11 Top-Rated Hiking Trails near Bend, OR
Hiking trails near Bend offer a diverse range of sites and experiences, from the lush mountains and alpine lakes to lava fields and rugged rock formations that look like a scene out of the deserts of the Southwest. It's also a hiking destination that varies by season. In winter, high elevations are snow covered, and hikes are closed for the season, while those at lower elevations are open year-round. Many of the most popular hikes are only a few miles or less in length, but you can also find beautiful full-day hikes up in the mountains. Some of the main areas for hiking around Bend include the Three Sisters Wilderness and the Cascade Range, Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Smith Rock State Park, and sites in and around the city of Bend. To find out more, review our list of the best hikes near Bend.
See also: Where to Stay in Bend
1 Misery Ridge Trail Loop
Misery Ridge Trail is a fantastic hike, with outstanding scenery that is quite different from other areas around Bend. This is the trail that greets hikers as they gaze across the Crooked River from the park entrance to the orange- and red-colored rock walls. A steep series of switchbacks climbs up 600 feet to the summit, high above the river below, where all the effort is rewarded with fantastic views along the ridge, out across the high desert, and beyond to the Cascade mountains.
The hike up the ridge is a steady grind, and the descent down the backside is also fairly steep before it levels off and follows the River Trail out around a point and back to the start. The steep sections are not technically challenging, but the gravel base makes it easy to slip. One of the key sites on the back side is Monkey Face, a huge rock pinnacle resembling a monkey head, where you can frequently see climbers. The walk along the river is very scenic and offers opportunities to see wildlife, including deer, river otters, and possibly a bald eagle. The total distance for this loop trail is 3.7 miles.
2 Green Lakes Trail
One of the most beautiful hikes off the Cascade National Scenic Byway is the Green Lakes Trail. The hike climbs up along Fall Creek, past spectacular mountain scenery to eventually arrive at the Green Lakes. This rewarding hike climbs 1,100 feet and leads past waterfalls, a large obsidian lava flow, and colorful wildflowers when they're in season. The return-trip hike to Green Lakes is a little more than nine miles. From the water's edge, you can take in the views, which extend to South Sister and Broken Top, or even go for a swim. The main trail carries on to the campground on the eastern side of the large lake, and beyond. However, most people take the main trail to Green Lakes and then turn around, which makes for a lovely day hike.
The trail can be busy on weekends throughout the summer. Dogs are allowed, but from July 15 to September 15th they must be leashed. The trailhead is located along the Cascade National Scenic Byway, about 40 minutes from Bend, and is marked by a sign 4.4 miles past Mt. Bachelor Ski area.
3 Sparks Lake Trail
If you are looking for a hike to do with the family, this trail is relatively short but incredibly scenic and fun. Only 2.8 miles, done as a loop, the trail is paved at the start, fairly level, and has a total elevation gain of only 150 feet. Kids will enjoy the ancient lava field, where in some places the trail squeezes through openings only two feet wide. Photographers will be in their element, with views out over Sparks Lake to South Sister, and a small island in the foreground for added interest. Bring swimsuits or kayaks and play in the shallow waters near the trailhead, where picnic tables and restrooms are available. The trailhead is accessed 1.6 miles down Road 400. The turnoff to Road 400 from the Cascade National Scenic Byway is just past milepost 26.
4 Todd Lake Trail
Todd Lake Trail is another relatively easy hike. This is a 1.7-mile loop around a shallow alpine lake with virtually no elevation gain. It features lovely scenery and amazing views of nearby Mount Bachelor. At the far end is a large alpine meadow, perfect for a picnic, and depending on the time of year, you can often see wildflowers in bloom. The lake is named after John Y. Todd, a Mexican War vet and one of Bend's first settlers.
This trail provides ample reward with little effort, and as a result, it can be very busy on summer weekends. The trailhead is 1.8 miles beyond the Mt. Bachelor ski area and is posted with a sign. Turn on Road 370 and continue for 0.5 miles to the parking area. Dogs are allowed, but must be on leash from July 15th to Sept 15th. Be sure to check the conditions before heading out, snow can linger on this trail late into the summer.
