The 7 Best Hikes Near Bend, Oregon


Where the mountains meet the desert, central Oregon is known for its spectacular beauty and unique landscapes. In the middle of it all sits the town of Bend, a community of 100,000 firmly rooted in the joys of outdoor recreation. 

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Located at the foot of the Cascades along the banks of the Deschutes River, Bend is the perfect jumping-off point for eager hikers hoping to explore the surrounding landscape. From casual jaunts on paved paths to strenuous treks to the summit of a volcano, the Bend area has something for hikers of all levels. 

Hiking in Central Oregon is possible all year round. However, you may want to schedule your visit according to your personal preferences related to hiking, weather, and scenery.

If you plan to hike in high alpine mountain environments, we recommend a summer trip. While the temperature in Bend may reach triple digits in the summer, the nearby Cascades offer a cool and comfortable hiking venue.

If you prefer to stay out of the mountains and explore the high desert, the spring and fall seasons will provide the best weather. Winter brings its own beauty to Bend, though hiking in cold and snowy conditions requires careful preparation and lots of warm gear.

With your trip booked and your hiking essentials packed, check out our list of the seven best hikes near Bend, Oregon. Central Oregon is the ancestral home of the Wasco, Warm Springs, and Paiute people. 

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The 7 Best Hikes Near Bend

Misery Ridge Trail, Smith Rock State Park

misery ridge
Misery Ridge rises to a high point in Smith Rock State Park; (photo/Pat Tr)

Though many outdoor enthusiasts know Smith Rock for its world-class rock climbing, the stunning state park also offers spectacular hiking trails. In between S-shaped bends in the Crooked River, the towering rock formations of Smith Rock rise like jagged skyscrapers.

The hiking opportunities at Smith Rock vary from easy to strenuous, and all of them feature sweeping views of the imposing cliffs and meandering river. Still, the most iconic hike in the area is certainly the Misery Ridge Trail Loop. (Ignore the name; this trail is anything but misery.)

From the main parking area, the Misery Ridge loop begins with a rapid descent toward the canyon floor. As you head down, a series of switchbacks can be seen heading up a steep hillside across the valley. These switchbacks will lead you all the way to the top of the 3,360-foot summit. As you hike to the top, you won’t need to wonder why the trail is called Misery Ridge — it’s a seriously strenuous trek that will surely get the heart pumping. 

After the uphill segment is over, the panoramic views of the Cascade Mountains and the high desert are a worthy reward. The rest of the loop involves a joyous descent down the backside of the ridge and a close encounter with the mind-blowing Monkey Face Rock. This geological wonder is one of many strangely animated rock features in the park. In fact, the original indigenous name for the area translates to “Animal Village.”

Smith Rock can be very hot, and shade is not easy to come by on the trail. As always, we recommend checking the weather ahead of time, wearing appropriate clothing, and bringing plenty of water.

  • Location: Smith Rock State Park
  • Travel Time From Bend: About 35 min.
  • Total Hiking Distance: 3.7 mi.
  • Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
  • Elevation Gain: 800 ft.
  • Highlights: Expansive views of the mountains, desert, and the grand rock formations of Smith Rock

Tumalo Falls Loop

tumalo falls
Tumalo Falls; (photo/Clifford Wayne Estes)

The 7-mile Tumalo Falls loop is rightfully one of the most popular hikes in the Bend area. Completion of the whole trail loop requires lots of strenuous elevation gain, but those looking for a more moderate walk can simply choose to turn around and head back to the car early.

From the often-busy trailhead, this hike begins with a short jaunt to the first overlook point, where the roaring 90-foot Tumalo Falls can be seen pouring over a massive basalt cliff. A series of interpretive signs offer insight into the natural history of the area, including the story of a large fire in 1979 that completely burned the surrounding forest.

For some hikers, the brief trip to the first overlook will be enough hiking action for the day. If you’re after a more strenuous workout and several more waterfall views, continue your journey along the North Fork Trail.

As the trail climbs higher and you follow the path of Tumalo Creek, you’ll soon be rewarded with fewer crowds and more scenic beauty. After hiking past one final waterfall, Middle Fork Tumalo Falls, you’ll have the option to head back the way you came or finish your adventure via an almost equidistant loop trail. Either way, this is a glorious hike that perfectly showcases the unique igneous rock formations of the Bend region. 

  • Location: Tumalo Falls Trailhead
  • Travel Time From Bend: 35 min.
  • Total Hiking Distance: 7 mi.
  • Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
  • Elevation Gain: 1,460 ft. for the full loop
  • Highlights: Scenic viewpoints of several waterfalls and insightful interpretive signs

Soda Creek Trail 

soda creek trail
(Photo/Cascade Drone Photography)

To the west of Bend, the Cascade Lakes region on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains offers a lifetime of superb hiking trails. Of these, the Soda Creek Trail is one of our very favorites. While many scenic hikes in the Cascade Lakes are packed with people, this option is as spectacular as any and significantly quieter.

At 7.7 miles round trip with 1,200 feet of elevation gain, this hike requires moderate physical fitness and a full-day commitment for most hikers. The best season to hike Soda Creek Trail runs from May to early September, though we recommend planning your trip in June for peak wildflower activity.

Beginning at the Green Lakes/Soda Creek trailhead, this hike begins by crossing a pine-forested lava flow. Soon, you’ll ascend into various vegetation zones and into the Three Sisters Wilderness area. Multiple stream crossings await, and there aren’t any footbridges. During spring, high streamflow may make these crossings unsafe. 

For much of this exquisite hike, you’ll have a clear view of Broken Top Mountain in the distance. If you’re feeling extra energetic, it is possible to continue hiking all the way to No Name Lake on Broken Top for a 19-mile adventure.

