Bend, Oregon is full of exciting and adventurous things to do, but sometimes this growing city can become overcrowded, especially in the summertime. When that happens, don’t hesitate to leave Bend and enjoy one of the many day trips in the area.
From caves to waterfalls to off-the-beaten-path excursions, you can find it all in Central Oregon. Lucky for us, Bend is the perfect home base for your epic day trips.
23 Best Day Trips From Bend, Oregon
To help you plan your Pacific Northwest itinerary, we have compiled a list of the 23 best day trips from Bend, Oregon.
Attention all Jackson Hole fans! If you love that wild west feel, then you have to add a visit to Sisters, Oregon to your Central Oregon itinerary.
Located just 25 minutes north of Bend, Sisters is one of the best day trips in the area. Sisters is full of small-town charm and offers the best views of the Cascade Mountain Range.
This quaint town has many fun activities; here are a few of our favorites:
This wild west saloon shouldn’t be missed during your day trip to Sisters. Sisters Saloon is located in the center of downtown and offers indoor and outdoor seating.
Our favorite part about Sisters Saloon is the live music. Pile into the saloon every Sunday night to listen to some local musicians.
As mentioned, Sisters is the epitome of the wild west. And you simply cannot visit Sisters without attending a rodeo. The Sisters Rodeo occurs every June, so plan your trip around those particular dates.
Three Creeks Brewery
If you didn’t get your brewery fix in Bend, visit the Three Creeks Brewery and tasting room in Sisters. The Five Pine Chocolate Porter is to die for!
2. China Hat Road
China Hat Road is a great place to visit if you’re looking for an adventure. You’ll find hiking trails, caves hidden by hillsides, and other beautiful scenery on this road just 10 minutes south of Bend.
This road also has some fantastic wildlife and incredible volcanic views, so it’s worth driving down and exploring as a day trip from Bend.
Did I mention that there are secret caves along the way? That will keep things interesting as you check out all of your surroundings.
But above all, the best part about visiting China Hat Road is the proximity to Bend, which makes taking a day trip easy. Not to mention, you’ll have plenty of time to get back for dinner.
Who doesn’t love going out without having to travel far from home?
Arnold Ice Cave
Several caves can be accessed off China Hat Road, including Arnold Ice Cave, Boyd Cave, and Hidden Forest Cave.
For more details about these caves, check out our post: 5 Mystical Oregon Caves Near Bend.
My favorite place to visit on China Hat Road is Bessie Butte. This small extinct volcano is often overlooked by tourists, so if you want a quiet getaway, this is the perfect hiking trail.
The trek to the top of Bessie Butte is approximately 2 miles round trip, meaning that it is quick and easy.
Once at the top, you’ll quickly understand why I sent you there. The views are gorgeous and vast.
Note: You might even consider bringing your camping gear and sleeping at the top of Bessie Butte. We didn’t get to do this, but I dreamed about how amazing it would be.
The majority of the land surrounding China Hat Road is public land, which makes camping simple and affordable (free!).
If you do plan on camping on China Hat Road, I recommend driving down the road past the section that is paved. There are a few iffy off-grid “communities” right off the paved road and they tend to accumulate and leave behind a lot of trash.
Further down China Hat Road, you’ll find clean and quiet dispersed camping sites.
3. Smith Rock State Park
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.. I can’t believe Smith Rock State Park isn’t a national park. It is that beautiful. Whether you’re into hiking, rock climbing, or just enjoying nature, Smith Rock State Park is the place for you.
And the best part? It’s only 45 minutes outside of Bend, making this a great place to take a day trip.
If you plan to visit Smith Rock, we suggest hiking the Misery Ridge Trail but complete it clockwise rather than counterclockwise. Not only will you experience better views, but you’ll run into fewer people.
Note: Parking at Smith Rock State Park will cost $5. To me, this is a bargain compared to what you’ll receive by exploring this state park.
4. Crater Lake National Park
Oregon’s only national park is conveniently located just an hour and a half south of Bend.
Contrary to popular belief, Crater Lake was not formed by the impact of a crater. It is actually the result of a volcano (Mount Mazama) collapsing thousands of years ago.
This caldera is considered the ninth deepest in the world and it is surrounded by some of the best hiking and cross country ski trails in Oregon.
The best hiking trails in the park are Garfield Peak Trail and Mount Scott Trail. Both of these hikes are relatively easy, but be sure to bring water and snacks to keep you fueled during the hot summer months.
