When most people think about the state of Oregon, their minds usually go right to the lively city of Bend – and with good reason. Bend is considered to be one of the most scenic places in the entire country, thanks to its lively city streets and abundance of picturesque natural wonders.
While Bend isn’t the only magical place in central Oregon, it just so happens to be the perfect starting point to discover even more of the state’s overwhelming beauty.
Oregon is filled with outdoor recreation, giant waterfalls, and small-town charm – so make sure you don’t limit yourself to one destination.
Here is a list of 16 beautiful places you can easily make into an exciting day trip while staying in Bend, OR.
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1. Newberry National Volcanic Monument
Wide-sweeping over 54,000 acres stands the iconic Newberry National Volcanic Monument, where you can spend weeks exploring its many craters, waterfalls, peaks, lakes, and so much more.
Start your visit by heading over to the Lava Lands Visitor Center to learn about the area’s history and walk amongst the remains of volcanic activity dating back over 7,000 years.
Fun Fact: Astronauts preparing for their first trip to the moon actually used Lava Lands as a practice ground to prepare them for their trip – and when Apollo 15 finally made it, lava rock from this exact location was left on the moon to commemorate it!
One of the most popular things to do here is to climb or take a shuttle bus to the top of the Lava Butte’s 500-foot summit, where you can see 360 views of the neighboring volcanoes, Mt. Bachelor and the Three Sisters.
Just a stone’s throw away from the butte is the Lava Cave – which is known as the longest lava tube in the state of Oregon and is open for self-guided tours.
Check out a forest cemetery that was created by the intense volcanic activity thousands of years ago by walking along its 1-mile interpretive trail.
A fan favorite when it comes to waterfalls is Paulina Falls because it features two separate falls that plummet down over 800 feet into the famous Newberry Caldera. This crater lake is said to have formed nearly 6,500 years ago completely covering the area’s largest volcano – and is considered to be still completely active in a geothermal sense.
More of a luxury resort than a small town, Sunriver has been wooing its guests since the early 1960s and is known for being one of the most popular vacation destinations in Central Oregon. Just 15 miles away from the city of Bend, Sunriver is a perfect getaway for visitors looking to relax – and its 245 guest suites make it easy to turn your day trip into a weekend trip.
The resort stretches out over 3,300 acres with over 40 miles for guests to enjoy a day of biking, horseback riding, and hiking amongst its wide-open space.
Spend the day on the golf course with 4 award-winning courses to choose from, or opt for something even more relaxing by heading over to the Sage Springs Club and Spa.
If you like to spend time on the water, the Sunriver Marina is located right off the Deschutes River, so you can hop in a kayak or on a SUP board and hit the water.
There are also a variety of pools to choose from, both indoors and out, so you can go for a swim regardless of the weather. When you get hungry, you can make your way over to any one of the resort’s 11 restaurants.
The charming town of Redmond is on the outskirts of Bend and makes for a great escape from the hustle and bustle of city life while still providing plenty to do.
If you enjoy your fair share of cycling, love to try new award-winning meals, and like to partake in a bit of shopping, Redmond is most definitely the place for you.
The newest addition to the town is Radlands, an 8-mile long bike trail system. Locals and tourists alike have already fallen in love with its fast pace, stellar views of volcanic peaks, and easy access to the longer Sisters to Smith Rock Scenic Bikeway.
No matter what food mood you’re in, Redmond has got you covered – with tasty cuisine from around the globe, including favorites like the sushi at Oishi Japanese Restaurant and the carne asada at Diego’s Spirited Kitchen.
Plus, you can never go wrong with a burger and a locally crafted beer from the popular Cascade Lakes Brewing Company’s Seventh Street Brew House.
Just don’t forget to go for a stroll downtown, where you can spend hours hopping from one adorable boutique to another with the occasional book store and thrift shop.
4. McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway
Who said you can’t enjoy a picturesque day trip without ever leaving your car? The 82-mile McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway is one of the most beautiful roads in Oregon, and as tempting as it is to stop every few minutes for pictures, you can easily take it all in from the front seat of your car!
