Hikes In Bend Oregon

The 14 Best Hikes In Bend, Oregon

It’s no secret that some of the best hiking trails in the Pacific Northwest are in Bend, Oregon.

Why? Because between the many rivers, mountains, landscapes, and areas surrounding Bend, the trail options are ABUNDANT!

Hikes In Bend Oregon

From desert escapes to deep forest waterfalls, there’s a Bend hiking trail for everyone.

In this post, we’re sharing the best hikes in Bend, how to obtain the right permits, and what to expect on each trail. Let’s get to it!

The Best Hiking Trails in Bend, Oregon

Do you need permits to hike in Bend?

Before we get started sharing all the cool hikes in Bend, Oregon, we need to talk about permits.

Are permits required for hikes in Bend?

For most of the popular Bend hiking trails, you can expect that permits are required.

Bend has seen a 300% increase in visiting hikers within the last five years, and the city has responded in order to protect and maintain the trails.

Day use permits are required between June 15th and October 15th.

Here are the areas in the Central Cascades Wilderness Area that require permits (click to open maps):

Permits are in place to mitigate trail traffic (aka you can hike will fewer people), limit a sustainable number of hikers per day, and allow maintenance staff to adequately care for things like trailhead bathrooms and garbage service. It’s a positive thing!

However, of the 79 trails in the system, only 19 require pre-registration and payment. The remaining 60 trails have self-issue permit stations, for free, right at the trailhead parking lot.

Hikes in Bend Oregon Deschutes River Trail TheMandagies.com

How do I obtain a Bend hiking permit?

Most, if not all, pre-register permits are only $1. You can obtain them at Recreation.gov, and print out (or screenshot) your permits for the trail.

Permits are available on a 10-day and 2-day rolling window. When you know the dates of your trip, count back 10 days before and mark it in your calendar. This will remind you to go online, and get that permit before you hike!

In this post, we’ll be covering trails that require permits, and some trails that don’t. We’ll make sure to make note of Bend hikes that require permits, so you are totally prepared for your trek.

Plan your trip here: The Ultimate Bend Oregon Itinerary (4 Days!)

Best Time(s) of Year For Hiking Trails In Bend

Hikes In Bend Oregon

You can expect an abundance of hikes in Bend are best during the summertime, mostly between June – October.

There are unique features on Bend hiking trails all year long, but there’s one time of year that beats all the other times. Late summer is our favorite time to explore all the hikes in Bend!

This is especially true for the hikes in the Three Sisters Wilderness – most of the snow sticks around until late July, so access isn’t available until August or September anyway.

Bend Hiking Tips

Smith Rock State Park - Misery Ridge Trail

While Bend, Oregon is technically in the Pacific Northwest, it’s not the rainforest-filled green landscape you might expect.

Bend sits in the Oregon high desert, with sunnier days and hotter temperatures than the rest of the region! Here are some things to remember when planning out your hikes in Bend:

Pack Sunscreen: More likely than not, you’ll be hiking without shade! Pack sunscreen, and a sun hat to protect yourself from the rays.

Print out (or screenshot) your permits: You’ll need them when hiking in the Central Cascades Wilderness. (refer to the section above this)

Pack plenty of water: Heat exhaustion is the most common ailment of hikers in Bend. Pack more than you think you need!

Wear layers: Layers may not be your first thought when hiking in a desert, but temperatures can change drastically, especially during dawn and dusk.

Choose good hiking boots: Breathable shoes with good traction are ideal here. Read more about our favorite hiking boots for the Pacific Northwest.

Leave No Trace: Just like all places you care about, treat Bend like your own backyard! Pack out all your trash, stick to the trail, and be a good steward of the land.

Best Hikes in Bend Oregon - Smith Rock State Park

Best Hikes In Bend, Oregon

So, what are the best hikes in Bend?

This blog post could easily be a mile long, but we’ve whittled it down to the most popular, and our personal favorites. Enjoy!

Looking for even more activites? Here are 38 things to do in Bend Oregon during summer!

Fun Things To Do In Bend Oregon - Hike Tumalo Falls

1. Tumalo Falls via Tumalo Creek Trail

  • Distance: 6.4 miles RT (round trip)
  • Elevation Gain: 556 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Permit: Northwest Forest Pass (or $5 day pass)

It’s easy to reach Tumalo Falls from the parking lot, but if you want a longer trail, Tumalo Falls via Tumalo Creek Trail is for you.

Park at the Skyliner Trailhead Parking Lot to meaner through the forest and along the river.

This trail is dog-friendly and open-year round. It’s a popular way (and the only way) to see Tumalo Falls in the winter, via snowshoeing.

2. No Name Lake via Broken Top Trail

  • Distance: 5.5 miles RT
  • Elevation Gain: 1,420 feet
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Permit: $1, pre-register here.

This is easily one of the most popular hikes in Bend, for its beauty, solitude, and photo opportunities.

Broken Top Trailhead is located high up in the Three Sisters Wilderness, so snowpack can leave this trailhead unusable until well into the summer. The best time to plan a hiking trip here would be late August or September, to let the snow melt as much as possible.