But, whether you visit in the summer or the winter, you’re bound to have a fantastic time. Be sure to bring your national park pass or prepare to pay the entrance fee.
Day Trips From Bend To Deschutes National Forest
The easiest national forest to access from Bend is Deschutes, which happens to be one of the most famous plots of public land in Oregon (and one of the most popular kinds of beer, too).
Here are the best things to do in Deschutes National Forest:
5. River Raft The Deschutes
Want to get your heart racing? Try a white water rafting trip through the Deschutes River with an experienced guide.
Rafting down the Deschutes is one of the best day trips you can take from Bend, thanks to its accessibility.
On this trip, your rafting guides make sure you have fun and stay safe as they take you on one of their exciting, full-day adventures complete with deep canyons, exhilarating rapids, and even a barbecue lunch.
You can book the best guides for your day trip on the Deschutes here: River Drifters Whitewater Tours
6. Helicopter Tour
By far the best way to see the Cascade Mountain Range is from above. Soar over mountaintops at eye level with Big Mountain Heli Tours.
From the helicopter, you’ll observe miles upon miles of lush forest, snow-capped peaks, and mountain lakes before landing back on terra firma once again (possibly slightly shaken but certainly alive).
But, if you’re not keen on heights, you’ll be happy to know that Big Mountain Heli Tours presents you with an excellent bottle of wine to calm your nerves after your flight. This company has thought of everything to make their guests feel comfortable.
If you’re looking for some of the best day trips from Bend, Oregon, a helicopter tour is a must.
7. Horseback Riding
Plan the perfect day trip from Bend with a horseback riding tour. Start with an early morning at the stables, where you’ll saddle up and head out into some of Oregon’s most scenic areas.
If fly fishing is your game, then they can arrange that as well by booking it in advance at an extra cost.
The horses are well-trained and friendly, so they’re great for beginners, too. However, keep in mind that this tour is only for adults age 18 and over.
This day trip leaves from Bend and follows the Deschutes River for several miles. You’ll cover as much ground as 2.5 hours of riding allows.
The company we recommend booking with is Wilderness Horse Adventures for their excellent service and expertise.
8. Todd Lake
Within 30 minutes from Bend, Todd Lake is one of the best day trips from Bend, not only for its scenic views but for its wildlife.
It’s a well-known fact among locals that the Todd Lake area is home to some of Oregon’s most friendly birds. Once you arrive at Todd Lake, stick out your hand (if you’re brave) and you’ll get a fun surprise.
But that’s not all that Todd Lake offers. This protected forested lake provides plenty of scenic walking trails with various viewpoints providing glimpses of some of Oregon’s most iconic mountains.
And due to Todd Lake’s convenient location in the Cascade Mountain Range, you’ll be able to add other activities to your day trip itinerary, too. Sparks Lake and Devils Lake are close by, so consider stopping by after you’re done at Todd Lake.
9. South Sister
Although South Sister only sits at 10,358 feet, it is one of the most grueling hikes in Oregon and makes for one of the most epic day trips from Bend.
South Sister, located just 35 minutes from downtown Bend, is best for seasoned mountaineers who are looking to test their limits and take on a true adventure. The hike can be done all in one day or as part of an overnight trip.
We chose to camp at Moraine Lake the night before and woke early to summit South Sister for sunrise. From the top, you’ll see Tear Drop Lake, a bright, emerald-green lake that shines in the sunlight.
Be sure to bring your camera because the 360º views from the summit are breathtaking.
Pack some warm clothes and enjoy the landscape and surrounding mountain peaks like Broken Top, Mount Washington, and Diamond Peak.
If you do plan to hike South Sister, prepare yourself mentally because this mountainous trek offers complex challenges such as steep slopes, loose shale, and slippery volcanic soil.
10. Sparks Lake
A local favorite, Sparks Lake is another one of the best day trips from Bend.
This scenic lake is located in Deschutes National Forest and sits right next to Mount Bachelor and South Sister. The area around the lake is perfect for pitching a tent, so don’t forget to bring your camping gear.
You’ll also love that Sparks Lake has plenty of fishing spots and is ideal for kayaking or paddle-boarding as well.
Note: I recommend enjoying the sunrise at Sparks Lake. Not only will you get the most dramatic views at dawn, but you’ll be able to relax in silence.
11. Broken Top
If Sparks Lake doesn’t impress you, Broken Top and No Name Lake will do the trick.
