If you travel in a campervan, the chance is you have heard about Bend, Oregon. Bend is the outdoor capital of the Pacific Northwest and is a travel destination in Central Oregon that you cannot miss if you are traveling on the west coast. Bend, Oregon, has many varied activities, such as mountain biking, climbing, rafting, and hiking. Van life in Bend, Oregon, is also convenient because of the excellent forest land nearby. If you’re looking for fun activities in Bend, Oregon, there are plenty of fun places to shop, work or eat. They also have breweries, cafes, stores, and restaurants throughout town. The town is also very dog friendly, so you can bring your pup on a hike or into town and be assured that you will all have a great time. 

5 Tips before you visit Bend Oregon 

It looks like you have found your next travel destination! Bend, Oregon, has a little something for everyone. Aside from being incredibly campervan friendly, it is also an ultimate vacation destination for those looking to experience the outdoors, making van life in Bend, Oregon, great. Because there are so many reasons to visit the area, we wanted to make it even easier for you and share five tips to keep in mind before you take the trip. 

  1. Some Hiking Trails Require Permits. 

Not all hikes require permits but keep in mind that Oregon’s Central Cascades Wilderness Permit areas are implementing limits to preserve these iconic peaks, forests, lakes, and meadows for generations to come. To do so, they have put limitations on usage based on trailhead entry points. So to avoid being turned away, research before coming to prevent any roadblocks from getting you on the trail. 

  1. Research Where You Will Camp Beforehand 

One of the things that makes this area so excellent is the many van-friendly accommodations in the area, which makes camping near Bend, Oregon, a breeze. Although van life in Bend, Oregon, is so accessible, it would help if you did some research before coming to pick the right area for your needs. A little research will go a long way to ensure you get the experience you want.  For example, Deschutes National Forest is known for its fantastic mountain biking trails, while Willamette National forest has waterfalls and hot spring options. Therefore you should make sure you plan out your campsites ahead of time, so you are in the right area, depending on your interest.

  1. Bring sunscreen 

Bend is a very outdoors-centric place, and you will most likely not be indoors for long when you are here, so make sure you plan accordingly. Bring plenty of sunscreens, as well as the proper attire and footwear. Come prepared so you aren’t restricted by the activities you can do once you arrive. 

  1. Create a List Beforehand 

Bend has something for everyone, so come into the trip knowing what you hope to get from your experience, so you don’t feel overwhelmed when you arrive. For example, are you interested in outdoor activities such as top-ranking mountain biking trails? Or do you hope to go on a few of the countless spectacular hikes? Or would you instead spend time in town, going to some of the many delicious restaurants or going on a brewery tour through town? Think about what activities sound the most exciting to you so you can make the most of your time in the area. 

  1. Plan Your Trip around the Season

Despite the season, Bend, Oregon, has something to offer, but the experience will look vastly different based on the weather. For example, a few winter activities you can get into include cross-country skiing, sledding, and snowshoeing, whereas the activities you might enjoy in the summer are vastly different. So, before you come, know what interests you most so that you can enjoy your time here. Also, be aware that the summer is typically around the mid-70s to high 80s, while the nights can get into the ’60s. Inversely,  the weather in the winter can get into the 30s and 40s during the day. 

How to Find Free Camping Near Bend, Oregon

Because Bend, Oregon, is a very outdoorsy city, it tends to be a place where people who love the outdoors settle, and it also brings in travelers from across the country. So, if you are looking for overnight camping in the Bend, Oregon, area, you are in the right place! Whether stealth camping in town or dispersed camping, there are many options within the area. As far as dispersed camping goes, it is legal on publicly owned land, such as areas controlled by the Oregon Department of Forestry and Bureau of Land Management (BLM). However, rules and restrictions apply regarding camping and boondocking in the area, so be sure to keep up to date with regulations. 

Top Places to Overnight Park in Bend

Van life in Bend, Oregon, has many perks. In town, there are the typical free boondocking sites you would find anywhere, such as Wal-Mart, Cracker Barrel, and stealth street camping. That said, ensure you know where you are parking, respect the area, clean up after yourself, and find places suitable for campervans. Also, don’t forget to check out IOverlander and Campendium for more great spots in the area. 

Laws and parking areas are constantly changing. If you see an error on this page, please let me know! 

Best Dispersed Camping in Bend, Oregon

What makes van life in Bend, Oregon, so popular is that camping is some of the most accessible we have seen while on the road. Fortunately for those who live in campervans, this is due to the National forests and BLM land in the vicinity. In addition, Deschutes and Willamette National Forests offer a wide variety of dispersed campsites, and you can stay up to 14 days in the National forests as long as you abide by all park rules. 

Deschutes National Forest

Deschutes National Forest encompasses close to 1.6 million acres and is only a 15-minute drive west of downtown Bend, making it the perfect place to camp. You can stay on National Forest land for up to 14 days. To learn more, check out the Forest Service website. 

