, hard-to-navigate caves but are worth the extra stop to experience what it’s like to go caving.
Also, about 20 minutes away, right on the highway, Lava River Cave is a 1-mile-long lava tube open for visitors. It’s the longest continuous lava tube in Oregon and is sure a treat to get to explore.
Don’t forget your headlamps, or plan to rent one from the office.
Hike to Tumalo Falls
Waterfalls are easily one of the best attractions to explore when hiking in Oregon.
Tumalo Falls is no exception, mainly because it’s just a short walk from the parking lot to see it! This 97-foot waterfall drops into Tumalo Creek and offers an awe-inspiring viewpoint surrounded by trees. You can add more distance and hike further to Double Falls or turn around after the viewpoint.
In the winter, the road to the trailhead closes, and you’ll need to take a 6-mile roundtrip hike on the road to see Tumalo Falls.
Climb to The Top of Misery Ridge
One of the most beautiful viewpoints in all of central Oregon is found right at Smith Rock State Park, about 35 minutes from the center of Bend.
Misery Ridge is a challenging and steep hike to the top of a large rock formation in the state park. It’s such a unique area to visit, as it feels like something that shouldn’t be found right in the middle of Oregon.
Once you’ve completed the trek to the top, you’ll be met with phenomenal views of the beautiful rock formations and over five mountains in the distance.
If you look hard, you’ll even be able to see as far as Mount Hood, all the way in northern Oregon.
Smith Rock State Park is also one of the preeminent places for rock climbing in the country, so be sure to marvel at the climbers trying their luck on the sheer rock faces.
Visit the Three Sisters Wilderness
Another beautiful area for hiking near Bend is the Three Sisters Wilderness, which surrounds the Three Sisters mountains. With over 160 miles of trails within the area, you’re bound to find somewhere to hike.
It is connected to parts of both Deschutes and Willamette National Forests, each of which offers its own incredible hikes.
Some of the most popular trails include Broken Top and No Name Lake, Green Lakes, and Moraine Lake. The Pacific Crest Trail also passes through the wilderness for about 40 of its 2,600 miles.
Take in a Concert at the Hayden Homes Amphitheater
Nothing beats an outdoor concert in the middle of summer, surrounded by friends, street food, and great music.
You can enjoy just that at the Hayden Homes Amphitheater by attending one of their many concerts. They’ve put on over 1 million shows in the past 20 years between their free and ticketed concerts.
Aside from the concerts, they also host fun events such as a Brewfest.
Tackle the Mighty Deschutes River
The Deschutes River flows right through Bend and continues to flow northward until it joins the Columbia just east of The Dalles.
If you’re up for some adventuring on the river, consider heading out on a kayak or stand-up paddleboard.
If you don’t have your own, no worries, as you can rent gear from Tumalo Creek Rentals. Or, if you’ve never been before, you may even be interested in booking a tour with Wanderlust Tours, who will guide you through the entire process.
Those up for some more adventure can also partake in whitewater rafting on the Deschutes.
Enjoy the Views at Pilot Butte
Did you know that Bend is one of only six cities to have a volcano within its boundaries? (Portland is one of the other ones)
Pilot Butte is an extinct cinder cone rising 500 feet above the surrounding land and a staple of the Bend skyline. A paved road winds around the cone to the summit and a nearly two-mile trail wraps around the base. In the summer you can drive to the top and enjoy the amazing views of the surrounding Cascade volcanoes. The cone also has paths scattered across its flanks and is a popular place to hike no matter the time of year.
Get Wet at the Bend Whitewater Park
Set on the Deschutes River near the Old Mill District, the Bend Whitewater Park offers a multitude of recreational activities. Made up of three distinct channels, each with designated activities, visitors can surf, kayak, paddle board, and float the mighty Deschutes.
Indoor Things to Do in Bend, Oregon
Although some of the best things to do in Bend are outdoors, incredible adventures are also found inside! Add some of these activities to your itinerary if the sun is too hot or it begins to rain.
Visit the High Desert Museum
A perfect way to spend a day indoors in Bend is with a visit to the High Desert Museum.
Here you’ll learn all about native species and wildlife, the area’s history, and immerse yourself in multiple exhibits to truly get a feel for Oregon’s high desert.
Some exhibits are permanent while others rotate, so every time you visit may be a different experience. There are also outdoor experiences such as a nearby forest where you have the chance to see wildlife and interpretive trails.
Enjoy a Drink at a Brewery
Bend has its fair share of breweries for visitors to enjoy, making it the perfect way to end an adventure-packed day.
Many of them also offer food so that you can enjoy a meal and a drink at the same time.
One of the most popular is the Bend Brewing Company, which has hand-crafted brews waiting to be enjoyed. GoodLife Brewing and Deschutes Brewery are other fantastic options with great beers brewed right in Bend.
Test Your Skills at the Bend Escape Room
Head to an escape room for an adventure that the entire family, even young kiddos, will enjoy. Put your brain power and teamwork skills to the test and try to escape the room, using clues, before the timer goes off.
There are several different rooms, suited for groups of all types, so you can choose which fits best.
Free Things to Do in Bend, Oregon
Bend also has plenty of free things to do, including adventures inside and outside. Here are some of the best free things to do in Bend, Oregon during your visit.
