If you'd like to have a guide show you around the area, contact Wanderlust Tours (tel. 800/962-2862 or 541/389-8359; www.wanderlusttours.com), which offers summer canoe trips, winter snowshoe walks, volcano hikes, and even a cave-exploration outing. Rates range from $42 to $110.
Downtown Bend is full of great shops, women's clothing boutiques, and art galleries, and it's easy to spend an afternoon shopping here. On the first Friday of each month, Bend galleries stay open from 5 to 9pm for a gallery walk. Also be sure to check out the shops in the Old Mill District (tel. 541/312-0131; www.theoldmill.com), a redeveloped area of town that once housed several lumber mills. Today the old mill buildings have been converted into shopping arcades, and new buildings with the look of old mill buildings have been added. You'll find the Old Mill District south of downtown.
It seems you can't go anywhere in Oregon anymore without finding a winery. Even Bend has one. At Maragas Winery, 643 NW Colorado Ave. (tel. 541/330-0919; www.maragaswinery.com), south of downtown, wine labels sport beatnik-theme cartoon art, and zinfandel is a specialty. The tasting room is open Friday through Sunday from noon to 6pm.
Seeing Stars -- Central Oregon's clear skies not only provide the region with abundant sunshine but also allow the stars to shine brightly at night. At two area observatories you can get a closer look at those stars. At the small Pine Mountain Observatory (tel. 541/382-8331; http://pmo-sun.uoregon.edu), 26 miles southeast of Bend off U.S. 20, you can gaze at the stars and planets through 15- to 32-inch telescopes. Admission is a $3 suggested donation, and the observatory is open from late May through late September on Friday and Saturday nights, with programs starting between 8pm and 9pm, depending on the month.
In the resort community of Sunriver, south of Bend, the Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory (tel. 541/593-4442; www.sunrivernaturecenter.org) has stargazing programs, with days and hours varying with the seasons. The observatory can be found by following the Nature Center signs through Sunriver. Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for children. There are also daytime solar-viewing programs here.
Exploring Central Oregon's Volcanic Landscape
From snow-covered peaks to lava caves, past volcanic activity and geologic history are visible everywhere around Bend. For a sweeping panoramic view of the Cascade Range, head up to the top of Pilot Butte at the east end of Greenwood Avenue. From the top of this cinder cone, you can see all of the Cascades' major peaks -- from Mount Hood to Mount Bachelor -- every one of which is volcanic in origin.
To the south of Bend lies a region of relatively recent volcanic activity that has been preserved as the Newberry National Volcanic Monument (tel. 541/593-2421; www.fs.fed.us/r6/centraloregon/newberrynvm/index.shtml). The best place to start an exploration of the national monument is at the Lava Lands Visitor Center, 58201 S. U.S. 97, 13 miles south of Bend and open from May through mid-October. Here you can learn about the titanic forces that sculpted this region. An interpretive trail outside the center wanders through a lava flow at the base of 500-foot-tall Lava Butte, an ominous black cinder cone, and a road leads to the top. From the summit of the cinder cone, you have an outstanding view of the Cascades. A $5 Northwest Forest Pass is necessary to visit Newberry National Volcanic Monument. If you don't already have one, you can purchase one at the visitor center. As you leave the parking lot of the Lava Lands Visitor Center, the side road (Forest Service Rd. 9702) to the right leads to the trail head for the impressive Benham Falls, which are an easy .8-mile walk from the trail head. Be sure to bring mosquito repellant if you visit the falls during the summer.
A mile to the south, you'll find Lava River Cave, which is actually a long tube formed by lava flows. The cave is more than a mile long and takes about an hour to explore. A $5 Northwest Forest Pass is necessary to visit the cave; lanterns rent for $4. The cave is open early May to June and early September to mid-October, Wednesday to Sunday from 9am to 5pm, and July to early September daily from 9am to 5pm (no lantern rentals after 4pm). Be sure to bring warm clothes!
When lava flowed across this landscape, it often inundated pine forests, leaving in its wake only molds of the trees. At Lava Cast Forest, 9 miles down a very rough road off U.S. 97 south of Lava River Cave, a paved trail leads past such molds. Continuing farther south on U.S. 97 will bring you to the turnoff for the Newberry Caldera area, the centerpiece of the monument. Covering 500 square miles, the caldera contains Paulina and East Lakes and numerous volcanic features, including an astounding flow of obsidian. There are rental cabins and campgrounds within the national monument, and 150 miles of hiking trails.
A Scenic drive Along the Cascade Lakes Highway
During the summer, the Cascade Lakes Highway is the most popular excursion out of Bend. This National Scenic Byway is an 87-mile loop that packs in some of the finest scenery in the Oregon Cascades. Along the way are a dozen lakes and frequent views of the jagged Three Sisters peaks and the rounded Mount Bachelor. The lakes provide ample opportunities for boating, fishing, swimming, and picnicking. At the Visit Bend information center, 917 NW Harriman St. (tel. 877/245-8484 or 541/382-8048; www.visitbend.org), you can pick up a guide to the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway. Keep in mind that from mid-November to late May, this road is closed west of Mount Bachelor due to snow.
The first area of interest along the highway is Dutchman Flat, just west of Mount Bachelor. A thick layer of pumice produces desertlike conditions that support only a few species of hardy plants. A little farther and you come to Todd Lake, a pretty little lake a bit off the highway; it's reached by a short trail. Swimming, picnicking, and camping are all popular here.
Sparks Lake, the next lake along this route, is shallow and marshy and has lava fields at its southern end. An easy trail with frequent glimpses of the lake meanders through these forested lava fields. To find this trail, drive to the end of the Sparks Lake access road. The lake is a popular canoeing spot, though you'll need to bring your own boat. At the north end of the lake, closer to the highway, you'll also find the trail head for a popular mountain-biking trail that heads south to Lava Lake. Across the highway from the marshes, at the north end of the lake, is the trail head for Green Lakes, a series of small lakes that are in the Three Sisters Wilderness at the foot of Broken Top Mountain. This is one of the most popular backpacking routes in the region and offers spectacular scenery. The hike to Green Lakes can also be done as a day hike. West of the Green Lakes trail head is an area known as Devils Garden, where several springs surface on the edge of a lava flow. On a boulder here you can still see a few Native American pictographs.
With its wide-open waters and reliable winds, Elk Lake is popular for sailing and windsurfing. There are cabins, a lodge, and campsites around the lake. Hosmer and Lava lakes are both known as good fishing lakes, while spring-fed Little Lava Lake is the source of the Deschutes River. Cultus Lake, with its sandy beaches, is a popular swimming lake. At the Crane Prairie Reservoir, you can observe osprey between May and October. The Twin Lakes are examples of volcanic maars (craters) that have been filled by springs. These lakes have no inlets or outlets.
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.