The spectacular mountain and high-desert scenery surrounding Bend has spurred a tourism boom, making the city one of the fastest-growing areas in Oregon. Outdoor opportunities abound with rock climbing, bicycling, golf, hiking, horseback riding, white-water rafting and trout fishing available in or near the city. The Pole-Pedal-Paddle Triathlon draws legions of skiers, bikers and kayakers to Bend in May. Many visitors use Bend as a base to explore the surrounding region or merely pass through on their way to one of the numerous year-round resorts located nearby. Many of them are clustered around Mount Bachelor—one of Oregon's premier skiing areas. The eclectic combination of duffers, climbers and equestrians makes for lively gatherings in the city's restaurants, coffeehouses and brewpubs.
On the southern edge of Bend is the excellent High Desert Museum, which has a wide range of indoor and outdoor exhibits: We especially enjoyed watching the river otters and the outstanding presentation about birds of prey. There are permanent displays of the native flora and fauna of the High Desert Region, as well as a collection of Western art and exhibits about the region's history and the settlement of the West. You'll also find real wild mustangs in the Mustang Corral, as well as a steam-powered sawmill still in action after more than 100 years. In all, this regional museum is well worth your time. Open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's days.
Just a 10-minute drive south of the High Desert Museum is the Lava Lands Visitor Center of Newberry National Volcanic Monument. You can learn about the geologic unrest that created this strange terrain, formed by ancient volcanic eruptions. Take a stroll along the Trail of the Molten Lands, which traverses 9 sq mi/23 sq km of lava fields. You should also drive to the top of Lava Butte, a huge cinder cone that spewed the lava 70 centuries ago. Lava River Cave is a very long lava tube that runs for more than 1 mi/1.6 km. Rent one of the lanterns that are available at the entrance to the cave, and wear warm clothes and good hiking shoes: The high temperature inside the cave is 42 F/7 C. Open May-October.
If you have the time and want to see absolutely fantastic high-mountain scenery, follow the Cascades Lakes Highway through the Deschutes National Forest, which passes the Three Sisters volcanoes: South, Middle and North (also known as Faith, Hope and Charity), each of which is more than 10,000 ft/3,050 m tall. The 90-mi/145-km loop begins and ends in Bend and takes the better part of a day.
Just 22 mi/35 km west of Bend, Mount Bachelor is a high-desert volcanic cone with 71 groomed and ungroomed downhill skiing trails, 35 mi/55 km of cross-country trails and a wealth of activities for kids. Advanced skiers can often ski the summit through Memorial Day. From the summit, you'll have panoramic vistas of the Three Sisters. Bend is 130 mi/210 km southeast of Portland.
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