Home to some of the tallest peaks in Oregon, the scenic byway provides a variety of diverse views – from its lava fields to its volcanic peaks – that you won’t see anywhere else.
If you’re hopping on this road from Bend, you’ll first be welcomed by the spectacular views of the Metolius River with the famous Mt. Jefferson as the backdrop.
Next up will be the glacier carved lake known as Suttle Lake, and the towering Mt. Washington will seem like it’s following you along your journey.
You’ll soon reach Santiam Pass, the byway’s most popular attraction, which is known for its wide sweeping views of volcanic buttes, peaks, and crater-formed lakes. The road continues on to other beautiful features, like Sahalie Falls, the Tamolitch Pool, Scott Lake, Proxy Falls, and so much more.
Known as the oldest city in Central Oregon, Prineville prides itself on its variety of historic landmarks, outdoor activities, and small-town fun.
Head over to the A. R. Bowman Museum, which is located within a historic bank, to learn more about the town’s past – and feel free to rummage through its many history books.
After you’ve soaked it all in, go for a walking tour around downtown to see the 19th-century cabins in person, as well as the famous Crook County Courthouse.
Just a few minutes outside of town is a fine selection of outdoor sights to enjoy, like the scenic Lower Crooked River, known for its stellar trout fishing, and Steins Pillar, which is a 350-foot volcano that changes colors with the sunlight.
The town also provides easy access to the famous Smith Rock State Park, where you can spend hours exploring its many trails – but make sure to get an early start to beat the crowds.
There’s no shortage of beer regardless of how small the town is, with a large variety of pubs and 2 local breweries to choose from – so feel free to grab a drink and chat it up with the locals.
6. Cove Palisades State Park
With the breathtaking Lake Billy Chinook at its center, the Cove Palisades State Park is a popular location for boaters and anyone who enjoys wide-sweeping waterfront views.
Lake Billy Chinook is nestled between towering canyons, so visitors can enjoy wonderful views of the water and the world around them as they hop on their boat or sunbathe on the beach.
Around the lake, you’ll find two popular campgrounds, a large marina offering a variety of water-based rentals, a fine selection of hiking trails, a small shop, and so much more.
The park is considered to be enjoyable year round, with sectioned areas for guests to swim when the weather gets hot and amazing bird-watching opportunities in colder months. In fact, the park is known for having an abundance of bald eagles flying around the area in the winter – so don’t let the cold weather stop you from coming out to explore.
During the summertime, you can enjoy the frequent ranger events where local rangers will teach you about the park’s unique geological features and take you on a tour in search of native wildlife.
7. Crater Lake National Park
Easily one of the top attractions in the entire state of Oregon, no trip to the area would be complete without making a day trip over to the iconic Crater Lake National Park.
Home to the deepest lake in the country, totaling out at a whopping 1,943 feet deep, Crater Lake still manages to be one of the clearest and cleanest lakes around the globe as it is continuously fed by rainwater and snowmelt.
The lake is said to have formed over 8,000 years ago, when the intense eruption of Mount Mazama caused it to collapse, leaving a massive crater in its place.
In the center of Crater Lake is Wizard Island, which was named by the fascination of how this cinder cone managed to grow from the depths of Mount Mazama and create an island-like structure amongst this insanely deep lake.
One of the most popular things to do is go for a ride along the 33-mile Crater Lake Rim Drive, which provides non-stop out-of-this-world views of the national park.
Along the road, you’ll come across a bunch of viewpoints to stop, stretch your legs, and soak in all the beauty including:
- The Watchman Overlook
- Cloudcap Overlook
- Vidae Falls.
Most of the viewpoints have hiking trails that lead to an even more beautiful experience, so feel free to wander off to your heart’s content.
Even more fun awaits on the waterfront, with trails leading down to the shore for an extra chilly swim and boat tours that get you up close and personal with Wizard Island.