Check Out The Last Blockbuster
Heading into town and renting a movie to watch with the family used to be a favorite pastime of many people. But after streaming services started to take over, most rental shops shut down.
You’ll find the last remaining Blockbuster in Bend, where you can still rent movies to enjoy at home the old-fashioned way.
Since you won’t find another one anywhere else, it’s worth making the stop while you’re in town!
Drive the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway
There are many great ways to explore the beautiful outdoors surrounding Bend.
If you’re looking to take in some fantastic views but aren’t quite up for getting out and hiking a ton, then consider driving on the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway.
Starting in Bend and ending near Crescent, this 66-mile-long road showcases some of the beauty that is central Oregon. You’ll pass by Mt. Bachelor, the Three Sisters, plenty of lakes, and some of the most popular trailheads.
If you feel up for a bit of adventuring, hop out and do a few hikes along the way.
The road closes in the winter due to snow but typically opens in June.
Explore Downtown Bend
Downtown Bend is one of the best places to visit if you plan to stay in town.
Local restaurants, adorable shops, and plenty more line the streets, giving you plenty to do as you stroll down the sidewalk.
During the summer, a farmer’s market is set up every Wednesday, where local farmers, crafters, and bakers showcase their products for sale. On the first Friday of every month, the First Friday Art Walk takes place where visitors can enjoy local artists’ work and spend time browsing the shops.
While you’re perusing the shops, don’t forget to take a stroll through Drake Park for a relaxing evening along the Deschutes.
Check Out The Old Mill District
After exploring parts of Downtown Bend, head over to the Old Mill District for a bit more shopping and getting to know this adorable corner of town.
Found right along the Deschutes River, this outdoor shopping mall is packed with shops to stroll through and plenty of places for dining. Spend time window shopping and enjoying the breeze off the river on a nice summer day.
Along with the shops and places to explore, enjoy some of the many events in Bend throughout the year that you can find here.
Things to Do in Bend, Oregon in Winter
Finding things to do in the winter can be tricky when snow covers much of the ground, but Bend is still a fantastic winter destination. Here are some of the best things to do, even when the weather is chilly.
Hit the Slopes at Mount Bachelor Ski Resort
Mount Bachelor can be seen from the skyline of Bend and is only about 30 minutes away from the center of town. Luckily for skiers and snowboarders, there is an epic ski resort complete with over 100 runs to explore.
If you’re brand new to skiing or snowboarding, try your hand at it by renting a set of gear and hitting the chair lift.
Plus, the views from the very top are insanely beautiful!
Even if you don’t want to go down the mountain, you can just drive to the resort, enjoy the views surrounding it, and watch the riders come down the runs.
Go on a Snowshoe Tour
Snowshoeing is a fun activity that almost anyone can pick up and learn quickly on those cold winter days.
Bundle up, grab some friends or family, and head out on a snowshoe tour with Wanderlust Tours. You’ll get to explore the areas around Mt. Bachelor and the Deschutes National Forest while gaining knowledge about the activity. The instructors at Wanderlust Tours will teach you how to snowshoe if you’re new and tell you all about the beauty around you.
Escape the Snow at Smith Rock State Park
While many of the hiking trails near Bend fill with snow in the winter, there is one place that remains relatively clear.
Smith Rock State Park, home to the Misery Ridge trail mentioned above, is the perfect place to spend a winter day. Much closer to a desert climate, there isn’t typically as much snow here as there is closer to the mountains in Bend. Head out for a few hikes or just a stroll around the river and enjoy your day at Smith Rock.
There may be snow during some points of the winter, but it is typically much less than in other areas.
When is the Best Time to Visit Bend?
Bend is a beautiful city in Oregon to visit year-round. The high desert, volcanic landscape, and the mighty Deschutes make Bend and the surrounding land an outdoor enthusiasts’ paradise no matter the time of year.
Central Oregon boasts that it sees an average of almost 250 sunny days yearly, a remarkable statistic for anywhere in the Pacific Northwest!
Although you can visit any time of year, it’s recommended to plan your visit between June and October. Outside these months, there is likely to be snow, and many outdoor activities will start to slow down for the winter season.
Fall is the best time to visit because there are fewer crowds and the temperatures aren’t as hot.
If you’re visiting in summer, be aware of the high desert environment and prepare accordingly. Daytime temperatures in summer are hot while the nights get cold, and you’ll burn faster because of the higher elevation no matter the time of year.
Conclusion: Things to Do in Bend, Oregon
Between the hundreds of miles of hiking trails, beautiful mountain views, and fantastic places to eat, Bend truly has it all. This adorable town is the perfect little place to stop and enjoy some of the best that Oregon offers.
An outdoor enthusiasts’ paradise, there is no shortage of activities. From mountain biking to hiking to water sports, mountain sports, and climbing, there is something for everyone in Bend.
Get out and explore these amazing things to do in Bend, Oregon.
Kassidy is an avid hiker from Minnesota who has spent months exploring the PNW. She enjoys helping others learn more about hiking through her blog, The Hiking Helper and showing others the beauty of Minnesota on her blog, Kassidy’s Journey.