Just east of Oregon’s chain of volcanic Cascade peaks is the rapidly growing city of Bend, a four-season haven for skiers, hikers, anglers, and refugees from the rainy side of the mountains. The mountains snag most of the clouds rolling in from the west and wrest the moisture from them, leaving an annual accumulation of about 300 inches of snow on nearby 9,065-foot Mount Bachelor. With a vertical drop of 3,365 feet and a network of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails to fill out the fun-in-the-snow scene, it’s no wonder that Mount Bachelor Ski Area is considered the biggest and the best skiing in the Pacific Northwest.
The closest lodging is Seventh Mountain Resort, spread along the banks of the Deschutes River. In summer, the Deschutes is one of the state’s best rivers for white water, and although this is not the wildest stretch (that’s north of Bend), rafting here makes for a mighty exciting introduction to the sport.
Bend’s old commercial center has in recent years been revivified with smart shops, galleries, and good restaurants. It’s easy to spend several hours here chatting in a coffeehouse or browsing through bookstores and chockablock antiques shops. Parks stretch along the Deschutes through the downtown area, making it a lovely spot to stroll or picnic.
The 87-mile-long Cascade Lakes Highway starts in Bend and passes Mount Bachelor as it loops back to Highway 97 near La Pine, packing in some of the best scenery in Oregon’s Cascades. Once the winter snows have melted (sometimes as late as June), this road leads to some of Oregon’s best hiking trails, including the trailhead for a nontechnical hut challenging summertime climb up 10,358-lbot South Sister, a volcanic peak at the edge of the Three Sisters Wilderness Area.
Directly south of Bend, Highway 97 passes through National Forest Service’s Lava Lands Interpretive Area, a showcase of volcanic features, including lava tubes, obsidian flows, lava cast forests, and cinder cones. The Lava Lands visitors center provides information and exhibits on the geology, wildlife, and archaeology of these eerie volcanic landscapes, with information on hikes and scenic drives. Farther south, seasonal paved roads ascend the slopes of Newberry Crater, the centerpiece of this otherworldly landscape, leading to astonishing vistas above Paulina Lake and East Lake, both nestled within a volcanic caldera.