Winter or summer, Bend, Oregon is a high-desert neverland where vacationers want to stay forever and residents play outside all year round. Situated on the Deschutes River at the edge of the snow-capped Cascade Range, this hip and eclectic town offers a November-to-May ski season and more craft breweries per capita than any other city in Oregon. Add a restaurant culture that mirrors nearby Portland, and it’s easy to see why Bend is a year-round destination for adrenaline junkies and foodies.
Here are five cool things to see, do, eat and drink in Bend, Oregon.
Image: Mount Bachelor
Image: Mt. Bachelor/VisitBend/CCOP
Crisp, deep powder and blue skies characterize the ski season at Mount Bachelor, a massive volcanic cauldron that’s a must-visit for savvy skiers and snowboarders in the Northwest. With 3,683 acres of lift-accessible slopes, 380 inches of snowfall per year and an eight-month ski season, the mountain attracts Olympic athletes who arrive as the rest of the resorts are melting. Don’t worry if you’re not quite up to Olympic scratch. Mount Bachelor is the largest mountain in Washington and Oregon, and the sixth largest mountain in North America; it has plenty of terrain for beginners, too.
Image: 10 Barrel
Image: Byron Roe/Visit Bend/CCOP
You’re familiar with the Oregon Trail. Same idea. The Bend Ale Trail will take you to the furthermost frontiers of American craft brewing. Use the Ale Trail app to find and visit all 11 Bend craft breweries, many of which are located in the pretty downtown area. Get your Ale Trail passport stamped in each location to win a handy Bend Silipint (silicone beer pint for beer drinkers on the go) from Bend Visitor Center.
If you’re short on time and have to narrow it down, don’t miss the original Deschutes Brewery. Deschutes is an adventurous craft beer pioneer founded in Bend in 1988, which has grown up to be the fifth-largest craft brewery in the US. Bend Brewing is the best brewery for sampling sour brews done right. Their mouth-puckering Ching Ching American Sour wins gold at the American Beer Festival Awards, and goes down like a shandy on steroids. 10 Barrel Brewing is the must-visit for tasting a wide-range of both surprising and addictive session ales. Crux Fermentation Project is arguably the most exciting Bend brewery, using non-traditional brewing methods like oak barrel aging, wild yeast strains and experimental hops.
Image: 10 Barrel
Image: The Cirque/Mt. Bachelor
With an inviting outdoor fireplace, a neighbourly growler fill window and a central communal table, 10 Barrel Brew Pub is the place to rub elbows with the locals. Hearty appetizers like steak, smoked bacon and gorgonzola “nachos” (cajun potato chips) will overcompensate for a day on the slopes. The popular, house-made pies come topped with everything from beer-marinated bbq to pesto and prosciutto. Don’t be surprised if someone strikes up a conversation over the comfort pub grub and unforgettable ales. The only two topics: beer and snow.
If you get hungry and can’t wait to get back to town, head to Mt. Bachelor’s newest restaurant, The Cirque at Pine Marten Lodge, for the buzzing après–ski scene. The Cirque is the highest-elevation restaurant in Oregon. It’s worth sticking around for the sunset view. Try the potent, locally-themed cocktails and fun share plates such as fried chicken and cornmeal waffles.
Image: Wanderlust Tours
Join Wanderlust Tours for a romantic snowshoe excursion into the nighttime forest of the Cascades. If the moonlit scenery isn’t enough of a draw, the trip comes with a naturalist’s intel on the wildlife and a sweet finish: cocoa with marshmallows.
Image: John Melton/Visit Bend/CCOP
Just south of downtown Bend, the riverfront Old Mill District is a shopping and dining center in the historic site of the Brooks-Scanlon Lumber Company, around which Bend developed. This is the place to gear up for skiing and snowboarding; REI set up shop in the sawmill’s former powerhouse. Or just grab a coffee from Strictly Organic Coffee Co. and mosey along the Deschutes Riverfront Trail.
Getting there: Bend is eight hours south of Vancouver and three hours south of Portland. If you don’t have your own vehicle, check a Vancouver rideshare board to find another outdoor enthusiast heading that way.
What’s your favourite thing to do in Bend? Leave a comment below!
Feature image: Mt. Bachelor/VisitBend/CCOP