Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Bend, OR

  • Published 2023/01/20

Bend is in central Oregon, roughly 163 miles southeast of Portland.

It is the county seat of Deschutes County in Oregon.

It was constituted as a city in 1905.

The city is near the Deschutes River on the eastern edge of the Cascade Range.

The place is excellent for skiing, hiking, and fishing without spending much money.

Here are the free things to do in Bend, Oregon:

Enjoy Amazing Views at Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint

Trail leading to Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint

MARELBU, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stop by Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint if you’re visiting Bend, Oregon.

One of its distinguishing features is the spiraling hiking trail that leads to 360-degree summit vistas.

The lava butte is a cinder cone that towers 500 feet above the ground.

An extinct volcano formed this natural landmark roughly 190,000 years ago.

The view from Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint

Another Believer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint provides spectacular views of the city and the surrounding countryside.

The 1.8 miles of trails leading to the viewpoint are popular among runners, hikers, cyclists, and other enthusiasts every day of the year.

The trail is suitable for hikers of varying ages and abilities.

It is also dog-friendly, provided you keep your pets leashed at all times.

Don’t forget to visit the spot when you visit Bend, Oregon.

Have a Picnic at Riverbend Park

The 13.1-acre Riverbend Park stretches along the Deschutes River and is located near the historic Old Mill District.

It’s a great place to go river rafting and enjoy other summertime activities.

This park is home to a sandy beach, a picnic shelter, expansive grassy areas, and easily navigable walking trails.

Riverbend Park is conveniently placed in the middle of Bend, providing easy access to the city’s other popular destinations like the South Canyon Trails, Farewell Bend Park, and the Deschutes River.

Runners and hikers can enjoy the miles of trails that encircle the Deschutes River.

Beautiful paved and unpaved trails connect stunning riparian conservation areas home to various native plant and animal species.

Visit the park at SW Columbia St, Bend, Oregon.

Go Floating and Tubing at the Deschutes River

River surfing on Deschutes River

Irra /

Central Oregon once relied on the Deschutes River as its primary source of economic activity as home to the region’s key businesses.

However, the Deschutes River has become a recreational hub for countless locals and visitors.

The stretch of Deschutes River through Bend offers more than a pretty backdrop.

During the summer months, you’ll see a surge of visitors taking advantage of the river’s many attractions.

It becomes an excellent spot for water sports, including tubing, swimming, surfing, boarding, and other water activities.

Floating on Deschutes River

Reimar /

If you’re not into water activities, you may stroll along the river’s paved paths or watch the floaters go by.

Signs indicating the degree of difficulty of the rapids along the river allow tubers to pick the section of the river they feel most comfortable navigating.

They can take an adventurous route, risk the rapids, or relax and float peacefully down the river.

You can access the river through NW Riverside Blvd, Bend, Oregon.

Whitewater rafting on Deschutes River

Bob Pool /

Visit Alpenglow Park

The 37-acre Alpenglow Park is one of Bend’s newest attractions and will serve as a focal point for outdoor activities, community gatherings, and convenient connections to trails.

Mature groves of Ponderosa Pine and Juniper can be seen throughout the park.

This new public park preserves the natural features of the surrounding area while offering a wide variety of recreational options for people of all ages and their four-legged pals.

The park has an off-leash dog area, an event pavilion, a bouldering area, a playground, a seasonal sprayground, an open lawn, and several multi-use pathways.

When temperatures soar, visitors can cool themselves at the free seasonal sprayground.

Alpenglow Park has a one-of-a-kind bouldering area.

It features three different structures for visitors to climb, each offering different types of ascents: natural, set with handholds, and accessible with rope assistance for climbers with impairments.

The park is located at Southeast 15th Street, Bend, Oregon.

Spot Local Wildlife at Drake Park

Trail at Drake Park

Wirestock Creators /

Located on the banks of the Deschutes River, Drake Park spans an expansive 13 acres.

It is one of the oldest and most popular parks in Bend.

The park is a hub of activity all year round, especially in the warmer months of spring, summer, and fall.

It has nearly half a mile of riverfront, open green spaces, a pond, an outdoor stage, and picnic tables.

Play soccer or baseball, or just run free around the open lawn.

Geese at Drake Park

Timothy Carnahan /

You can use the park as a starting point to explore other nearby destinations.

There are trails nearby and easy access to the river.

It’s also an excellent site to spot local wildlife like great horned owls, chipmunks, squirrels, and others.

Spend a day exploring its open spaces or relax at its many picnic spots.

Drake Park is located at NW Riverside Blvd., Bend, Oregon.

