Top 10 Things to Do in Bend Oregon
Central Oregon is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. In 72 hours, we went golfing, hiking, kayaking, lava caving, bicycling, and watched rock climbing.
We also took day trips to some of Oregon’s seven wonders – Smith Rock, Painted Hills, and Crater Lake.
Pronghorn Resort in Bend was our home base, and each day, we went exploring in every direction. Our recommendations on where to stay, dine and what to do while in the Bend area.
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO
Rock Climb or Hike Smith Rock State Park:
One of our favorite places to see in the Bend area was Smith Rock. We hiked the Misery Ridge Trail and had phenomenal views looking out to the Sisters Mountains, Mt. Jefferson, and the valleys below.
Golf at Pronghorn Resort:
Take a swing at the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course at Pronghorn Resort, voted No. 33 on Golf Digest’s List of “America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses” for 2015. Par 72, 18 holes, 7,239 yards of undulating landscapes with ancient lava rock, waterfalls, lakes and magnificent views of the Cascade Mountains.
Kayak the Deschutes:
Highly recommend kayaking with Wanderlust Tours – we visited the Deschutes River and kayaked up to the exit point near Dillon Falls. We heard the howling of coyotes, quaking aspens, and breathed in the solitude and serenity on part of the river that stretches 252 miles. There are a dozen Cascade Lakes near Bend where kayakers often go to glide through still waters.
Hike or Cycle to Tumalo Falls:
Hike to the scenic Tumalo Falls, and continue on the trail to Happy Valley. A short drive from Bend, and fairly easy hike from the parking lot to see the falls.
Explore Lava Caves:
We visited Skeleton Lava Cave, one of the 590 lava caves in Deschutes County. Our guide Nick of Wanderlust Tours, taught us about the formation of lava caves and took us deep inside the cave where bones from prehistoric animals were found. The cave we explored was a mile long and descended to about 100 feet underground. After climbing out of the lava cave, we walked the red soil path back to our van and were amazed this cave was underneath a landscape covered with yellow rabbit bushes and juniper trees.
The canoe sunset tour is one of the most popular with Wanderlust Tours – another tour we want to sign up for when we return. On full moon nights, you can paddle around and you’re bathed in the moonlight so you don’t even need a headlamp – dreamy!
Photo Credit: Dave Nissen at Wanderlust Tours
During the winter months, Wanderlust Tours offers snowshoeing adventures near and around Crater Lake – can’t wait to return and do this!
Ski Mt. Bachelor:
If you’re visiting Bend during the Winter time, ski Mt. Bachelor, the sixth largest ski resort in North America.
Visit Painted Hills:
About a 2 ½ hours drive East, we visited Painted Hills and took a short hike on the Painted Hills Overlook Trail to see the magnificent geological layers of the hills – reds, golds, orange, black colorful soil. There are a few short trails, including the popular Painted Cove Trail, where visitors can explore. Painted Hills is one of the three areas of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, where 40,000 fossils have been discovered and scientists have studying 50 million years of the evolution of flora and fauna. If you have more time, we heard the other areas are worth a detour.
Cycle Bend’s Trails:
There are 3,000 miles of mountain biking trails in the Bend area and most roads are cyclist friendly.
Book a Spa Treatment at Pronghorn:
After an active day, there’s nothing better than relaxing with a spa treatment.
WHERE TO STAY
Located on 640 acres of land with views of the Cascade Mountains, this luxury golf resort offers beautifully designed villas with up to 4 bedrooms and suites with gourmet kitchens, high-end appliances, washer/dryer, private patios, stone fireplaces, outdoor firepits, and soaking tubs. Amenities include free WiFi and flat-screen TVs with DVD players.
The resort is well known for its two spectacular golf courses, designed by Tom Fazio and another one by Jack Nicklaus. There is a fitness center, full-service spa, two heated outdoor pools and hot tubs. There are several dining options from a clubhouse bistro, a grill and fine-dining restaurant.
WHERE TO DINE?
Dinner at Pronghorn’s Chanterelle Restaurant is one of the top fine dining experiences in the Bend area. Our table was near the towering stone fireplace, and our views looked out to the golf course as the sun set behind the mountains. We savored pork chops and filet mignon, classic dishes that were elegantly presented. A rhubarb apple crumble gave us some extra carbs to fuel up for another day of adventures!
Dine in central Bend on Wall St. at 900 Wall, a modern American eatery serving locally sourced dishes. The menu varies from a platter of oysters to fried buttermilk chicken, stone oven pizza, to red snapper and steak. You can enjoy dining outside on one of the sidewalk tables, or dine inside the high ceiling industrial-chic restaurant. Chef Cliff Eslinger ensures each dish is seasonally inspired and responsibly sourced.
