A recipe for winter fun in Bend, from mellow to adrenaline-laced, or both
written by Adam Thorn Smith
If Oregon is a dartboard of adventures, Bend is the bullseye—dead center, dedicated to the outdoors, and destiny to adrenaline junkies. In this high desert town, people surf water and land, from river wave to snow-clad volcano. Wild mountains, streams, forests, caves and cliffs are top targets year-round. But, you can put the mild side of Bend in your sights too.
Historic downtown is a rustic-hip center of food, drink, music, softly lit streets and riverside strolls. Festivals, fundraisers, concerts and markets populate the calendar. Boutique lodging and pro outfitters offer amenities and excursions suited to novice explorers and those who prefer endorphins over adrenaline.
Of all the seasonal regional getaways in Oregon, winter in the state’s center is among the best. Getting there is part of the experience. If you’re coming from the Willamette Valley, you may wind along the Santiam River, sniff the mist of Sahalie and Koosah Falls and let your best friends, the furry kind, lap up a little of Detroit Lake before the scent of juniper lets you know that Bend’s around the bend.
Regardless of your travel companions—whether soulmate, old pals, your family or four-legged friends, even if you go alone—here are three keys to a crackling winter getaway in Bend: snow, fire and love.
Central Oregon’s two mainstays for downhill action: Mt. Bachelor’s famous powder thrills every level of boarder and skier while, Hoodoo offers night skiing.
To play on the snow while gaining an understanding of the natural forces also at play here, seek out Wanderlust Tours, which leads snowshoe trips by the light of the sun, stars, moon or bonfire. Master naturalist guides share their deep knowledge about the fascinating, volcanic-formed landscape as they introduce you to the fun of snow camping, or going sub-snow to explore lava tube caves. All the while, you’ll maintain a low impact on the environment in these delicate ecosystems.
Soaking in the camp vibe can be achieved by hanging at the massive fire pit and making good use of the sleeping bag blankets by Rumpl and tuned acoustic guitars. Particularly in this dog-friendly town, what would the camping experience be without yours? They’re welcome here, too.
If you’re craving the warm, flickering glow of a campfire but with urban adventure amenities, check into the Campfire Hotel, Bend’s new renovated, vintage camp-inspired guest experience. With a 900-square-foot, warm-for-winter pool, saltwater hot tub and pool bar at the ready with local craft beer, wine, spirits and snacks, you won’t be missing the bivy sack too much.
Romantic: Fan the flames further afar. Wanderlust Tours’ guides offer frozen forest treks to a snapping bonfire in a snow-sculpted amphitheater, complete with hot cocoa, hazelnut vodka, local desserts, live music, and master naturalist as guide. Special snowbound bonfires are planned for New Year’s and Valentine’s Day.
If your chill persists, find the warmth of Oregon Spirit Distillers for some award-winning whiskeys, homegrown fire in a bottle. Catch a live band on Thursdays.
Dogs: They’ll be comfy at Campfire around town and on river walks, but when heading to human-only destinations, Wee Tails Play Care, a daycare for small dogs, offers a safe haven of new friends, toys, treats and a professional trainer.
Coffee: Get a morning cup of love at The Pantry, a small cafe where the spirit of sustainability meets old West mercantile. Outdoor decks and puppy treats make it inviting for dogs and their humans.
Shopping: Wander through dozens of stores and outfitters through downtown Bend or along the Deschutes River in the Old Mill District or adjacent Box Factory.
Food & Drink: Between the slopes and town, trust The Row to satisfy, with vast views, twelve local brews and one of Bend’s best burgers. Nearby, Cascade Lakes Brewing mixes micro-brews with sports-bar friendliness.
Back at Campfire Hotel, saunter into the Canteen at for a three-cheese panini and pickled seasonal vegetables. Sip a “Hipster Spritzer,” a trending concoction of tequila, aperol, watermelon, soda water and black lava salt—poolside or fireside. Need a night cap? Downtown, Canteen’s sister saloon Dogwood Cocktail Cabin is the spot for a drink and dessert du jour, upstairs on a sofa. Seek out the dartboard, if you care to throw—it’s hidden in a brick nook.
Whether you opt for adrenaline, relaxation or both, you’ll leave satisfied, and your best friend will give it four paws up.