If the trailhead is closed for your trip, you can still try and access it via adjacent trailheads like Todd Lake or Green Lakes trailhead. If you do this, note the extra distance and elevation gain you’ll have to plan for. Plan to hike in the snow!

3. Sparks Lake (Ray Atkeson Memorial Trail)

  • Distance: 2.4 mile loop
  • Elevation Gain: 108 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Permit: None

Okay, I was kidding. THIS is one of the most popular hikes in Bend.

It’s a lot more accessible than No Name Lake, and the gorgeous landscape and relatively short distance make photographers flood this area every summer morning and evening.

There are a few trails to consider, but the most popular one is Ray Atkeson Memorial Trail. It’s an easy 2.4-mile loop, great for families.

Along the way, you’ll receive great views of Sparks Lake, and tons of opportunities to stop and take photos.

*Come with plenty of bug spray around morning and evening. The mosquitoes can be brutal here!

Enjoy Trillium Lake too, a similar lake to visit when planning things to do in Mount Hood, Oregon.

4. Pilot Butte Trail

  • Distance: 1.8 miles RT
  • Elevation Gain: 452 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
  • Permit: None

Pilot Butte is easily one of the locals’ go-to hikes in Bend because it’s right smack in the city!

This is a very popular area for trail runners, to track their running times. So much so, that there is a trail-running kiosk with more information about running times.

There are two path options, a trail or the road. Both are common for people to walk or run up, on the way to the top.

Once at the top, you get sweeping views of Bend, the Cascade Mountains, and the High Desert landscape.

The gate to the parking area closes promptly at 7 pm, but you can park elsewhere and walk into the park.

Hikes In Bend Oregon - Deschutes River Trail

5. Deschutes River Trail (Dillon Falls to Benham Falls)

  • Distance: 6.8 miles RT
  • Elevation Gain: 314 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy – Moderate (because it’s on the longer side)
  • Permit: Northwest Forest Pass (or $5 day use fee)

The Deschutes River trail itself spans over 12 miles one way, but the most popular route for Bend day hikes is between Dillon Falls and Benham Falls.

Park at either side (we started at Dillon Falls) and meanders through a really calm portion of the Deschutes River. On a sunny day, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll share the trail with mountain bikers, paddleboarders, and/or birdwatchers.

This is a great trail to take along a plant or wildlife book, to spot some native inhabitants.

Also, come with sunscreen and a hat because portions of this trail have no shade.

Chush Falls - Hiking Trails in Bend, Oregon - TheMandagies.com

6. Chush Falls Trail

  • Distance: 5.8 miles RT
  • Elevation Gain: 800 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Permit: Self-permit at the trailhead (free)

Chush Falls is one of our favorite waterfalls near Bend, Oregon. The biggest feature of this trail is the enormous fan-style falls at the turnaround point.

The trail is mostly through a previously burned area, with bare tree trunks that kind of remind us of a spooky forest.

Come with lots of sunscreen, there is little shade here!

Stay a little longer in Sisters, Oregon: Book a weekend getaway at FivePine Lodge!

Hikes Bend Oregon Misery Ridge Trail The Mandagies

7. Misery Ridge Trail at Smith Rock State Park

  • Distance: 2.2 miles RT
  • Elevation Gain: 1,115 feet
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Permit: Smith Rock Day Use Fee ($5 per vehicle)

Misery Ridge Trail is one of the most infamous hikes in Bend, for its challenging ascent but oh-so-worth-it views from the top!

This trail starts at the Smith Rock Welcome Center in the parking lot, and finished at the summit near Monkey Face Rock.

While its short distance might look tame, the elevation gain is high, making this a TOUGH climb. Come with plenty of water! We also suggest coming in the evening, when the sun isn’t shining on the trail for a little shade relief on your way up.

Not ready to leave? Discover even more awesome hikes at Smith Rock State Park!

8. West Metolius River Trail

  • Distance: 7.3 miles RT
  • Elevation Gain: 272 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Permit:

For Bend hiking trails on the shadier side, The West Metolius River Trail is for you!

Starting at Canyon Creek Campground, this trial runs alongside the river, so there is fresh water at any moment.

If you come during wildflower season, the path is lined with blooming color and busy insects. This is an incredibly peaceful trail for those who are seeking a longer but easier walk through the Central Oregon forest. Perfect for trying forest bathing!

Plan a longer trip: Discover the complete Oregon road trip itinerary (with 50 stops at 4 unique itineraries!)

Best Hikes Near Bend Oregon The Mandagies

9. Canyon Trail at Smith Rock

  • Distance: 3.3 miles RT
  • Elevation Gain: 439 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Permit: Smith Rock State Park Day Use Fee, $5

If you only have a short amount of time to plan some hikes in Bend, make Canyon Trail at Smith Rock State Park a priority!

This trail starts in the parking lot with a steep decline, but then wanders along the Crooked River for some epic Smith Rock scenery, with another incline ending at Wilcox Road.

Along the trail, there is also access to some popular climbing areas like Rope-de-Dope, and views of others like the Dihedrals and Christian Brothers.

