When we first found out we would be living in Oregon for 13 weeks, Matt and I started making a list of places we wanted to visit while we were there. Being a family of outdoor enthusiasts, Bend was obviously at the top of that list. There is just a plethora of outdoor exploring opportunities in, and all around, Bend. Most of which are very family friendly and enjoyable for all ages! We spent just 4 short, fun filled days exploring a completely different Oregon than we have been used to seeing. The Oregon high desert did not disappoint!
- Smith Rock State Park, just about an hour outside of Bend, was the first stop on our weekend trip! If you have ever wanted to hike The Grand Canyon without having to spend mega bucks on a tour or the thought of you somehow getting down into the canyon has your stomach in knots (guilty) then THIS is the place for you! Parking is $5, no other entry fee. There is an information yurt (YES a yurt!), clean restrooms, and picnic tables overlooking the canyon. There are several hikes within the park, from easy to difficult. The trails are well maintained and you are almost always likely to catch some adrenaline junkies (aka rock climbers) scaling the canyon walls! This is definitely an all ages/all skill level hiking area! Watch for wildlife of all sorts! My son and I stumbled WAY too close to a rattlesnake! None of us were bitten, but it is wise to remember that you are in their territory, so just be aware.
- Benham Falls is located in the Deschutes National Forest and is a wonderful, family and pet friendly hike! The trails here are wide and the soil is compact, with the exception of a few rocks and roots. We saw plenty of people with kids in strollers and on bikes, but I’m not sure that I would recommend wheel chairs. The trailhead parking lot is just a short drive from the entrance to the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, where you pay $5 for an all day parking pass (they also accept these recreational passes) Once to the parking lot the trail head is clearly marked and takes you on a winding walk to the falls. There are plenty of smaller trails that lead down to the waters edge and rocky outcroppings that make for the most beautiful photo ops! Once you get to the falls, there is a large map with additional trail options, restrooms, another parking lot and a picnic table or two.
Our kids LOVE these hiking shoes!
- Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Lava Butte and Lava Lands was one of our favorite hikes! Our first stop was the Lava Lands Visitor Center where we talked to the nicest volunteer park rangers and toured the small (but super informative and fun!) museum. From there we drove the winding road up to the top of Lava Butte. The parking lot at the top of the butte only holds about 10 cars, so you have to obtain a pass for a specified time slot at the parking kiosk. The pass is free, once you have paid the $5 for your parking day pass. The views from the top of the butte are out of this world. From the top you look across the vast, rocky lava lands to the snow peaks of Bachelor Mountain and the Sisters Mountain range. You can also peak over the railing into the center of the butte, which is kind of like a mini volcano. For the brave of heart, there is a rim trail that will take you around the edge of the butte. From what my husband says (because I did NOT go on that trail) the trail is wide…from what I saw it is a rocky path with no railing. So venture at your own risk! Make sure to climb the steep stair case up to the watch tower that sits above the parking lot for stunning panoramic views and rangers who are ready to answer every question and even snap a few pics for you! This is family friendly, but I definitely recommend keeping a close eye on little ones or those who like to wander. The visitors center opens in May. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, you must take a shuttle to the top of the butte, as that is their peak season. The shuttle is $2 per person.
- The Trail Of The Molten Land was SO COOL! You literally walk through fields of lava rock! The trail is paved, but there are a few steep inclines. We saw families of all ages, including grandparents with canes, navigating their way through the trail. You don’t really get the panoramic views, because you are walking down in the lava, but every now and then you will spot a determined tree growing through the rocks or the most adorable ground squirrels scurrying through. My kids just super loved touching the ancient rocks! This was perfect for my 5th grader who just finished studying the rocks and minerals section in his science lesson! #HomeSchool!
- Biking along the Deshutes River was a highlight of our trip! After 2 long days of hiking, it was nice to just cruise along the M-I-L-E-S of winding paved paths through the up and coming Sunriver Village. We rented bikes (and a “chariot” for our daughter) from 4 Seasons Recreational Outfitters. The bike shop is centrally located right in the village. No need to worry about a bike rack or transporting your equipment to a trail head! You simply park in the nearby parking lot and the trail starts right from the bike shop! So convenient. They have plenty of styles of bikes to choose from and even provide free helmets for the kiddos! We grabbed a map and off we went! I highly recommend 4 Seasons. They were helpful and affordable…we paid around $40 total for about 2.5 hours of biking!
- The Sunriver Nature Center and Oregon Observatory were two wonderful surprises that we came upon on our biking trip! They have bike racks out front, so you can park and explore. There is a small fee that gets you into both the nature center and observatory. The nature center is home to various amphibians found locally, a room dedicated to meteorites and space, and some beautiful birds of prey, including our favorite, the golden eagle! The observatory has several large telescopes set up for special viewings. While we were there, we got to safely look at the sun, but they also hold special night time viewings on select days, so be sure to check the schedule before planning your visit! You can also driver here, but for us it was a nice break in the middle of bike riding, and they had clean bathrooms for potty brakes.
- Kayaking is a favorite activity for our family! So naturally, that was a priority on this trip! Luckily for us, our Airbnb host (more on that fabulous experience farther down!) also runs a kayak, paddle board and tubing company from her home! We took 3 hours to just slowly paddle our way through the icy waters of the Deschutes River, surrounded by wooded lots with views of Bachelor Mountain peaking through. There are a few residential homes along the way, but they were beautifully kept log cabins, some with families and pets playing all around, and some with older couples on porch swings that would wave and comment about how nice the weather was…..it was just so peaceful. You can contact Christi here for more info!
- On our way out of Bend, we stopped by the High Desert Museum. This was a favorite for all of us! With exhibits like the Desertarium, Spirit of the West, a section on Native Americans, Porcupines, Otters, Birds of Prey, and more, there was something for everyone! We spent around 3 hours wandering through the halls and even managed to catch a show featuring a Red Tailed Hawk, where the trainer talked about conservation and answered all of the kid’s questions!
Other Things We Loved!
- With our main focus for this trip being more on exploring outdoors, we dind’t want a hotel in downtown Bend. We found the most amazing Airbnb that was located away from the hustle and bustle of Bend and right on the Deschutes River! Christi and Bob were the most gracious hosts. We had an entire 1300 sq. ft. upstairs to ourselves. Two full bedrooms, a small sitting area with a sectional sofa, and a larger “common room” area with a hide-a-bed sofa, large sectional, small cafe table and a well equipped kitchenette. When we first arrived, Christi had the most amazing homemade banana bread waiting for us! She also stocked the kitchenette with all sorts of breakfast and snack items, coffees, teas and more. The entire space was beautifully decorated in the most tasteful western ranch theme. In the mornings we were greeted by her sweet cats who would come upstairs to say hello and at night, the kids enjoyed the hot tub while we sat around the fire pit and shared a bottle of wine. Christi gave us suggestions on places to eat and things to do! We can’t wait to visit Christi and Bob again! Be sure to use my link for $40 off your first stay and mention McGinns On The Move!
- In Sunriver Village there are several restaurants, but our favorite was Sunriver Brewing Co. They had great food, great beer, not too pricey, outdoor seating and for those of you with little ones, you can ask for seating next to the CLEAN play area where they have toys, a play kitchen, books and puzzles. I even saw that they serve drinks to toddlers in restaurant supplied sippy cups! GENIOUS
Bend is a year round outdoor lovers paradise. You have the option to hike, bike, kayak, ski, eat, explore, shop and relax in the most beautiful section of Orgeon’s high desert!