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17+ Badass Things to Do in Oregon: Portland and Bend

17+ Badass Things to Do in Oregon: Portland and Bend

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If you’re looking for things to do in Oregon, you’re in luck, there’s no shortage of adventurous and gorgeous attractions around every corner.

I have to admit, I had no idea what to think of Oregon. I thought it was a boring state that was cold and rainy all the time.

I’m so glad my boyfriend took me to his home state to prove me wrong. And I was really wrong!

Oregon, I have to say, is one of my favorite places in the world now.

I’m in love with the breathtaking scenery and the brilliant beer scene!

Now I’m here to share it with you, just like Garrett shared it with me. Everything here is recommended by a true a local by the way. 🙂

Oh, and SURPRISE! I updated this post since I recently spent a whole summer in Bend, Oregon and I now have way more than 11 things to do in Bend and Portland, Oregon. You win! I spent most of my time in Bend with popovers to Portland so here’s some of the best stuff to do around these two spots.

RELATED: Oregon’s Most Instagrammable Locations

Things to do in Oregon: Bend’s Highlights

Bend is a place you probably haven’t heard of but you need to know about. It’s blowing up as the adventure capital of the state or possibly the West Coast and it’s a stunner. Surrounded by mountains, inundated with craft beer breweries, and teeming with adventurous activities, these are the best things to do in Bend, Oregon and around it…

1. Sunset at Pilot Butte

things to do in bend oregon for a viewpoint at the pilote butte
Sunset at the butte for the win!

Drive up to Pilot Butte in Bend for some great views of the whole city and the surrounding mountains. I think catching a sunset up here is the best, though! If you need some good exercise, you can walk up too.

Resources for Your Trip:

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Where to Stay?

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Check my top 3 (legit) ways to get free stays!

2. Bend’s River Trails

Walk around the river trails when doing things in bend,oregon
River trail wandering.

Bend is a nature haven. Would you guess this scene is right in town? It is! Walk the trails along the Deschutes River, it’s breathtaking. You’ll see people running and walking their dogs here every day, it’s the place to be in the city if you want to be surrounded by greenery and the rhythmic sounds of a river.

3. The Beer Scene is Like No Other

check out the bend oregon beer scene
If you’re dying for a beer, Bend is the best place to get some!

Beer. Lots and LOTS of beer. Oregon loves beer, but more specifically, Bend, Oregon loves beer. How much do they love it? There are over 200 breweries in Oregon, 24 in Bend alone. I can honestly tell you, I’ve never tasted a real beer before. Now that I know what real beer can taste like, everything I’ve tasted before was absolutely the worst. No wonder I wasn’t a fan of beer. My boyfriend is a huge lover of craft beer and I totally get it now. I’m converted.

Beer is one of the top things to do in Oregon! It’s a must, even if you’re not a beer drinker. The breweries are quite the experience as most have a brewery and bar in one. Good Life, Crux, Craft, and Boneyard are a few of our favorites.

4. Floating the Deschutes River

Floating the Descutes River is a must do in bend,oregon
Floating the Deschutes River is so fun!

Want to be a true local? You have to float the Deschutes River. It’s essentially everyone’s favorite summertime thing to do. You’ll see everyone on a raft ranging from the flimsiest and cheapest donut raft you’ve ever seen, to blow up mattresses to the king of the river – The Intex River Run raft. Grab some beer, in a discrete container if possible, (if not, nobody actually regulates) and make your way down to the rapids and beyond.

You can put your raft in at McCay Park or walk up the river a bit more to prolonge your rafting experience. If you want to avoid the rapids (PS- cheap rafts will likely flip in the rapids so secure your stuff) you’ll need to pay attention for the signs warning you the rapids are coming up and get out at the overpass. The rapids are around the halfway mark.

The river is quite slow, like a lazy river, however, you do need to be careful of rocks jutting out so your raft doesn’t get a hole poked in it. If you’re only riding about half the river, you can easily walk back to your vehicle as you’ll likely only be about a 15-20 minutes walk away. If you’re riding further or are being lazy, there’s a shuttle to get back to your car made to carry your raft along as well.

Things to do Oregon: Epic Things Around Bend

You can do these while basing yourself in Bend. Crater Lake is the furthest away from Bend but still totally doable in a day trip! Alvord Dessert will be a longer trip and requires an overnight stay – Trust me, you won’t want to rush home!

5. Crater Lake

Seeing snow for the first time while visiting oregon and crater lake
Crater Lake introduced me to snow! How awesome!

Crater Lake is phenomenal. It was formed over 7,000 years ago after a volcano collapsed. Since there are no rivers flowing into this lake, it’s one of the cleanest and clearest lakes in the world, and it’s the deepest lake in the USA. Oh, and it’s gorgeous!