5 Big Obsidian Flow Trail
Located near Paulina Lake in Newberry National Volcanic Monument, this is an easy and geologically outstanding trail, and it opens fairly early in the season. A set of stairs at the start takes you up to a field of chunked obsidian glistening in the sunlight. The one-mile trail leads through the heaping mounds of black obsidian, some of which are so smooth and shiny, they look freshly polished. If you have not done an obsidian trail before, it's impossible not to be impressed by the sight. This lava flow is 1,300 years old, making it the youngest lava flow in the state. Although the trail is very exposed and in full sun most of the way, the surrounding landscape on the edge of the flow is covered in pines, and a stream runs along one side.
6 Obsidian Trail
Located in the Three Sisters Wilderness, the Obsidian Trail is considered one of the most beautiful in Oregon. However, it's a long and difficult, high alpine trail that requires a bit of planning. The trail doesn't open until mid-July, once the snowpack has melted enough for safe use. You must also obtain a permit before embarking on this 12-mile trail. The elevation gain is 1,800 feet, and it offers the hiker a bit of everything: dense forest, alpine meadows, streams, lakes, waterfalls, lava fields, views out over distant peaks, and obsidian rocks sparkling in the sun. Permits can be booked in advance and they go fast for summer weekends. You can get a permit for this hike beginning at 7am May 1st, either online at www.recreation.gov or via phone at (877) 444 6777. The trailhead is off Highway 242 between mileposts 70 and 71 and is well marked.
7 Tumalo Falls to Upper Falls
Tumalo Falls to Upper Falls is an easy 3.8-mile in-and-out hike, with 680 feet of elevation gain. The best view of Tumalo Falls is arguably from right near the parking lot. Looking out from the observation area here, you can see the falls tumbling 97 feet off a cliff into the misty gorge at the base. The hike leads up the side of the falls to stone platforms built into the top of the gorge, with views over Tumalo Falls. Many people stop here. However, this is only the first of three waterfalls along Tumalo Creek. The path meanders upwards, in one area along a 200-foot cliff (not railed) to Double Falls, and beyond to the Upper Falls, with a 50-foot drop. This is not the end of the trail, but it is a good place to turn around.
Tumalo Falls is an easy drive from Bend along Skyliners Road, exiting left at gravel road 4604, where you continue on for 2.4 miles. Note that dogs are not allowed on this hike, and parking can be challenging, so it's best to arrive early in the day.
8 Lava Cave
The Lava Cave hike is an easily accessible portal to an underground fantasyland of amazing rock formations, sparkling ceilings, strange lavacicles, a sand garden, and complete blackness and eerie silence if you feel brave enough to turn off your lamp. The two-mile return-trip through this lava tube is mostly level once you get past the stairs that descend down into the cave. The tube is surprisingly large, with ceilings in some sections reaching 50 feet high, although in some sections, the roof does come down to the point where you need to stoop. Along the way are interesting signs pointing out the unique features of the cave. Most visitors walk to the Sand Gardens and turn back, but if you crave a bit of solitude, you can continue onwards.
A visit to the cave takes some preparation. The temperature is a steady 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so warm clothes are required. There is no lighting in the cave. Flashlights are available for rent and are recommended as they are larger and more powerful than regular ones. The number of visitors at one time is limited, so be sure to go early or late in the day to get a spot. Access to the cave is two miles past the Lava Lands Visitor Center at exit 151 for Cottonwood Road. Keep left and continue for 0.8 miles where the cave access is signposted.
