If downhill skiing is your passion, you probably already know about the fabulous skiing conditions and myriad runs of Mount Bachelor (tel. 800/829-2442 or 541/382-7888 for snow report; www.mtbachelor.com), 22 miles west of Bend on the Cascades Lakes Highway. With a 3,365-foot vertical drop, 71 runs, 11 lifts, 6 day lodges, and 4 terrain parks, it's no wonder this place is so popular. All-day lift tickets are $49 to $69 for adults, $39 to $59 for seniors and teenagers 13 to 18, $28 to $42 for children 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and under. There's also a tubing park for families, and for snowboarders, a half pipe with 18-foot walls. The ski area's Super Shuttle ($7 each way) operates to and from Bend and leaves from the park-and-ride lot on the west side of town, on Columbia Street between Galveston and Simpson streets.
Cross-country skiers will also find plenty of trails to choose from. Just be sure to stop by a ski shop and buy a Sno-Park permit before heading up to the cross-country trails, the best of which are along the Cascades Lakes Highway leading to Mount Bachelor ski area. At the ski area itself, there are 35 miles of groomed trails. Passes to use these trails are $14 to $17 for adults and $9 to $10 for children 6 to 12 years old. Ski shops abound in Bend, and nearly all of them rent both downhill and cross-country equipment. If you're heading to Mount Bachelor, you can rent equipment there, or try the Powder House, 311 SW Century Dr. (tel. 541/389-6234; www.powderhousebend.com), on the way out of Bend heading toward Mount Bachelor.
If you've had enough skiing, how about a dogsled ride? At Mount Bachelor (tel. 800/829-2442 or 541/382-2442), you can participate in 1-hour programs that include a dogsled ride and an orientation session on the care of sled dogs. Rates are $75 for adults, $30 for children under 80 pounds. All-day trips to Elk Lake ($450) are also available.
Easy 1-hour snowshoe walks are led by ranger-naturalists on weekends and holidays starting from the West Village Guest Services Building at Mount Bachelor. For more information, call tel. 541/383-4771.
If you want to do some mountain hiking without all that uphill slogging, head to Mount Bachelor (tel. 800/829-2442 or 541/382-2442; www.mtbachelor.com), where from early July to early September a chair lift operates partway up the mountain to the Pine Marten Lodge. The fare is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, and $9 for children ages 6 to 12. From here you may either ride the chair or hike down. The lift also operates Thursday through Saturday evenings for access to Scapolo's restaurant.
Golf -- For many of central Oregon's visitors, Bend's abundance of sunshine means only one thing: plenty of rounds of golf at the area's many golf courses. Of the resort courses in the area, the four courses at Sunriver (tel. 541/593-4402; www.sunriver-resort.com) -- Meadows, Woodlands, Crosswater (open to hotel guests and members only), and the 9-hole Caldera Links -- are the most highly regarded. Expect to pay anywhere from $59 to $109, depending on which course you play and when.
Right in Bend, you'll find more reasonable prices at the Riverhouse Resort's River's Edge Golf Course, 3075 N. Business U.S. 97 (tel. 541/389-2828; www.riverhouse.com), where 18 holes will cost you $39 to $59 in the summer. Widgi Creek Golf Club, 18707 Century Dr. (tel. 541/382-4449; www.widgi.com), is another of the area's highly regarded semiprivate clubs. Green fees range from $39 to $75 in the summer.
Hiking -- Hiking is one of the most popular summer activities here, but keep in mind that high-country trails may be closed by snow until late June or early July.
My favorite trail in the Bend area is the Deschutes River Trail, which parallels the Deschutes for nearly 9 miles. Any stretch of this trail is beautiful. To reach the trail, drive the Cascades Lakes Highway 6 miles west from Bend, turn left at a sign for the Meadow Picnic Area, and continue 1 1/3 miles to the trail head at the picnic area. Another enjoyable, though strenuous, hike is to the summit of Pilot Butte, a cinder cone within the Bend city limits. To find the trail head, drive east from downtown on Greenwood Avenue and watch for signs. For a few more recommended hikes, see "A Scenic Drive Along the Cascade Lakes Highway," below.