If you come during winter like we did, you might not be able to drive around the loop that goes around the lake because of road closures, but visiting during winter is magical! This was where I saw snow for the first time. It was phenomenal!

6. The Cove Palisades

The Cove Palisades is a stunning spot to at least make a stopover. Basaltic lava flowed through these canyons a billion years ago (OK, 50,000 years ago) which filled them up, but the mighty rivers eventually eroded them down to what you see today. Come the 1940’s, this beauty was bought up, and a dam was put in by an electrical company. The dam was erected right where the Crooked, Deschutes and Metolius rivers meet and right behind it is where Lake Billy Chinook sits.

RELATED: Want more about Oregon beyond Portland and Bend!? Check this post out for an epic collaboration of Oregon destinations.

7. Smith Rock State Park & Misery Ridge

Located in Bend is a fantastic State Park named Smith Rock. It’s flipping ridiculously beautiful. Like, no words beautiful. Huge rocks just jet out of the ground with a river snaking through and incredible views waiting for you up top. There were numerous hikes to explore, but we did Misery Ridge. No misery was experienced but there were plenty of jaw-dropping vistas around each corner.

If you’re a rock climber, this place will totally be up your alley!

8. The Summits

Mount Bachelor, Broken Top, the Three Sisters, Mount Hood, and Mount Washington. Mountains… They can kinda be a big deal for people who didn’t grow up with them. Like people from Florida (me). I love my beaches, but shoot, mountains are freakin sweet too. Speaking of summits…

9. South Sister Summit

Nina at the summit after hiking south sister
Epic views from South Sister

Climbing South Sister was one of the hardest and most rewarding things I’ve ever done. This is the highest I’ve ever hiked! I’m in no way shape or form athletic and super fit. This was a rough hike but I can’t tell you how worth it it was to get up there and make it to the top. Reserve the day for it because you’ll want to get up early and you’ll be dead when you’re done.
>>> Check out my guide to hiking South Sister.

10. Paulina Peak

Be adventurous and hike up Paulina Peak when traveling around bend,oregon
Be adventurous and hike up Paulina Peak

There are two choices for this next spot. Either you can be adventurous and hike up the mountain to the viewpoints or you can drive up the whole way. Guess which we chose? Hiking of course! It’s about 4 hours altogether if you stop at Paulina Falls, the Peak and some breaks in between too.

11. The Cascade Lakes

The Cascade lakes are and epic stop over around bend, oregon
Sparks Lake

Elk, Spark, Devils, Todd… Pick a lake, any lake! There’s a bunch around the Cascade Mountain range all ranging from beautiful to drop dead gorgeous. I’d say Spark was the most photogenic of the lakes with Devils coming in a close second. Elk Lake is for anyone wanting to rent some gear to go SUPing or kayaking.

12. The Painted Hills

The painted hills in oregon are an awesome thing to do!
Tried to match my dress to the Painted Hills… haha. Totally on accident!

An enthralling alien landscape that makes you feel like you landed on Mars. That’s what I feel like The Painted Hills are like! It’s exactly what it sounds like, hills “painted” in a colorful layer type manner. It’s a very easy to navigate the area with trails to wander.

13. Alvord Desert (Our Fav Secret Spot, Shh!)

The best thing to do in Oregon is go to Alvord Dessert
No. Words.

I have to say, Alvord Desert might be one of the coolest places I’ve been. We came out here to camp for the night on a massive salt flat dessert and had it all to ourselves! The majestic Steen Mountains and the glimmering desert were all ours when we went probably because there were some wicked wildfires around at the time but it’s regularly not the most popular place anyway, that’s for sure.

Bring everything you would need to survive a night or more and make sure to fill that tank of gas in either Burns or Fields before making your way out there.

For camping on the desert, I’d suggest staying on the mountainside to avoid strong winds. We stayed on the opposite end and it was a very windy night. If you’re not down to camp, you can rent a bunker type room at Alvord Desert Hot Springs, and yes, they have a hot spring. Not the prettiest looking thing but it’s there!

If you don’t have a four-wheel drive, getting down to the desert could be a bit tricky. There’s a decent road maintained by Alvord Desert Hot Springs, you can throw them a few bucks and they will let you use it. Here’s a guide to camping at Alvord Desert.

14. Drive Up The West Coast

Drive along the coast when traveling around Oregon
West Coast best coast? Whatcha think?

This doesn’t belong to Bend or Portland really, but should you have some extra time, definitely take a trip to the coast. Either by driving up it or at the least, just popping by whichever beach is close to you. The beaches are incredible but too bad they are so cold! Short Sands, Indian, and Pacific City Beaches are some of the most popular beaches in Oregon.

Things to do in Oregon: Portland’s Iconic Must-Dos

Two famous places, a viewpoint, and a place to eat – What more do you need as an intro on your Portland itinerary? You could smash all these things out in a very busy day or spread them over two days.