Bench at Drake Park

Wirestock Creators /

Go Fishing at Brooks Park

Brooks Park is a small park on the west side of the Newport Street Bridge.

It’s a lovely spot for a stroll during lunch, with a scenic river vista.

Brooks Park has a memorial plaza, picnic tables, a lawn, and access to the river.

Enjoy a picnic, soak up some rays, or get on the river using your boat.

The Bend Heroes Memorial was unveiled at the park on Veterans Day in 2009.

The monument and surrounding landscaping were designed to honor local heroes and provide a quiet spot for contemplation.

Park visitors have easy access to the Deschutes River, one of the best places to go fishing in Oregon.

The river is teeming with native fish species.

Join the fun at NW Drake Rd., Bend, Oregon.

Join the Bend Heritage Walk

Exterior of Goodwill House

Ian Poellet, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Discover the rich history of Bend, Oregon, on the Bend Heritage Walk.

Walking the five blocks covered by the heritage walk takes around half an hour.

The Bend Heritage Walk will lead you to some of the city’s most significant historical landmarks.

The walk begins at the Goodwillie House on NW Brooks Street in Bend.

You can have a fascinating self-guided tour thanks to the insightful plaques on the buildings.

You will visit numerous historical places, including the Goodwill House, Bend’s oldest residence on the National Register of Historic Places.

The theater first opened its doors in 1917, making it Bend’s oldest operating theater.

To make the walk more convenient, the local Deschutes County Historical Society has created free applications for your smartphone that provide directions to more than 40 landmarks along the route.

Shoot Hoops at Blakely Park

Blakely Park is a tiny neighborhood park with a prominent playground, grassy fields, and half a basketball court just south of the Old Mill district.

The park’s centerpiece is a large play structure famous to kids of all ages.

A big ramp gives wheelchair access to the play area.

Playground equipment like monkey bars and slides will encourage a wide range of active play.

The park is conveniently located close to popular tourist destinations like the Deschutes River Trail and the Central Oregon Canal Trail.

Plenty of trees and grassy areas make this park perfect for a picnic or soccer game.

You can use the fields and basketball court to improve your speed, agility, and coordination.

The trees provide welcome cover when you take a break between games.

Get your muscles moving and visit Blakely Park at Brookswood Blvd, Bend, Oregon.

Stroll along the Old Mill District

Aerial view of Old Mill District

Ahturner /

Walk along the banks of the Deschutes River in the Old Mill District to find some of the best shopping, dining, and nightlife in Bend.

Unlike conventional retail malls, historic mill buildings were renovated into shops, cafes, and a trail along the riverfront, setting it apart from typical shopping centers.

The Old Mill District is home to several unique businesses, including galleries, restaurants, a movie theater with 16 IMAX screens, a bike rental shop, and stores devoted to various types of water recreation.

Trail at Old Mill District

HDDA Photography /

You don’t have to spend a dime to enjoy the excellent Old Mill District; stroll from the store to shop with friends and family or run along the Deschutes River Trail.

Old Mill District is located at 450 SW Powerhouse Dr, Bend, Oregon.

Boats on the grounds of Old Mill District

PAK Images /

Relax at Al Moody Park

Al Moody Park is a large community park providing ample space for outdoor and various community activities.

It is situated directly opposite Ensworth Elementary.

Preschoolers can enjoy fun features, including a train engine and a “tree house” play area.

Most of the year, Al Moody Park is a meeting place and playground for the residents.

But in winter, when it’s blanketed with snow, it’s a great area to bring a sled and have some fun.

The park’s central ridge of rocks has been designated an “area of special interest,” or ASI, and is a protected area.

The park’s native plants, like juniper, pine, rabbit brush, and alpine currant, provide a home to wildlife such as quail, golden marmots, and squirrels.

Get some exercise or fresh air on the fitness trail or the paved walkways.

Invite your pals and have fun on the turf play area, the winter sledding hill, or the half-basketball court.

Visit the park at NE Daggett Ln, Bend, Oregon.

Take a Hike at Shevlin Park

Arched bridge at Shevlin Park

Wasim Muklashy /

Shevlin Park is a large preserve with opportunities for fishing, picnics, and other outdoor nature activities.

Shevlin Park is an oasis just three miles outside of downtown Bend.

The land for this beloved park was donated to the city in 1920.

It is also an excellent area for cross-country skiing during the winter months.

Most of the park’s 1,000 acres are still undeveloped, although there are paved roads, three developed picnic sites, and other developments.

