Bend, Oregon sees four distinct seasons a year, each with a draw of its own. From winter sports like skiing and ice skating to swimming and horseback riding in summer, there is plenty to do in Bend, no matter what the weather.
Despite varying temperatures, Bend sees an average of 300 or more days of sunshine each year. What more can visitors ask for? Whether you’re looking to come to Bend to ski, hike, golf or fish, here are the best times to visit.
‘Ski’ you on the mountain during Bend’s snow season, from December-March
The snow season in Bend offers endless possibilities for outdoor enthusiasts willing to brave the cold – skiing and snowboarding are at the top of the list. Mt Bachelor, Hoodoo and Willamette Pass are the ski hills in closest proximity to Bend. Mt Bachelor is well-known for its expansive 360-degree terrain as well as its Adaptive Sports Program, geared toward people with special needs.
For a night ski session, affordable lift tickets and ski biking, Hoodoo is the best choice. Snowmobiling, Nordic cross country skiing, skate skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and fat-tire biking are popular at Dutchman Flat, Virginia Miesner and Wanoga snow parks, and are easily accessible, all for the price of a sno-park permit. Be willing to share the trails with an abundance of winter enthusiasts.
Other enticing winter sports options include ice skating at Seventh Mountain River Company, the Bend Pavillion or the ice rink in Sunriver. Sled dog rides with Oregon Trail of Dreams are also popular with visitors. For a top-notch adventure, get picked up by Elk Lake Lodge in a snowcat Suburban, and chauffeured out to the full-service lodge for a beer or meal. Or, extend your trip by staying overnight in one of the onsite cabins.
The spring low season (April-May) showcases wildflower blooms
April showers bring May flowers and variable weather, which deters some visitors. But while the weather in spring oscillates rapidly between intermittent rain, cold, cloud cover and bright sunshine, the wildflowers burst.
Central Oregon spring showcases a unique variety of wildflowers, blooms and blossoms that pop up in neighborhoods and high desert landscapes alike. Following the elevation, flowers such as native sand lilies bust in town first and can be seen on the lower flanks of Pilot Butte. Oregon grape and manzanita blooms follow. If you find the lower elevations are bloomed out, head for the hills. Upper elevations will slowly bloom in tears like dominos falling uphill as heat and sun exposure increase.
Take a similar tack for springtime mushroom hunting.
Snowbirds ascend on Bend during summer, from June-September
Many visitors only venture to Central Oregon in the summertime. With two dozen golf courses in Bend alone, retirees come for the driving ranges and 18-hole amenities. Resorts like Brasada Ranch, Black Butte Ranch and Pronghorn offer an immersive experience, with additional family options including horseback riding and pool time.
When the midday sun is in full force, locals tend to head for the Deschutes River. There are many access points throughout Bend to swim and launch kayaks, canoes and paddleboards. Favorite parks for water access include McKay, Miller’s Landing, Harmon, First-street Rapids, Riverbend and Farewell Bend Parks.
Perhaps the most iconic summertime activity of all is floating down the Deschutes River on an inner tube. Stop in at Bend Park & Float to get set up with a tube and shuttle, or BYO tube. You can easily walk back to your car, post-float in about a half-hour. Launch at Riverbend Park and take out at Drake Park.
Anglers love the fall season from October-November
Bend often sees warm weather into the late fall, which can last through Thanksgiving. The summer crowds have thinned, the kids are back in school and the fish (particularly steelhead) are jumping. Littleleaf Guide Services and Nate’s Rogue Adventures provide guided fishing excursions on the Lower Deschutes River, north of Bend. Anglers can also be seen in town trying their hand at casting for a brookie or brown trout.
Be sure to go for a drive and take in the beauty of the fall leaves as they peak in color. If you’ve been to the east coast for this pastime, you know how striking the fluorescent yellow, orange and pink leaves changing color can be. Aspen trees and groves are particularly outstanding, along with the golden hue of larch trees among their evergreen counterparts.
January is for discounts and après-ski kick-offs
Many mountain resorts in Central Oregon and beyond run buy-one-get-one-free and other discount days in January. Local watering holes and restaurants host Après-ski (after ski) events including concerts and social hours.
Jam out with Winterfest in February
Every February, Bend puts on a weekend festival like no other. Winterfest offers dueling performance stages, food carts and seasonal crafters. Dance in the cold night air while sipping a micro-brew with all your favorite snow homies.
Key Events: Winterfest
Bend is popular for spring-breakers in March
Many families descend on Bend for a fantastic spring break on the ski hill. It’s a good time to snowshoe and enjoy the last of the winter season activities.
Whitewater raft in April
If you whitewater kayak or raft, you’ll be drawn to high desert rivers in April for their high water flows. With snow beginning to melt in the mountains and rain often falling, discover unruly flood waters while boating whitewater.
Visit in early May to quietly enjoy nicer weather
Beat the crowds by heading to Bend before Memorial Day. Chances are the weather could be fairly nice, and you’ll get the best of Bend before the busy summer months.
You never know what the weather will bring in June or ‘Jun-uary’
Although June is the high season in Bend, no one is ever quite certain of the weather. Sometimes it snows, other times, it feels like summer. Come prepared for anything!
Have an old-fashioned 4th of July
If you happen to visit around Independence Day, you won’t want to miss the July 4th Fireworks Festival. Start the day off with live music, great food and games for kids, and end it with the fireworks show launched from the top of Pilot Butte
Key Events: July 4th Fireworks Festival, 4th of July Fireworks on the Warm Springs Reservation
Art and music festivals abound in August
If art shows are your thing, see more than 100 visual artists’ work on display at Art in the High Desert, or the work of local metal artists at the Central Oregon Metal Arts Guild Annual Show, both in August. Classical music lovers won’t want to miss the Sunriver Music Festival, and foodies should check out Munch & Music in Drake Park on Thursday nights for live music and good food.
Key Events: Art in the High Desert, Central Oregon Metal Arts Guild Annual Show, Sunriver Music Festival, Munch & Music
Go fish in September
Early fall is a great time to visit – temperatures still reflect summer warmth, but kids are back in school and crowds have subsided. This month also kicks off fall fishing for steelhead and salmon – keep an eye out for public salmon bakes.
Key Events: Salmon Run, Mill-Luck Salmon Celebration
Fall fun is everywhere in October
The Old Mill District hosts a kid-friendly Halloween, with trick-or-treating and more, while many other venues around town host adult-only festivities. Smith Rock Ranch is popular this month, with its pick-your-own pumpkin patch, corn maze and pumpkin catapult. October also kicks off several design and arts festivals.
Feast on the November harvest
Despite its dry climate, the high desert pulls in a bounty of locally-grown food each year, and November is typically the pinnacle of the harvest season. This is your last chance to check out local farms before the winter season.
Key Events: Veteran’s Day Parade on the Warm Springs Reservation
Get into the holiday season in December
Visit Bend during December for the best holiday events. See locals decorate their canoes and boats in lights as they float down the Deschutes River in the Old Mill District for the Winter Holiday Lights Paddle Parade. Or, catch a nightly light show at the Sunriver Resort. Bend and Prineville also have spectacular annual holiday parades.
Key Events: Winter Holiday Lights Paddle Parade, Sunriver Resort Holiday Lights Shows