Phil’s Trailhead 

Van life in Bend, Oregon, doesn’t get any easier than at Phils Trailhead. This area is one of the most famous mountain biking trailheads in the Pacific Northwest. This area is also very close to town and has a small parking area and a vault toilet at the main trail parking lot, but the campsites have no facilities. This area is called Phil’s trailhead, but there are plenty of spots of varied sizes. There are even spots that can fit over half a dozen rigs! This area is great because it is scattered with ponderosa pines that make for some shade on warm summer days. Keep in mind that you may have varied cellphone signals here. 

Willamette National Forest 

This National Forest is home to eight wilderness areas, including three Sisters Wilderness, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Washington. This area offers 1,700 acres of year-round recreational activities. This area also has over 1,500 unique camping spots! Four different ranger districts divide the National Forest, and all regions have abundant options, making camping near Bend, Oregon, much more accessible. For more information and complete rules, please visit the USDA website. 

Top places to shower 

As a full-time traveler, knowing what facilities are easily accessible in whatever city you may find yourself in is a must. Bend, Oregon, offers similar facilities to most cities. They have the tried and true Planet Fitness shower option, and they also have a few other unique opportunities as well. Here are a few shower options to check out to make van life in Bend, Oregon, a breeze. 

Planet Fitness 

There is one Planet Fitness in Bend, and it is popular amongst campervans. You will often see vans in the parking lot at any given time. If you have a planet fitness membership, this is a great option. If not, consider getting a $10 membership which you can use anywhere across the country. 

Campsite Showers  

There are a bunch of campsites in the Bend area, and many of them offer low-cost and sometimes free showers. Look up camps in the area and call around to find out what accommodations they might offer. 

Tumalo State Park 

Several state parks in the Bend, Oregon, area offer showers. As of the date of this article, once you pay the parking fee, you are granted access to hot showers and flush toilets. Unfortunately, I have yet to go to this State park personally. So please do your research to ensure quality and to make sure this accommodation is still available. Also, please check the state park website to find out more. This state park is open for day use and camping year-round. 

Public Pools

Bend has a few public pools that may offer free showers or relatively inexpensive drop-in fees. One public pool recommended to us is Juniper Swim & Fitness Center. This recreation center offers fitness, swimming, and showers. The single visit fee for an adult (19-60) is $8.00, and for Older adults (61-79), it is a $7.00 entry fee. NOTE: I have NOT been to any of these locations and cannot attest to their cleanliness or safety. Check out their resource center to view other available pools/showers.

The Best Hotels in Bend 

Although van life in Bend, Oregon, is very accessible, there may come a time when you are looking for another lodging option. There are great options if you want hotel accommodations in Bend, Oregon. These options vary in experience, but they are all places I would stay if I needed a break from the van. All of these options are close to downtown and are great options for anyone in the Bend area. 

Bunk+Brew Historic Lucas House

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Bunk+Brew (@bunkandbrew) • Instagram photos and videos

This hostel style accommodation offers live music on Fridays and Saturdays and weekly events. Their website states they are “van life-friendly,” They also have beers, wine, and cider on tap. I attended a few events they had while we were in the area, and it was a friendly and fun atmosphere. It’s a great place to meet fellow travelers and other cool people in the community. 

Tetherow Hotel 

Tetherow is a modern 4-star lodge with a gorgeous mountain backdrop. It is pet friendly and is 4 miles from downtown Bend. Every room has a fireplace and a complimentary shuttle, and this hotel comes highly recommended in the area. 

Wall Street Suites 

Wall Street Suites charming hotel is very dog friendly and even encourages you to bring your pooch by offering a doggy welcome basket! The rooms have a bedroom and a separate living area with a pull-out sofa bed for an additional guest. A modern kitchen and a shared outdoor patio area with a fire pit are also attached. To add the icing on the cake, it is less than a ten-minute walk from Downtown Bend and five minutes from the Deschutes River. 

The Best Vegan-Friendly Restaurants in Bend, Oregon 

Lively Up Yourself Food Cart

Lively Up Yourself Food Cart is part of a food cart pod in the Midtown neighborhood of Bend, Oregon, and has been serving delicious 100% vegan comfort food to Central Oregon since September 2019. This area also offers a collection of other food carts that serve varied cuisines and are fun and a fantastic way to experience the midtown Bend area. They offer happy hour, patio seating, and live music and are pet-friendly. This place is worth a visit. 

The Lot

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The Lot (@thelotbend) • Instagram photos and videos

The “original food cart lot in Bend, Oregon ”  comprises four food carts surrounding a covered open-air patio with a taproom. They offer 16 rotating taps of beer, cider, and kombucha and a fun, cute, and dog-friendly atmosphere. It’s a great place to meet up with friends and try a few different cuisines while you are at it. 

Wild Rose Thai 

This Northern Thai restaurant is one of the most popular eateries in Bend. However, be aware that it will likely have a wait during peak dining hours. They also offer vegan-friendly options and are willing to modify dishes to suit your dietary needs. 

The Best Coffee Shops for Working in Oregon 

Kanona Cafe 

This cafe is a great place to spend the day because it has good seating options and a variety of healthy food options. They hope to keep you both caffeinated and well-nourished, which is only sometimes guaranteed when you are hard at work on your laptop for hours. They have outlets and a lot of seating. 