Broken Top Mountain is a craggy and majestic mountain that’s home to one of the most beautiful lakes in Oregon. We’ve seen the brilliant shades of blue in nature all over the world, but No Name Lake tops them all.
The hike up is an arduous 15.2-mile climb, but you’ll be rewarded with a cool swim in the lake when you arrive. But be prepared because this might be some of the coldest water you’ve ever been swimming in. Worth it though, right?
Before you hike, pack enough water, food, and warm clothes. Even if you’re walking in summer, the weather around tall peaks like Broken Top can change in a matter of minutes.
Note: To make this a more leisurely day trip from Bend, drive up to the upper parking lot. From there, the trek is only about 3 miles roundtrip. But, you’ll need 4WD to access that parking lot.
Day Trips From Bend To Newberry Volcanic National Monument
Newberry Volcanic National Monument is a 54,000-acre area near Bend that offers adventure seekers some incredible day trips.
It’s perfect for anyone who wants to escape and explore nature, from gorgeous trails to peaceful lakes and everything in between.
Here are our favorite day trips from Bend in Newberry Volcanic National Monument:
12. Off-Roading In Lava
Adventure, natural beauty, and adrenaline-pumping thrills await you with this off-roading ATV tour.
On this tour, you’ll drive your own Polaris XP 1000 RZR through the beautiful outdoors of Central Oregon while a professional guide navigates the trail.
Be sure to bring your camera for this one because the guides at Outriders Northwest Adventures will take you to some incredible off-the-beaten-path locations.
Our favorite part of this guided tour is that you can explore Newberry Volcanic National Monument without any worry about getting lost or being unprepared.
You can book your tour with Outriders Northwest Adventures here: Off-Road Adventure
13. Paulina Peak
One of my favorite hikes in Central Oregon is Paulina Peak, located just 45 minutes south of Bend. Lace-up your hikers because this trek is sure to get your blood pumping.
Paulina Peak was formed by the eruption of the Newberry Volcano, a massive shield volcano that is still active to this day.
This peak reaches approximately 8,000 feet in elevation, but don’t let the low elevation fool you; Paulina Peak is an arduous hike that requires you to climb nearly 2,000 feet in just 3 miles.
From the top, you’ll see Paulina Lake, the surrounding peaks, and the Big Obsidian Flow (details about this adventure below!).
Roundtrip, this hike is about 6 miles, but if you aren’t big on hiking, you can always opt to drive to the top.
Note: If you choose to drive to the top, go for sunset. It is one of the best places near Bend to watch the sun go down.
14. Paulina Hot Springs
Thanks to Oregon’s volcanic activity, you’ll find hot springs all over the state. We’ve visited many of them, but Paulina Lake Hot Springs is by far my favorite.
It sits on the edge of its namesake lake with a view of Paulina Peak, making it one spectacular site for soaking.
Paulina Lake Hot Springs is located just 35-40 minutes south of Bend and it’s one of the unique day trips you can take in the area.
Park in the campground parking lot and make your way around the lake toward the shoreline that sits opposite Paulina Peak. Follow the trail and it will lead you to these pools, which you can dig deeper to accommodate more people.
For more information about Paulina Lake Hot Springs, check out our post: Visiting Paulina Hot Springs Near Bend, Oregon.
15. Big Obsidian Flow
Located at the foot of Paulina Peak, Big Obsidian Flow is a lava flow that was created 1300 years ago.
The obsidian rocks’ beauty will not only catch your eye but also offers a unique experience. From history to geology, it makes you wonder what ancient stories this place had once told.
You can enjoy the flow from the top of Paulina Peak, or you can go on a short hike and read the signs that the national forest service has set up to give visitors a better understanding of this natural wonder.
The hike is about a half-mile in total, so it’s something that the entire family can enjoy together.
Whether you’re traveling with kids, as a couple, or with older generations, they will fall in love with the Big Obsidian Flow as it’s one of the best day trips from Bend, Oregon.
Day Trips From Bend To Umpqua National Forest
Umpqua National Forest is a two-hour drive from Bend and is popular among tourists and locals alike.
Although it can be a long drive to reach Umpqua National Forest, it’s worth the haul because it is full of amazing day trips to add to your Bend itinerary.
Here are our favorite day trips from Bend in Umpqua National Forest:
16. Toketee Falls
The picturesque Toketee Falls is a great place to stop as you drive into Umpqua National Forest.
