Written by | Derek Carlson

11 Great Spots to Stop on a Portland to Bend Road Trip

Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. There is no additional cost to you and it helps support our future adventures.

We have spent the majority of our adult life living in either Bend or Portland so the drive from Portland to Bend is one we know VERY well at this point! We have made the drive in all conditions from wintery blizzards to scorching hot August days and everything in between.

We love that there are multiple routes between these two amazing Pacific Northwest cities. This allows us to tailor our drive to fit in some fun activities or, if we’re in a time crunch, to choose the fastest option for that day.

Few drives in the country take you from a thriving city, up and over the tallest mountain in the state, through majestic forests, and past high deserts. Each part of the drive between Portland and Bend is amazing and beats a boring drive down a nondescript interstate any day of the week.

Driving Routes Between Portland and Bend

If you’re looking to make the drive then there are 3 options that we will typically look at.

Highway 26 past Mt. Hood to Highway 97 (Mt. Hood Route)

If you’re leaving from downtown Portland or the Eastern side of town then this route will typically be the quickest option. The drive from Portland to Bend along these roads typically takes around 3 hours and 15 minutes although that can certainly vary based on traffic or stops along the way.

This route can be very slow getting through Government Camp on busy ski days in the winter so plan accordingly. This route also travels up and over a high elevation pass so there are days where winter tires (not all-season) or chains are required.

I-5 South to Salem to Highway 22 to Highway 20 Through Sisters (Santiam Pass Route)

This is our go-to route on winter weekends or if we’re to Bend from Portland’s western suburbs or the south side of town.

If you’re headed from downtown Portland then Google Maps will usually show this route as being the exact same time as the option above. We have found that typically traffic is a little slower going this way as there are fewer passing lanes on highways 22 and 20.

This route travels over Santiam Pass so be prepared for winter driving conditions during the winter months. The upside is there is far less ski traffic than what you’ll find going over Mt. Hood.

I-84 to Highway 35 to Highway 26 to Highway 97 (Hood River Route)

We consider this to be the VERY scenic route and our option if time doesn’t matter. Per Google Maps the route is only 30 minutes slower than the other two options. But the odds of us making this drive without stopping are slim to none!

Driving through the gorge with its numerous waterfalls and hikes, past Hood River and its wineries and orchards, and along the eastern side of Mt. Hood and its trails (Tamanawas Falls is one of our favorites!) makes it impossible to not stop for a quick hike or bite to eat.

Pumpkins and Mt. Hood along the drive from Portland to Bend

Checking Road Conditions on the Drive Between Portland and Bend

The state of Oregon has an amazing website called TripCheck that has traffic cameras and real-time road updates. During the winter months especially, this is an invaluable resource for conditions or delays when deciding which route to take.

Other map apps are also good for checking conditions but we prefer TripCheck for the cameras and delay estimates for construction, closures, or accidents.

Things to See and Do Along the Drive Between Portland and Bend

Mt. Hood Route

Joe’s Donut Shop

Joe's Donut Shop in Sand, Oregon

Joe’s Donut Shop is an institution along the Portland to Bend drive and has fueled generations of folks heading up to the mountain or over the pass.

While they are known for their donuts (try the Boston Creme!) our favorite thing to get at Joe’s Donuts is the croissant breakfast sandwich.

There is usually parking along the road near the donut shop. Or combine a stop there with a stop for gas at the Arco in Sandy as it is the cheapest gas until you get to Bend.

Timberline Lodge

View of Mt. Hood from Timberline lodge along the drive from Portland to Bend

Visiting Timberline Lodge requires a short detour up Timberline Lodge Rd from Highway 26 right after you pass through Government Camp. The drive up, so long as it isn’t snowy and backed up with ski traffic, is very well worth it!

The historic lodge has stood in place for over 80 years now and is a magnificent place to grab a bite to eat or just sit by the stone fireplace and warm up. There are numerous trails, both short and long, that depart from the lodge so it’s a great place to stop and stretch your legs or let the little ones run around and burn off some energy.

Tip: You can find the best view of Timberline Lodge with the mountain in the background by heading to the front of the lodge and walking downhill into the trees. Keep an eye behind you to find a window to frame the lodge and mountain for a breathtaking shot.

Trillium Lake

Trillium Lake is just a couple miles past Government Camp right off of Highway 26. If you’re making the drive in the winter you’ll have to park at the sno-park along the highway and hike, snowshoe, or ski approximately 4 miles round trip to the lake.

In the summer you can drive right down to the lake to enjoy the stunning views of Mt. Hood. There is also a trail that loops around the entire lake for an easy hike to stretch the legs.

Smith Rock State Park

Smith Rock State Park

Smith Rock State Park is one of our favorite parks in all of Oregon (Fort Stevens in a close 2nd) and we consider ourselves extremely lucky to live so close by.

When driving from Portland to Bend it can be tempting to pass it by as you’re so close to your destination. We were one of those people for many years and once we finally visited we realized we had REALLY been missing out!

While the park is fairly small the views rival any national park we’ve ever visited. Between the stunning cliffs, crooked river, and amazing views of the cascade mountains this park has to be seen to fully appreciate its beauty.

If you’re coming through in the morning on a weekend day prepare for some competition in finding a parking spot. There are usually plenty of people coming and going through so with a little patience you should be fine.

