With all the of outdoor adventure opportunities in Bend in the summers, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. A great starting place is a trip to Mt. Bachelor. Located just 20 minutes from downtown Bend, Mt. Bachelor is the first mountain visitors arrive to on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway departing from Bend. The drive to the resort gets you out of town and on an adventure all its own, with proximity to all that nature has to offer from wilderness hiking trails, lakes and rivers.
During the summer, Mt. Bachelor offers a full roster of outdoor activities, with slope-side parking and chairlift access to the upper mountain offering a great overview of the wilderness surrounding Bend. It’s also a quick trip if time is limited for your outdoor fix. Here are a few ways to take advantage of Mt. Bachelor’s summertime operations.
A scenic chairlift ride (and more)
Mt. Bachelor operates the Pine Marten Lift daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours until 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. The lifts transports riders from the 6,300-foot elevation in the West Village base area up to the Pine Marten Lodge at 7,775 feet. Once you purchase lift tickets in the base lodge, just walk right up to the lift, where the lift operator will give you instructions on loading the lift and lowering the safety bar. The ride up is about 10 minutes long, with stunning views of the summit of Mt. Bachelor. Once you arrive at the top, another lift operator guides you off the lift.
At the top, visitors have myriad options. One options is to simply take in the views from the deck of the Pine Marten Lodge. You can also join in an Interpretative Ranger Talk; the 30-minute program led by a forest service volunteer includes information about volcanoes, geology, ecology and the cultural history of the region (11:45 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. daily on the deck of Pine Marten).
Stop in inside the lodge for a casual lunch at Scapolo’s. This cafeteria-style restaurant features incredible views and offers a wide-selection of food from fresh pizza to Mediterranean salads and bowls.
Alternatively, the ride back down Pine Marten Lift is another delight, with South Sister dominating the view. Off in the distance are the Middle Sister, North Sister and Broken Top, and down below in the lush meadow are the glittering waters of Sparks Lake.
An active lift-accessed adventure: downhill mountain biking
The same lift that whisks scenic chairlift riders up the mountain also doubles as a bike lift, accessing over 13-miles of downhill trails. Mt. Bachelor first introduced lift-accessed mountain biking in 2012, and the available terrain keeps multiplying. The resort offers bike rentals and demos for adults and children, as well as a full selection of helmets and pads for sale.
Beginning riders or those new to the areas should start on the lower mountain’s family-friendly Sunshine Accelerator lift. This easy terrain is a great place to get comfortable on your bike and the trails. This area is also home to the skills park featuring jumps and a dual slalom course.
The upper-mountain terrain accessed by the Pine Marten lift is intermediate to advanced with a variety of flow and technical trails winding through the upper mountain volcanic terrain into the lower mountain forested terrain. Pick up a trail map when you buy your lift pass, just like in the winter, the trails are marked by ability level from green circle, blue squares, to black diamonds. Mt. Bachelor’s newest black diamond trail, Redline, just opened in August 2019.
On any given day, you’re likely to see kids being dropped off by parents for the summer bike camps, families padding up in the parking lot and heading for the lifts, competitors readying for the Gravity Race series with just-for-fun races throughout the summer, even local professional mountain bikers heading for the black diamond runs.
Scenic chairlift ride and sunset dinner
In the evening the mountain changes tone, with a unique dining experience on tap. The top level of the Pine Marten Lodge opens for Sunset Dinners. This reservation-only dining experience is only offered in the summers and is equally popular with locals and visitors alike.
I recently indulged in my first sunset dinner with my three-year-old toddler and my visiting father-in-law in tow. I booked an early dinner at 5 p.m., and I was relieved to find that there were other families with young children waiting to be being seated. My father-in-law was visiting from out of state; on the lift ride up he was wowed by the scenery and the vastness of the lift network at Mt. Bachelor. This is when I realized that the drive up the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway and the views from the lift are a great introduction to all of the wilderness surrounding Bend. Even though it was downright hot in Bend, there was a chill in the air at Mt. Bachelor that evening, so we were happy to be bundled up in jackets for the lift ride up.
We arrived a little early and spent some taking in the views from the deck at the Pine Marten Lodge, watching mountain bikers pedal past and playing a game of corn hole. Scapolo’s was still open in the lower level of the lodge, and we saw families of mountain bikers enjoying a casual dinner. (The bike park offers discounted twilight tickets from 3 p.m. to close — this option combined with an early dinner at Scapolo’s is also a winning combination.)
For dinner we shared a selection of appetizers: My father-in-law enjoyed a huge prime rib, I opted for the salmon and the little guy was treated to a free meal for kids under 5. Dinner included dessert, which was a selection of mercifully manageable slices of cake — we had tiramisu and tart lemon cheesecake. Our fellow diners included quite a few couples, a large gathering celebrating a birthday, as well as numerous families. You could easily see this as a prime location for a marriage proposal, and with these views, a great place to get that annual family photo.
It was 7 p.m. by the time we were heading back down the lift and the sun was just beginning to cast long shadows across the mountains. We saw disc golfers playing the final hole down near the base area. We also counted about two-dozen RV campers hooked up in the lot below with kids riding bikes and dogs running around. Mt. Bachelor offers overnight camping with hookups throughout the summer and winter — a sunset dinner would be a great addition to this experience as well.
Coming Soon: Looking ahead to 2020, Mt. Bachelor will be introducing a zip line to its mountain experience. This planned dual-line, three-stage tour will drop 1,400 vertical feet along the volcano’s slopes to make it the Northwest’s steepest, fastest, and highest-elevation zip adventure. Stay tuned!