Central Oregon is an astonishingly special place for outdoor recreation, and Bend is its capital...or in outdoor terms, its best base camp.
With more sunny days per year than Phoenix, a casual lifestyle, and direct access into the mountains, Bend's popularity as a destination and a place to call home has soared over the last few decades. Bend's population was a mere 17,000 in 1989, and now nearly 100,000 people live within the city limits and its outlying rural neighborhoods. The town features a four-year university and arguably one of the best funded parks and recreation departments in the nation; additionally, Bend now boasts more breweries per capita than any other town in Oregon, with a total of 22, and there has been an explosion of incredibly delicious eateries.
Although you'll undoubtedly see a few more folks on the trail than in decades past, what hasn't changed is just how fun Bend's surroundings are to explore. The area's volcanic history is what defines Central Oregon. To the west there are the stratovolcanos and buttes: Mount Bachelor, Tumalo Mountain, the Three Sisters, and Broken Top can easily be accessed within a 30-minute drive, along with countless alpine lakes. To the northwest, Mount Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Black Butte, and the Metolius River can be accessed in less than an hour. To the north, the Whychus, Deschutes, and Crooked River converge and Smith Rock rises high above the surrounding high desert. To the east, sage brush and juniper rise out of ancient lava flows and reveal lava tubes and caves. Finally, to the south, Oregon's largest volcano, Newberry, a massive and young shield volcano, has created one of the most unique landscapes in the west. Bend is a place where boredom doesn't exist because there is so much to explore.
So, where to get started?
We've put together a list of 30 undeniably amazing hikes, some even below ground, and one through Oregon's longest cave. If you've never been to Bend before, start by making the short hike up Pilot Butte from the center of town. You'll find 360-degree views that will give you the best perspective on this wonder we call Central Oregon.
Get out there and have fun!