No matter how far you choose to go, the Soda Creek Trail is a wonderfully serene hiking experience.

  • Location: Soda Creek/Green Lakes Trailhead
  • Travel Time From Bend: 35 min.
  • Total Hiking Distance: 8 mi.
  • Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
  • Elevation Gain: 1,200 ft.
  • Highlights: Wildflower viewing, unique perspective of Broken Top Mountain

South Sister

south sister
(Photo/Bob Pool)

The hike to the summit of South Sister is an iconic and grueling Central Oregon outing. Though this is a difficult objective with almost 5,000 feet of elevation gain, the effort is well rewarded with an otherworldly summit and an unbeatable 360-degree view. 

As the third-tallest mountain in the state, South Sister can be easily spotted from downtown Bend. After an enjoyable drive up the Cascade Lakes Highway, the trail up South Sister begins at the Devil’s Lake Trailhead. We highly recommend a pre-dawn start, as the round-trip hike takes most people 8 or more hours. 

After setting off from the trailhead, the first 1.5 miles wander uphill through a peaceful Mountain Hemlock forest. Emerging above the treeline, you’ll be greeted with sweeping views of the surrounding peaks. At this point in the journey, the trail itself becomes soft and sandy.

If you prefer to break up the 13-mile round trip into a 2-day backpacking adventure, it is possible to camp part way up the mountain at Moraine Lake. As always, it’s important to check the weather before you go and come prepared. Fun fact: The small crater lake on the summit of the mountain is the highest lake in the state of Oregon. 

  • Location: Devil’s Lake Trailhead
  • Travel Time From Bend: 30 min.
  • Total Hiking Distance: 13 mi.
  • Difficulty: Very strenuous
  • Elevation Gain: 4,900 ft.
  • Highlights: Panoramic summit views of the entire Central Oregon region

Bessie Butte Trail

Bessie Butte Hills Outdoors
Bessie Butte offers a short but satisfying hike; (photo/Hills Outdoors)

With its close proximity to Bend and relatively moderate difficulty, the Bessie Butte Trail is an excellent option for families seeking a half-day hiking adventure. The Central Oregon region is known for its cinder cones and lava buttes, and this trail offers an up-close experience of one of these unique geological oddities. 

Bessie Butte sits on Forest Service land just south of Bend and is free to access. The distance from the trailhead to the summit is just 0.7 miles, but keep in mind that the entire hike follows a semisteep incline.

Once on the summit, enjoy the surrounding sea of treetops that make up the Deschutes National Forest. Because the summit is broad and flat, many hikers choose to hang out and eat lunch before heading back to the car. Adventurous folks sometimes camp on top of Bessie Butte, and the stargazing opportunities are said to be outstanding.

Like most buttes in the area, there are very few trees on Bessie. In scorching midsummer temps, we recommend seeking out a higher elevation trail.

  • Location: Bessie Butte Trail, Forest Road 1810
  • Travel Time From Bend: 15 min.
  • Total Hiking Distance: 1.4 mi.
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 400 ft.
  • Highlights: The large, flat summit is the perfect place to hang out and eat lunch

Big Obsidian Flow, Newberry National Monument

Newberry NAtional Monument Pernelle Voyage
The Newberry National Monument features accessible paths through unusual lava flows; (photo/Pernelle Voyage)

The ever-changing landscape of Central Oregon features several active volcanos and recent lava flows. At the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, you can hike directly through the aftermath of a 1,300-year-old eruption.

Though this hike is short, paved, and relatively flat, it is well worth a brief stop. In the midst of the Newberry Crater at the base of Paulina Peak, the barren terrain has a certain stark beauty that offers a rare sense of stillness and quietude.

At several stations along the 0.6-mile loop, interpretive signs tell the story of Central Oregon’s ongoing volcanic activity. At 1,300 years old, the Big Obsidian Flow is the youngest lava flow in the state.

Throughout the hike, you’ll mostly be walking on a paved path, but we recommend durable shoes for this hike as the surrounding volcanic glass can be sharp enough to shred your soles. Before you leave the Newberry National Monument, check out the Paulina Visitor Center for brief and fascinating lectures taught by local rangers.

  • Location: Newberry National Monument
  • Travel Time From Bend: 15 min.
  • Total Hiking Distance: 0.6 mi.
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation Gain: 200 ft.
  • Highlights: Views of Paulina Peak, engaging interpretive signs, accessible trail

Shevlin Park Look Trail

shevlin park
(Photo/Hills Outdoors)

Located less than 3 miles from Bend’s city center, Shevlin Park is a tranquil slice of nature with plentiful hiking opportunities. Of these, the Loop Trail is among the most popular. This 4.7-mile, mostly flat path is accessible and well-maintained year-round.

The trail begins by passing through a majestic stand of Ponderosa Pines. There are many trail junctures along the way, but each is well-marked and easy to navigate.

You can expect to cross Tumalo Creek twice, but sturdy bridges appear right when you need them. Most of the path is wide enough to hike side by side, though there are a few sections of narrow single track.

Along the trail, expect pleasant views of Tumalo Creek and colorful basalt cliff bands. There are ample trees (and shade), and it’s easy to find good spots for breaks.

Because this hike is only a short drive from Bend, it can become quite crowded — especially on the weekends. During midweek mornings and afternoons, you can expect a relatively solitary adventure. In the winter months, the Shevlin Park Loops Trail is popular for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. 

  • Location: Shevlin Park
  • Travel Time From Bend: 10 min.
  • Total Hiking Distance: 4.7 mi.
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation Gain: 240 ft.
  • Highlights: This trail passes through impressive groves of Ponderosa and often hugs Tumalo Creek

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