The Bendites have a saying: “show up and explode”, which means, come as you are, without any planning. Still, some things require a bit of planning ahead if you’re heading to Bend, Oregon.
Insider tips like knowing where and how to get trail permits, choosing the right things to wear, and understanding the art of blending in like a local are key to a successful trip. Afraid to stick out like a sore thumb from out of town when you get to Bend? Memorize this list and you’ll be ready for a crash landing in Oregon’s hottest outdoor vacation destination.
Keep the original inhabitants in mind as you explore
The ancestors of the first nomads to inhabit the central Oregon landscape now reside on the Reservation of hot springs, a sovereign nation north of Bend. Visitors are permitted at the Warm Springs Museum, Indian Head Casino and a handful of dining establishments. Patronizing Warm Springs businesses is a good juju.
The high desert is a delicate ecosystem and resources are scarce. For this reason, the early Wasco, Warm Springs Bands and Paiute, now known as Confederate Tribes of Warm Springs, wisely only seasonally inhabited the area. Unfortunately, the reserve faces an ongoing water crisis and has systemic issues accessing non-toxic drinking water.
Get your permits in advance
Permits are required for most of the fun outdoor activities you’ll want to do in Bend. If you recreate on Deschutes National Forest Land, you will need a daily or seasonal leisure pass displayed on the dashboard of your vehicle. For high traffic areas like the Three Sisters Wilderness or the Central Desert Waterfalls, an additional permit is required. In winter, a snow park pass is required at many sites that require a Deschutes National Forest pass. If you plan to visit Smith Rock or any other state parka separate pass is required.
Downtown Bend has parking meter paid by smartphone app for all central areas.
Prepare for success by calling property managers before your trip to clarify necessary passes. These rules are important to follow and fines are imposed on those who disregard the regulations.
Learn to use the roundabouts before you arrive
Parking and driving can be quite congested in Bend during peak season. Although roundabouts instead of streetlights keep the flow going, some people are unfamiliar with roundabout etiquette. look at this city of bend tutorial to be sure to be ready to face the turnstiles.
To completely avoid driving, consult the Complimentary Ride Bend Shuttle Service which picks up and drops off customers within a radius of a few kilometers from the city center, the Cascades East Transit system, the Mount Bachelor Shuttlethe ride the river Deschutes River Floating Shuttle and the Central Oregon Breeze.
Other alternatives to driving include, but are not limited to, walking, biking, skateboarding, in-line skating, or riding a scooter. The city is also easily navigable by e-bike. Rideshares like Uber and Lyft are available upon request.
Be nice, you’re in Bend
The Benites have another saying: “Be nice, you’re in Bend”. If you want to stay incognito and not be mistaken for a tourist, keep this in mind. A red flag giveaway that is sure to blow your cover: being rude to waiters or anyone in the service or hospitality industry. With deep roots in the ski bum and dirt back outdoor culture — which put Bend on the map to begin with — many locals still live that lifestyle. In Bend, the pace of service is different than in a big city. This situation has only been exacerbated with the onset of COVID and a housing crisis that is pushing many of those who live off the hospitality industry out of town. Consider being extra nice while waiting to be seated in restaurants, picking up takeout, renting or buying equipment, etc.
Don’t just be nice to people, act like a local and be kind to the environment too. Being a steward of the outdoor spaces and public lands we call home is essential. Enjoy Protect Respect is an awareness campaign that can guide you through best practices when floating the Deschutes River. The Leave no trace The principles are also useful when visiting the wilderness areas surrounding Bend.
Take out your Patagucci
You’ve heard that dressing for success is the key to fitting in, right? In Bend, you can’t go wrong with casual outdoor clothing from Patagonia, or as locals affectionately refer to outdoor brand “Patagucci” (a combination of Patagonia and designer brand Gucci). There is even a signature, held locally, Patagonia store in Bend. Start with the basics like any style of puffer jacket (goose down) and a signature winter hat. From there, t-shirts, running clothes and climbing clothes are all at your fingertips. Wearing the Patagonia label in Bend is basically a signal statement to anyone you meet, you might, in fact, be a local. Just make sure the gear isn’t too cool. Worn in outer layers, you’ll gain more street cred.
Other popular brands include Columbia, Penelton, Danner, Black Diamond and anything related to surfing, snowboarding or skateboarding. Trucker caps, flannels and overalls never go out of style in Bend.
Don’t forget that Bend has a great arts and entertainment scene
With incredible venues all over the city, Bend constantly attracts top local and international talent. The Hayden Homes Amphitheatre, Domino Room and Volcanic Theater pub attract all musical talent while the comedy scene at Craft Kitchen and Silvermoon Brewery will have you laughing every week.
You might also like:
7 Reasons Bend, Oregon Is the “Outdoor Playground of the West”
Oregon’s Best Places to Visit Beyond Portland
The 5 Best Road Trips in Oregon for Every Kind of Adventurer