The Three Sisters Wilderness, which begins just over 20 miles from Bend and Sisters, offers secluded hiking among rugged volcanic peaks. Permits are required for overnight trips in the wilderness area and are available at trail heads. Currently, you'll also need a Northwest Forest Pass (available at the Bend and Sisters ranger stations) to park at area trail heads. Contact the Bend/Fort Rock Ranger Station, 1230 NE Third St., Ste. A-262, Bend, OR 97701 (tel. 541/383-4000; www.fs.fed.us/r6/centraloregon), or the Sisters Ranger Station, Pine Street and U.S. 20, Sisters, OR 97759 (tel. 541/549-7700; www.fs.fed.us/r6/centraloregon), for trail maps and other information.
Horseback Riding -- Down in Sunriver, you can get saddled up and ride the meadows and ponderosa pine forests at Sunriver Stables (tel. 541/593-6995; www.sunriver-resort.com/stables.php), which offers a variety of rides, with an hour's ride costing $45. Be sure to call for a reservation.
Kayaking & White-Water Rafting -- The Deschutes River, which passes through Bend, is the most popular river in Oregon for white-water rafting, although the best sections of river are 100 miles north of here . However, numerous local companies offer trips on both the lower section of the Deschutes and the stretch of the upper Deschutes between Sunriver and Bend. This latter stretch of the river is known as the Big Eddy run, and though it is short and really has only one major rapid, it offers a quick introduction to rafting. Sun Country Tours (tel. 800/770-2161 or 541/382-6277; www.suncountrytours.com) does both the Big Eddy run ($44) and the lower Deschutes ($103-$108). Rapid River Rafters, 500 SW Bond St., Ste. 160 (tel. 800/962-3327 or 541/382-1514; www.rapidriverrafters.com), also offers full-day trips on the lower Deschutes ($75-$85).
For a much mellower experience, rent a canoe or kayak from Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe, 805 SW Industrial Way, Ste. 6 (tel. 541/317-9407; www.aldercreek.com), and, if you can load the boat on top of your car, head out on the Cascade Lakes Highway to Sparks Lake or Hosmer Lake. Rental rates start at $40 for 2 hours. Alder Creek also offers classes and canoe and kayak tours on the upper Deschutes River ($65 for a half-day tour and $95 for a full-day tour). Sparks Lake and Hosmer Lake are my two favorite paddling spots. You can also do an easy flat-water paddle through the community of Sunriver. At Sunriver Marina (tel. 541/593-3492), which is west of Circle 3 and adjacent to the Trout House restaurant, you can take a 2-hour canoe or kayak tour on a beautiful, meandering stretch of the Deschutes River. Tours cost $55 to $90.
Mountain Biking -- Mountain biking is one of the most popular activities in central Oregon, partly because when the snow melts, the cross-country ski trails become mountain-bike trails. Contact the Bend/Fort Rock Ranger Station, 1230 NE Third St., Ste. A-262, Bend, OR 97701 (tel. 541/383-4000; www.fs.fed.us/r6/centraloregon), to find out about trails open to mountain bikes. The most scenic mountain-bike trail is the Deschutes River Trail. Mountain bikes (and touring bikes) can be rented from Hutch's Bicycles, 725 NW Columbia St. (tel. 541/382-9253; www.hutchsbicycles.com), which charges $30 to $55 per day for mountain bikes.
The Paulina Plunge (tel. 800/296-0562 or 541/389-0562; www.paulinaplunge.com) offers guided mountain-bike rides in Newberry National Volcanic Monument. The outing is an easy downhill ride that includes stops at waterfalls and a natural water slide and costs $60. These tours are outrageously fun and should not be missed if you're at all athletic. A much wider range of mountain-bike tours is offered by Cog Wild Bicycle Tours (tel. 866/610-4822 or 541/385-7002; www.cogwild.com). Tours vary in length and degree of difficulty, so there's something for every level of rider and a wide range of prices.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.