The best things to do in Bend for April


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The best things to do in Bend for April

April in Bend keeps us all on our toes. On Monday, you might see your toes sparkling with a fresh pedicure in your favorite sandals. On Tuesday you’ll tuck them in wool socks to steer you down the slopes at Mt. Bachelor. Then Wednesday rolls around and you’re right back to flip-flops, which kinda matches this flip-floppy month.

Welcome to April, when you might just kayak and snowshoe on the same day. Mt. Bachelor’s booming with spring skiing and snowboarding, but you’re hiking Pilot Butte in a tank top and shorts.

As April rolls into town, here’s what’s fun to see, do, explore, and experience in Bend.

Kayaker in Sawyer Park in Bend, Oregon.
The weather in Bend can be hard to predict in the spring, but the fun and adventure are a guarantee.

Welcome back to sun-drenched days!

In more than a quarter-century of living in Bend, April’s when I’ve dragged out my standup paddleboard for the first time each season. Ditto that for planning a kayak outing with Wanderlust Tours or even whitewater rafting with Sun Country Tours (though for the record, that was a weird, low-snow year).

All that to say, there’s no predicting what the climate elves might spring on us in April. If your weather app or Visit Bend’s weather page shows sunshine and temps in the 70s, that’s your cue to head for the nearest pod of Bend food carts for an outdoor meal. Don’t forget sunscreen, since Bend’s high elevation makes you more prone to sunburn.

Spring picnics make another great way to get outside with sandwiches, sushi, or deli items from locally-owned Newport Avenue Market. Scan the Bend Park & Rec page for Bend parks to find your perfect picnic spot. Some of my faves include Drake Park, Pioneer Park, and Sawyer Park.
While Bend’s disc golf courses and pickleball courts see plenty of year-round use, April’s when folks flock to those spots for fresh air and vitamin D. Plan on being patient if it’s the weekend and facilities are in high demand.

Trail running in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness near Bend, OR
Need a break from the snow? Head over to the Oregon Badlands Wilderness.

Where do I find Bend’s best spring hikes?

By the time spring hits, I’m itching for a change of pace from my favorite winter hikes. Then April swoops in and swipes snow off a whole new batch of trails. Game on!

This lovely trail around Suttle Lake is trekable most winters, but gets much easier once snow and ice dissipate in April. Bonus: springtime brings bright green leaves and a chorus of birdies to sing you around this lovely 3.6 mile loop.

April’s a great time to tackle the Alder Springs Trail down to Whychus Creek. You’ll see sagebrush-speckled plateaus and sweeping vistas all the way down to the bottom of the canyon. Be leery of crossing the creek if it’s running high and fast. Play it safe and park yourself beside it for a picnic instead.

Odds are good most snow will vanish from trails along the Metolius by now, so April’s a great time to explore this area near Camp Sherman. Start by scoping out the spot where the river gushes out from under a mossy hillside at the base of Black Butte. Then hit the West Metolius Trailhead and hike two miles through towering pines, gushing river views, and gobs of wildlife. Don’t miss the bright turquoise splendor of Wizard Falls, and be sure you bring a quarter for fish food to fling in the hatching ponds at the fish hatchery.

If you read this blog, you know the Oregon Badlands Wilderness is my personal happy place. Since it clocks in at nearly 30,000 acres, I’m always finding new spots to explore. Thanks to the Bend Sustainability Fund (a Visit Bend grant program that uses room tax dollars to protect and enhance our magical places) and the Oregon Natural Desert Association, the Nighthawk Trail starting at Reynolds Pond got a major facelift recently, and I only just discovered this spectacular desert hike that’s perfect for springtime. 

April’s also excellent for exploring the Ochoco National Forest near Prineville. If you’re headed that way, stop by the Bend Visitor Center first for maps and tips on which trails are accessible. Other awesome spring hikes worth trying this spring include Steelhead Falls and the Deschutes River Trail.

Sparks Lake canoe tour with Wanderlust Tours.
Spring is the perfect time to plan ahead and secure your reservations for popular group activities/tours around Bend.

Be smart and plan ahead

If you’re hoping to hit some of Central Oregon’s most popular summertime trails, April’s when you need to start planning. That’s when the Central Cascades Wilderness Permits system opens for the upcoming season. Keep an eye on that link for new rules and important dates if you plan on hiking or camping in these areas in the coming months.