9 Pilot Butte
Pilot Butte is one of the top attractions in Bend. Right in the city, the Pilot Butte Trail winds its way up 500 feet to the summit of this lava dome, providing great views of Bend and the nearby peaks of the Cascade Range. You can ascend the summit either by the dirt trail, called the Nature Trail, or along Summit Drive. Both are about one-mile long. The Nature Trail is a bit steep in sections, but benches are positioned along the way, so you can rest and gaze out at the scenery. Summit Drive is the paved, spiral road leading to the top. Locals use this road for their morning walks and jogs. Access to Summit Drive is well marked from Highway 20 (Greenwood Ave). The Nature Trail trailhead is 0.4 miles farther past this entrance and is well signposted.
10 Paulina Lake Trail
Located high in the alpine area of Newberry National Volcanic Monument, this 7.5-mile loop around Paulina Lake is the kind of trail that offers a bit of everything. Looking upwards provides impressive views of Paulina Peak, Mt. Thielsen, and Mt. Scott. At your feet are obsidian lava fields, wildflowers in the spring, and crystal-clear water for swimming. You can even dig your very own hot-spring-fed hot tub in the sand. The trail is mostly flat, and the elevation gain is an easy 300 feet.
Access is up the Paulina Lake Road, and the hike starts from the Paulina Lake day access parking lot by the boat launch. A small information kiosk is located nearby. The Paulina Lake Lodge has a general store for general supplies and a restaurant if you find yourself hungry after your trek. If you are only interested in the hot springs, start from Little Crater Campground and walk northwards 1.2 miles to the hot springs area, crossing the Inter Lake Obsidian Flow along the way.
11 Matthieu Lakes Trail
If you are interested in sampling a bit of what a day hike on the Pacific Crest Trail might be like, the Matthieu Lakes trail is a good introduction. On an effort to reward ratio, this trail comes out way ahead. The elevation gain is only 800 feet on this six-mile loop trail. Views extend to the distant peaks of Mount Washington, Mount Jefferson, and the North and Middle Sister Mountains. At Scott Pass is the beautiful South Matthieu Lake, and those courageous enough to brave the icy waters can go for a swim. You can also often spot wildlife in this area, including the entertaining golden mantled ground squirrels.
The trailhead for Matthieu Lakes is found off McKenzie Highway 252, by milepost 78. Turn onto Road 900, signposted for Lava Camp Lake, and travel for 0.4 miles, where you'll find parking for the Pacific Crest Trailhead.
Where to Stay in Bend
The best place to stay is downtown and in an area known as Old Bend, where the restaurants and much of the action is center. Accommodation here is of a very good quality but tends to be expensive. Another area to consider is the Old Mill District, a newly built area of shops and restaurants, with walking trails and easy access to the Deschutes River. If you are just looking for a decent place to shower off after a dusty day of hiking, the hotels clustered along NE 3rd street are your best bet.
- Luxury Hotels: For a bit of pampering after your long day on the trails, The Oxford Hotel in downtown Bend will fix all that ails you. This self-described "eco-chic" boutique hotel offers beautiful rooms and one of Bend's best restaurants, all right in the heart of the action. Perfect for a larger family or group, the Wall Street Suites is known for large units and a great common area with a firepit for socializing. To be closer to the hikes and in more of a natural surrounding, try the luxurious Tetherow Lodges. You can float in the pool and look out at the mountains you just hiked in.
- Mid-Range Hotels: A lower priced option in a central location is the DoubleTree by Hilton Bend. Some rooms look out to the Cascade Mountains, and bikes are available free of charge to guests. Two options in the Old Mill District are the Hilton Garden Inn Bend and the Hampton Inn & Suites Bend. Recently built, these hotels have large rooms and feature indoor pools. The restaurants and shops of the Old Mill District are a short stroll away.
- Budget Hotels: The Red Lion Inn & Suites Bend is an upper-end budget hotel with an outdoor pool and drive-up rooms. If you are looking for a big meal, the Hungry Bear located on the property will fit the bill. Nearby is the Econo Lodge Bend, also with an outdoor pool and clean, comfortable rooms. Just down the road is the privately-operated Cascade Lodge. This cozy, smaller property has 33 comfortable rooms complete with refrigerators and microwaves.