We spent Thanksgiving in Bend, in Oregon. It was cold, hovering a few degrees above freezing but thankfully with no rain. We wanted to get as much outdoors time as possible (whilst still getting plenty of family-snuggling-in-bed time) so we hiked every day. We stayed local because one of the best things we’ve discovered about Bend is that beauty is really easy to find.
All of the hikes below are very family friendly and also very dog-friendly. Every Bend resident we saw had a dog (barely exaggerating) so I spent a lot of time deciding what dog I’d have if we moved to Bend!* So bring your child and bring your dog.
Deschutes River Trail
This 4.5 mile loop starts at the Flag Bridge in the Old Mill district (plenty of parking, bathrooms, restaurants, cafés, shops etc). We headed south past some nice houses to Farewell Bend Park, where the Dude enjoyed the playground and the little climbing wall. Just south of Reed Market Bridge, the path changes from tarmac to actual trail and it gets very beautiful – hard to believe you’re still basically in downtown Bend. There’s a little boardwalk over water, there are little waterfalls to enjoy, trees to hike through, it’s lovely. After about a mile and a half, you cross the little wooden bridge and head back north towards Bend. Keep walking north until you see the Flag Bridge, and then you’re back for lunch!
This is a really easy little hike – it’s flat, it’s accessible all year round, it’s popular with locals so there are always people around. There are bathrooms at Farewell Bend Park and Riverbend Park.
Pilot Butte is a cinder cone just outside downtown Bend. We hiked it on Thanksgiving to make a bit of space for our dinner. There’s plenty of parking at the bottom, with bathrooms and a playground and water fountains (which were all turned off for winter). There are a few trails up the butte and the distance up and down is one mile each way (thus 2 miles round-trip). We took Nature Trail up and it was lovely – a fairly steep but very do-able climb up through juniper trees. It winds round the butte and protects you from the wind. We took a short-cut at one point and ended up hiking the path next to the little road, so we’d recommend sticking to the trail which is much prettier! At the top, the views are amazing across the high desert, you can see the Cascades mountains in the distance. Well, you could if it was a bit brighter and clearer than the day we came. All in all though, this is a lovely little leg-stretch!
Our last walk was in Shevlin Park, a few miles out of downtown Bend. My book told me that these trails are accessible even when most of the other local hikes are under snow, so this is good year round hiking. There are bathrooms at the start of the trail. We followed the Shevlin Loop Trail for the first 2.5 miles – it’s very well sign-posted and follows the ridge along one side of the canyon. After crossing the little bridge at the end of the trail, we took Tumalo Creek Trail back, which was really lovely – we liked it more. Lots of trees, lots of gurgling stream views and a lovely covered bridge. Plenty of hikers and trail-runners throughout the park. We finished with some scrambling around, finding geocaches. Roughly 5 miles out-and-back and very pretty.
We’d heard a lot about Tumalo Falls so our original plan for Day 3 was to hike there, but only a few miles out of Bend we basically hit Narnia. The road out to the falls was still open (if a little snowy) and there were plenty of people at the trailhead admiring the views of the falls. However we weren’t equipped for snow-hiking so we chose to come back out the wardrobe!
So there you are – three lovely easy family and dog-friendly hikes pretty much within downtown Bend.
(If you haven’t hiked Smith Rock State Park, which we did in the summer, we would definitely recommend hiking there as your first priority!).
- Springer spaniel for definites!