In and around charming Bend, Oregon
So much has been blogged about how beautiful and charming the city of Bend is. We scheduled a five-day stop to experience what the buzz was all about. During our short visit, we saw why some folks we’ve met have gushed about it and considered moving here.
We learned that Bend offers a good balance of beautiful scenery surrounded by several majestic peaks of the Cascade Mountains. And we loved the laid-back lifestyle and diversity of outdoor activities. Although our late October arrival date made us subject to some chilly and rainy weather, we really enjoyed this place.
One thing we immediately noticed while driving around town was the heavy use of roundabouts here. There are 30 of them, and we traversed more than half of them during our stay. But these roundabouts aren’t just boring traffic circles, for each is beautifully landscaped and holds a unique display of art. The city made it easy and fun for art lovers to see these public displays by just following the Roundabout Art Route map.
We arrived when fall foliage was in full display. Endless rows of brightly colored trees ranging from red to yellow to orange to green draped the city in autumn glory. Whether we were driving around town, following trails or taking a leisurely walk along the Deschutes River, the vibrant burst of colors made us smile. Of course I had to capture the beauty!
Bend is known for its many outdoor activities, including our favorite – hiking! With many trails to choose from, we lined up the ones we would tackle on several chilly mornings.
On a sunny Saturday we chose Smith Rock State Park, about 26 miles north of Bend, for our long moderate hike. Unfortunately, many other folks had the same idea. Not only was it a weekend day (we should know better), but it was also the first beautiful day after a storm passed through. And we didn’t start early enough – shame on us!
Nine miles south of Bend, the Newberry National Volcanic Monument teems with ancient lava flows, cinder cones, caves, obsidian flows, lakes, rivers, forests, and mountains. Steve wanted to explore the lava tube, but it was closed for the winter. Instead we wandered around Oregon’s largest volcano, which sits between the Oregon Cascades to the west and the high desert to the east.
After walking the Trail of the Molten Land, we drove up to the summit of Lava Butte and hiked the Lava Butte Rim Trail. From there we had awesome views of the Oregon Cascade Range, which is part of a much greater grouping of volcanoes and mountains around the Pacific Ocean known as the Ring of Fire. It extends 775 miles from California to Canada and contains more than 3,400 volcanoes, including the more than 450 volcanic vents on the flanks of Newberry.
We continued on and drove 25 miles south to the Newberry Caldera. There we hiked up the one-mile loop interpretative trail which covers just one corner of the flow. The Big Obsidian Flow is Oregon’s youngest lava flow, where more than 170 million cubic yards of obsidian and pumice erupted from a vent in the caldera.
Leaving the obsidian flow behind, we headed toward Paulina Falls, which can be accessed from above and below. The side-by-side falls drop up to 80′ over volcanic cliffs.
The Deschutes River Trail is right in Bend, and it meanders more than 12 miles through the heart of the city. We followed it on two separate days, walking along the river for which it’s named.
The northern half was more of a nature experience, as the trail passed through areas lined with pine and juniper trees.
Our second journey on the southern end of the trail passed through the popular Old Mill District and several urban parks.
On our last day we drove the scenic road that wound up and around the cone of Pilot Butte. It rises nearly 500′ above the surrounding plains, and from the top we saw the entire city of Bend, as well as several major Cascade peaks.
The major drawbacks that would stop us from settling in Bend are the growing population and associated heavy traffic. Other than that, Bend has most of the criteria we are looking for and deserves another visit during another season. For now we enjoyed our stay in this charming and busy city.