I can’t say enough great things about Bend, Oregon; but I can try. Bend is a one-stop adventure shop, adult Disneyland, the natural landscape keeps you on your toes, the beer taps flow like water, dogs are welcome (99 percent of the time), the wealth of tasty food, and did I mention all of the adventure options?! For the first 11 days of July this summer, Bend was my playground. Route started the journey with me for the first weekend, Yoshi and I backpacked along the Three Sisters during the week, and then my ladies, Squirrel and Basil joined me for the closing weekend.
I’ll lump the weekend adventures together, lest someone think my blog is strictly a Bendless Summer blog. See my posts on: Green Lakes, Smith Rock loop, Bend Ale Trail, high desert paradise, SUP pup, and the aforementioned backpacking trip.
I’d say I should go explore another adventure town, but I just got a taste for rock climbing at Smith Rock State Park and must return to this climbing mecca. To avoid the heat of the summer, we arrived in the afternoon to stake out a tent spot at the campground then went for an evening climb.
From the campground, we hiked to the footbridge on the Crooked River. There was only a few hours of light left, so we picked the conveniently located Morning Glory Wall as our destination. We fit in two climbs each in the Zebra Area, starting on The Outsiders – 5.9/3 stars/8 bolts. This was my first time climbing up tuff and basalt, the pockets, edges, and jug holds were a fun change. Then we hopped on Five Gallon Buckets – 5.8/3 stars/7 bolts, once the last party cleared their rope. From the sound of it, you can normally expect to wait in queues in this area. However, even though it was a holiday weekend, every group had a route and by the end of our climb we were the last ones at the base. Plus, while this is Morning Glory Wall, the summer evening shade was delightful; as was the sunset hike back to the campground along the trail.
We got an early start the next morning to beat the heat and other climbers, which turns out either wasn’t that difficult. We packed up the car and drove over to the main parking area; the camping permits are good until 1 pm the following day. I wanted Route to see the famed Monkey Face, so we took the Misery Ridge Trail up and over to the west side of the park, which leads you to the Mesa Verde Trail. From there, I would suggest taking the trail near Asterisk Pass and hiking along the base of the Smith Rock Group. We figured there would be another established trail leading up to the Northwest Face, there wasn’t and we ended up on some game trails.
At the base of Chalk Wave – 5.8/3 stars/9 bolts, we found ourselves in the shade and alone again! Don’t forget to look over your shoulder while climbing on this wall, the view is sweeping. I ran up Chalk Wave, so Route convinced me that Chalk Therapy – 5.10b/2 stars/10 bolts, was doable. I can hold my own on a 5.10b in the gym, but outside is a different story. As Route was leading the…route, another set of climbing partners hiked up to the area – time to share I guess. Next it was my turn, the crux begins when you start the slab. No more pockets, no more ledges, no more jug holds. Plus I got a bit too far off route and slipped, taking a bit of a startling swing. I did manage to get past the crux and sailed up from there.
From there we squeezed in one more climb on Cod Rock, further south along the Smith Rock Group. We walked on to Sunset Slab – 5.9/4 stars/9 bolts. As Route reached the top, the sun lit up his face and I knew we were about to lose our beloved shade. I ascended the route as fast as I could and then we booked it back to the car along the River Trail before our pass expired.
With Aspen along, multi-pitch routes were clearly not an option for us this trip.We’ll have to find a dog sitter in town or bring one with us next time. In general, SmithRock.com warns the dog leash rules are very strict. I greatly appreciate dogs being welcome and encourage folks to follow the leash law so they continue to be welcome.
The campground at Smith Rock State Park is called the Bivouac Area and is just before the park entrance. Arrive before five in the afternoon during the summer season, while the tent space is a giant open area, the parking lot can fill up. A quick rundown on the campground: camping is all walk in – no RVs or car camping. There’s a restroom with running water, toilets, AND showers! Now I’m not sure if everyone camping there took a shower the night I did, but the water was absolutely frigid. Oh well, I was clean and it was included with the camping fee, which is $5 per person. There are a bunch of picnic tables in the middle of the parking loop and a dish-washing station connected to the restrooms. Passed the rock climbing playground structure is the tent space and there’s plenty of room to take your pick. If you want a bit more privacy hike further in to find canyon-side camping . Dogs are allowed at the campground, but as with the rest of the park, must be on leash.
Last note for Smith Rock, no matter if you’re climbing or hiking, camping or visiting for the day, you’ll want to stop for ice cream. Before you enter the park you’ll see a sign reading Rockhard, as you’re leaving the park the that same sign reads Huckleberry Ice Cream. Whether you’re coming or going, I suggest stopping for a double scoop – one of huckleberry and one of blackberry. You’re welcome for the tip in advance.
