No matter your outdoor sport, you can find it in Bend. Climbing, hiking, snowsports, mountain biking, cycling, rafting, fishing, and even standup paddle boarding, all on your doorstep or a short ride away. If you are looking for an active vacation, look no further than Bend, as it really is the outdoor lover's paradise. Add in beer, coffee, food, numerous festivals, and you have the makings of the perfect outdoor town.
During the past few months, I was lucky enough to take two trips to Bend, once for a week long vacation and the other for a press trip with Five Ten. Both trips involved a triathlon of outdoor sports- climbing, biking, and hiking, not to mention soaking up the local drink of choice- beer from one of the city's 14 (and counting) resident breweries.
A land of endless chalked holds and terraced trails, Smith Rock is a climbers paradise. With over 1,800 routes spread across 10 square miles of basalt columns and towering tuff cliffs surrounded by the Crooked River, Smith offers enough variety for all types and level of climber.
For people like me who don't yet lead very hard grades, there are enough moderate climbs (both trad and sport) in this historically hard climbing mecca to keep you occupied. On my first trip to Smith Rock in August, I quickly learned why most people don't climb there in the summer- it is bloody hot. The best time to go is fall and spring. I personally find the routes in Smith to be slightly harder than their grade. A 5.9 in Smith felt much more difficult than a 5.9 in the Italian Alps, for example, but that is just my experience.
During my recent trip back to Smith Rock with Five Ten, I enjoyed watching pro athletes Mayan Smith-Gobat and Dean Potter scale the rock with finesse and ease, then personally give some harder routes a go. We were lucky enough to experience the Smith Rock King Swing, as we had local 5.14 climbers in our midst that could erect the rope for us. Don't forget the huckleberry ice cream at Rockhard on your drive out.
Mountain biking trails abound in Bend and this is flowy singletrack at its best. Even me, a self-professed novice mountain biker who is afraid of more technical terrain, was like a kid on Christmas morning riding the trails in Bend. I couldn't get enough (though could have done with a little less dust). Phils Trail Complex is a popular place to ride close to town, with numerous moderate to easy loop options and connections into harder trail complexes.
Five Ten teamed up with Cog Wild, the local mountain bike tour company, to show us some of their favorite trails around Bend. We shuttled to the Swampy Lakes trailhead and ended the day at the bottom of one of my favorite trails- the Whoops Trail. What could be more amazing than having Olympic Medalist and World Champion pro mountain bike racer Jill Kintner and Cog Wild owner Melanie Fisher riding behind me throughout the day, giving me tips on how to be a better mountain biker. Ok, so I crashed a few times. I didn't care. I was mountain biking in Bend.
The Three Sisters Wilderness, the second largest wilderness area in Oregon, houses over 260 miles of trails, including 40 miles of the PCT. During my vacation in August, we hiked to the top of Black Crater, an 8 mile, 2,500 feet, out and back that takes you through forest and barren lava moonscape. At the summit of this volcanic peak, you will secure 360 degree views of the Three Sisters and the High Cascades extending all the way to Mt. Hood, one of the best views anywhere on a clear day.
Don't forget about the beer. Beer and outdoor sports go hand in hand and Bend offers the most craft breweries per capita for you to choose from for your post activity imbibing. Two of my favorites have to be Crux Fermentation Project and Boneyard Brewery.
Crux, Bend's newest brewery located in the center of town, took a former Aamco Transmission warehouse and created an airy, relaxed atmosphere of exposed wood beams, concrete floor and matching long bar, with a polished copper brewing system on show, the perfect spot for a post ride pint and sandwich. Boneyard can be seen as just the opposite, or the town rebel. A small tasting room welcomes you with various skull and cross bone decorations, where you can sample the 5 beers listed on the day's white boarded tasting menu for only $4.
I have yet to visit Bend in the winter but am hoping to do so this season. I look forward to testing out the numerous snowshoe trails in addition to powder day skiing on Mt. Bachelor. And of course, more beer.
Where to stay:
If you want to stay in the heart of historic downtown, the eco-chic Oxford Hotel is extremely comfortable and beautifully designed, as well as accommodating for your bikes. The hotel even loans out cruiser bikes for you to ride around town. As a bonus, Thump coffee roasters is located right across the street.
If you would rather live like a local or are planning an extended stay, check out Alpenglow Vacation Rentals where you can rent various properties around Bend from one bedroom apartments to a five bedroom house. Owner Victoria Smith knows all the inside scoop on Bend and will recommend and even be so nice as to accompany you to all the best places for eating, drinking, and outdoor activities.
Rock Climbing Smith Rock State Park
by Alan Watts
Road cycling inspiration: Oregon Scenic Bikeways
Central Oregon Mountain Biking Trail Map from Adventure Maps
Central Oregon Trail Alliance for information and trail conditions
Pacific Northwest Hiking
by Scott Leonard and Sean Patrick Hill