Other Stops of Note Along this Route

  • Edgefield Mcmenamins (golf, dining, lodging, and music)
  • Mt. Hood Brewing (lunch and dinner)
  • Government Camp Rest Stop (restrooms and water)
  • Indian Head Casino (restrooms, dining, and gambling)
  • Pilot Gas Station in Madras (gas, food, and restrooms)

Santiam Pass Route

Silver Falls State Park

Silver Falls is another Oregon State Park that is an absolute gem. The Trail of 10 Falls is up there with the best waterfall trails in the entire world. Doing the entire loop is around 7.5 miles but there are plenty of shorter options as well to hit just a few waterfalls.

It is a bit of a detour to get to the park but we think that, as long as you have the time, it is well worth it.

Berry Picking

Berry picking outside of Salem, Oregon

If you have ever looked up places to go berry picking near Portland then you’ve probably been inundated with writeups about Sauvie Island. We love Sauvie and think it makes for a lovely day trip.

But if you’re looking for a more off-the-beaten-path (read: cheaper) berry-picking experience then the farms near Salem are well worth a visit.

Every year we make a trip over the pass to pick strawberries, blueberries, marionberries, and raspberries at Fordyce Farm. The prices are about 1/4 the price of the Sauvie Island farms and we’re able to spread out and pick a year’s worth of berries (and we go through A LOT of berries) in a morning.

There are a ton of farms in this area, as well as Willamette Valley Pies, so take a drive down one of the many country roads and you’re bound to come across a good spot to stop and pick some snacks for the drive.

Breitenbush Hot Springs

Breitenbush Hot Springs is one of the many hot springs that dot this area of the Cascade Mountains. It is also one of the most “established” with rooms to rent, communal dining, and a variety of well-maintained soaking tubs.

If paying to soak in a natural hot springs isn’t quite your style then there are a few free tubs just down the road. I won’t give away all the details on where they are or how to get there but know that it occasionally requires fording the river.

The upside is that you will often have these tubs all to yourself.

Sisters, Oregon

Sno Cap Drive In in Sisters, Oregon

Sisters, Oregon is the last stop along Highway 20 before the final 25-minute push to Bend. That doesn’t mean it should just be skipped over though as there is SO MUCH to do and see in this quaint Oregon town.

Sisters Bakery and Boone Dog Pizza are absolute must-tries on our list. You’ll probably see the line for Sisters Bakery as you pass through town while Boone Dog is located just a block off the main drag at The Barn.

We also highly recommend grabbing a fresh berry shake at the Sno-Cap Drive-In!

Other Stops of Note Along this Route

  • The Gingerbread House (burgers, restrooms, and gas next door)
  • Detroit Lake (trails, swimming, restrooms, and gas)
  • Camp Sherman (historical general store, trails, restrooms, and food)

Hood River Route

The Hood River route shares half of the drive with the Mt. Hood route so all of our recommendations will be for the 1st half of the drive. The routes merge just south of Mt. Hood on Highway 26.

Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls

The Columbia River Gorge is famous, and correspondingly popular, for its gorgeous waterfalls that cascade over its basalt cliffs.

This area has gotten exponentially more busy over the last decade. So much so that timed entry permits and now required at Multnomah Falls during the busy season.

All of the waterfall parking lots along this stretch require either a Northwest Forest Pass ($30/year) or a Columbia River Gorge Day Pass ($5/day).

This area also sees a high number of break-ins to cars so keep your valuables out of sight.

Hood River

Hood River is one of our favorite Oregon towns and is totally worth a weekend trip. If you’re just passing through there are plenty of amazing places to stop and stretch and grab a bite to eat.

We’ll have a full post up soon on all of our favorite Hood River destinations but here’s the condensed version for now.

  • Double Mountain Brewing (beer and pizza)
  • Pfriem Brewing (beer and food)
  • Mt. View Orchards (apple picking, picnicking, wine and beer tasting)
  • Cathedral Ridge Winery

Tamawanas Falls

Tamanawas Falls near Mt. Hood

Tamawanas Falls is one of our favorite out-of-the-way hikes around Mt. Hood.

The smaller parking lot can make finding a spot tough on a busy weekend morning but it also limits how many people can be on the trail or at the waterfall.

The trail to the falls is 3.4 miles out and back and is best hiked during the summer months.

We love these falls as you can scramble up to a cave behind the waterfall which really makes you appreciate the power of the water as it thunders over the cliffs.

You can read our whole write-up on hiking to Tamanawas Falls here.

Other Stops of Note Along this Route

  • White Salmon, Washington (Quaint town with incredible views)
  • White River Sno-Park (trails, views, and restrooms)

Which Route from Portland to Bend is Best in Winter?

Picking the best route from Portland to Bend in the winter is very dependent on the weather and ski traffic.

We’ll keep a close eye on the weather before departing and pack extra supplies if it looks like it’s going to be snowing. That includes extra food, water, blankets, and chains. We always have snow tires on our car in the winter but chains are sometimes still needed in deep snow.

Generally, we find that the Mt. Hood route is the best maintained although the longer drive through the high desert can mean driving over more ice on that stretch of road. We also try to avoid going over Mt. Hood on weekends when ski traffic can cause hours-long backups.

Thanks for reading! Take a look at our latest posts here and follow us on Instagram (@RoamtheNorthwest) to follow along with our next adventures!