After spending a year in Bend, we’ve collected a list of the best adventures for summer in Central Oregon.
Summers in Bend, Oregon are magical: hiking trails are plentiful, beers are cold, and the sun is always shining on those majestic peaks.
19 Adventures For Summer In Bend Oregon
If you’re planning a trip to Bend, Oregon this summer, here are a few places to add to your bucket list.
1. Summit South Sister
Any avid hikers out there? This one is for you.
Before our summit attempt on South Sister, I laughed at the rumors about her ultra-difficult trails and quick elevation gain. I mean, I lived in Colorado for years and summited 14ers like it was nobody’s business. Summiting a 10,000-foot mountain would be a cakewalk.
Let’s just say I was wrong. South Sister is a doozy but the views from the top are so worth it. The trail is 11.2 miles roundtrip with almost 5,000 feet elevation gain.
Completing the hike in one day is absolutely possible, however, we opted to stay in the campground above Moraine Lake on our way up. By doing this, we were able to leave camp by 3am and summit for sunrise; an absolutely phenomenal sight.
As with any hike, bring lots of water, food, and warm clothes. It was very cold at the top with snow still present on her peak. A warm hat came in handy while watching the sunrise.
Pro-tip: A few years ago my parents bought us LifeStraws for Christmas. I never realized how great these little gadgets were until hiking South Sister.
Since we camped overnight, we needed water to last us both days. We were able to use our LifeStraws to drink directly from Moraine Lake without getting sick. This saved us from carrying LOADS of water up the mountain.
2. Trek Up Paulina Peak
Paulina Peak is one of my favorite adventures in all of Central Oregon. This trail is 6.1 miles roundtrip and the views are to die for.
Located on the Newberry Caldera rim near Sunriver, Paulina Peak offers incredible views of Paulina Lake thousands of feet below. In the winter, we visited Paulina Lake to soak in the hot springs.
Walking beside the lake, the water gave off a rich blue hue. Seeing it from above on Paulina Peak was everything I thought it would be and more.
Not only does this hike offer awesome views of the lakes below, but it also shows off the Big Obsidian Flow to the east. The Big Obsidian Flow is a sight to see; a massive lava flow from the Newberry Volcano, which erupted 1,300 years ago.
Note: It is possible to drive to the top of Paulina Peak. Because of this, there are frequent tourists that congregate at her peak. However, I always recommend hiking up.
There are so many things along the trail that you cannot see if you choose to drive. Spend an afternoon climbing your way to the peak and you won’t be disappointed.
3. Dive Into No Name Lake On Broken Top
Possibly the most beautiful scenery in all of Bend, Oregon: Broken Top. Broken Top is a stratovolcano located near South Sister and Mount Bachelor, several miles outside of Bend. If you’re looking for a summer of fun in Bend, Oregon, this one MUST be on your list.
Hiking this trail will bring you out and back for 15.2 miles, however, there is an easier way to access the lake and these incredible views if you aren’t up for a full-day hike.
If you’re driving a high clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle, it is possible to drive up and cut the hike down to approximately 3 miles roundtrip.
Whichever route you choose, it will be worth it. The picture speaks for itself.
We didn’t find this hike to be very difficult (as opposed to South Sister), but it got our blood pumping for the majority of the day.
If, by the time you reach No Name Lake, your blood isn’t pumping as much as you’d like it to be, take a dip in her icy waters. That should do the trick!
4. Picnic At Devil’s Lake
No climbing involved for this one! Devil’s Lake can be found at the foot of Mount Bachelor in the Cascade Range just outside of Bend. With Sparks Lake just down the road, this gem is often overlooked.
Devil’s Lake is great for kayaking, paddle-boarding, and canoeing. They also have a great picnic area.
Spend the afternoon at Devil’s Lake before heading to camp on South Sister for the night. South Sister and Devil’s Lake share a trailhead, which makes it easy to transition from one activity to another.
5. Hike Misery Ridge In Smith Rock State Park
If it were up to me, Smith Rock would be a national park rather than a state park.
I mean, c’mon.. look at those rock formations!
Smith Rock is not to be missed when visiting Central Oregon. This state park is located just 35 minutes from downtown Bend and can be accessed year-round.
Our favorite hike at Smith Rock is called Misery Ridge. If that sounds intimidating, don’t be. While there is great elevation change, the trail is relatively short (about 4 miles roundtrip).
