The best things to do in Bend for October


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The best things to do in Bend for October

Do you smell it? That magical mix of pumpkin spice, autumn leaves, and a sprinkle of snow on the horizon. 

That’s the potent brew of October in Bend, a month when we’re never sure if it’ll snow or be 75-degrees and sunny (spoiler alert: both). 

As summer skedaddles and autumn arrives in swirls of bright leaves, it’s time to brush up on what’s fun to eat, drink, and do around Bend, Oregon in October.

Aerial view of downtown Bend in the fall.
Aerial view of Fall Foliage in Downtown Bend, Oregon.

Is Mother Nature snockered?

October brings a mixed bag of weather to Bend. Some years, we’ll see 80-degree temps in the early part of the month. Other years, we’ll get snow. Heck, we might get both of those things in one 24-hour period if you’re bopping between higher elevations and activities in town.

Sticking to lower elevations means you can still spend October SUPing or kayaking on the Deschutes River, even if the high Cascade Lakes start seeing early snow flurries. 

If you’re visiting Bend in October, it pays to prepare for anything. Shorts and flip-flops? Temps might be warm enough! Sweaters and snow pants? You could need those, too. It’s common in October to find myself running both the heater and the air conditioning on the same day.

It pays to pack plenty of layers and keep a close eye on the weather since you never know what October might hurl at us. If you’re venturing into the great outdoors, it’s more important than ever to pack the 10 essentials and let someone know where you’re going.

But the upside to all this wonky weather is that you’ll experience the best of both worlds with a little warmth, a little fall chill, and a whole ‘lotta scenic beauty.

Fresh hop beer in Bend, Oregon
October is the perfect time to find your new favorite beer—many tap lists are lined with fresh hops and seasonal offerings.

So much sudsy goodness

If you twisted my arm to pick whether I prefer fresh hop season or the abundance of October pumpkin beer, I’d yank my arm back because I need both hands to hold a pint of each brew.

October’s when Bend Ale Trail tap lists teem with tempting seasonal offerings. Nearly everyone has one or two fresh hop beers on tap, with some offering fresh hop versions of their old standbys, while others sling brand-new beers with a fresh hop component.

I’m currently obsessed with the Luminosa Fresh Hops Indie Pale Ale at Worthy Brewing, which makes my taste buds dance with hoppy brightness. I’m also diggin’ the fresh hop Wizard Falls IPA at Bridge 99, which pairs beautifully with their mouthwatering reuben sandwich and roasted bacon & brussel sprouts. Cascade Lakes won my heart with their recent opening of an eastside pub, then won it again with their Strata Mama fresh hop IPA.

Another seasonal bright spot is the hoppy taplist at 10 Barrel, which currently boasts fresh hop beers Always Fresh (a double IPA), Too Fresh (my personal fave this season, filled with bright, citrusy flavor) and a version of their 2015 standout Joe, with a fresh hop spin (so good!) Later in the month, 10 Barrel is also where you’ll find pumpkin brews like Jamaican Me Pumpkin (malty and spicy and oh-so-good!) and Big Ol’ Pumpkin (it’s like pie in a glass!) 

If fresh hops and pumpkin beers aren’t your jam, how about smoked beer? I’m positively giddy about the Smoked Beer Fest happening Oct. 14 at GoodLife featuring 20+ varieties of smoky, sudsy goodness.

If you’re sober curious or taking a break from boozy suds, tons of local breweries make non-alcoholic beers, including Bridge 99, Worthy, Sunriver Brewing, 10 Barrel, Deschutes Brewing, and Crux Fermentation project (currently cranking out a fresh hop version of their popular n/a brew, No Mo).Other taprooms will have similar seasonal treats as they roll out their fall offerings, so keep your eyes on the social media pages for all your favorite Bend Ale Trail breweries.  Bonus: With your passport in hand or the free app added to your phone, you’ll be ready to roll when Bend Ale Trail Month arrives in November!

Stoller Wine Bar is a stop along Bend wine Month in October.
Bend Wine Month gives you an excellent excuse to check off a few stops in the Drinkable Diversions section of your Bend Ale Trail passport.

Get your autumn groove on

Bend’s October calendar bursts with special events worth planning around for your autumn vacation.

For starters, Bend Wine Month gives you great reasons to sip and swirl your way between Bend’s wine tasting rooms. This year brings a couple new additions to the trail, including the tasting room for Laurel Ridge Winery and the oh-so-fabulous Flights Wine Bar, in addition to all the other local tasting rooms included in last year’s debut event.

Another quintessential autumn event is the BendFilm Festival. This celebration of independent cinema always falls (pun intended) the second weekend in October and features exclusive screenings, discussions with directors, and plenty of parties. Get your tickets early and prepare for an incredible time enjoying what MovieMaker named “one of the 25 coolest film festivals in the world.”

If you’ve struggled to know whether to hit the Downtown Bend Oktoberfest or Bend Fall Festival in the past, you won’t need to choose anymore. The two events got mashed up into one awesome weekend of autumn amazement with the new Bend Fall Festival  Sept. 29-Oct. 1. The event includes the return of the Weiner Dog Races (hooray!) and the addition of bulldog-filled Running of the Bulls (double hooray!) There’s also an abundance of arts and craft booths, life music, and a family zone, plus traditional Oktoberfest food and events.

