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.

Old Mill District, bend
The iconic Old Mill District’s three gleaming smokestacks can be seen from almost anywhere in Bend

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.

Mt Bachelor Compass
On Century Drive this letter “S”, called the Mount Bachelor Compass, welcomes folks to Bend

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!

Deschutes River
Leafy trees lining the banks of the Deschutes cast their reflections on the water





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!

Smith Rock State Park
We followed the Canyon and Homestead trails to avoid the hoards of hikers and rock climbers on the more popular trails
Homestead Trail
Taking a break under a huge Ponderosa tree before climbing to the ridge on the Homestead Trail
Crooked River at Smith Rock State Park
Smith Rock State Park- a major destination for rock climbers
Smith Rock State Park
Climbers were here by the dozens
Smith Rock State Park
By mid morning, a few had already made it to the top
Crooked River
Crooked River

Newberry National Volcanic MonumentNine 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.

Lava Butte
A view of Lava Butte while standing on its flow
Lava Ness
Resembling the Loch Ness Monster, this twisted tree is called “Lava Ness”
Mount Bachelor
Mount Bachelor
Lava Butte
Looking at the lava flow where astronauts trained for moon missions in the 1960’s

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.

Sisters Mountains
Left to right – South Sister, Broken Top, Middle Sister and North Sister mountains
Mount Jefferson
Mount Jefferson, the second highest volcanic peak in Oregon

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.

Obsidian Flow
Yeah, it was chilly up here!
Obsidian Flow
The entire flow surface is glass – a liquid that cooled without crystallizing.  Here, 10% is obsidian and 90% is pumice
Obsidian Rock
Obsidian is solid volcanic glass with no bubbles, formed as a result of fast cooling lava
A tiny iron oxide gives obsidian its black tint.  Steve shaved hair off his arm with this razor-sharp piece!
Obsidian Flow
The obsidian flow extends a mile and covers 1.1 square miles

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.

Paulina Falls
Paulina Falls viewed from above the cliffs…
Paulina Falls
…and from below
Pine trees covered by lichen
Moss-covered pine trees along the trail

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.

Farewell Bend Park
Farewell Bend Park was one of the access points for the trail




Breakfast Club
Duck butts

Our second journey on the southern end of the trail passed through the popular Old Mill District and several urban parks.

Synching his watch
Harmon Park
Harmon Park
Des chutes River Trail
McKay Park


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.

Mount Washington
Mount Washington
Sisters Mountain
Middle and North Sisters mountains
Mount Bachelor
Another view of Mount Bachelor
Bend Oregon
View of Bend looking east
Farewell Bend
Farewell, Bend!

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.




  1. Eric and I LOVE Bend! We spent the last summer full time RVing there. I love the Old Mill and the walking paths around the river. Be sure to visit Greg’s Grill for lunch on the patio. Beautiful. We did many side trips looking for Sunstones, thunder eggs and obsidian in the Eastern part of the state. Too much fun!

    • I wonder if you are still in Oregon and if you were able to sell your property there. We wanted to linger a bit in Oregon but we were just a little too late and the rain and cold air has already set in.

  2. So glad you enjoyed your visit in Bend. We wish we had known you were here. When we were still full-timers we came here and did decide to settle down. However we decided to locate in Redmond instead of Bend. Smaller, less crowded and less expensive than Bend but close to all of Bends opportunities. We love the closeness to all of the outdoor activities. We volunteer with the forest service at least once a week and get to see amazing places. When you come back, be sure to let us know and we can take you to some spectacular hikes.

  3. Boy you sure had some fantastic fall colors AND snow on the peaks! Beautiful!

    Yes, if it weren’t for the extreme growth (and the long cold winters) Bend would be the perfect place to live.

  4. We love Bend, too, but wouldn’t settle there for exactly the reasons you stated (too much traffic and too many people). Plus, winter is really cold and really long! But it’s a fun place to visit, for sure, and you hit it at the perfect time for the fall colors! Looks like you found all the great trails while you were there—Bend is such a fun town for outdoor activities. I like your cute knit hat. 🙂

  5. Thank you for more fall photos. Bend looks beautiful and I’ve always heard nice things about the place, but it does look a tad chilly.

  6. Wish we could go back and redo some of our full-timing adventures. We should have spent much much more time in that area. We didn’t do it justice.
    I love seeing the fall colors. Beautiful photos.
    I think Mt. Washington is on the top of my list for mountains. Mt. Hood is awesome but Mt. Washington just has so much character.

    • The chilly air pushed us out quickly but Bend is definitely beautiful in fall and the snow covered peaks added to its allure. We are thinking of a revisit sometime next year and maybe we can drive or hike to Mount Washington.

  7. What spectacular scenery surrounds Bend! Nothing prettier that snowy mountains peaks:) The fall foliage was beautiful. I’m afraid we moved south too quickly and we won’t have any fall colors. Glad so many people are sharing with us:) Love your duck butts! Nice that you were able to get in a few hikes. I’ve been watching the temps in Bend. I didn’t realize it got so cold in the winter. They have snowflakes twice in the weather for the next two weeks…brrrr!! Too cold for us, I believe. But we do need to visit next year. Thanks for the tour!!

  8. Fabulous pictures in this post Mona Liza. The fall colors are stunning and so is the snow capped mountains. Hope you took a big sniff of that delicious ponderosa pine. Love your wide angle of the Smith Rock State park and the Crooked River shot. Love you in what looks like flowers in the park but in fall? With snow up high. You sure did a lot in Bend. You must have been out and about every single day. Not sure I could keep up with you two.

  9. Our son and his family are spending 3 months in Bend to determine if they want to live there. Looks like a beautiful place, but they say it is not cheap to live there!

  10. Thanks for taking us on a trip down memory lane and a few new jaunts as well. Seems like Bend has been discovered. We love it too and would love to visit in the fall.

  11. Lava Ness …. funny! I never tire of seeing fall colors, and it is one of the things I have missed here in Texas these few years. Beautiful photographs as always.

  12. Gorgeous! Just found your blog via John and Katie’s RV Honeymoon blog — so glad I did! What stunning photos — we’re definitely going to have to stop at Bend one of these days! Okay… maybe next year! Looking forward to reading more!

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