Outdoor enthusiasts flock to Bend all seasons of the year. The scenic beauty of the area refreshes the spirit and the sunshine and fresh air energizes the body. I always feel like I have taken a health tonic every time I visit.
In the winter the skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers, and snowmobilers travel here for the premiere ski resort, Mt. Bachelor and for the miles of cross-country trails. In the spring, summer, and fall it is the hikers, fly fishermen, bikers, kayakers, cave explorers, and horseback riders that find Bend, Oregon the perfect vacation spot.
Golf is also a big reason to make a visit here. You can golf on a different golf course every day of the week. Golf Digest has rated Bend's Golf Courses as among the 25 best in the world.
If you have ever wanted to star gaze from a planetarium you can do so from the Pine Mountain Observatory. The observatory has three telescopoes with mirrors of 15-inch, 24-inch, and 32-inch diameters. You can drop in and see for yourself on Friday and Saturday evenings from dusk to late at night from the end of May to the end of September. It is a long trip so be sure the weather is not cloudy before you go. Take Highway 20 out of Bend going towards Burns.
Travel for 26 miles to the Millican General Store and turn right at the green mailbox. You will then travel a dirt road to the top of the mountain. Visitors are asked to dim their lights as they approach the observatory and while you are there carry a flashlight covered with red cellophane. Be sure to dress warmly because night time temperatures can be freezing even in the summer. Be sure to take your own snacks and non-alcholic drinks. Admission is free but it is suggested that you make a $5 donation. These weekend star gazing sessions are run by volunteers.
One popular attraction is the High Desert Museum. This is especially something you don't want to miss especially if you are traveling with children. It is a museum and a zoo all rolled into one. You will see living history exhibits such as an old saw mill, an 1880's homestead ranch, a stagecoach, and an 1880's town. The journey of the indians of the Columbia River Plateau through reservation days to the present time is illustrated. The exhibits of the
high desert wildlife include otters, lynx, bobcat, golden eagles, and birds of prey. This is not something you can see in just an hour or two. Plan on being there four or more hours.
The museum is just ten minutes south of town on Highway 97. It is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Parking is free and there is space to park a RV. The museum is completely handicapped accessable with free wheelchairs available and sitting benches throughout the complex.
The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway otherwise known as Century Drive is definitely worth a drive. It is about 66 miles long and takes you by the Mt. Bachelor ski area and several beautiful alpine lakes. Take Highway 372 east of town where the byway begins. Not all of this byway is open in the winter.
Thirteen miles south of town just off Highway 97 is Newberry Volcano. The volcano and surrounding area of lava fields has been designated The Newberry Crater National Monument. Here you can explore the lava fields, lava tube caves, visit two visitor centers, and have fun at the two lakes in the volcanic caldera - Paulina Lake and East Lake.
Go spelunking - that's caving just in case you didn't know. South of Bend are a number of caves or more correct, lava tubes, that you can explore such as Lava River Cave, Boyd Cove Wind Cave, Skeleton Cave, and Arnold Ice Caves. The ice caves once supplied the area with ice before electricity arrived. The Lava River Cave is part of Newberry Crater National Monument mentioned above and you can easily explore this one on your own.
If you don't want to find your own way around but you still want to go on an adventure in Central Oregon, you can take a tour. Tours are available both winter and summer and include, snowshoeing, canoeing, hiking, and cave exploration. Spend New Year's Eve around a bonfire in the snow. Explore a large underground cavern that is not open to the general public. Go on a moonlight canoe trip and experience the stillness, the mist, and the shimmering water. These are just a few of the tours offered by Wanderlust Tours.
Of course, the Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort is just a short distance away and Bend is a popular place for skiers and snowboarders to spend the night. The lodging available offers everything from bend hotels to vacation rentals.
Float the Deschutes River from Riverbend Park to Drake Park in a canoe, kayak, or tube. You can even rent a tube at Sun Country Tours and shuttle service is available from Drake Park back to your starting point. An ideal way to spend a hot summer afternoon. For more information and a map see Bend Parks and Recreation.
There are many excellent campgrounds nearby if you are traveling by RV or roughing it in a tent. Central Oregon's 300 days of sunshine makes camping here fun.
The closest commercial airport, Redmond Municiple Airport, (RDM) is 15 miles north in Redmond, Oregon. There are direct flights to and from Portland, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Eugene, and Seattle.