Bend, Oregon: A Beer and Food Town for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Bend, Oregon, on the eastern slopes of the Central Oregon Cascade mountain range, is home to a current estimate of more than 99,000 residents. A large percentage of those who move to Bend come for the year-round outdoor activities as well as the thriving beer and food scene. Professional triathletes like Linsey Corbin, Heather Jackson, Jesse Thomas, world class runners such as Max King and Mario Mendoza, and top cyclists and gravel riders Chris Horner, Matt Lieto and Carl Decker all live or train in Bend because of its attractive climate, natural beauty, abundant network of trails, and miles of open tarmac and gravel.

Whether a novice or professional, there are events for everyone in Bend. Starting in January, snow-sport enthusiasts can hit the slopes at and around Mt. Bachelor for snowboarding and alpine competitions, or snowshoe and nordic ski races. Only 20 minutes from town, Mt. Bachelor and the surrounding Deschutes National Forest and Three Sisters Wilderness offer year-round adventures for hikers, mountain bikers, skiers, snowshoers and backcountry skiers.

Bend plays host to a plethora of festivals and events throughout the year. The First Friday Art Walk takes place year-round in Downtown Bend. Each February, the Old Mill District hosts Oregon WinterFest, which features events ranging from ice sculpture carving to competitive snow sports. Open air markets pop up in several neighborhoods during the summer, and an impressive number of outdoor activities from trail runs, mountain bike races, gravel rides and rock climbing events fill out the months from Memorial Day through October.

Since 1976, the Pole Pedal Paddle has been a fixture in spring. The quintessential Bend event occurs May 18, 2024, and epitomizes what the area has to offer. Participants (teams, pairs, individuals) start at Mt. Bachelor and race down a slalom course on soft, spring snow followed by a quick transition to Nordic skis for an 8K course on the Mt. Bachelor trails. After the Nordic leg, participants hop onto bikes and pedal downhill 23 miles from Bachelor to Riverbend Park on the Deschutes River. Finally, a five-mile run along the river, followed by a paddle (stand-up, kayak, canoe) with and against the current on the river as it winds through the Old Mill, and a .25-mile sprint to the finish line in the Les Schwab Amphitheatre makes the beer from local breweries all the more refreshing at the end.

Trail running is immensely popular and the Horse Butte 10-Miler in April, the Footzone Dirty Half in June, the Haulin’ Aspen Trail Run in August and Three Sisters Skyline in September are some favorite races off the pavement and through the woods.

The third weekend of June, Sunriver hosts the Pacific Crest Endurance Sports Festival, put on by Why Racing Events. The event showcases a large number of racing options for multisport athletes, cyclists and runners. The three-day event includes their branded BEASTMAN 70.3 triathlon, as well as Olympic and Ultra-Sprint distance triathlon, duathlon and aquabike options. Runners can choose from a road marathon, half marathon, 5K and 10K. The weekend also includes the Tour de Crest Bike Tours and Kid’s Splash Pedal-n-Dash.

The Cascade Lakes Relay, happening the last weekend in July, has been a summer staple since its inception in 2008. Oregon’s most challenging and fun overnight relay starts in the Cascade Mountains, travels through the Oregon Outback to Silver Lake and winds back to the Cascade Lakes Highway around Mt. Bachelor to finish on the banks of the Deschutes River in Bend. The course takes teams of runners across 216 beautiful miles before finishing in Bend for a post-race party.

“The combination of a diverse and challenging course, tasty craft beers to sample at the finish, and an opportunity to float the Deschutes River with your team after the race and spend a premier summer weekend in Central Oregon is proving that Cascade Lakes Relay is the best relay race in the Pacific Northwest,” said Co-Founder Scott Douglass.

For a little more thrill and adventure, visitors to Bend and locals take advantage of the thousands of mountain biking trails in the area as well. Earnestly maintained, modified and expanded by the Central Oregon Trail Alliance (COTA), the Bend trail systems get heavy usage by trail runners and mountain bikers once the snow melts. Phil’s trailhead is a popular starting point, but there are plenty of opportunities further up towards the mountain, or across Cascade Lakes highway near the Deschutes River.

After a long day of skiing, biking, running, paddling, fishing, climbing, hiking or doing any other activities the area has to offer, the multitude of local breweries and restaurants provide tasty fuel for the next day. At last count there were upwards of eight food truck venues within a 20-mile radius offering no fewer than 40 delicious and affordable meal options. On the west side try The Lot, one of the first venues in town, and the newly renovated Podski across from the Box Factory. On the east side of town, On Tap by the Bend Memorial Clinic offers everything from tacos and BBQ to pizza and traditional Himalayan fare.

For indoor dining Bend has several staples that have stood the test of time. In the heart of downtown you’ll find Zydeco, Jackalope Grill and the long-standing local favorite, Pine Tavern. A trip to Bend wouldn’t be complete without trying Spork on the west side, and if the line is out the door, hop up the road to Parrilla for Burrito options.

For those of you who aren’t intermittent fasting and still indulge in the early first meal of the day, The Victorian Café, Jackson’s Corner and McKay Cottage are where weekenders line up for Bloody Marys, eggs Benedict, McKay Cottage Potatoes and avocado toast. If you want to grab something simple before heading up the mountain, Strictly Organic by the Box Factory crushes the breakfast burrito. Try Whole Foods or Market of Choice for their buffets.

It would be unthinkable not to mention Beer when writing of Bend. While it probably deserves its own article as it seems there are more places to grab a pint in Bend than there are trees in the forest, I’ll add a few sentences describing a handful of beer establishments to explore. Aside from the tourist must-see Deschutes Brewery, 10 Barrel (travel to the eastside for less crowds and better parking) and the always busy Crux, try some of the smaller local favorites like Silver Moon, Bevel Craft Brewing and Spider City Brewing Company on the eastside, and The Ale Apothecary and Sunriver Brewing Company on the westside. For the bottleshop and taproom scene where you can taste a range of brews from the Pacific Northwest and beyond, visit Broken Top Bottle Shop west of 97, the Brown Owl in the Box Factory, and the aforementioned On Tap, which offers one of the widest selections of beer and cider in town.

Additional cultural and outdoor events in the surrounding area worth mentioning include Taste of the Town, Author! Author! Little Woody Barrel-Aged Beer and Whiskey Festival, Bite of Bend, Bend Brewfest, Salmon Run, Bend Marathon and Half Marathon, Balloons Over Bend, Happy Girls Race Series in Bend and Sisters, and Bend Beer Chase.

Located in the center of Oregon, Bend is approximately 150 miles from Portland and 120 miles from Eugene. The Redmond Municipal Airport offers daily flight service to several major airports including Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco.

Weather in Bend is typical of high desert regions with snow in the winter and hot summer days and cool nights. The shadow of the Cascades keeps annual rainfall to a minimum.