While you’re in Terrebonne, north of Bend, take a winding detour to the Steelhead Falls trailhead. The hike is a rolling half mile-ish. There are a few good river-access points along the way to the falls, but the best swimming hole is below Steelhead Falls. The brave jump off the cliff into the deep pool; we just enjoyed the roaring view from the top. I loved this lush river flowing through the high desert, worth a visit if you’re in the area.
When you head south from Steelhead Falls or Smith Rock, make a quick stop at Crescent Moon Ranch for some alpaca goodness. While we were admiring the alpacas in the front field the owner waved us over to the barn. She led us through a few gates to find the new additions to the herd; crias (baby alpacas) frolicking in a pasture – yes please!! Stop in the gift shop for your own alpaca to take home, a stuffed animal made with alpaca fleece that feel likes petting a cloud.
When I wasn’t in a campground, backpacking, or a Motel 6 this trip, I was testing out my new sleeping platform in Sno Parks. I didn’t realize you can stay overnight in Sno Parks, unless signed otherwise. You have to be in a vehicle, no tents, but that’s what the sleeping platform is for! This was awesome for the late arrival/early start days where I really just needed a place to sleep. Both of the Sno Parks I stayed at had open restrooms. In the winter, you’ll need a Sno Park pass, but the rest of the time it’s a convenient free place to sleep for the night.
Next up, mountain biking; if you’re visiting Bend, bring, borrow, or rent a mountain bike! Phil’s Trail is a whole system of single track with some Forest Service road connectors. We had a group of six, ranging in experience and found a great ride that left everyone with a dirt tan and a smile.
During this visit, a couple of my favorite breweries solidified their ranking with new outdoor spaces. Route and I pulled into town on Saturday of Fourth of July weekend and our first stop was Crux Fermentation Project. The last time I saw their outdoor space it was covered in snow. This time there was a large lawn, picnic tables, games, food trucks, and an outdoor serving area. We found a shady spot on the lawn and enjoyed some tasty beer and some fantastic food from the El Sancho Taco Shack. They mostly make street tacos, but during special events and holidays they bring out their namesake bowl and it is go-back-for-another-one good.
GoodLife Brewing added on a whole new outdoor space since I was there, with similar features – outdoor serving, lawn, games, food truck. For both breweries, the outdoor beer selection is limited, but you can always go order inside if you’re craving something in particular. Both are dog-friendly or they wouldn’t be on my favorite list in the first place.
I explored a whole new area on this Bend-venture – the Newberry Crater, please note it is actually a caldera. The first visit was sunny and gorgeous. Route and I enjoyed the weather and the views on a short hike around Paulina Lake to the hot springs. The hot water is actually coming up from below, so if you dig a bit you can customize your soaking pool or build a dam to keep cooling lake water out.The photo below is tricky; you might think we had the place to ourselves, but what the point of view is missing is the families with laughing and squealing kids to either side of me. I bet this would be a fun night hike during a full moon and may offer a bit more solitude since it would be past the kiddos bedtime. Either way, hike in or boat in, because the soak is worth it and there are multiple pools to go around.
During my second trip to the caldera, we scoped out East Lake hot springs. I’m not positive I was in the right spot, but I did find hot water. It would need some customizing to make it into a soaking pool, and then you’d come out smelling of sulfur. Maybe I need a boat or paddle board to explore further!
During the second trip our weather was neither sunny nor glorious, but that didn’t stop us from exploring! We braved the damp for a short hike along Paulina Lake so Squirrel and Basil could see the turquoise water.
We braved the cold to see the Big Obsidian Flow, which was a bit confusing on the dog front. Our materials made no mention of dog restrictions. Then when we pulled up there was a big no dog sign. Apparently the tiny “dogs discouraged” sign underneath was a clarification afterthought. The issue is the sharp obsidian along the trail, so I put Aspen’s socks and leash on and we went into the sea of volcanic rock.
I will note, looking through the monument newspaper after the fact, I did find a section that mentioned Big Obsidian Flow and the hazards to pets. A note in the hiking chart would be helpful, but we figured it out.
We even braved the clouds on Paulina Peak for hopes of a break in the mist – no such luck. As you can see below, Aspen was not impressed. My vote, skip the drive if the peak is in the clouds and head to Paulina Lake hot springs instead.
When I stopped at a local store to stock up on essentials, I was excited to discover Bend, Overall by Scott Cook – the same author that wrote NZ Frenzy, the New Zealand guidebook that I loved. The book is full of adventures with various rankings on the obscurometer. If you’re thinking of taking a trip to the area, I would recommend picking up a copy.
Be nice, you’re in Oregon,