Riverhouse on the Deschutes

42 Hours in Central Oregon: Top 3 Things to Do in Bend, Oregon

Published on July 19, 2022

Bend, Oregon has it all. From breweries and live music in and around the Old Mill District, to high desert and old growth forest just outside the city limits. Situated at the foot of Mount Bachelor, this small city in the great big outdoors of Central Oregon will keep you busy. So how do you fit it all in? Here’s a short guide to our favorite things to do for any weekend itinerary in Bend, Oregon.

Walk the River Trail to the Old Mill District

Start your visit off by getting to know the lay of the land. Take a walk along the Deschutes River Trail, a weaving series of walking trails that take hikers, bikers, and more through some of Central Oregon’s most scenic moments. Crisscrossed with footbridges, the trail follows the Deschutes River in a gorgeous 12 mile loop that winds through Bend’s scenic parks, including Riverbend Park, Sawyer Park, and Pioneer Park. If you’re looking for nature, take the north loop. This paved and gravel trail shows off Central Oregon’s most dramatic and rugged landscapes along the Deschutes River. On the south, the Old Mill Reach, a 4.4 mile loop offers a scenic stroll through Bend’s historic downtown. With wide, pedestrian-only, stretches of trail and views of the river, it’s a great way to see the city in an easy afternoon.

A hundred years ago, the Old Mill District was home to sawmills that cut more than 300,000 board feet of lumber per day from the Central Oregon’s old growth forest. Today, the district is alive with restaurants, arts, and shopping in and among the remnants of the old lumber mills.

Across the river from the Old Mill District, accessible by a pedestrian bridge, is the Hayden Homes Amphitheater, where bands like Dave Matthews Band, Phish, the Beach Boys, and other world class acts have performed concerts in Bend Oregon at this gorgeous outdoor setting on the banks of the Deschutes River.

Get Outdoors: Mt. Bachelor, Floating the Deschutes, Biking & Hiking Bend

Getting outside is one of the best ways to enjoy Central Oregon. Winter, spring, summer, and fall the great outdoors is what it’s all about. Whether skiing at Mount Bachelor, rafting and tubing the Deschutes, or hiking and biking the trails around Bend, no trip to Bend is complete without a little outdoor fun.

Float the River

This is an absolute must. On an inner-tube, a canoe, a kayak, a SUP, or however you choose to float, this natural ride is relaxing and refreshing. Choose from a short ride close to downtown, or get a Ride the River shuttle pass and experience the full float from Riverbend to Drake Park. For the more adventurous traveler, try rafting the river rapids with Sun Country Tours. Choose between full day trips, half day adventures, and even a two-day glamping trip that lets you explore the Deschutes River in style.

Head to the Mountain

Just outside downtown, trails loop through old-growth and high desert landscape in the foothills of Mount Bachelor. Bikers and hikers alike enjoy access to some of the best trails in Central Oregon and a whole lot of gorgeous scenery. This interactive trail map helps visitors plan their own expedition, from novice trailheads like Shelvin Park and Coyner Trail to dramatic mountain bike rides like the Tumalo Falls Loop. Old growth forests are why Bend is considered the mountain biking capital of the Pacific Northwest. The sleek, smooth, trails that result from this geography allow riders to swoop and fly down trails. This world-renowned reputation draws mountain bikers from all over. Visitors enjoy access to full service bike shops like Hutches and Pine Mountain Sports as well as guides, lessons, and shuttle services like Cog Wild and Ride 2 You.

In the wintertime, the mountain still calls. Mount Bachelor Ski Resort is home to 1,600 acres of groomed trails with 3,365 feet of vertical drop. The resort also offers the longest groomed Nordic season in North America, making it one of the best things to do in Central Oregon each winter.

Experience the Ale Trail

A trip to Bend isn’t complete without a hop along the Ale Trail. This network of 12 breweries in Bend, Oregon takes you around the city from classic tasting rooms to modern brewpubs. Classics like Bend Brewing Company offer outdoor seating and a lawn with views of the Deschutes River, while modern takes like Crux Fermentation Project and The Brasserie offer a personable mix of food truck-casual and upscale American fare alongside locally crafted ales and lagers. Spend the afternoon tasting and relaxing across the city, or pick a brewery and end a busy day of outdoor adventure with a pint in your hand.


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