5 Must Do Beginner Hikes Near Bend, Oregon

See the beauty of Bend without breaking a sweat

By: Lindsey Banks
July 9, 2015

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Summer is the perfect time for visitors in Bend, Oregon. School is out, there are tons of fun events happening, and the weather is warm and sunny. With the summer heat, it's a good idea to plan some outdoor adventures that aren't terribly strenuous - especially if you have family and friends visiting who may not be the adventure pro that you are. You can still show them the beautiful landscapes that Bend has to offer, without worrying about giving your 67-year old dad a heat stroke. Whether you are just getting into hiking yourself, or want to be able to share your love of the Bend outdoors with your less-experienced family and friends, these 5 hikes are a great place to start.

1. Farewell Bend Deschutes River Trail

Photo: Lindsey Banks

You can’t come to Bend without taking a hike along the Deschutes River. The Farewell Bend Trail is a 3 mile loop trail that begins at Farewell Park near the Old Mill District on Reed Market Road. From the park, follow the river trail under the bridge to your left. About 1.5 miles in you will be able to cross a footbridge which will take you to the opposite side of the river for your return back.

You will see gorgeous forest and river views and enjoy a nice hike under the shade trees. Once you are finished, there are restrooms and water fountains in Farewell Park for you to use, or continue on to the Old Mill District and reward yourself with drinks at Greg’s Grill or dessert at Ben & Jerry’s. Learn more.

2. River Trail at Smith Rock State Park

Photo: Jessica Dales

Smith Rock State Park is a must-see for anyone visiting Bend. It’s about 30 minutes North of Bend in Terrebonne, Oregon. There are several trails throughout the park, ranging in difficulty from easy to advanced.

The River Trail is a great beginner hike in Smith Rock, with some of the best views. You will start off down The Chute trail, cross over the Crooked Creek footbridge, and take a left to start on the River Trail. It is a 2.5 mile flat trail that will lead you right along the Crooked River.

Once you reach the end of the trail, you can either take the Mesa Verde Trail with a slight elevation and a better view of the famous Monkey Face rock, or double-back the way you came. Try to go early as it can get very hot and crowded here in the summer. Learn more.

3. Sparks Lake Atkeson Memorial Trail

Photo: Richard Bacon

Sparks Lake is one of the beautiful Cascade Lakes located about 30 minutes away from Bend. You can get there by taking the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. Once you pass Mt. Bachelor, you will begin to see signs for the different lakes.

Sparks Lake is tucked back away from the main road and is usually less crowded than some of the other popular lakes, such as Todd Lake or Elk Lake.

It is one of the most beautiful of the Cascade Lakes, especially if you can catch it while the wildflowers are blooming. Take the easy 1 mile Atkeson Memorial Loop from the boat ramp, where you will see spectacular views of the lake and Cascade Mountains. It’s a photographer’s dream, so be sure to bring your camera! Learn more.

4. Pilot Butte State Park

Photo: Richard Bacon

If you want to see all that Bend has to offer, a hike up the 1 mile pilot butte trail will show you views of the whole town, panoramic views of the Cascade Mountains to the west, and the high desert to the east.

You can either take the 1 mile paved trail (watch out for cars) or the 1 mile dirt trail to the top. Go at sunset to see the beautiful colors in the sky. Learn more.

5. Lava River Cave

Photo: Lindsey Banks

The Lava River Cave, located in The Deschutes National Forest, is only a 12 mile drive south of Bend along Highway 97. It's the perfect place to be on a hot summer day. The cave is 1 mile long and is a very cool 42 degrees inside.

It’s a unique lava tube hike experience that any age can enjoy. No special hiking skills are required. The cave is relatively flat with some stairs and rocks to maneuver at times. Make sure to bring a jacket and a good light or two.

While you’re there you can also visit the Lava Lands Visitor Center to view the geological and cultural history of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument and walk or take the shuttle to the top of Lava Butte. Learn more.

Remember to always follow Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures.

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.