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Bend, Oregon – All of the Essentials

Drake Park in Bend, Oregon by Nate Payton

Welcome to beautiful Bend, Oregon. Bend is the hub of outdoor activity for the state of Oregon. The city is located in the central high desert region of the state and is absolutely overflowing with beautiful locations to explore. Incorporated in 1905, Bend has its roots in the milling and lumber industries. Though traces of this past can still be found in the historic districts of the city, visitors will now find the city revolving around a single industry: outdoor recreation. From mountain biking, to rock climbing, to river kayaking and mountaineering, Bend is a paradise for those who thrive on experiencing the outdoors. If you are planning to visit the city, the sheer amount of things to do can be quite overwhelming. In this vast sea of options, there are a few gems that stand out above the rest as “must do” activities. Here is a list of essentials for your next trip to Bend, Oregon.

Essential #1 – Lone Pine Coffee Roasters

The Alley with Lone Pine Coffee Roasters by Nate Payton

[#1] If you’re like me, you believe that every good day starts with a great cup of coffee. Thankfully, Bend has no shortage of quality roasters and cafes.  If you’re looking for a truly exceptional cup, look no further than Lone Pine Coffee Roasters. Located in downtown Bend, Lone Pine Coffee Roasters has been a local favorite since it first came to the city in 2009. It can be tricky to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for, though. The shop is nestled in an alleyway, with only a simple black-and-white sign that reads “Coffee” marking its location. All of their coffee is roasted in-house and directly sourced from countries such as Costa Rica and Guatemala. In addition to coffee, Lone Pine features a unique collection of drinking vinegars, which they call “shrubs”. Made with a mix of real apple cider vinegar, sparkling water, and fresh fruits and herbs, these “shrubs” are incredibly crisp and refreshing. If you find yourself looking for a boost for your day, or if you’re in need of a refreshing break, look no further than Lone Pine Coffee Roasters.

Essential #2 and #3 – Deschutes River And Benham Falls

Benham Falls by Nate Payton

After your morning cup of coffee, or perhaps with it still in hand, the next essential is experiencing the Deschutes River. The river runs right through the center of the city, and much local activity revolves around it. For this reason, there are lots of ways to experience the beautiful Deschutes. [#2] If you like to get wet, take advantage of the many popular kayaking routes through the river. The city has even installed an artificial whitewater park for kayakers to practice their skills in a controlled environment. If surfing in a landlocked city is something that peeks your interest, there are also local shops that rent surfboards for river surfing. [#3] For those who desire to remain dry, perhaps the most breathtaking views of the Deschutes River can be found thirty minutes south of the city. Here, just outside the resort town of Sun River, lies Benham Falls. This series of waterfalls pairs fantastically with the moss covered stones that line the riverside, creating a storybook environment ideal for the aspiring photographer.

Essential #4 and #5 – The Three Sisters Mountain Range and South Sister

The Three Sisters from Broken Top Summit by Nate Payton

[#4] With morning giving way to midday, the sun will now be fully illuminating the most iconic feature of Central Oregon’s landscape – the Three Sisters. These mountains are the miniature Alps of Oregon, but at upwards of 10,000 feet, they are anything but tiny. Make your way up the scenic Cascade Lakes Highway to reach the base of these giants, and prepare yourself to take in incredible views in every direction. The Sisters are dormant volcanoes, and it was ancient pressure from underground magma that led to their extremely pronounced formation. [#5] The mountains are riddled with countless hikes, but if you want to unleash your inner mountaineer, the one you must experience leads to the summit of South Sister. At the peak of this mountain, you can begin to gain on understanding of Oregon’s volcanic history. Nestle yourself in the glacier-filled crater of this ancient giant while you look out over the valley and imagine the old lava flows that formed the current geography. Leave your larger bottles and be sure to pack a water filter, as the hike is strenuous and you will want to leave behind as much unnecessary weight as possible. Thankfully, the volcanic landscape harbors countless streams and pools, so there will be plenty of opportunity for refills during your ascent.

Essential #6 and #7 – Sparks Lake and Davis Canyon

Sunrise at Sparks Lake by Nate Payton

[#6] As you descend back to the Cascades Lake Highway, your feet sore and legs tired from your climb, head over to Sparks Lake for a time of relaxation and reflection. From the south end of the lake you can look upon the entirety of South Sister and take pride in your accomplishment. Take in the gorgeous reflections off of the lake’s predominantly glacial waters, and enjoy the movements and sounds of the wildlife that call the Sparks Lake basin home. [#7] After a time of rest and recuperation, you’ll want to continue along the southern trail just a little bit further until you reach Davis Canyon. This canyon is another miracle of heat and magma. The drying and constriction of the lava in ancient times led to large cracks in the ground that are now inhabited by unique and vibrant plant species. Trace your hands along the walls of the canyon and experience the strange and surprisingly soft textures of the mosses and ferns growing there. When you are finished with your stroll and feeling fully refreshed and reenergized, make your way back to your vehicle. There is one last iconic Bend experience that is locally agreed upon as the best way to conclude a day.

Essential #8 – Smith Rock State Park

Crooked River in Smith Rock State Park by Nate Payton
Climber’s Ascent in Smith Rock State Park by Nate Payton

[#8] Ask any outdoor lover in Bend where you should go if you want to climb and they’ll give you the same answer: Smith Rock State Park. Nothing short of a rock climber’s paradise, Smith Rock is Nirvana for those who thrive on both seeing and experiencing the outdoors. There are several hikes in the area that will yield gorgeous views of prehistoric-looking rock formations, but the true experience of the park does not come from the ground floor. If you want to rent climbing gear, there is a shop just outside the park that provides rentals at a reasonable price. There are also many shops within the city of Bend that can provide you with the gear you need. If all you have is a harness and shoes, just approach a group of climbers and ask if you can join them. The culture of the park is inviting and friendly, and the majority of climbers are more than willing to share gear and provide a spot while you try your hand at an ascent. Arriving in the evening will provide you with cooler temperatures for your climb, not to mention the wonderful sunsets that are promised each day. You will find climbers there ranging from 10 years old to 80 years old, from first day climbers to seasoned veterans. No matter your level of climbing ability, there is something for everyone at Smith Rock. As the evening gives way to night, get in a few last minute climbing ascents and then make your way back to the trailhead for sunset. There, you will find photographers setting up tripods in an attempt to capture the beauty of the moment. If it’s your first time, I recommend putting the camera away and just taking it in. The colors of the sky that the sun paints behind the old rocks will leave you feeling warm and content. When the burning star finally disappears beyond the horizon, it’s time to head back to your car for the quick drive back to the city.

Essential #9 – A Breathe of Fresh Air

As you settle into your room for the night, your muscles sore from your experience of Bend and its surrounding activities, I leave you with one last recommendation. [#9] Open your window, look out onto the silhouettes of the Three Sisters, and take in a deep breath of Oregon’s famous fresh, crisp air. Soak in the cool breeze flowing off of the Cascade Mountains. You have just experienced your first day in Bend, Oregon, and if you liked it, there is plenty more to explore in the morning. Now get some rest. You’ve earned it.

1Comment
  • Roger Scovil
    Posted at 23:10h, 15 November Reply

    Great job, Nate. I’VE visited Bend many, many times, but your description made it sound all fresh and new. AND you described a couple of sights I still have yet to see. THANKS for the article.

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