A short hike will lead you into the forest and along a gentle river. Once you reach the end of the trail, you’ll see why you stopped here in the first place. A platform perches over the trees and offers a spectacular view of Toketee Falls.
We decided to stay on the platform, but other tourists choose to jump the fence and walk down to the bottom of the canyon so they can get a better view of the falls.
Keep in mind, there are signs that warn people not to descend; this is for your safety and to protect the fragile landscape. So, ignore the signs at your own risk.
17. Umpqua Hot Springs
Umpqua Hot Springs quickly gained popularity thanks to a few Instagrammers that showcased this natural beauty, but it doesn’t make this place any less memorable.
In fact, Umpqua Hot Springs is one of the most frequented day trips from Bend, Oregon, and for good reason.
With several different pools to soak in at varying temperatures, you’ll be able to choose the hot spring that best fits your needs.
And to top it off, you’ll be looking out over the North Umpqua River. I recommend visiting in the fall because the colors are incredible and you’ll avoid the large crowds that flock here in the summer.
Note: Clothing is optional at Umpqua Hot Springs. We were unaware of this before arriving, so we were a little surprised to see others walking around the hillside in their birthday suits. So, just a heads up!
For even more hot springs adventures, check out our post, The 16 Best Hot Springs In Oregon.
18. Watson Falls
Umpqua National Forest is full of impressive waterfalls, but none are quite as spectacular as Watson Falls. This hidden gem is often overlooked compared to other adventures in the national forest.
So, with little to no crowds and a towering waterfall, what more could you want from a day trip?
Watson Falls offers a small hiking trail that can be completed by everyone in the family; at just under a mile in total, this trail is straightforward.
One particularly magical time of year to visit Watson Falls is during the fall, when the colors are spectacularly vibrant. Make sure your camera is fully charged before heading out on this adventure.
But, if a visit to Watson Falls isn’t spectacular enough to make the 2-hour drive, consider adding more adventures to your Umpqua National Forest road trip.
Day Trips From Bend To Sunriver
As the closest town to Bend, Sunriver is the perfect place to visit for fabulous day trips.
Two of our favorite activities in the area are Sunriver Brewing Company and Benham Falls. Here’s what you need to know:
19. Sunriver Brewing Company
Bend is full of exceptional breweries, but if you haven’t quite had your fill of craft beer, check out Sunriver Brewing Company in charming Sunriver, Oregon.
Sunriver is a small town just 25 minutes south of Bend. Here you’ll find just as much natural beauty as Bend offers but with a quarter of the people.
So, when Bend gets overcrowded, head down to Sunriver Brewing Company for a day trip.
At Sunriver Brewing Company, Mike preferred their hoppy IPAs and I couldn’t get enough of their Cocoa Cow, a chocolate milk stout that works as a beverage and a meal at the same time.
20. Benham Falls
A quick and easy day trip from Bend is to Benham Falls, located in Sunriver, just 25 minutes south of Bend.
Benham Falls features an easy hiking trail along the Deschutes River, so it’s the perfect place to bring the entire family. Whether you want to walk for 5 minutes or 5 miles, you can do so along this path.
Most families choose to bring a picnic lunch with them to eat at one of the many picnic benches in the area.
When you’re finished exploring Benham Falls, head on over to Sunriver for a cold brew and appetizers at their famed brewery, Sunriver Brewing Company.
Day Trips From Bend To Willamette National Forest
Sitting adjacent to Deschutes National Forest is the heavily wooded area of Willamette National Forest.
As one of my favorite places in all of Oregon, it’s hard to describe this paradise. It is the epitome of the Pacific Northwest: tall trees layered in moss, waterfalls around every corner, and a few hot springs, too.
To get a taste of this sweet national forest, add these day trips to your Bend itinerary:
21. Sahalie & Koosah Falls
What’s better than one amazing waterfall? Well, two amazing waterfalls, of course! With this day trip from Bend, you’ll get to marvel at two of the state’s best waterfalls: Sahalie and Koosah Falls.
These waterfalls are connected by a short trail leading through the dense Willamette National Forest.
This trail requires minimal effort, so there’s no need to leave the kids with a babysitter. They’ll love getting close to both Sahalie and Koosah Falls, but be sure to keep an eye on them. These waterfalls are mighty.
