What To See in Bend, Oregon Like a Local

A mecca for outdoor adventurers, Bend is nestled between snow-covered peaks and a high desert plateau on the east side of the Cascade Mountains. A cosmopolitan mountain town, it’s renowned for its ever-present blue skies and the opportunity for hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and blue-ribbon fly fishing in multiple outstanding trout streams. You’ll find lots to do in town too, with an astounding number of world-class breweries, more per-capita than any other city in the state, along with plenty of shops, galleries and great restaurants.

If you want to experience Bend, Oregon like a local, here’s what you should be sure to see.

The Arnold Ice Cave

The Arnold Ice Cave is tricky to find, but that’s why mostly only locals visit. Situated about 12 miles from downtown Bend, deep in the Central Oregon outback, the cave is filled with ice, in fact, parts of the cave are blockaded by ice as ground water seeps through the porous basalt into the well-insulated, chilly cave. In other areas there are hundreds of ice stalagmites dotting the cave’s rocky bottom. The cave itself is actually part of a larger network of lava tubes, with 19 caves in total that measure 4.5 miles from end-to-end. It makes for the ultimate adventure on a hot summer’s day.

Peterson Rock Garden

The Peterson Rock Garden is home to terraces, bridges and replicas of historic structures, all created from local colorful rocks as the folk art vision of Rasmus Petersen who passed away back in 1952. This tourist attraction that’s survived far longer than its creator features a museum and gift shop.

See Bend From Above

If you want to enjoy some of the most breathtaking views of Bend and the magnificent Cascade range, see it from above by driving or walking to the top of Pilot Butte, a small extinct volcano.

Take a Scenic Drive

If you visit Bend you don’t want to miss taking a scenic drive on the Cascade Lakes Highway. It climbs up to the Mount Bachelor ski area and passes many gorgeous alpine lakes while providing jaw-dropping views of the Three Sisters and Broken Top mountains.

Camp at Crane Prairie Reservoir

Located in the Deschutes National Forest, just off the scenic Cascade Lakes Highway, Crane Prairie Reservoir is a popular place of locals and visitors to camp. If you’re into bird watching, there are few better spots as this is, with an incredible array of waterfowl residing here, like Sandhill cranes, Canada geese, bald eagles and osprey. If you’re here on a summer morning, look for the elk that can often be spotted grazing in lakeside meadows. The reservoir is also a prime fishing spot, with the chance to land massive rainbow trout, mountain whitefish, brook trout and largemouth bass. There are both free and fee campsites around shoreline.

Take a Selfie at Smith Rock State Park

If you enjoy scenic views of deep river canyons, hiking or rock climbing, Smith Rock State Park is the place to go. There are several thousand climbs in the park along with miles of scenic trails for hiking as well as an abundance of golden eagles, prairie falcons, mule deer, river otter and beaver.

If you want to send the perfect homemade postcard from Central Oregon, take a selfie at Smith Rock State Park with the monkey face in the background, or have someone capture you standing on top of it if you’re a courageous climber.

Tour Deschutes Brewery

Deschutes is arguably the most famous name in Oregon beer, and its brewery is based in Bend. Take a free tour led by a brewery expert which includes beer samples. You can try some of its classics like the Black Butte Porter along with some of its experimental brews.