The best things to do in Bend for December
December 1, 20238 minute read
Congratulations! All your snow dancing worked, and Mt. Bachelor is now in full swing for the 2022-2023 ski season.
Before you hop in the car and drive to Bend for all the skiing, snowboarding, and snow play your wintry heart can handle, you need a plan. A plan that doesn’t start with “I’ll figure it out when I get there,” since Bend hotel rooms get tough to find when we all catch the ski bug at once.
For your next winter adventure at Mt. Bachelor, you’ll want to start things off in Bend. Here are seven reasons why.
Just 22 miles. That’s what separates Bend from Mt. Bachelor, but you know what’s wild?
While Bend’s annual precipitation is about 12 inches—and half of that’s snow—Mt. Bachelor gets a whopping 462 inches of white stuff.
In other words, a car ride of less than 30 minutes transports you from a town with gobs of hiking, biking, museums, restaurants, parks, and breweries, and deposits you at the base of a literal winter wonderland. How’s that for the best of both worlds?
If I could pinpoint the number one piece of praise I hear for Mt. Bachelor, it’s that lift lines are short or non-existent. Even in busy holiday weeks, you won’t spend hours shivering in the cold while you watch fellow skiers board the chairlift miles ahead of you.
Mt. Bachelor magically straddles the best of both worlds. It’s North America’s sixth largest ski resort with more than 4,300 acres of lift-accessible terrain, but it still has that family-friendly, small-town vibe folks have known and loved for decades.
And with more than 100 runs and a chairlift taking you to the summit at 9,000 feet, there’s plenty of room for skiers and snowboarders to spread out.
You know what you can do when you’re not wasting half your day waiting in lift lines? Lemme tell you…
The short drive from Bend to Mt. Bachelor isn’t just about proximity and the chance to save on gas (though while we’re on the subject, I urge you to be an eco-conscious traveler and carpool or ride the Mt. Bachelor shuttle).
But that bit of elevation gain between Bend and Bachelor is what makes Bend legendary as one of the nation’s few three-sports-in-a-day towns.
Spend your morning shredding slopes at Mt. Bachelor, then head downhill for a winter hike, followed by a mountain bike ride in the desert east of town.
Go wild in one of Bachelor’s Woodward Mountain progressive terrain parks for the first few hours of the day, then take a twirl on the ice at the Pavillion before you set out for a moonlight snowshoe adventure with Wanderlust Tours.
Or what about a morning of cross country skiing from the Mt. Bachelor Nordic Center, a fat bike outing with CogWild in the afternoon, and then a sunset round of disc golf?
Heck, if you’re really brave, do a little snowboarding for the first half of your day, then hit the Bend Whitewater Park (brr!) to surf some waves. Cap off your day with a visit to a local skatepark for the ultimate three-sport adventure.
I’m not implying other ski areas are ugly. Plenty are set in scenic locales with frosty peaks and pristine forests that may or may not be filled with singing woodland creatures.
But Mt. Bachelor’s scenery takes things to the next level.
From the mountain’s majestic slopes, you’ll see icy lakes and more trees than you can count in a lifetime. You’ll scan an endless parade of volcanic peaks marching the horizon dressed in sparkly winter gowns. Throw in a bluebird sky and you’ve got a freakin’ postcard view from a thousand different spots at Mt. Bachelor.
If you look out from the chairlift on a clear day and you don’t feel your heart skitter at the sheer splendor of your surroundings, you may want to check your pulse.
Few spots on earth rival Mt. Bachelor’s raw, graceful gorgeousness, and you have it all at your fingertips for the price of a lift ticket and a Bend hotel room.
You know what’s great about Mt. Bachelor? Though I know we grumble how prices go up most years and lift tickets ain’t cheap, the fact is that skiing at Bachy costs a whole lot less than you’ll pay at most big resorts.
Not only that, but they love to stroke the stoke with bargains. Take their Ski or Ride in Five package, which sets up beginners with five rentals, five lessons, and five lift tickets for one low price.
You’ve also got their Kids Ski Free Program where kiddos 12 and under ski or ride for zero pennies with their parents who purchase advance online tickets. Scope out their deals and discounts page for details on that and other bargain options.
Beyond that, there’s a plethora of passes to fit all kinds of budgets and skiers. From season passes to unrestricted midweek and multi-day passes to the Ikon Pass that lets you hit nearly 50 ski destinations worldwide, Bachelor bends over backwards to offer lots of entry points that take it easy on your wallet.
Which leaves more change in your pocket for one of my favorite things about Bend…
Feeling hungry for more than fresh pow?
Longtime Mt. Bachelor fans might remember Nacho Mountain, which got rebranded a few years ago as Mountain Nachos. It’s a to-die-for blend of melted cheddar jack cheese topped with ranchero black beans, pico de gallo, avocado aioli, lime crema, fresh jalapenos, and chicken if you choose to add it. Wash that down with a local craft beer or one of their creative cocktails and you’ve got the perfect apres ski setup.
Once you’re off the mountain, Bend’s culinary bounty spawls like the world’s most scenic smorgasbord. Choose from award-winning fine dining with river views or pub cuisine along the Bend Ale Trail.
Hit a newish restaurant like Yoli for scrumptious Korean fare, or head for Pine Tavern to rediscover why the restaurant with two pine trees shooting through the roof has been booming since 1936 (Hint: mouthwatering sourdough scones with honey butter might have something to do with it).
From vegan and vegetarian fare, to gluten-free offerings, Bend has tons to offer even the most discerning palate. Go healthy with a grain bowl or a salad from Active Culture (I’m obsessed with the quinoa lentil bowl!) or grab a juicy burger and hot wings from Hardy’s.
If steak’s more your scene, Bos Taurus and Rancher Butcher Chef offer world-class cuts of meat with sides that’ll make your eyes roll back in your head, or opt for a more budget-friendly (but still scrumptious) newcomer, Black Steer Steakhouse and Saloon. Full disclosure: I haven’t been there yet, as their soft opening happened just a week ago, but the word around Bend’s culinary campfire is that it’s an awesome dining experience at a price much kinder to your wallet. Bonus: We desperately needed more great dining on Bend’s northeast side, so I’m thrilled with this one.
Bottom line: Bend’s aprés and culinary scenes are worth traveling here for even if you didn’t have an epic winter playground up the hill to help you work off those extra calories.
Just to be safe though, bring pants with an extra-stretchy waistband.
Bend’s famous as one of the nation’s dog-friendliest towns. We’ve got more off-leash dog parks than Rover can shake a stick at, plus a plethora of breweries along the Bend Ale Trail that welcome your pup on heated patios. There’s even a dog park at Mt. Bachelor so that your pup can partake in the snowy fun.
Enjoy snowshoeing with your pup? This post rounds up some of our awesome winter trails, including ones where Rover’s allowed to roam with you. From dog-friendly events to pet stores selling locally made goods, you’ll find links here for all the top doggo spots in Bend. Just remember that if you do head up the Cascade Lakes Highway with your dog, they’re not allowed at sno-parks north of the highway to reduce user conflict.
And in case you didn’t get your doggo fix down in Bend, head uphill to Mt. Bachelor for the ride of your life. Oregon Trail of Dreams offers sled dog rides with their teams of trained puppers. If you’ve never experienced the joy and excitement of a dozen excited sled dogs yipping and lunging to run, you owe it to yourself to swing by and watch as they prepare to hit the trail. I promise it’ll stoke joy in your heart.
Give ‘em an ear scritch from me, okay?
Now get busy and start planning your trip to Bend and Mt. Bachelor today!