Nature and Brews Abound in Bend

The onetime flourishing Oregon mill town has reinvented itself as an outdoorsy paradise where snow, breweries, and athletes are aplenty.


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Photo by DC_Colombia/iStock

Fresh powder cloaks Douglas firs and mountain hemlocks, pointing their branches toward a forest floor buried under a foot of snow. Wandering between the trees, a snowshoer leaves tracks on a secluded trail leading to a primitive shelter heated by a wood-burning stove. Remote as it sounds, this trail is just a short drive away from a thriving central Oregon adventure hub, home to 90,000.

Once a flourishing mill town, Bend has reinvented itself. Outdoorsy types and athletes relish its easy access to the Cascade Range, seemingly endless hiking and mountain-biking trails, glistening streams, alpine lakes, abundant summer sunshine, and bountiful winter snowfall. Fueling many of their adventures are some 20 breweries, including craft-beer pioneer Deschutes Brewery.

United Airlines flies nonstop from San Francisco International Airport to nearby Redmond Municipal Airport. Or punctuate the eight-hour Oakland-to-Bend drive with a stop at Crater Lake National Park.

Offering skiers and snowboarders a hundred steep and winding runs 22 miles from Bend, Mount Bachelor is North America’s sixth largest ski resort. Given the region’s average nearly-500-inch annual snowfall, powder skiing is routine, and cloudless “bluebird days” reveal scenic views of the Three Sisters: a series of towering, jagged, volcanic peaks.

Mount Bachelor itself rises 9,000 feet above national forest land, where rangers lead snowshoe tours on weekends and most holidays. These free tours — snowshoes are provided — are a safe introduction to snowshoeing and a primer on alpine plants and wildlife. More experienced snowshoers and cross-country skiers seek out solo expeditions from Bachelor’s Nordic center and the many snow play areas along the Cascade Lakes Highway. Snowshoe rentals, snow-park permits, and maps are available at most ski shops in Bend.

Typically dry but equally sublime hikes abound. At Smith Rock State Park, glorious views await those brave enough to trek the 4-mile Misery Ridge Trail. At Newberry National Volcanic Monument, the short Trail of the Molten Land meanders through a lava field posted with signs explaining the local geography. For a subterranean experience, hike and crawl through a half-mile lava tube at Boyd Cave: Just remember to bring a flashlight and extra batteries.

No trip to Bend is complete without exploring the beer scene. Deschutes’ downtown public house is a natural first stop. Founded in 1988, the brewery opened a sprawling production facility across town, but continues to brew pub-only offerings like the refreshing Bachelor Bitter at its original location, alongside hearty burgers, fish and chips, pizza, and more.

Three former Deschutes brewers ventured out on their own to establish more superb breweries: Boneyard Beer’s piney RPM IPA is ubiquitous in local bars and restaurants; Crux Fermentation Project offers a broad range of brews and bites at its pub; and The Ale Apothecary crafts small-batch sour and funky ales made with mostly Oregon-only ingredients. GoodLife Brewing Co., 10 Barrel Brewing Co., and Sunriver Brewing Co. are also worth investigating. If you plan to drink at 10 or more breweries, collect stamps along the Bend Ale Trail (brochures are available at most breweries) to claim a prize at the visitor center.

For a first-rate meal, Spork serves scrumptious Asian fusion and Mexican-inspired dishes such as West African peanut curry and chilaquiles. Long lines are typical, but Spork also serves takeout. For breakfast, indulge in a cardamom-infused ocean roll at one of The Sparrow Bakery’s two locations, or find it at coffee shops throughout town.

The eclectic Old St. Francis School Hotel includes a brewery and a soaking pool with an open ceiling, both of which remind guests that, in Bend, nature and beer are never beyond reach.

If You Go

Mount Bachelor: 13000 S.W. Century Drive, 541-382-1709, MtBachelor.com.

Deschutes Brewery Public House: 1044 NW Bond St., 541-382-9242, DeschutesBrewery.com/pubs/bend.

Spork: 937 N.W. Newport Ave., 541-390-0946, SporkBend.com.

The Sparrow Bakery: 50 S.E. Scott St., 541-330-6321, TheSparrowBakery.net.

Old St. Francis School Hotel: 700 N.W. Bond St., 541-382-5174, McMenamins.com/old-st-francis-school.

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