The best spring experiences in Bend, Oregon



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The best spring experiences in Bend, Oregon

Springtime in Bend feels like anything’s possible. Surfing and skiing all in one day? Heck yeah! Blue skies and t-shirts for your afternoon hike, followed by moonlight snowshoeing? Sign me up!

Welcome to Bend’s spring, when you might need your car’s heater and a/c in the same day. Whether you’re planning a family spring break, a friends’ getaway, or just a basic Bend trip, be sure your agenda includes at least some of these experiences.

Ladies bird watching along the Deschutes River Trail in Bend, Oregon.
Enjoy birding and identifying wildflowers along the Deschutes River Trail.

Put a spring in your step

While spring showers and snowmelt can sometimes transform Bend hiking trails into glop, our high desert landscape sees lots less moisture than the rainier side of the state. That opens up an awesome realm of hiking spots as snow starts to vanish.

The Oregon Badlands Wilderness is especially nice this time of  year, with Bend’s bright blue skies providing a jaw-dropping contrast to ancient junipers and craggy lava rock. Ditto that for trails around LaPine State Park, which you’ll find blissfully devoid of the crowds that pack them in high summer. Spots like Suttle Lake, the Deschutes River Trail, and Tam-A-Lau Trail in Cove Palisades State Park make for excellent spring hiking, though do check conditions before heading out. Trails can change quickly this time of year.

Now’s also a good time to scope out areas that are still closed to vehicles. Hoof it up the wide, paved road to the top of Pilot Butte without fretting about cars. Head to Tumalo Falls knowing you may have to hike a couple miles to reach the main trailhead, but you won’t fight crowds like you do in mid-summer. For more ideas on great Bend hikes for spring, check out this post. And don’t forget to practice Leave No Trace principles when you’re out enjoying our recreation wonderland.

Valarie Doss playing disc golf in Bend, OR
Grab your friends and play a round of disk gold at Pine Nursery.

Three sports in one day

Bend’s got bragging rights as one of the few spots in the nation where it’s easy to do three outdoor sports in one day. No season makes that simpler than spring.

Spend your morning shredding the slopes at Mt. Bachelor, then head downhill for a bit of mountain biking, followed by nine holes of golf.

If skiing’s not your jam, take a twirl on the ice at the Pavilion, then cruise to the nearby Bend Whitewater Park to practice your surfing or kayak rolls (don’t forget the dry suit!) Cap it off with a round of disc golf at Pine Nursery.

There’s also hiking, birdwatching, paddling, and a variety of other sports to fit into your vacay. Pick the ones that pique your interest and get out there with a plan.

Go angling for fun

Whether you’re a fly-fishing enthusiast, a spin-fishing fan, or a fishing virgin who wants to try hooking a trout, Bend’s a great spot to cast a line.

When springtime rolls around, warmer temps mean more bugs for fish to feast on. As fishies feed more aggressively, they’ll practically trip over each other to hop on the end of your line. 

For up-to-the-minute info about details like opening dates for certain lakes and stretches of river, check with local experts like Fly and Field Outfitters, Bend Fly Shop, and The Fly Fisher’s Place. They’ll also have insights about water flow levels, successful flies, and other details that impact fishing in Bend.

To make things even easier on yourself, check out our fly fishing article to learn more about booking a guided fishing adventure. Also, keep sustainability in mind by using barbless hooks, a rubber mesh net, and knowledge of how to humanely handle the catch-and-release process.

Wildflowers in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness
There are plenty of different wildflower species to identify along the trails in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness.

Soak up some wildflowers

Bend’s springtime blooms aren’t the flashy sort you’ll find on the rainy side of the mountains. But there’s something wondrous about the tiny desert flowers that spring up through soft sand and lava rock in Central Oregon’s high desert.

Keep your eyes peeled for bitterroot blossom, sand lilies, and dime-sized goldfields, which are often the first blooms of the season. Pilot Butte and the Oregon Badlands Wilderness are excellent places to watch for bright little bits of color. Ditto that for Lookout Mountain in the Ochocos outside Prineville. For more info on our native desert wildflowers, check out this post from our friends at Deschutes Land Trust.

Score sweet deals on lodging

If you’ve ever booked Bend lodging in July or August, you’re likely still reeling from the sticker shock of high season prices.

