While in Bend, I always take the opportunity to take a hike or go for a trail run along the Deschutes River Trail. The trail starts in town and there are many sections worth seeing right in the heart of Bend. I particularly enjoy the section of trail through Drake Park and south of the Old Mill District.
If you have the chance to get out of town, however, my favorite jaunts can be found south of town via a short drive out Cascade Lakes Highway in the Deschutes National Forest. I usually go to Forest Road 41 and stop at one of the trailheads accessible there including trailheads for Lava Island, Dillon Falls, or Benham Falls.
This particular adventure started out when our day's attempts at skiing were thwarted by 60 mph gusts at Mount Bachelor. Despite the storms at the summit, the winter weather was feeling much more like spring in the lower elevations. Sun and 60 degree weather in winter call for a day hike! So after an obligatory stop at Atlas Cider House, we made our way out to Lava Island trailhead. I had been out on this section of the trail before and had vague memories of 2 waterfalls in the area worth seeing. But there were three falls listed: Lava Island Falls, Dillon Falls, and Benham Falls. Apparently Lava Island Falls are NOT the falls worth seeing. Dillon and Benham Falls are much more noteworthy. But that being said, I can still highly recommend a day hike south from Lava Island trailhead for the stunning views and peace that can be found along the Deschutes River whether or not you get to one of the more spectacular waterfalls.
If you are walking south from the Lava Island trailhead, you will see the large piles of black lava rocks stacked on the opposite banks of the river. The Deschutes River splits around a section of lava rocks creating Lava Island.
If you do attempt a winter hike along the Deschutes River Trail, consider recent snow fall amounts. If it has been warm, the trail may be cleared enough for a day hike. But if there has been a recent snow, access along the trail may not be clear. In the summer you will have other considerations such as mosquitos on the trail. This trail is very popular and you are guaranteed to see many other folks enjoying the trail system including folks with dogs, trail runners, and mountain bikers. Though there is opportunity for peace and solitude, be prepared to share the trail. One thing we particularly noted along this trail was its excellently clean condition. We saw no signs of trash as we have seen on trails on the west side of the Cascades recently. The culture of the Bend community is clearly one that respects its outdoors and its trail systems. The only waste we saw was the little doggie bags of poo. Hopefully, those folks were going to pick that SHIT up on their way back through. Putting your dog's doo in a plastic bag doesn't do any help to anyone if you don't pack that out with you! Okay, rant over. Breathe deep. Back to the calm Deschutes...
After a serene out and back with friends along the river, we returned to town and met up with some locals at the Broken Top Bottle Shop. This restaurant and beer stop was an excellent end to the day. Whether you are a meat eater (I had ribs!) or the gluten-free, vegan type, or even a dog (yes they have a tri tip and jasmine rice doggie bowl!), you will definitely enjoy this bottle shop which is a little further away from the main Bend crowds.
We may not have made any turns at the mountain, but a trip to Bend is never in vain if only for the day.