Thump Genuine Coffee

When you walk through the doors, it is clear that those who work at Thump are passionate about what they do and providing you with a quality experience. In their own words, “We want everything we make, everything we provide to our people, to be worth more than what they pay for it.” This place is a must-try for coffee connoisseurs.

The Best Breweries in Oregon 

Bend Ale Trail

This one isn’t so much of a brewery as it is an experience. The Bend ale trail is an experience where you can download the free app or pick up a paper passport at the visitor center for $5 and experience Bend through different alcoholic beverages. As long as you are over 21 and follow the rules on their website, you are welcome to join in on the fun! 

Deschutes Brewery

The most well-known brewery in Bend is this one. This place offers award-winning craft beer and handcrafted ales. This Brewery has been around since 1988 and is named after the Deschutes River. They believe that good beer brings people together, and he must have been onto something because this popular spot has been a community gathering since it opened. 

Crux Fermentation Project

This Brewery is in another famous city and offers a wide array of lagers, ales, and experimental beers. They also provide house-blended wine, cider, and a beer-inspired food menu. This brewery is a great place to gather because its open lawn offers food carts, weekly live music, and gorgeous views of the Cascade Mountain range. 

The Best Dog Parks 

Lucky for those who have a furry friend with you on our travels, Bend, Oregon, is incredibly dog friendly and has more than 15 dog parks spread out throughout the town, which makes it easy for you to find a place to take your pup where they can make some friends and place freely. Here are just a few of the many dog parks in town. 

Riverbend Dog Park

Riverbend Park provides public access to the Deschutes River and has many events throughout the year. In addition, they have a  popular fenced-off leash dog park that is adjacent to Riverbend Park. This dog park is a beautiful place for you and your pup to spend the day. 

Big Sky Park Off-Leash Dog Area

Big sky dog park is a popular off-leash dog park. There are 12 acres available for your dog to play with, and they have both fenced and unfenced areas. The park’s off-leash area features walking trails, picnic tables, a water spigot, a double-gated entry, and a portable toilet. 

Pine Nursery Dog Park

Pine Nursery Park is a 159-acre community park located in northeast Bend. There is also a sports complex for field sports, a fishing pond, fitness trails, paved trails, bathrooms, and 14 acres off-leash area for dogs. The rest of the park is friendly for leashed dogs and is one of the best dog parks in the area. 

The Best hikes near Bend 

Something about hikes in the Pacific Northwest always keeps us coming back for more, and Bend, Oregon, has countless amazing hikes for the other avid hikers to enjoy alongside us. You can find various hikes in this area, from the gorgeous crystal clear lakes to ponderosa pine forests, breathtaking waterfalls, and almost anything else you can imagine. Keep in mind that specific trails require permits starting May 28. 2021. Please research to ensure you have the proper permits, don’t waste your time, and get turned around at the trailhead. 

Tumalo Peak 

Tumalo Peak is the perfect hike for you if you want to take in the rugged beauty of the Bend, Oregon, alpine wilderness. Please be aware that this hike can be challenging because of the one-mile uphill trek and 1,400 feet of elevation gain. But it will all be worth it when you reach the top and can see Mount Bachelor, Broken Top, and South Sister from the peak. 

Tamolitch Blue Pool

If you are ready to be wowed, this 4.2 miles out and back hike is a must-visit while you are in the area. It is relatively flat, with a 300-foot elevation gain. It is also open to hikers, mountain bikers, and leashed pets. The hike is gorgeous all around, but the finale is the hike’s namesake. At the end of the hike, you reach the beautiful clear topaz-blue pool caused by the Mackenzie River rising to the surface via lava tubes. The trail starts paved and relatively flat, with a slight incline, and there are portapotties before the pavement ends. Next, you will reach the densely forested portion of the hike, which later opens up, and the landscape transforms into rugged lava rocks before you get to the pristine pool. The pool is 40 degrees year-round, and we do not recommend jumping in the frigid waters. 

Lava River Cave Trail 

Lava River Cave Trail is a must-see if you are in the area. I suggest you rent a lantern for $5 before entering the cave or bring your own. We have heard that cell phones or flashlights are insufficient enough light to help you in the vast and incredibly dark cave.

Before entering the cave, visitors must participate in a Ranger talk about the white-noise syndrome, a deadly disease that is killing bat populations throughout the U.S. 

When you enter the cave, be aware that the temperature will decrease rapidly as you go through. Make sure you pack warm clothes, as you will need them the further you get. The lava cave is an excellent hike for families with kids and a fascinating vantage point we don’t get from hikes above ground. 

Tumalo Falls 

There’s no wonder why a waterfall like this one is so famous. This beautiful geological feature is nearly hidden away in the vast evergreen forest that only heightens the beauty of the breathtaking waterfall amidst the dense trees. There are two viewpoints, and the most popular one is close to the parking lot, and it is a straightforward walk to view the falls. The second viewpoint is a half a mile hike that will take you to the top of the falls. It is an easy trail that is well-maintained and has little elevation gain.

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