Trek Through Smith Rock State Park
This 651-acre state park is open all year round, and features a network of gorgeous hiking trails that offer stunning views of the unspoiled wilderness that extends for miles in every direction. Part of Oregon’s high desert plateau landscape, the park has an elevation of around 3,000 feet, delivering incredible vantage points you’ll remember for a lifetime.
Smith Rock State Park is also a rock climber’s paradise, with well over 1,000 climbing areas. Bear one thing in mind as you plan your visit: conditions can be very hot in the summer, and daytime temperatures can break the 100-degree barrier. Spring and fall are generally the best times to visit.
Drive the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway
Also known as Forest Route 46, the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is one of the most beautiful drives in the western United States. This 66-mile route passes eight beautiful lakes, where you can pause to take pictures or spend a few hours exploring. Breathtakingly beautiful Cultus Lake is a particularly appealing place to spend some time, as it has well-developed tourism and visitor facilities including a lodge and restaurant as well as boat rentals and overnight cabins. If roughing it is up your alley, you can also pitch a tent and camp.
Check out the Newberry National Volcanic Monument Designated in 1990, the Newberry National Volcanic Monument is housed within the beautiful Deschutes National Forest area. It covers about 50,000 acres of unique landforms, including volcanic caldera lakes and obsidian lava flows. Its Lava River Cave and Lava Cast Forest are especially popular tourist draws, with the forest resting atop a lava flow that’s about 6,000 years old. Its haunting molds make excellent photo opportunities.
The site’s Newberry Caldera serves as a camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation base. Campgrounds, indoor lodgings, and an excellent trail network encircle the scenic volcanic lake, which is accessible throughout the year.
Tour the Oregon Badlands Wilderness Area
If you want to 6experience another area filled with fascinating landforms, the Oregon Badlands Wilderness area beckons. Part of the National Landscape Conservation System since 2009, the Oregon Badlands Wilderness is a desert area that houses ancient Native American pictographs, arid canyons, centuries-old juniper trees, and formations of ancient igneous rocks that bear uncanny resemblances to castles. You can also enter the Oregon Desert Trail from the park, as its western end point exits into the badlands.
Food and Shopping in the Old Mill District
If you’re looking to head indoors for a little while, Bend has a wide range of shopping and dining options, especially considering the city’s relatively cozy size. Its Old Mill District is a great place to start, as this historic quarter of town occupies a pretty perch on the banks of the Deschutes River and houses an intriguing lineup of restaurants, locally owned shops and boutiques, galleries, and bars. Many of the area’s original buildings have been preserved and repurposed into award-wining and innovative mixed-use facilities.
Visit Bend’s Educational Museums
Bend has a long and interesting history, and the city’s story is well-told at the Deschutes Historical Museum and the High Desert Museum. The Deschutes Historical Museum is housed in a heritage schoolhouse, and features exhibits that cover the region’s history from prehistoric times to the pioneer era and beyond. The High Desert Museum is an excellent place to learn more about central Oregon’s deserts and badlands, and it’s a great place to visit either before or after you visit these unique geological regions in person.
Delve into Oregon’s Storied Past
Bend has 10 sites that are part of the United States’ National Register of Historic Places, with several standouts that reward curious visitors. The Drake Park Historic Neighborhood district is a fantastic place to go for a walk if you want to see some great residential architecture, while the one-of-a-kind Goodwillie-Allen House is the oldest house within Bend’s city limits. Other noteworthy entries on this list include the N.P. Smith Pioneer Hardware Store, which dates to 1909 and stands as a rare and authentic glimpse into the old ways of bygone years, as well as the Gothic Revival-style Trinity Episcopal Church.