15. Voodoo Donuts

I ate a voodoo donut at Voodoo Donuts. This is one of the most typical things to do in Oregon, and delicious. It’s actually, in real life, worth it! Try to come during “off” hours to avoid a ridiculously stupid long line. Anytime around lunch and after work is a bad time.

16. Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls is a must visit while in Portland Oregon
Waterfalls are always a winner.

Multnomah Falls is a waterfall that’s semi-hidden in a little alcove. When I went, in winter, it was so windy and there was no sun, so this meant everyone was turning into popsicles. There was even ice forming in the ponds and around the waterfall, but we stuck it out. It was a mighty sight to see this majestic waterfall that’s loved and frequented by Portlanders and is one of the top things to do in Oregon. This is a must for your Portland itinerary

17. Pine Street Market

Pop by Pine Street Market in the heart of Portland for a quick snack or a badass lunch. This a hawker food hall type place with everything from homemade local Oregon berry ice cream to the best burgers in town to fresh baguettes. If you’re exploring the city, it’s a great place to chill and fill that belly.

Pine Street Market in the heart of Portland

18. Rocky Butte Viewpoint

I always love a great viewpoint, no matter where I am in the world. Rocky Butte is a great spot because it’s not in the heart of the city aka it’s not super crowded, yet it still provides a brilliant vista of the city and the nearby mountains!

BONUS – Check out what’s playing at Miracle (Milagro) Theater in Portland. It’s the only Hispanic theater in the Pacific Northwest and they usually have something seasonal going on. I caught a Dia Los Muertos type play when I was here last, which is their main show. Don’t worry, you don’t need to speak Spanish fluently to understand the production.

19. Chase Waterfalls

There are a bunch of waterfalls just outside of Portland ready for you to explore. I know Portland is a cool city but if you’re craving some greenery around you, just head to the gorgeous Columbia River Gorge. In less than an hour, you’ll be surrounded by hills, the rushing river and plenty of waterfall hikes to enjoy. Read more about all the hikes and waterfalls near Portland.

Where to stay in Portland:

Try the city’s popular hostels like Traveler’s House or Friendly Bike. If hotels are more your thing –  RodeWay Inn and Suites or Ramada are some of the highest rated for the cost.

Where to stay in Bend:

The Econo Lodge offers a decent deal as well as the Rainbow Motel.

Oregon’s beauty was captivating and I want to visit again and again… And luckily, I will get to because Garrett is from there. Hopefully, I can update with even more excellent recommendations for your time in Oregon!

Is Oregon on your list of places to go? Have I enticed you to visit?

What are your favorite things to do in Oregon if you’ve been?

If you LOVED this, I’d LOVE you for pinning it!

what to do while in bend oregon
what to do while in bend oregon

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  1. Nina Ragusa says:

    Nice Rashaad! My bf lived there for a bit and we passed through Eugene during my time there. Hope you get to go one day!

  2. Rashaad says:

    I would love to visit Eugene – a.k.a. Tracktown USA. I would love to attend a big time track meet at Hayward Field in Eugene because it is an awesome place to watch a major competition – at least on TV it is.

  3. Kat says:

    Having been born & raised in Western Oregon, and havin family in Central Oregon (drove by Smith Rock every time I was heading to Grandma’s), I have to say it’s wonderful hearing someone gush about the place I love! One place you didn’t mention that I’ve always loved is Paulina Peak, just south of Bend. You can see for miles and have a good view of Fort Rock (old Paiute Indian sacred place & crazy rock formation similar to smith rock, but in a ring or “fort” shape), as well as every mountain in the Oregon Cascades at once!

  4. Nina Ragusa says:

    Sounds amazing!!! Thanks, Kat. Can’t wait to go back and check that out

  5. Lindsey says:

    This was great! It reconfirmed some places on my list I already wanted to check out .

  6. Nina Ragusa says:

    Awesome! Thank you, Lindsey! Have an amazing time. I’m already planning my next visit.

  7. Nina Ragusa says:

    Whoa! Haha that’s seems to be quite the experience!

  8. Nina Ragusa says:

    haha oh gosh! Yes! Edited. Replying to comments via the phone must be reviewed a bit more carefully. Noted. :-p

  9. Rashaad says:

    I still haven’t made it to Oregon yet but another of my bucket list items is to do the World Naked Bike Ride in Portland. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it but it’s a major event there. I’ve heard it attracts anywhere from 8,000 – 10,000 participants.

  10. Rashaad says:

    I think you mean “seems.”

  11. Stacie Oberson says:

    I live in Bend…it’s the bomb diggity!

