: Courtesy of Tyler Roemer

Top Trails and Post-Hike Bites in Bend

October 28, 2021

With throngs of visitors soaking up the high-desert sun in the summer and snow lovers making mountain-centered trips in the winter, Bend is one of Central Oregon’s most popular destinations. But avid hikers know that fall is one of the best times to plan a Bend getaway. In autumn you have the chance to hit your favorite trails with cooler weather, fewer crowds and a color explosion amidst the trees. After a day on the trail, there are endless places to sample local chefs’ takes on the fresh fall harvest. Here are some of the best Bend-area trails to explore this fall — and places you should refuel afterward, many of which are along the new High Desert Food Trail

Remember when you’re visiting these trails to make sure that you’ve taken safety into consideration and that you’re leaving each natural attraction as pristine as you found it for the next group. For more travel tips and inspiration, check out VisitBend.com

A wooden bridge stretches across a river
The Deschutes River Trail is easy to access in all seasons, blocks away from many of Bend's best eateries. (Courtesy of Rich Bacon/Visit Bend)

Cliff Views and Festive Food

Located just northwest of Bend, Riley Ranch Nature Reserve spans 184 acres, but arguably its most stunning feature is its 30 acres of rimrock cliffs. The two trails, both under 2 miles long, offer glimpses of migratory birds, wildlife and native plants, including juniper and pine forests. The region is also home to unique lava flows and rocky canyons. After the immersive experience, stop in at The Bite in Tumalo, which boasts five food carts, beer on tap and a festive vibe. The locally owned eatery regularly hosts live music, so check out their schedule to pair your meal with some great local tunes.

Aspen Trees and Greek Eats

Bend’s Shevlin Park has a ton of features worth celebrating. You can fish along Tumalo Creek and hike along the 6-mile loop around Fremont Meadow, with views of the aspen trees that light up yellow in the fall. After walking or biking the trails, tuck in at The Lot Food Carts and Taproom, home to a variety of food carts. This spot includes the not-to-be-missed gyros at Greek Street, which has been serving up family recipes in Bend for more than 20 years. 

Reflections of trees are visible in the clear river
The serenity of the Deschutes is never far away in Bend. Make sure to stay on designated trails and pack out all trash. (Courtesy of Rich Bacon/Visit Bend)

River Trail and Island Fare

You can’t visit Bend without catching a glimpse of the Deschutes River, which runs through the heart of downtown. The Deschutes River Trail stretches 12 miles along the river, meandering through some of the best landscape Central Oregon has to offer, including ponderosa forests and basalt rimrock. There are five sections of the trail, with one of the most accessible by the Old Mill District, making it a breeze to have a meal at one of its many fantastic eateries. Check out the tropical cocktails and Asian-fusion tapas at tiki lounge Rapa Nui.

Mountain Biking and South American Sausages

Local mountain bikers have long loved Bend’s Phil’s Trail, the 12.4-mile out-and-back trail network southeast of Bend. While hikers and runners are welcome, its mountain biking features are the primary draw and make it one of the most popular trail systems in the Pacific Northwest. On your way back into town, stop in for a bite at Bangers & Brews, a family-run restaurant that specializes in gourmet sausages with Argentinian flair. 

Cascade peaks are visible behind the treeline and a grassy field
It's easy to see wildlife in Bend's natural areas. Pick up a birding guide and pack your binoculars -- there's no experience needed.

Lava Tubes and Tasty Sandos

Located southeast of Bend in the Deschutes National Forest, Horse Butte Loop is a 9.9-mile trail featuring Central Oregon’s distinctive lava tubes. Sitting on the northern flank of the Newberry Volcano, the moderate path — used by both hikers and mountain bikers — passes several underground lava passageways. Be friendly on the trail and respect all trail users. Back in Bend, sink your teeth into the sandwiches, salads and seasonal favorites — including homemade pickles and other fermentations — on the eclectic menu at Nosh Street Food

Bird Watching and Delicious Dumplings

Straddling the Deschutes River, Sawyer Park is home to trails that are popular with bikers and walkers, but especially those who are interested in birds. More than 140 species of birds have been spotted in the park, including bald eagles, ruby-crowned kinglets, lesser goldfinches and violet-green swallows. Don’t forget your binoculars and a copy of the Oregon Cascades Birding Trail Guide, with maps and other detailed info. You can also stop by the Visit Bend Welcome Center for a free copy of the Old Mill District and Deschutes River Corridor Checklist.  After you’ve had your fill of wildlife viewing, head over to Dump City Dumplings, which serves up both classic and creative dumplings alongside a well-curated craft-beer and cocktail menu. 


Kids and grownups of all ages enjoy Bend's trails. Be respectful of all trail users and give friendly smiles to those you meet -- it's the Bend way. (Courtesy of Rich Bacon/Visit Bend)

Mountain Views and Middle Eastern Eats

Created by an extinct volcano, Pilot Butte is a lava-dome butte that rises to an elevation of 500 feet, giving it one of the best views of Bend and nearby mountain peaks. That means that spending time on one of three trails at Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint — especially on a clear day — is bound to be a memorable experience. After you’ve soaked up the scenery, head over to Joolz, a Middle Eastern restaurant that uses locally sourced ingredients and family recipes for its hummus, baba ghanouj, lebneh, falafel and other classic dishes with modern flair.

About The

Emily Gillespie
Emily Gillespie is a travel writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, CNN Travel and Afar magazine. She’s lived in three of Oregon’s seven regions, currently calling Portland home. She and her husband look for every opportunity to hike to a view, bike through wine country and eat their way through a new city.

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