Bendites have saying: “show up and blow up,” which means, come as you are, with no planning. Still, some things need a little planning ahead if you’re heading to Bend, Oregon.
Insider tips, such as knowing where and how to get trail permits, properly selecting what to wear and understanding the art of blending in like a local, are key to a successful trip. Afraid you’ll stick out like a sore out-of-town thumb when you get to Bend? Memorize this list, and you’ll be set for a crash landing in Oregon’s highest-profile outdoor vacation destination.
Keep the original inhabitants in mind while you explore
The ancestors of the first nomadic people to inhabit the Central Oregon landscape now reside on the Warm Springs Reservation, a sovereign nation to the north of Bend. Visitors are permitted at the Museum at Warm Springs, Indian Head Casino and a handful of dining establishments. Patronizing Warm Springs businesses is good juju.
The high desert is a delicate ecosystem, and resources are scarce. Because of this, early Wasco, Warm Springs Bands and Paiute people, now known as the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, wisely only seasonally inhabited the region. Unfortunately, the reservation faces an ongoing water crisis and has systemic issues accessing non-toxic, potable water.
Get your permits in advance
Permits are required for most of the fun outdoor stuff you’ll want to do in Bend. If you’re recreating on Deschutes National Forest land, you’ll need a day or season recreation pass displayed on the dashboard of your vehicle. For highly trafficked areas like the Three Sisters Wilderness or the Central Cascades Wilderness, an additional permit is necessary. In the winter, a sno-park pass is required at many of the same sites that require a Deschutes National Forest pass. If you’re thinking about visiting Smith Rock or any other state park, a separate pass is required.
Downtown Bend has metered parking paid by a smartphone app for all central areas.
Set yourself up for success by calling land managers ahead of your trip to clarify what passes are required. These rules are important to follow, and fines are issued to those who neglect the regulations.
Learn to use roundabouts before you arrive
Parking and driving can be quite congested in Bend during the high season. Though roundabouts instead of street lights keep the flow moving, some folks don’t know proper roundabout etiquette. Check out this tutorial from the City of Bend to be sure you’re ready to tackle the turnstiles.
To avoid driving altogether, check out the Ride Bend Free Shuttle Service which picks up and drops patrons off within a couple of mile radius of downtown, the Cascades East Transit system, the Mount Bachelor Shuttle, the Ride the River Deschutes River float shuttle and the Central Oregon Breeze.
Other alternatives to driving include, but are not limited to, walking, biking, skateboarding, inline skating or scootering. The city is also easily navigated by electric bikes. Rideshares like Uber and Lyft are available on demand.
Be nice, you’re in Bend
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 waitstaff or anyone in the service or hospitality industry. With deep roots in ski bum and dirt back outdoor culture – which is what put Bend on the map to begin with – many locals are still living that lifestyle. In Bend, the pace of service is different than in a big city. This has only been exacerbated with the onset of COVID and a housing crisis that is pushing many of those making their living in hospitality out of the city. Consider being extra nice while waiting to be seated in restaurants, collecting take-out, renting or purchasing gear and so on.
Don’t just be nice to people, act like a local and be nice to the environment, too. Being a steward of the outdoor spaces and the public lands we call home is critical. Enjoy Protect Respect is an awareness campaign that can guide you in best practices when floating the Deschutes River. The Leave no Trace principles are also helpful when visiting the wilderness spaces surrounding Bend.
Bust out your Patagucci
You’ve heard that dressing for success is key for fitting in, right? In Bend, you can’t go wrong with Patagonia’s casual outdoor wear, or as locals affectionately refer to the outdoor brand, “Patagucci” (a combination of Patagonia and designer brand, Gucci). There’s even a signature, locally owned, Patagonia store in Bend. Start with staples like any style of puffy jacket (goose down) and a signature winter hat. From there, t-shirts, running garments and climbing apparel are all within bounds. Sporting the Patagonia label in Bend is essentially a signal statement to everyone you encounter that, you could, in fact, be a local. Just be sure the gear isn’t too fresh. Worn in outer layers will earn you more street cred.
Other popular brands include Columbia, Penelton, Danner, Black Diamond and anything surf, snowboard or skate. Trucker hats, flannels and overalls never go out of fashion in Bend.
Don’t forget Bend has a great arts & entertainment scene
With incredible performance venues around town, Bend is constantly attracting top talent that’s both local and international. The Hayden Homes Amphitheater, the Domino Room and the Volcanic Theater Pub all bring in the musical talent while the comedy scene at Craft Kitchen and Silvermoon Brewery will have you in stitches weekly.
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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 type of adventurer