A few tips: We highly recommend doing the Misery Ridge trail in reverse. We enjoyed our hike much more doing it this way.
Smith Rock can get very busy with hikers and climbers. To avoid the crowds, I suggest going early in the morning or after 2pm. Also, note that weekdays are always quieter than the weekend.
6. Go Brewery Hopping
You’ve done a lot of outdoor activities and you’re probably thirsty by now. Luckily, Bend, Oregon has the highest brewery per capita in the United States.
Bend is home to 22 micro-breweries serving some of the best craft beer we’ve ever tasted. If you decide to make a trip to Central Oregon, it won’t be complete until you visit one of the many breweries.
Our favorite breweries in Bend include Sunriver Brewing, Bend Brewing, and GoodLife Brewing.
Cycle For Beer
And if you really want to see Bend while enjoying all of the craft beer options, consider joining a cycling pub tour.
As you and your team ride down the streets of downtown Bend, sip on an ice cold IPA or a light lager.
You can book your Bend Cycle Pub tour by visiting this website: Cycle Pub.
7. Get Panoramic Views On Bessie Butte
If you’re looking to get away from the crowds entirely, check out China Hat Road. China Hat Road is home to many awesome hikes and lava tube caves. Our favorite hike in this area is Bessie Butte.
Bessie Butte is a short 1.5 mile hike that leads you to an awesome overlook of Bend and the Cascade Mountains. This trail is appropriate for all fitness levels and you’re sure to be the only one at the top.
8. Float The Deschutes River
Escape the summer heat in Bend, Oregon a dip in the Deschutes. Join the hundreds of other tubers and float your way down to one of Bend’s famed breweries.
Start your journey at Riverbend Park and end at Drake Park; a two-hour river ride!
9. Pilot Butte For Sunset
One of the best things about Pilot Butte is you can spot it from anywhere. It is smack dab in the middle of downtown Bend. It’s the only major hill within city limits so if you’re struggling to find it.. just look up!
We chose to climb Pilot Butte for sunset one evening and we weren’t disappointed.
While there were many people congregated at the very top, we made our way down one side of the hill to a secluded area. We were able to enjoy the sunset alone and Mike serenaded the city to sleep.
Pilot Butte is a short hike; a little less than two miles roundtrip. It gains elevation quickly but can be conquered by people of all fitness types given the right amount of time.
10. Visit Benham Falls
Benham Falls, located between Bend and Sunriver, is a great way to get out and enjoy nature with your family.
This short and easy hike is suitable for all fitness levels. The gushing water of the Deschutes River runs along the length of the trail.
It is also possible to hike to Benham Falls from Sunriver, making the trek significantly longer. Whichever way you choose, pack a lunch and spend the day strolling along the river with family and friends.
11. Explore Sisters, Oregon
If you’re a fan of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to explore Sisters in Central Oregon. Sisters is a small town about 20 minutes north of Bend and it’s brimming with charm.
The scenic mountains in the background, small coffee shops, boutiques, and saloons make this the best small town in Central Oregon. Sisters also boasts several great hikes including Black Crater Trail and Black Butte.
12. Go River Rafting
Choose between the Deschutes, Mckenzie, or Umpqua Rivers for a thrilling white water rafting adventure. This will surely be the highlight of your summer trip to Bend, Oregon.
If you’re traveling as a family, river rafting is perfect for kids, too.
There are easier and more difficult day trips you can sign up for, so take this into consideration before planning your excursion.
Ouzel Outfitters is a fantastic company whether you’re a beginner or more advanced. You can book their tours here: Ouzel Outfitters.
13. Waterfall Hopping
Oregon has it all: volcanos, hot springs, lakes, mountains, caves, beaches, you name it!
But one of our favorite things to do in Oregon is waterfall hopping. With hundreds of different waterfalls to explore, you’ll never run out of places to go.
Luckily, Bend is close to many waterfalls making it the perfect summer activity.
Check out our post 7 Amazing Central Oregon Waterfalls To Explore to find the best and closest waterfalls to Bend.
14. Explore Central Oregon’s Many Caves
As mentioned above, Oregon is crawling with caves. Why you might ask?
Thanks to its history of volcanic activity, caves were formed in the area by flowing lava underground. These are called lava tubes.
You can safely explore tons of lava tube caves in and around Bend; some just 10 minutes from downtown. This is the perfect summer activity.