If you’ve camped in the past couple years, you know how crazynuts-bonkers it’s become to find last-minute camping reservations near Bend. While you can spend your summer stalking hoping to scoop up someone else’s cancellations, smart campers book in April (or earlier!) to score reservations at favorite Bend campgrounds.

Same goes for things like Bend concert tickets and high-demand activities like mountain bike tours, moonlight canoe adventures, and whitewater rafting. If it’s something you hope to do this summer, April’s when you want to get a jump on it.

Family skiing at Mt. Bachelor Ski area in Bend, Oregon.
Looking to ski? There’s no shortage of bluebird days ahead in April.

So much skiing still to come!

It’s easy to get wrapped up in summer plans when April waves her sunshine wand, but don’t forget there’s still plenty of winter to savor.

Mt. Bachelor boasts one of the longest ski seasons in North America, with lifts that typically keep turning through late May. If you like bluebird skies and snowboarding in a T-shirt, plan a spring ski trip to Bend this April.

Owl at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon.
An owl from the birds of prey exhibit at the High Desert Museum.

Mother Nature, you’re a foxy vixen

When longer days and springtime sunshine beckons me outside, I’m bowled over each year to rediscover how freakin’ amazing Mother Nature can be. Between wild weather, spring flowers, and all the baby animals, it’s a bouquet of amazement in Bend each April.

If you’re headed toward Smith Rock State Park, look east (or better yet, stop altogether) to see newborn alpacas trailing their fuzzy mamas at Crescent Moon Ranch. Hit their gift store for locally-made goodies, then impress your travel companions by informing them that baby alpacas are called “cria.”

Your drive time is also a good chance to spot more baby animals frolicking through farmland surrounding Bend. Watch for calves, lambs, and kids (the goat kind, not human) as the springtime baby boom unfolds across Central Oregon.

If wildlife’s more your jam, watch for otters bobbing around the Deschutes River. If you happen to spot a baby, keep your distance. Even if it appears to be abandoned, odds are good Mama tucked it someplace safe while she went to find food. If you have concerns, contact the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and let them know what you saw and where you saw it.

To see critters at a safer distance, pay a visit to the High Desert Museum and take in otters, porcupines, badgers, a baby beaver, and so many birds of prey.

If spring flowers are your jam, April’s when you’ll spot all the usual suspects like tulips, crocuses, and even lilacs toward the end of the month. Watch for little desert wildflowers that spring up through the sand, including sand lilies and bitterroot blossom. 

But don’t be surprised to see them dusted with white stuff at some point during the month.

Bend, Oregon is a fly fishing paradise—please fish responsibly.

Savor the rush of fresh snowmelt

With snowmelt flooding Bend’s creeks and rivers each April, it’s easy to forget the seemingly perpetual drought in our beloved high desert. Not to be a downer, but keep that in mind as you make choices like taking shorter showers or hanging hotel towels instead of asking for fresh ones every day.

With the springtime rush of water comes some of Bend’s best fishing. Whether you’re an angler who fancies lakes or a fly fishing enthusiast who flocks to the Lower Deschutes, it’s time to take stock of your fishing gear, make Bend hotel reservations, then get to work smashing barbs, packing your rubber mesh net, and plotting ways to make your fishing expedition as fish-friendly and eco-friendly as possible. For info on best practices and what’s open in April, check with local outfitters like Fly and Field Outfitters, Bend Fly Shop, and The Fly Fisher’s Place

If you’re not into fishing, April’s a great time to dust off that kayak, wipe down the standup paddleboard, bust out the canoe, and start planning ways to enjoy our most precious natural resource.

Urban cycling trails in Bend, Oregon.
There is always something going on in Bend and our event calendar is your guide.

Bring on the April events

Event season in Bend never really hibernates, since you’ll find everything from festivals to foot races each month of the year. 

But when April arrives, someone opens the floodgates on Bend events.

From foodie-focused fundraisers to beer festivals to Easter egg hunts for two-legged children or fur kids, you’ll find a huge array of options on our Bend event calendar. Scope it out for the dates of your trip, or plan your trip around a special concert or First Friday Art Walk.

Welcome to springtime in Bend! How do you plan to enjoy it?