One of the most charming dining places in Bend is at Jackalope Grill! Chef Tim Garling was raised on the Washington coast where his love for wild fish and game began. His restaurant offers an elegant setting for lunches and dinners, with a charming courtyard where all meals are served, including Sunday brunches are popular amongst locals and visitors. Co-owner Kathy Garling oversees the restaurant, and both Tim and Kathy together offer their culinary expertise to guests. Some of our brunch favorites? Ebelskivers, traditional Danish pancake puffs, and the avocado toast with prosciutto and scrambled eggs.
For some delicious comfort food, get your name on the list to have breakfast and/or lunch at CHOW Restaurant, where their approach to food and wine and business, and the community is the same, “keep it simple and let true and intense flavors show, simply” according to Owner David Touvell & Executive Chef Levi Gridley. We had breakfast here, and devoured the signature veggie hash benedict dish before heading out for a local hike. Our favorite place to sit? Outside on the deck where you can hear the tunes of a local band playing in the courtyard, and breathe in the fresh air!
Craving Asian Fusion? Extraordinary Asian Fusion! Book a table at one of the most popular restaurants in town. A modern chic restaurant serving dishes created by Executive Chef Joe Kim – a 2014, 2015 and 2016 James Beard Awards Semifinalist. His creativity and lineup of a dozen unique dishes amazed us!
We were introduced to dishes by seasonal themes – summer turning to fall, then winter.
The Summer Theme began with a Quinoa cracker topped with caviar and crème fraiche, then a second dish, a carbonated Kumamoto oyster from the Tatan Inlet, on a bed of edible sand made of brown sugar, cardamom and Chinese 5 spices. Finishing off Summer with a lobster sashimi and tempura dish with ponzu butter dipping sauce.
The Fall Theme led with Iberico cured pork and local heirloom tomatoes with balsamic vinegar drizzled on top. The fog and mist of fall appeared in a large glass bowl of thinly sliced geoduck sashimi on a large rock with waves of dry ice magically, mysteriously arising out from below. The next dish of Toro Tuna with black shaved truffles decorated with gold flakes and shaved ginger – a delight! And then the Hamachi yellowtail bibimbap “Korean inspired rice dish” with a local raw quail egg on top that we mixed with our chopsticks in the extremely hot rock bowl.
Then to moving into early Winter, Chef Kim presented us with a Lamb sous vide, squash dish with a cabbage, beet mole pureed with rosemary incense. The puree tasted like a mole sauce, but our server said it was made of red cabbage, turnip, tamarind, garlic, red wine and shallots – lovely!
One of the final Winter dishes was a Marion berry Wagyu with citrus polenta, and sweetbreads Madeira alga dolce.
Our server Keith presented a little squirrel sculpted dish holding a nugget of burmeister cheese on a bed of pistachios, before moving to the grand finales! Huckleberry panna cotta and banana toffee cream cinnamon toffee graham cracker desserts!!
A mountain town with everything! Discover everything there is to do here from the snow-capped peaks of this high-desert skyline where you’ll find some of the best weather in Oregon. Visit Bend provides itineraries and maps for day trips and weeklong adventures.
Travel Oregon: to discover the other seven wonders – Mt. Hood, Walawa Mountain Range, the Coast, and the Columbia Gorge! And scenic drives throughout this diverse rectangular state with diverse landscapes ranging from coastal lands to rain forest to high desert alpine to the Cascade Mountains.
Wanderlust Tours: Dave and Aleta Nissen founded Wanderlust Tours in 1993, to help visitors discover what’s around the next “bend” in the Bend area.
Owner Dave founded Wanderlust Tours and offers half-day naturalist-guided tours and trips in Bend, Sunriver and Sisters, Oregon. He introduced his team and shared, “We are renowned for our knowledgeable and professional guides, our small group tours take you off the beaten path, away from crowds to seek out the quiet of the Central Oregon.”
Our guide Nick Shealey shared with us, that he loves introduce the “joy of nature to those who can’t readily access it” and he delivered – we had one of the most glorious days in the outdoors and connected with nature. It was almost as though we really had the entire forest, river, and cave to ourselves.
Read More ….Oregon’s Best Getaways
Global Adventuress would like to thank Pronghorn Resort for hosting our stay, and to the following restaurants for hosting meals – Chanterelle, 5 Fusion, 900 Wall, Jackalope Grill and Chow.
We also want to thank Wanderlust Tours and Visit Bend for hosting some of our excursions and activities.