Read our post 5 Mystical Oregon Caves Near Bend to locate these hidden treasures.
15. Walk Downtown Bend
During our time living in Bend, I always felt that this city of nearly 100,000 people felt more like a small town than a growing city.
As you walk down the streets of downtown Bend in the summer, you’ll feel right at home with all of the cute cafes, hole-in-the-wall bars, and breweries (of course, breweries!).
If you’re anything like me, you’ll love the lively-but-small-town vibes you get from this community.
16. Mountain Bike On Bend’s Beautiful Trails
The PNW is well-known for adventurous activities specifically mountain biking. And in Bend, it’s no different.
You’ll find tons of biking trails to ride whether you’re a beginner or an advanced cyclist.
You can find all of Bend’s exciting mountain biking trails here: Bend Trails.
17. Rock Climbing At Smith Rock
We mentioned Smith Rock in number 5 on our list because let’s face it, Smith Rock State Park is AMAZING.
And hiking isn’t the only summer activity you can do while visiting this state park. Bring your climbing gear because you’ll love the endless amount of routes here.
18. Camp Under The Stars
Camping anywhere is fun, but camping in Oregon is even better.
Whether you’re camping on the peak of a mountain, next to one of the many rushing rivers, or in the middle of a desert, you can find it all in central Oregon.
Some of the best campgrounds are located just minutes from Bend, which makes a summer camping trip that much easier.
Our favorite campgrounds close to Bend include:
– Moraine Lake (Dispersed camping)
– Paulina Lake ($18 per night)
– Lava Lake ($19 per night)
19. Soak In Central Oregon Hot Springs
Did you know that natural hot springs are everywhere in Oregon? It’s true!
Everyone knows soaking in hot springs in the winter is relaxing, but soaking on a hot summer night is even better.
Luckily, you won’t have to go far to find some quality hot springs. Check out our post The 16 Best Hot Springs In Oregon to start planning your trip.
Summer Adventures In Bend On A Budget
I get it… Sticking to a budget while vacationing is important and Bend can be an expensive place to visit.
Luckily, we spent most of our time in Oregon searching for things to do for free. Here are a few of our favorite free things to do in Bend this summer:
✔ Hiking – Paulina Peak, South Sister, Broken Top, Misery Ridge, and Tumalo Falls are a few of our favorites.
✔ Hot Springs – The majority of natural hot springs in Central Oregon are free to visit. Some require a small admission fee of $5.
✔ Camping – In the land of adventure, there are tons of free and dispersed campgrounds.
✔ Waterfalls – We strongly suggest visiting as many waterfalls as you can fit into your itinerary. You won’t regret it.
✔ Caves – Bring your head lamp for these epic adventures!
How Many Days Do You Need In Bend, Oregon This Summer?
With so many fun summer activities, we strongly suggest spending at least 5 days in Bend, Oregon.
This will give you ample time to complete epic hikes, float the river, soak in hot springs, explore caves, go camping, and find the best waterfalls.
While you can enjoy Bend for just a day or two, you’ll be very limited on time and you’ll miss out on some fo the best adventures.
What Is The Weather Like In Bend During The Summer?
Bend, Oregon is a high desert, meaning that draughts and high temperatures are very common during summer months.
You likely won’t have to worry about being rained out during your vacation, but be aware that this area is susceptible to wildfires.
This is especially important to know if you plan on going camping. Before you build a fire, be sure to call 1-800-523-4737 to check burning regulations.
Is Bend, Oregon Expensive?
Let’s just say that Bend, Oregon is one of the most expensive places to live in the USA. The housing market is very pricey in comparison to other cities around this size.
With that said, it is possible to visit Central Oregon (and Bend in particular) without breaking the bank.
In order to save during your summer trip to Bend, we strongly suggest camping, cooking for yourself, and going on free adventures around the area.
The Wrap-Up: Adventures For Summer In Bend Oregon
Oregon is still a hidden gem among the 50 states, however, its popularity is quickly rising. If you’ve added Bend, Oregon to your summer bucket list, be sure to check out these 19 epic adventures to make this a trip of a lifetime.
Want To Be A Travel Blogger?
Did you know travel blogging can be profitable?
We show you exactly how we were able to take our small hobby blog and transform it into a 6-figure business in 16 months in our free guide below.
Enter your name and email address and your guide will be sent to your inbox!
Like it? Pin it for later!