  12. Nina Ragusa says:

    Haha yes it is! We can’t wait to go back! 🙂

  13. Josie says:

    I live in Prineville, just 45 minutes from Bend and I love this list! Growing up here I have a lot I’d add to the list but the one I think a lot of other people would agree with is the Painted Hills! They’re beautiful during summer and they’re located in the middle of nowhere between two very small towns. Just Google them and make sure to stop in Mitchell, OR if you get the chance (population >150 so if you drop my name they’ll know me lol!)

  14. Nina Ragusa says:

    Yes! I can’t wait to go! I’m going back to Oregon soon 🙂

  15. Mandee Seeley says:

    I had never been to the West coast (also a Florida girl) until I moved to Oregon a little over a year ago. Best decision I ever made. I actually live in Sisters, about 30 minutes from Bend, but you ain’t kiddin on the beauty. I’m surrounded by 7 mountains, and I’d suffer through another winter like this past one for the rest of my life to die here.

    Did you visit the coast? We just took our first trip there on our anniversary (4/20!) and even though we only saw ONE portion of it, it is like nothing I ever experienced growing up in Florida. Hecena Lighthouse beach to be exact. I can’t swim in the water here yet because of my FL blood, but Oregon has an entire coast of beach so we fit right in.

  16. Nina Ragusa says:

    I’m from Florida too 🙂 I hear you!!! I was on the coast but in November. So there was nobody in the water. That sounds amazing! I’m actually going back again soon. I can’t wait!

  17. Crystal says:

    I’m actually working on getting a trip together to go to Oregon! How many days were you there? I’m trying to gauge how long a trip we need in order for my to hit my top attractions on my list.

  18. Sylvia says:

    Thanks for sharing your tips and experiences. We are planning a road trip through Washington and Oregon and will spend 3 days in the Bend area. Your blogpost made my day and helped so much! ?

  19. Nina Ragusa says:

    Oh yay! I’m actually back around Bend and exploring some more this month, keep tabs on my IG for more ideas :-p

  20. Nina Ragusa says:

    Exciting! I was hanging out in Oregon for a month just working and having a few days here and there to explore. You could probably do everything in 7-10 days. I’m back in Bend right now and I’m exploring some more and I will be adding more to this list eventually though, so uhm…. stay as long as you can? haha. There’s a lot to do around here! Stay tuned on my IG if you want bc I’ll be seeing more of what’s around here… Or don’t watch bc maybe you’ll add too many places to the list…? :-p

  21. Anna says:

    My daughter has lived in Bend since 2008 and absolutely loves it. We have visited multiple times and always find amazing stuff to see and do; including drinking wonderful craft beer! Highly recommend checking it out.

  22. Nina Ragusa says:

    that craft beer!!! 🙂

  23. Iona says:

    My Husband & I, on our first trip into Portland, stayed at the Nordic Inn & Suites. Made for a good base, super clean & beyond reasonably priced. Some suites have full kitchens. Having a car is a must though.

  24. Nina Ragusa says:

    Good to hear! Thanks for sharing. A car in the US as a whole is a must, unfortunately! :-/

  25. Kelly says:

    That’s awesome you had your first snow experience at Crater Lake. It’s a magical place. Great article!

  26. Shelby says:

    Wow, so many things to put on my bucket list! Can’t wait to visit!

  27. Nina Ragusa says:

    Yay! Oregon is great, enjoy!

  28. Courtney Ransom says:

    Loved this post! Planning a trip to the pacific northwest and tis was super helpful. 🙂

  29. Nina Ragusa says:

    Have an awesome time!

  30. Susan says:

    Lots of good motels in bend. You don’t need to spend big money, your not going to want to stay in the hotel anyway. Also about 67 miles east on hwy 20 there is obsidian mt. A well known rockhounding area. Literal steams of obsidian and there you can collect. Santaim pass also will give you awesome Mountain View’s and closeup viewing of volcanic areas

  31. Rand says:

    Awesome to see you climbed South Sister! That is such a rewarding (and demanding) hike and great way to see the Cascades up close. I haven’t done it in some years but it’s on my bucket list for this coming summer.

  32. Nina Ragusa says:

    Thanks, Rand! It’s great but definitely NOT easy. Have fun going up this summer 🙂

  33. Shirleen says:

    Great blog on some of Oregon! I have lived here since 1977. I feel you may need to visit again and take in all that Southern Oregon has to offer. Water actives, hikes, wineries, Shakespeare and much much more! Our weather is awesome all year with our annual rainfall of just about 15” per year. The people in Southern Oregon are warm, friendly and always ready to share their best spots for anything you’d like to do.

  34. Nina Ragusa says:

    Thanks, Shirleen!

  35. Eva says:

    Thank you so much for the info, I’m considering to move out west and I’ve been in search for a place that has a boat load of outdoor activities. Your reviews of various products were also super helpful for my future travels. Enjoy and be safe. Namaste.

  36. Nina Ragusa says:

    YAY! Glad this was helpful, Eva. Sounds like Bend would be your spot. I love it there. 🙂

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