Come during sunrise or sunset for some quieter times by the river, and a respite from the hot summer sun.

FYI, there is little shade on this trail!

10. Paulina Peak Trail

  • Distance: 6.1 miles RT
  • Elevation Gain: 1,607 feet
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Permit:

Paulina Peak has some of the best views of all the hikes in Bend! Technically in La Pine, Oregon, this peak overlooks the Newberry National Volcanic Monument Area, with views of Paulina Lake and East Lake at the summit.

If you’re looking for a bit of a challenge, this is the hike for you.

Begin your trail at the Paulina Lake Visitors Center for the full experience, or drive up Forest Road #500 (upper parking lot past the campground) to give yourself a bit of a headstart on the trail.

After the trail, take a quick dip in Paulina Lake to cool off!

You may also like: The 15 Best Gifts For Hikers and Backpackers

Lava River Cave - Unique Things To Do In Bend, Oregon

11. Lava River Cave Trail

  • Distance: 1 mile RT
  • Elevation Gain: 20 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Permit: Northwest Forest Pass (or $5 day use fee)

For a unique and family-friendly experience, Lava River Cave is one of the coolest hikes in Bend!

The trail is 1 mile total, in a completely dark lava cave. You can rent flashlights at the entrance or bring your own to save money.

Each visitor must listen to a ranger-led talk about protecting the resident bats from White Nose Syndrome. (more on this below in the “specialty considerations” section)

It’s open from 9 am – 5 pm, includes stairs, and parts of the trail are uneven and a little hard to see in the dark.

Come with the whole family to enjoy this Bend hiking trail!

Before You Go: Trail Etiquette 101: 15 Essential Hiking Etiquette Tips To Know

12. Green Lakes/Soda Creek Loop

  • Distance: 13.1-mile loop
  • Elevation Gain: 1,656 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderately challenging
  • Permit: $1 Get a Central Cascades Day Use Permit here.

For a full day out in the Three Sisters Wilderness, Green Lakes/Soda Creek Loop Trail is one of the best hiking trails in Bend.

This loop includes several water crossings, lakes, waterfalls, and TONS of views!

A Cascade Wilderness Day Use Permit is required for this trail, and you can get it for $1 on Recreation.gov. Plan to hike this one later in the summer season – snow tends to linger at the top for quite some time.

Recent reviews have talked about heavy mosquitoes on the trail, so come with a bug net for your face or mosquito repellent!

Read More: 52 Hikes Challenge (Pacific Northwest Edition)

Bend Oregon summer activities

13. Big Obsidian Flow Trail

  • Distance: 0.6-mile loop
  • Elevation Gain: 196 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Permit: Northwest Forest Pass (or $5 day use fee)

For an easy Bend trail in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument area, the Big Obsidian Flow Trail is one to see!

It’s not your typical trail with dirt and trees – this one is almost exclusively ROCK. Obsidian rock to be more precise!

This trail was specifically created to share information about the lava flows in Oregon, how they were made, and why it’s so unique to Oregon!

Read More: How To Choose Hiking Boots (7 Important Features To Consider)

Tips for Visiting Skylight Cave in Bend, Oregon

14. Skylight Cave

  • Distance: 0.1-0.5 miles RT (depending on where you start)
  • Elevation Gain: 10ft ladder
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Permit: None (but sign in at the welcome sign)

The Skylight Cave is probably one of the most elusive hikes in Bend, because it’s just so dang hard to find!

Adventurers need to be comfortable navigating bumpy forest roads in the Deschutes National Forest near Sisters, Oregon to find this cave.

When we last visited the Skylight Cave, we parked at a dead-end and needed to hike 1-mile round trip to the entrance of the cave. There are also limited parking near the cave for those who don’t want to walk far.

Boyd Cave Bend Oregon - Emily Mandagie

Specialty Considerations for Some Hikes In Bend

Hiking in Caves in Bend

Cave hiking in Bend is super fun but requires some special considerations to do properly and safely.

First, a deadly fungal disease affects bats all over the United States called White Nose Syndrome. Thankfully, it hasn’t reached Oregon yet, but rangers are educating visitors on how to keep it out of caves for good!

You can help by NOT hiking in clothes that have already been in caves. WNS can be transferred via clothing, so it’s important to change your clothes every time you visit a new cave.

For safety, pack at LEAST 2 light sources, so you can walk around even in the darkest tunnels.

Steelhead Falls - Bend Oregon - Emily Mandagie

Early Season Hikes in Bend

Early season hiking in Bend is considered anytime between March and May. This is a time when the snow is very much still present in the Cascade Range, which makes higher elevation hikes difficult if not impossible.

There are plenty of trails to check out during this time at lower elevations, like trails at Smith Rock, the Oregon Badlands, The Deschutes River Trail, and other areas east of Bend.

Expect lots of mud during this time of year, and wear waterproof boots to keep yourself dry.

For trails on the edge of the mountains, expect snow, so consider bringing aids like snowshoes or skis to help you on your way.

What are some of your favorite hikes in Bend Oregon? What trails should we add to the list? Tell us in the comments below!

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