Still need a more traditional Oktoberfest complete with German cuisine, tasty beer, and oompah music? Prost! Bend will host their own Oktoberfest event October 6, 2023 from 3-10 p.m. Several Bend breweries are hosting their own Oktoberfest celebrations, including Bend Brewing on Sept. 29, Deschutes Brewery on October 21, Cascade Lakes eastside location (Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, respectively).

For more ideas on October events happening in Bend, check out our Event Calendar and start planning now!

Bend Ghost Tours run yearlong.
Blogger Tawna tests out a divining rod as part of the experience with Bend Ghost Tours.

Get your ghost on

You don’t have to wait until October to plan an outing with Bend Ghost Tours, but it certainly feels more seasonal this time of year. Join them for a walking tour of Downtown Bend and hear tons of spooktacular stories torn from Bend’s history books. Keep an eye on their calendar, since rumor has it they’ll be offering special kid-friendly tours to usher in the season.

Another source of ghostly lore is the Deschutes Historical Museum and their annual ghost tours. These typically take place in a shorter window of time and offer different tales from what you’ll hear from Bend Ghost Tours, with lots of cool history to round out the stories. Availability changes each year, so watch their website for this year’s times and dates.

Plenty of Bend year-round Bend businesses give you ample opportunity to find your Halloween spirit. Need to embrace your ax murdering alter ego? At Unofficial Logging Company, you’ll get personalized coaching to help you hurl hatchets at the bullseye until you’ve mastered the skill. With food and a full taplist, they’ll set you up for a sweet afternoon of bonding with friends as you hum the theme from your favorite Halloween slasher flick. Please note: Actual ax murderers or anyone feeling especially murdery, please steer clear.

Fall walk though Drake Park in Downtown bend.
Enjoy the fall foliage as you walk along the trail at Drake Park.

Leaf peepers unite!

Bend’s altitude and the preponderance of evergreens over deciduous trees means we experience fall a bit differently than they do in Oregon’s rainier regions. The dates to see the season’s brightest fall colors can swing wildly between September and October, but odds are good you’ll see some of the show if you arrive in early-to-mid-October.

Take a drive through older neighborhoods in Northeast Bend or off Mt. Washington Drive where big leafy oaks and aspens explode in bright hues of gold and orange. 

Catch plenty of color just strolling through Downtown Bend, but riverfront sweet spots are where the real action happens. Take a walk through Drake Park or Pioneer Park to see explosions of orange and red at every turn in the trail. And don’t miss Shevlin Park’s special display of aspens and tamarack trees turning bright gold against the backdrop of evergreen beauty.

Paulina Lake offers a scenic drive.
Time to squeeze in that final Paulina Lake hike before the snow gate closes the road for the season.

Look out for seasonal closures

You know how I mentioned the wonky fall weather in October? That makes it tricky to say for certain when high-elevation attractions start shutting their gates for the season.

So we’ll talk in general terms here, knowing October’s when you’ll start to see snow thwarting your plans at some upper elevations. The snow gate just past Mt. Bachelor on the Cascade Lakes Highway typically shuts for the season in the latter part of October (though in low snow years, it can hold out ‘til November). 

Same holds true for the seasonal gate closure on Paulina Lake Road starting at 10 Mile SnoPark. This one cuts off driving access to Newberry Caldera until spring, so you definitely want to squeeze in your last visit before snow takes you down a peg. 

To keep tabs on the timing of these road closures and several others, follow the Deschutes National Forest on Facebook.  If you don’t do social media, the Oregon Department of Transportation’s TripCheck site is another great resource for road closure info.

Winter weather also brings closures to some of our in-town attractions, including the ever-popular Pilot Butte summit road. You can still hike to the top any day of the year, but if you’re looking to drive it, you’d best fit it in before the end of October. November 1 is when it typically closes to cars, though that date can come earlier if we get a big dump of snow.

October’s also when Bend’s irrigation canals shut down for the season. I know some folks see these as glorified irrigation ditches, but if you’re fond of wandering beside one in northeast or southwest Bend, it’s worth working in a few final walks before your water feature goes to sleep for the season.

Blogger Tawna enjoys one last sunset on her standup paddle board for the season.
Blogger Tawna enjoys one last sunset on her standup paddle board for the season.

What’s good for hiking?

By now, you’re catching on to the fact that lots of things hinge on weather in October. I’ve lived here long enough to recall 2009 when we got a foot of snow in town during the first week of October. But a scroll through my phone pics reminds me of 2021 when I was out SUPing in shorts and a t-shirt on Lava Lake that exact same week.

In other words, take the following with a grain of salt (or a flake of snow, as the case may be…)

An early snow might make it tough to trek trails off the Cascade Lakes Highway as October wears on, schedule one last hike around Todd Lake or Tumalo Mountain early in the month. Bonus: Areas in the Central Cascades that require permits in peak season will drop those permit requirements starting Oct. 15. Go here for more info on where and when you need a permit for backcountry camping and hiking.

I always try to fit in one last loop around Suttle Lake before the snow starts flying, and Sparks Lake sucks me in for the exact same reason. What’s great is that both trails—typically teeming with hikers in the summer months—are virtually deserted in October. I’m also obsessed with the loop around Paulina Lake this time of year, though keep in mind it’s on the longer side—a little over 8 miles. If you’re up for a bit more of a drive, the loop around Clear Lake is stunning this time of year with bright leaves and perfect, turquoise water.

For more ideas on great hiking in October, try this post on 10 fall loop hikes or this one on 12 short but sweet fall hikes

Happy adventuring, everyone! And have an even happier October in Bend.