Written by | Derek Carlson

5 Easy Hikes in Bend, Oregon

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Bend is a city nestled between the high desert and the shadow of the Cascade Mountains. While there are endless recreation opportunities around town like skiing at Mt. Bachelor or mountain biking at Phil’s Trail there are also a ton of trails right in town that make for the perfect day hike in Bend.

Over the years we have taken the kids out on almost every trail around town and certainly have our favorites at this point. From hikes along the river to a quick jaunt up Pilot Butte for sunrise, there is a hike that fits almost anyone’s fitness level and schedule.

The 5 Best Day Hikes in Bend

Discover 5 of the best hikes in Bend to explore our incredible high desert environment. These hikes are all within city limits and can be done in just an hour or two.

1. Shevlin Loop Trail – Shevlin Park

  • Length: 4.5 Miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation: 280 ft
  • Fees: None
  • Dog-Friendly: Yes

Shevlin Park is an absolute gem of a park found on the western edge of town. The main portion of the park runs through a shallow valley carved out by Shevlin Creek and is home to towering Ponderosa pines, larch trees that turn a vibrant golden color in the fall, and wildlife including deer and even the occasional cougar.

Snowy day at Shevlin Park with golden larches

Our favorite loop in the park is the Shevlin Loop trail which can be done in a couple of different variations all starting from the main parking lot.

If you want to stick to the dirt for the whole hike then head uphill directly after the parking lot. The trail will stay just below the ridge along the length of the park. During this stretch, you will usually be able to see the road down below you and there are numerous connector trails if you want to head back down to the pavement.

This is one of our favorite mountain bike trails for the kids as well as it is fairly mellow yet offers a little up and down to keep things interesting.

After 2 miles you’ll come to a 4-way intersection. Head straight across the trail and you’ll head back the direction you came next to Shevlin Creek.

We love this stretch of trail in the late fall as the Larches all turn gold and the park is usually very quiet.

2. Deschutes River Trail – Farewell Bend Park

  • Length: 3.0 Miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation: 130 ft
  • Fees: None
  • Dog-Friendly: Yes

The Deschutes River near Farewell Park and Riverbend Park can turn into an absolute zoo in the summer with swimmers, folks floating the river, and visitors enjoying the parks on both sides of the river.

Luckily, you only need to walk a few minutes upriver on the Deschutes River Trail to find yourself in almost total solitude. Save for the occasional dog walker or trail runner, both of which there is no shortage of in Bend!

Deschutes river along the deschutes river trail

When you can find parking (usually doable early in the morning during the summer or most any time the rest of the year) we like to park near Farewell Park and head upriver along the east side of the river.

The trail has some ups and downs and there are some roots and rocks to step over but all in all, it is doable for most folks. There are a few trail junctions along this stretch but as long as you pick the ones going towards the river you’ll stay on the right trail.

After about a mile and a half, you’ll come to a footbridge to cross over to the other side. From there it is another peaceful mile and a half back to your starting point.

At the end, you can either cross the bridge at Reed Market Road or keep heading downriver 1/4 mile to cross at the footbridge.

3. Deschutes River Trail – Aspen Day Use Area to Lava Island Falls

  • Length: 4.3 Miles
  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
  • Elevation: 160 ft
  • Fees: NW Forest Pass or $5 Day Use Pass
  • Dog-Friendly: Yes

The Deschutes River Trail is mentioned again here. But rather than starting in the hustle and bustle of the Old Mill District, we head a bit out of town along Century Drive to the Aspen Day Use area.

This stretch of slower-moving river is a perfect place to get away and observe the wildlife that lives along the Deschutes River. If you’re lucky you may find yourself observing beaver, mink, or otter swimming around this stretch of river.

This is also a popular stretch for fishing so you may be sharing the area with fly fishermen or folks slowly floating the river while trying to catch an elusive trout.

Deschutes River Trail from Aspen Day Use Area

We like starting our hike at the Aspen Day Use area as it isn’t as popular with river floaters and paddleboarders so parking is usually a bit easier to come by in the warmer months.

The trail is easy to follow with occasional diversions for mountain bikers or horseback riders but the signage is good and will keep you headed down the right path.

The Deschutes River Trail runs all the way to Sunriver so you can make the hike as long or short as you like but we’ve found that the trip to Lava Island Falls is the perfect distance for a day hike in Bend.

Tip: This stretch of the Deschutes River Trail has a leash restriction for dogs during the summer months to help alleviate run-ins between users as this trail is popular for horse riders, mountain bikers, trail runners, and hikers.

4. Pilot Butte Nature Trail – Pilot Butte State Park

  • Length: 1.8 Miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation: 450 ft
  • Fees: None
  • Dog-Friendly: Yes

Located directly in the middle of town, Pilot Butte has served as a beacon for generations of Central Oregonians. It also serves as a local training hill for hikers and trail runners alike with the .9 mile trail up to the top quickly gaining 450 feet of elevation as it winds its way around the butte.

View from the top of Pilot Butte Trail in Bend

To hike up Pilot Butte you can park at the parking lot on the east side of the butte. This lot is open from 8 am – 9 pm but you can park in the nearby neighborhoods if you’re looking to catch the sunrise from the top.

From there just follow the Pilot Butte Nature Trail to the top. There are a few offshoots from this trail but keep heading uphill and avoid any trails that look like they head straight up the side of the butte.

As you wind your way around to the north and west sides of the butte you’ll start to see some incredible views of Mt. Hood, Smith Rock, Mt. Jefferson, the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mt. Bachelor.

At the summit you can take in 360 degree views of the mountains, Bend, and the high desert that surrounds this beautiful area.

Tip: There is a road to the top of Pilot Butte that is open to cars from 10 am – 10 pm during the warmer months. In the winter, when the road is closed, we will often follow the road downhill as it is usually less icy than the trails.

5. Juniper to Sage to Canyon Loop Trails – Riley Ranch Nature Reserve

  • Length: 2.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation: 250 ft
  • Fees: None
  • Dog-Friendly: No

Riley Ranch Nature Reserve is a park managed by the local parks and rec department that plays host to a variety of local plants, birds, and wildlife. The park runs along the eastern edge of the bluffs above the Deschutes river and have two main sets of trails that crisscross the meadows.

View of the mountains from Riley Ranch Nature Preserve

These trails are some of the smoothest in Bend and are a great spot for those with more limited mobility or young children.

All in all the figure 8 loop is approximately 1.8 miles in length. You can add another mile onto your hike by following the canyon trail down into the canyon and along the Deschutes river.

There are a few rocky stretches along this lower trail and the climb in and out of the canyon is a bit steep at times.

Tips for Hiking Around Bend, Oregon

Here are a few tips for a successful day hike in Bend:

  • Dress in layers as our mornings in the high desert tend to be chilly but once the sun is up it can warm up in a hurry.
  • Most of the trails in Bend are popular with a multitude of users so keep your eyes and ears out for trail runners, mountain bikers, or even horseback riders.
  • Stay flexible as even those most of these hikes have plenty of parking, busy summer weekends can sometimes make it tough to find a parking spot by the trailhead.

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