Explore the popular trail running town of Bend, Oregon with these top trail recommendations.
Years ago, Bend, Oregon hid in obscurity as mountain towns like Aspen, Vail, Whistler, Banff, South Lake Tahoe, Big Sky, and others drew the hordes of mountain-seeking tourists. But the word got out about Bend. Over the past couple of decades it has grown radically more popular, and is now renowned as one of the top mountain destinations in North America. In just the past 10 years since the 2010 census, the population has grown by 37.55%, and anecdotally, tourism has increased even more.
Don’t let the growing population and tourism dissuade you from visiting, however. Bend’s popularity is well-deserved. This bustling town of 100,000 residents serves as the arrival and provisioning point for a slew of peak climbs in the nearby Cascade Mountain Range, high desert runs close to town, scenic waterfall vistas, whitewater river adventures, and so much more.
The local trail running scene has naturally evolved into one of the most competitive in the nation. A slew of professional trail runners have chosen to make Bend their permanent residence, and almost everyone is an endurance athlete of some sort. According to local trail runner and coach Stephanie Howe on TrailRunnerMag.com, Bend "is one of the only places where the high school cross-country team outnumbers the football team! It is our culture.”
As soon as you leave the bustling downtown and head west toward the mountains, the houses disappear and you’ll start passing a parade of trailheads along all of the major roads. The Phil’s Trailhead close to town serves up a mind blowing array of singletrack, and if you’ve picked a hotel or AirBNB on the west side, you could even run from your lodging to the trails.
Some of the best mountain destinations in the nation can leave you asking “what now?" once the run is over, but thanks to the diversity of Central Oregon and the amenities on offer in Bend, you’ll never be bored. Start by washing the omnipresent moon dust off in one of the crystal-clear mountain lakes along the Cascade Lakes Highway. After enjoying a cold one on the shores of a lake, head into downtown, spin the metaphorical wheel, and pick one of the dozens of breweries on offer.
In addition to the world-class outdoor access, Bend has developed one of the most incredible craft beer scenes in the world. While most top mountain destinations might offer one token brewery (maybe two, if you’re lucky), Bend is home to a whopping 20-some breweries. That number continues to grow, and it could easily reach the 30s by the time you read this guidebook.
The combination of a bustling city and hundreds of miles of trails makes Bend a unique outdoor destination that appeals to both dirtbags and urbanites with outdoor aspirations. Whether you want to camp in the expansive national forest or stay in posh digs downtown, you can find your desired vacation experience and still get your singletrack fix in Bend!