As we emerged from the Willamette National forest going south, we noticed a menacing dark cloud hanging in the air towards our destination, Bend. This wasn’t a storm cloud, this was a gigantic cloud of smoke. Too large for a simple bonfire, or a residential leaf burning. As we entered the city limits, the unmistakable heady aroma permeated our car. The fire was close by, and a palpable layer of light smog hung in the air.
We later learned that the fire was not within the city limits, but just to the west in the nearby forest. And it was most likely started accidentally. Such as it is in timber country; the occasional fire is inevitable – intentional or not.
Bend is a smallish city of around 100,000 and growing rapidly. For there is a lot to love about this town. An outdoor enthusiast’s dream: you have world-class skiing in the form of Mt. Bachelor to the west, unparalleled fishing opportunities, and some of the best hiking in the country. And much like Portland, there seem to be just as many bikers here than motorists.
What is a butte, you ask? Buttes are extinct volcanoes, that have been overgrown with grasses and other vegetation, and resemble a large, sprawling hill. Hiking to the top of a butte affords spectacular views of the surrounding areas, and so they are popular attractions for both locals and tourists.
Pilot Butte is within the city limits and has two trails leading to its 500-foot summit, and a scenic winding road if you don’t want to hoof it. This is where the city of Bend launches its fireworks every 4th of July. Fun fact: Pilot Butte is one of only four extinct volcanoes in the U.S. within city limits. (The others are in Portland, Jackson, Mississippi and Diamond Head in Honolulu!)
Lava Butte is located a few miles south of Bend on Highway 97. Next to the butte is the Lava River Cave, the longest known lava tube in Oregon, and a large field of jet black lava rocks – remnants of a gigantic lava flow which happened many thousands of years ago. Visit nearby Lava Lands Visitors center to learn all about this fascinating area.
Watch out, Portland! Bend is fast approaching your level of greatness when it comes to the craft beer scene. With over 20 breweries located in the city limits and counting, Bend has the most breweries per capita in the entire state. Experience a fair sampling with the Bend Ale Trail. Follow the trail to the end of the beer rainbow, while getting your beer passport stamped along the way because there are prizes to be won!
For a less involved sampling of beer tastiness, I highly recommend visiting one or more of these breweries:
Okay, so beer is not your thing? Bend has you covered! There are also plenty of wineries. In amongst Oregon’s majestic Cascade mountains are fertile valleys ripe for growing succulent grapes. So no matter what your poison, get out there and imbibe!
Transitioning from beers to bikes, if you’re into both, check out Cycle Pub. Yes, you too can get in on the fun, and sip your hoppy friend while enjoying a leg-powered excursion around town. The cycle pub is a 2-hour private tour, with a minimum of 4 people needed to book your tour.
Now, on to some serious biking! With the growing population and beautiful surroundings, it just makes sense to use two wheels instead of four when getting around town. In using a bike for your primary mode of transportation, not only are you helping preserve the environment, you are getting your exercise! I recently ditched my beloved Santa Fe for a groovy commuter bike, and rely on it and public transportation to get me around. A good decision!
Other Things to Do in Bend