This post and trip was sponsored by Visit Bend. All opinions are my own – seriously, Bend is awesome.
If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, you might not be familiar with Bend, Oregon. A modest-size city in Central Oregon, Bend has long been a playground for those of us in the northwest.
In the winters, you can expect some of the best snow you’ll find on the west coast. The dry, desert climate leads to some of the most incredible powder on Mt. Bachelor. And in the summer, you can hike, raft, climb until your heart is content.
And, of course, there’s beer. Bend is known for having some of the best beer in the country. The clean water supply, filtered through volcanic rock layers, has led to a brewer’s paradise.
Beer has become such a part of the city’s culture that they created the Bend Ale Trail. The Visit Bend team even created a Bend Ale Trail Passport system. A fun, interactive passport system that guides people through the region’s breweries.
Even better, technically a high desert, Bend departs from the stereotypical damp, cloudy, rainy skies you find in Portland or Seattle. Instead, Bend offers around 300 days of sunshine on average, so you can take advantage of all that Bend has to offer year-round!
It’s day 1, so we’ll ease into it with some coffee, a guided tour, and of course, some good food and drink.
Any good trip needs to start with some coffee, and Bend has no shortage of great options. My top choice is Lone Pine Coffee Roasters. Located right downtown, Lone Pine serves up some of Bend’s best brews and pastries. They have a homemade almond-cashew milk blend that is a must-try.
Thump Coffee or Looney Bean are also great options; both are just a few blocks away.
A Casual Stroll
With your coffee in hand, what’s better than a riverside stroll? Drake Park is a convenient option close to downtown. Or check out the Deschutes River Trail, which is a short drive away but is more of a commitment, about a 4.5-mile walk along the river.
Remember – we’re just warming up.
Lunch might arguably be the best meal in Bend. My two favorites are El Sancho and Parilla Grill. I have a slight bias towards Parilla – I’ve been going there since I was 10 years old! Try out the Hefe’s Fish Tacos – to date, one of the best fish tacos I’ve ever had (again, mayyyybe a little biased).
Now I’m usually not much of a guided tour person myself, but I had the chance to go on the Prohibition Tour hosted by Wanderlust Tours. Katie, the guide, took us through some lava caves on the outskirt of town, where bootleggers used to store and distill some booze back during prohibition in the U.S., which was fascinating! More to come on this in a future post.
After a couple hours of scrambling on lava rocks, the tour took us to Crater Lake Spirits for a distillery tour and tasting.
Suppose the prohibition tour doesn’t sound like your thing. In that case, Wanderlust Tours has plenty of other options, from Snowshoeing to Canoe/Kayak tours, depending on the season.
Time for Beer
If you did a tour, a hike, or have just meandered throughout the town, it’s time for some beer.
Bend is synonymous with beer – the plethora of options can leave some excited and others paralyzed. Fortunately, it’s near impossible to have a bad beer on the Bend Ale Trail.
For those who want to take their beer adventure to another level, check out the Bend Ale Trail Passport. It’s a fantastic way to explore not only the breweries but also Bend itself. And hey, if you drink at enough of the breweries, there are some dope prizes you can pick up. Challenge accepted?
Hunting for Noods
You know what sounds pretty damn good after a couple of beers? Spicy noodles. And there’s no better place to get some in Bend than at Spork. This small restaurant serves up a fusion of Latin American and Asian flavors. Try the Spicy Pork Noodles or the Dan Dan Noodles, two of my personal favorites.
Spork has fantastic cocktails, too – the Thai Collins pairs incredibly well with the Spicy Pork Noodles.
Another good option is Wild Rose Northern Thai Eats in downtown Bend. One of the more popular joints in Bend, it can get pretty packed, so be warned.
Choose Your Own Adventure
The goal is to be up for a morning hike tomorrow, so the responsible thing would be to call it a night here… but I’d forgive you for checking out one or two more stops on the Bend Ale Trail – and if you need a beer break, they have some drinkable diversions that may be of interest.
Today we conquer mountains…or rocks. Whatever you’re into.
Pre-Hike Breakfast Sando
It’s only natural to carb-load before a hike, right? On your way out of town, head to Sparrow Bakery for breakfast. Try the Bacon Breakfast Sando – I’d argue one of the best breakfast sandwiches I’ve had, at least in quite some time.
Maybe grab a pastry and shove it in your backpack for later.
Hike at Smith Rock
Bend is full of outdoor adventures, but chief among them just might be Smith Rock.
Born from a 30 million old caldera, Smith Rock is one of the most iconic views in Oregon. Widely credited to be the birthplace of modern rock climbing, people from around the world come to Smith Rock to climb and hike in the area.
Try out the Misery Ridge and Summit Trail Loop. Don’t be too alarmed by the name – this trail isn’t that tough, and the views are rewarding. Don’t forget to bring a beer to enjoy at the top.
If Smith Rock isn’t your speed, there are so many trails in Bend and the surrounding area. Check out:
From One Trail to Another
Is there something you crave more after hiking than a cold beer? Nope, didn’t think so. So it’s time to get back on the Bend Ale Trail.
If you haven’t made it to Crux Fermentation Project yet, I’d recommend them for a nice place to post up. Their location has beautiful views of the mountains surrounding Bend – especially beautiful during sunset. And if you go around sunset, Crux also has a “sundown hour” where they serve $1 off beers for the first hour after sunset.
Or choose a spot you haven’t been to yet or one you need. There are a string of breweries on Galveston Ave, on the west side of Bend, that make an easy place to pub crawl around for a bit.
After a long day of hiking and exploring, it’s time to indulge yourself with a big meal. BOSA Food & Drink is an option for Italian food and tasty cocktails. Their food is served family-style, which is particularly convenient for larger groups so you can sample a little bit of everything.
If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, 900 Wall in downtown Bend won’t let you down either.
A Nightcap is in Order
You worked hard today, so why not treat yourself. Downtown Bend has a few phenomenal cocktail joints perfect to cap off the night.
My personal favorite is San Simón. This unassuming spot can be found in a small alleyway next to an indie movie theater. Their cocktail program is probably the best I’ve seen in Bend, with small plates available for those who participate in the second dinner tradition (who doesn’t?).
Occasionally they’ll collaborate with the theater, projecting a movie on a screen in the alley with seats and firepits outside.
There are other fantastic cocktail areas in the area, including Dogwood Cocktail Cabin or Velvet Lounge. There’s even a speakeasy, but you’ll have to read my other post for some clues on how to find it.
Since today is all about recovering, there’s nothing better than a brunch. Check out McKay Cottage or Jackson’s Corner, both fantastic options with great food and a Bloody Mary that’ll give you a little jumpstart.
Brunch can be a little crowded in Bend, especially if you’re coming on a Sunday. Fortunately, McKay Cottage takes drink orders while you’re waiting for a table.
Or you can always go back to Sparrow Bakery for another breakfast sandwich…
Where to stay
The McMenamins is a historic hotel in downtown bend, located in an old 1930s Catholic schoolhouse. It’s a gigantic property that takes up about an entire city block, with “classrooms-turned-lodging rooms, a pub, brewery, a movie theater, private meeting/event space, live music bookings, and a fantastic soaking pool” – a little something for everyone.
LOGE Camps is on the other end of the spectrum. An interesting concept with a few locations around the country, LOGE combines hostels, hotels, and campgrounds all in one area. So if you’re looking for a crash pad that you can call home for 8 hours between epic Bend adventures, this is a great option.