The waters of Shevlin Park

Hills Outdoors /

Cougar Camp, a popular summer day camp for kids, is held annually at this park.

Several footbridges cross Tumalo Creek, which flows through the park, allowing access to the Shevlin Conservation Easement.

Popular trails include the six-mile Loop Trail, the 2.5-mile Tumalo Creek Trail, and Mountain Bike Trails.

Prepare hiking boots and explore Shevlin Park at Northwest Shevlin Park Road, Bend, Oregon.

Covered bridge at Shevlin Park

Cascade Drone Photography /

Enjoy the Great Outdoors at Riley Ranch Nature Reserve

Riley Ranch Nature Reserve is a 184-acre park that offers visitors a one-of-a-kind opportunity to connect with nature close to home.

The area is excellent for kids to run around and play, and there are also many places to climb rocks.

It is maintained by Bend Park & Recreation District.

Riley Ranch Nature Reserve is in a spectacular setting, with breathtaking vistas of the Cascade Mountains and the Deschutes River Canyon.

The Canyon Loop features 1.25 miles of rocky path below the canyon’s rim and 1.57 miles of smooth trail above it.

The landscape resembles a fairy tale, with its vast meadows, juniper and pine trees, unusual lava flows, cliffs, and steep canyons.

The park is home to numerous plant species, fauna, and migrating birds.

Spend a few relaxing hours outdoors at Riley Ranch Nature Reserve.

Spend the Day at Sawyer Park

Bridge trail at Sawyer Park

Hills Outdoors /

Sawyer Park is a 53.4-acre public park that stretches along both sides of the Deschutes River and features many different amenities.

The city named the park in honor of former Bend Bulletin publisher and journalist Robert Sawyer.

You’ll find a trail network just beyond the river footbridge linking Sawyer Park to other nearby spots.

The park’s towering trees shade the riverside picnic area.

Water fowl on the waters of Sawyer Park

Hills Outdoors /

The park is part of the Oregon Cascades Birding Tour and is home to mature pine and juniper trees and migrating and riparian birds.

The park’s 140 bird species are bald eagles, ospreys, and Great Blue Herons.

Bait and fly fishing are permitted on this section of the Deschutes River all year, with a two-trout-per-day limit.

You can visit the park at O. B. Riley Road, Bend, Oregon.

The grounds of Sawyer Park


Follow the Tumalo Falls Trail

Scenic view of Tumalo Falls

Victoria Ditkovsky /

Tumalo Falls Trail is a 3.2-kilometer trail near Bend, Oregon.

This short hike takes 54 minutes and is generally considered an easy trail.

Although the Tumalo Falls hike is accessible all year, peak season is from May through October.

The 89-foot Tumalo Falls on Tumalo Creek, located about 20 miles outside of Bend, is a major attraction along the trail.

You should expect to run into other hikers and tourists because this is a popular destination.

Hiking trail of Tumalo Falls

M.A.Rogers /

The trail also features a nice picnic area, perfect for taking a break before continuing your hike.

If you continue upstream, you will reach the second waterfall, Middle Tumalo Falls, a 65-foot-high two-tiered cascade.

Spend a relaxing afternoon or morning trekking to a series of stunning waterfalls while enjoying the fresh mountain air.

You can start along the Tumalo Falls Trail on Skyliners Rd, Oregon.

Aerial view of Tumalo Falls Trail

Bandersnatch /

Other Free Things To Do Nearby

Explore Sparks Lake

Paddle-boarding on Sparks Lake

Rob Crandall /

Sparks Lake is situated on the Cascade Lakes Highway, approximately 25 miles west of Bend.

Central Oregon’s pioneer stockman “Lige” Sparks inspired the park’s name.

About 10,000 years ago, the upper Deschutes River was blocked by lava from the Mt. Bachelor Volcanic Chain, creating the lake we see today.

Sparks Lake is a shallow lake that is great for swimming, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and other water sports.

A dog on Sparks Lake

Logan Carter /

The surrounding area is also ideal for camping and hiking.

There are beautiful vistas of the lake and its surroundings, including the lush vegetation and colorful flora.

There is no better place to enjoy Oregon’s gorgeous summers than by the lake.

Get the whole family together, take a plunge in the lake, or relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Scenic sunset reflecting on Sparks Lake

Sandra Woods /

Final Thoughts

Bend is a fantastic place to visit with your family.

You can visit a museum, eat at a fancy restaurant, or relax at its many entertainment facilities.

You don’t have to spend a dime to enjoy its natural beauty and its outdoor activities.

Enjoy the free things to do in Bend, Oregon!

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