That’s not the case in shoulder seasons like spring and fall when tons of Bend hotels offer screamin’ deals for visitors willing to travel during off-peak times.To score the best prices on Bend hotels and vacation rentals, peruse the websites for your top picks to see if anyone’s offering special perks like lift tickets or extra nights free. Also consider traveling mid-week and avoiding holidays to ensure you’re not paying a premium for your Bend lodging.

A group tailgates after hitting the slopes at Mt. Bachelor ski area
In Bend, we have the opportunity to ski late into the Spring.

Mix snowflakes and sunshine

While ski resorts across the country wind down in springtime, Mt. Bachelor keeps going strong for a few more months. Bend’s beloved ski hill has one of the longest seasons in North America, lasting from around Thanksgiving each year through Memorial Weekend.

Mt. Bachelor is famous for its bluebird days throughout spring, and it’s not uncommon to spot skiers carving up the slopes in short sleeves and sunscreen. Keep a close eye on the Mt. Bachelor website for announcements of their annual Springtacular deals, which score you some killer prices on lift tickets in April and May. And don’t miss the North American Pond Skimming Championships held at Mt. Bachelor on the last day of the season.

Baldys BBQ in Bend, Oregon
Baldy’s BBQ in Bend, Oregon.

Savor spring’s three Bs (barbecue, Bonta, and beer!)

While walking the dogs one brisk March evening, I strolled through a cloud of barbecue smoke so deliciously fragrant, I time-traveled to mid-August. There are certain foods and drinks that invoke the magic of warmer weather, and now’s a great time to steal an early taste.

Embrace the beginnings of spring by ordering mouthwatering barbecue at Baldy’s (and don’t fret, vegetarians—Lively Up Yourself slings some epic vegan barbecue). If you’re a DIY kinda barbecue fan, plenty of Bend vacation rentals and Bend hotels boast grills guests can use.

Grab an ice cream cone at Bontá Natural Artisan Gelato or Goody’s Chocolates and Ice Cream, then stroll through Drake park on a sunny afternoon.

Wander the Bend Ale Trail in search of lighter pilsners, lagers, and spring seasonals that seem to pop up each year when the weather shifts.

Consider it a training regimen for your taste buds.

Pick a tour, any tour!

As we ease into spring, things get more interesting for organized tours. There’s still enough snow for Wanderlust Tours to offer their popular snowshoe outings, but they also sprinkle Deschutes River kayak tours into the mix. 

Spring’s also a good time for horseback riding tours, since we’re in the perfect zone of not-too-cold, not-too-hot. Ditto that for an outing with Cascade Center of Photography, offering photo tours with the added perk of spring sunrises and sunsets posing all pretty for you.

Tin Pan Alley art collection in Bend, OR
Enjoy the public art on display in Tin Pan Alley.

Slow your roll

When the weather’s not awesome, I catch myself sprinting from the car to my favorite Bend restaurant like wild badgers are chasing me.

But when the weather turns warm, I take my time strolling. It’s a pleasure to amble between shops during First Friday Art Walk, or to walk from brewery to brewery collecting Bend Ale Trail stamps.

Bonus: It’s great for the environment to walk instead of drive (plus no need for a DD if you’re drinking). As an alternative, scope out the schedules for Cascades East Transit to see if there’s a bus route where you’re headed. 

There is plenty of indoor fun to be had at the High Desert Museum.

Play indoors without guilt

Anyone else get twitchy at the thought of being stuck inside when it’s warm and sunny? Summertime prompts me to take all my favorite activities outdoors, from yoga to dining to napping.

But what’s great about Bend’s unpredictable spring weather is the built-in excuse to enjoy more indoorsy activities. Spend the day at the High Desert Museum. Take the kids to play games at Sun Mountain Fun Center or zip around the indoor kart racing track at K1. Try a visit to Unofficial Logging Co. for a family ax-throwing challenge, or herd squirrelly kids to Trampoline Zone or Mountain Air as a way to get the wiggles out.

Book a stay at McMenamins Old St. Francis and cross several things off your Bend bucket list with a stamp in your Bend Ale Trail passport, a movie at their on-site theater, and a blissful float in their semi-enclosed soaking tub.