22. Deer Creek Hot Springs
Deer Creek Hot Springs is a hot spring nestled in the woods of McKenzie Bridge. If you’re looking for one of the most relaxing day trips from Bend, this small town and soothing pool will hit the spot.
And while I do recommend visiting these hot springs, I only recommend soaking during the summer or early fall.
When we arrived at Deer Creek Hot Springs (also called Bigelow Hot Springs) in late November, the pool was luke-warm at best. So although I didn’t have an ideal experience here, you certainly will if you go when the weather is warmer.
Check out our guide, Deer Creek Hot Springs: Central Oregon’s Hidden Gem, for all of the information you’ll need to add this day trip to your Bend, Oregon itinerary.
23. Tamolitch Blue Pool
One of our very first day trips from Bend was to Tamolitch Blue Pool. This pool is tucked back into Willamette National Forest at the end of an easy hiking trail.
While some visitors choose to appreciate the views from afar, others jump into the Blue Pool for a quick dip. But be warned, the Tamolitch Blue Pool holds some of the coldest water and it has been known to send swimmers into shock.
Note: If you plan on swimming here, never swim alone.
Personally, I recommend stopping at Tamolitch Blue Pool in the fall. This way, you’ll avoid the crowds and get to experience the fall colors in Willamette National Forest.
For even more fun adventures in this neck of the woods, check out our post: 8 Amazing Things To Do In Willamette National Forest.
Scenic Drives Near Bend Oregon
In addition to destination day trips from Bend, there are also many scenic drives in the area. These drives show off the diverse landscape of Central Oregon, from mountains to deserts to waterfalls.
To help you plan your mini road trip, here are the three best drives near Bend, Oregon:
McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway
Some of the most dramatic scenery of the Cascade Mountain Range can be seen during your drive along the McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway.
During your road trip along this route, you’ll experience a bit of everything: caves, craggy mountains, deserts, waterfalls, and more.
This route will take you from Sisters, Oregon around and through Mount Washington Wilderness, where you’ll have plenty of opportunities to stop along the way. Whatever landforms you’re looking for, you’ll be fully satisfied by the end of this drive.
McKenzie Highway From Sisters To McKenzie River Bridge
As one of the most beautiful drives in all of Oregon, it’s a shame that it’s only open from July to November. The McKenzie Highway takes you from Sisters (the small town north of Bend) to McKenzie River Bridge.
Typically, this route is covered in snow, but when it’s not, it is breathtaking.
Along the way, you’ll see Mount Washington, Mount Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Black Butte, and so many more critical natural landmarks.
Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway
Wind through Deschutes National Forest and snake past Mount Bachelor, Broken Top, and South Sister on this scenic drive. The Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway will give you a little taste of everything.
Aside from the views, there are so many places to stop at if you want to stretch your legs or eat some lunch, whether it’s Sparks Lake, Devil’s Lake, or Todd Lake.
With stops available around every turn, this is the perfect scenic drive for the entire family.
How Many Days Do You Need In Bend, Oregon?
So now that you know what to do around Bend, Oregon, you’ll need to decide how many days to spend in Central Oregon.
If you plan on spending time in Bend as well as taking a few day trips, then I highly suggest spending at least a week in the area. During your week vacation, you can plan to spend 4-5 days in Bend and pencil in 2-3 day trips.
If you can spend more time in Bend, by all means! There are thousands of amazing things to do in Central Oregon, so you’ll definitely be able to fill your schedule with activities.
Is Bend, Oregon Worth Visiting?
Bend has been growing in popularity over the last few years, which is easy to believe. With natural wilderness, great skiing, and tons of activities to do year-round, Bend is a must-see destination for any traveler.
While other tourists gawk over the Oregon coast, the real hidden gems and adventures lie within Central Oregon.
The hiking trails and natural landscape are phenomenal. Once you’ve explored the surrounding national forests, mountains, and lakes during your Bend day trips, venture into town. Downtown Bend some of the best breweries in the nation.
So overall, is Bend worth visiting? Absolutely. You won’t be disappointed.
The Wrap-Up: Day Trips From Bend
Bend, Oregon is a place for all types of adventures. Whether you want an adrenaline rush or just something relaxing, Bend has it all.
However, in recent years, Bend has become overcrowded with tourists and it’s not so easy to get off the beaten path. That’s why I recommend adding a few day trips to your Bend itinerary.
I’m confident that the list of day trips from Bend provided above will bring you and your family lots of laughs and unforgettable memories.
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