Exploring Bend, Oregon

With more than 300 days of sunshine per year, hundreds of miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, dramatic volcanic landscapes and one of the highest concentrations of craft breweries in the U.S., Bend, Oregon has something for everyone. Situated as it is just east of the Cascade Mountains, Oregon’s fifth-largest metro area is ideally suited for minimalist travel. With so much to see and do in such a compact area, there’s no need to bring too much with you; an adventurous spirit and well-designed carry on bag should suffice.

Bend Basics

Located in Central Oregon, Bend is the county seat of Deschutes County. Incorporated in 1905, it was primarily a logging town for much of its subsequent history. Although its population was estimated at just 105,000 in 2020, it’s the largest city in this part of the state – and much of its economy revolves around tourism, making it a welcoming place to explore.

Because it is located east of the Cascades, Bend doesn’t experience the perennial rain and gloom of Pacific Northwest cities like Portland and Seattle. Situated as it is in the high desert, the city’s semi-arid climate produces sunny days and cool nights. In December, the average high is 41, and the average low is 23; in July, the average high is 82, and the average low is 47. Most of the roughly 12 inches of precipitation that falls each year occurs between November and February – and it mostly arrives as snow.

In the greater Bend area, you’ll find more than 300 miles of mountain bike trails, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, 71 parks, more than 1,000 climbing routes and more than 3,600 acres of skiing and snowboarding trails. The quickest way to access the area is via the Redmond Airport-Roberts Field, which is about 40 miles away.

Casual Traveler:

SWISSGEAR 9000 20” Apex Duffel Bag
SWISSGEAR 9000 20” Apex Duffel Bag

A durable carry on duffel is a must for a no stress travel getaway like this, allowing you to seamlessly transition from cramped airplane quarters to the stunning volcanic landscapes of the high desert, which feature rugged rivers fed by mountain snowfall; stunning vistas of ponderosa pine, juniper and sagebrush; jaw-dropping waterfalls; and much more. A versatile bag, like the Swissgear 9000 20” Apex Duffel Bag, will suit you well during your explorations. Featuring 100% polyester construction, a detachable padded strap, a mesh water bottle pocket and a bungee system for storing spare shoes and the like, this rugged bag allows you to carry supplies – and treasures that you find along the way – with ease. Its front organizational pocket includes a key clip and divider pockets for easily storing important stuff like passports and credit cards. With a bag like this, you can literally carry everything that you’ll need to enjoy a fun-filled day of sightseeing around Bend.

11 Great Ways to Experience Bend

Swissgear 1900 ScanSmart Laptop Backpack
Swissgear 1900 ScanSmart Laptop Backpack

Bend features a laid-back, welcoming vibe that makes it a natural choice for minimalist travel adventures. Whether you are interested in outdoor pursuits or in sampling amazing local brews, you shouldn’t need to carry much with you to check out the best local sights. The Swissgear 1900 ScanSmart Laptop Backpack is a terrific example thanks to its durable 1200D ballistic polyester fabric construction, roomy main compartment, heavily padded back panel and TSA friendly ScanSmart lay-flat technology for laptops up to 17 inches in size. It’s also a great bag for those who are planning to mix business with pleasure, including a TabletSafe tablet pocket and pockets for travel essentials like sunscreen and bug spray.

Here are 11 ways to make the most of your visit to Bend, whose slogan is “Living at its Best”:

  1. Hit the Bend Ale Trail to see what the fuss is all about regarding its breweries. The first trail of its kind in the West – and only the second in the U.S. – it started with six breweries and now boasts 22 of them.
  2. Take in the scenery of Tumalo Falls. This dramatic waterfall flows 97 feet down amid a gorgeous backdrop of natural scenery, and it’s only 14 miles west of town.
  3. Get a feel for the amazing beauty of the region with a drive down the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway. Stretching for 66 miles, the byway wends its way through landscapes of white-capped mountains, alpine lakes and volcanic strata.
  4. Sample an ocean roll from a local bakery. A Bend specialty, the ocean roll is made out of croissant dough and is often likened to a cinnamon roll – except the cinnamon is swapped out for a mixture of sugar, vanilla and cardamom.
  5. Experience the many faces of the Deschutes River. The river, which flows through Bend, boasts excellent flatwater paddling at its upper reaches, where nearby sports fisheries offer high volumes of brown trout, rainbow trout and steelhead fish. The Middle Deschutes offers superior hiking, with dramatic volcanic formations and striking waterfalls. Some of the best whitewater rafting in the region is found along the Lower Deschutes.
  6. Shop in style in the Old Mill District. This lovely outdoor shopping mall incorporates a pretty river trail into its design.
  7. Hike and climb to your heart’s content at Smith Rock State Park. Regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon, this 651-acre park offers an extensive hiking trail system and more than 1,400 climbing routes.
  8. Check out an extinct volcano right in town at Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint. Bend is one of only three U.S. cities to feature an extinct volcano within its limits; the others are Portland, OR, and Jackson, MS.
  9. Learn about local flora and fauna at the High Desert Museum. This popular museum is located right in downtown Bend and is an especially great choice for people with children.
  10. Enjoy amazing scenery year-round at Newberry National Volcano Monument. This natural area boasts everything from lava flows to ice caves to two alpine lakes within its caldera. Hiking and climbing are popular summertime activities, but the monument also features a massive snow park for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and more during the winter months.
  11. Ski Mount Bachelor, a unique stratovolcano that is situated atop a shield volcano. It is so named because it “stands apart” from the nearby Three Sisters mountains, and it has hosted a ski area since 1958. There’s also a climbing trail to the summit, where you’ll find the Mount Bachelor Observatory.

Immerse Yourself in Local Culture with Annual Bend Events

Depending on when you visit, you’re apt to find a fun local event happening in Bend while you’re there. The city plays host to the Bend Film Festival, a popular indie film festival, every October. Not surprisingly, many events revolve around beer, including the Bend Oktoberfest; the Bend Brewfest; and the Central Oregon Beer Week. If you’re an active type, the annual Bend Beer Chase, a one-day, six-person walking and running relay event spanning 50 miles, is likely to pique your interest.

It’s impossible not to enjoy yourself in Bend, Oregon – and you don’t have to bog yourself down with stuff to do so. With simple gear, like a well-designed, TSA friendly duffel or backpack, you can make the most of your time there without having to keep track of too much. Without question, the best things that you’ll take home with you are memories of this beautiful and unique place.

Author: Joseph Daniels