If you’re thinking about moving to Bend, this Central Oregon playground—which stretches from high-desert wilds to the snow-socked forests, parkland meadows and glaciers of the High Cascades—offers some of the most extensive, accessible, and varied outdoor activities in the entire country. Spring happens to be one of the best seasons for sampling that incredible recreational variety, given the season bridges the snow sports fun of winter and all the hiking, backpacking, biking and river-running enticements of summer.
Here’s just a general sketch of some of the best outdoor pursuits this time of year in one of the world’s all-out adventure capitals!
Downhill Skiing & Snowboarding
The biggest ski resort in Oregon and one of the biggest in the country, Mt. Bachelor typically offers its world-class skiing and snowboarding through the end of May: take advantage of some late-season runs!
Hiking, Snowshoeing, & Cross-Country Skiing
Bend’s incredible density and diversity of trails—from paved multi-use paths to rough wilderness tracks—and the area’s impressive elevational range means spring offers all kinds of foot-travel possibilities. Along lower-elevation routes—the paths shadowing the Deschutes River (including up to the mighty cascades of Benham Falls), trails through the ancient junipers of the Badlands Wilderness, foothill loops above the city—you’ll have hiking to enjoy this time of year, while a short drive into the east-slope Cascades will bring you to the slowly retreating snowline and the option for snowshoeing and ski touring: Amazing scenery awaits on trails out of regional Sno-Parks such as Swampy Lakes, Dutchman and Three Creek.
Spring means the kickoff to prime mountain-biking season in Bend, which happens to be one of the world’s greatest hubs for the sport. Great seasonal rides await, for example, on the Mrazek Trail, the loop through Shevlin Park, The Lair (a hotspot for freeriding), and within Cline Buttes Recreation Area near Redmond, where you can pedal up to the top of Cline Butte for a spectacular panorama. You can also bike the Deschutes River Trail from Bend to admire the whitewater roar of Benham Falls.
Spring’s one of the premier times to hit the walls of Smith Rock State Park just a half-hour or so from Bend. The golden pillars and cliffs of Smith Rock—backdropped by an unreal Cascade Range skyline—constitute some of the most celebrated year-round rock-climbing in the Northwest—the whole country, actually—and the weather this time of year is especially conducive to roping up for the pitches of Monkey Face, the Dihedrals and other iconic formations.
Summiting South Sister
At 10,358 feet, South Sister is the highest and youngest of the Three Sisters, those mighty Cascade stratovolcanoes that help frame Bend’s enviable skyline and which serve as centerpieces for the most-visited wilderness area in Oregon, the Three Sisters Wilderness. In summer, those in good condition can hike to the top of South Sister and its head-spinning view up and down the Cascade Crest; a snowier spring ascent is more challenging and best suited for experienced backcountry trekkers, with crampons and ice ax recommended equipment. Aim your climb for a clear day and beware of avalanche danger.
Paddling & Floating the Deschutes
From kayaking, surfing or paddling the surging waves of the Whitewater Channel to laidback floats through the heart of Bend, the Bend Whitewater Park offers convenient access to the Deschutes River’s wonderful urban reach. Or consider a wildland shuttle-paddle above the city by kayaking the river from Wickiup Dam to the Pringle Falls Campground southwest of Sunriver.