The charming small town of LaPine is one of Central Oregon’s most beautiful hidden gems, and it’s often overlooked because of its location between Bend and Crater Lake National Park.
Its prime location makes it a great starting point to many of Oregon’s natural wonders like the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, the Fort Rock Basin, the Deschutes River, and so much more.
The Fort Rock Basin area will take you back in time, as you explore what remains of the Native American life in the area nearly 11,000 years ago. Take a guided tour through Fort Rock Cave where you can learn more about its Native American history and unique geological features.
Nestled along the beautiful Deschutes River is the town’s state park, which is made up of 2,000 acres filled with alpine lakes, hiking trails, and ancient pines.
After you’ve spent the day exploring the many wonders in the surrounding area, head downtown for a night of tasty food, unique brews, and friendly locals.
9. Fort Rock State Natural Area
Known as one of the most interesting natural wonders in the state of Oregon, you don’t want to miss an opportunity to visit the Fort Rock State Natural Area – and the great news is that it’s only 1 hour away from the heart of Bend.
Located deep within the state’s high desert, its rugged walls of rocks have eroded in such a way that it looks as though they’ve created a natural fort. As amazing as these towering rocks look from afar, a hike around their base will have you left in shock as to just how large they are.
It’s amazing to think that this natural wonder was created by the remnants of an ancient volcano that once dominated the land – and that the desert itself was once filled with water.
There are plenty of places to stop for a scenic picnic, and you can’t go wrong with taking the half-mile hike that gives you a personal tour of its depth.
Once home to a Native American tribe, it is said that sandals were found nearby dating back nearly 13,000 – making them the oldest of its kind ever discovered.
Although Portland is a bit out of the way, it’s definitely worth the long drive to visit the state’s largest and most eccentric city.
One of the most popular attractions in the city is Washington Park, and rightfully so, as it’s home to a large variety of attractions including a zoo and Japanese garden. You can easily spend an entire day in Washington Park alone – and you still wouldn’t have enough time to see all the unique gardens and museums that are nestled here.
The Portland Japanese Garden is the highlight of Washington Park, as it’s based on the grounds of the old zoo and expands over 12 acres for a relaxing experience you can’t find anywhere else.
Right along the Washington border, you’ll find the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, and every inch of it is a sight to be seen thanks to its abundance of waterfalls.
Head over to the Portland Art Museum to visit the oldest museum in the area and admire over 5,000 pieces of art from around the globe scattered amongst its 112,300 square foot gallery.
11. Hood River
The town of Hood River may be small, but the selection of outdoor activities is overflowing – so put on your hiking shoes and get ready for an adventure.
Nestled along the picturesque Columbia River Gorge, it’s no surprise that most of the beautiful sights in the area can be found along its edges.
One sight that stands out amongst the rest is Multnomah Falls, and it’s so wonderful that it has been considered the most breathtaking waterfall in the state.
While in the area, make sure to take some time to drive along the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway to really appreciate the beauty that comes along with the gorge including its many waterfalls and rugged cliff walls.
The best viewpoint along this road is the Vista House on Crown Point, as it provides wide sweeping views of the Columbia River Gorge from the observation deck that sits atop this historical landmark.
If you happen to notice a snow-capped mountain peak following you at every turn, it’s safe to say that you’re getting a glimpse of the iconic Mt. Hood – and a short drive will take you to its available recreational opportunities.
Whether you like to drive to viewpoints, hike to waterfalls, or make your way to the top of a mountain, the town of Hood River has got you covered.
Aside from the month-long festivals that draw the crowds in by the bucket load, Jacksonville is usually pretty quiet – and the small-town charm is hard to beat.
The most popular festival held here is the Britt Music & Arts Festival, which runs for 4 months (June-September) – and is considered to be a celebration for all kinds of music.
Yet, the town still has so much more to offer, including the vibrant history that can be discovered by taking a Historical Jacksonville Trolley Tour.
Shopping downtown is an absolute must for visitors who like a unique find since every shop in town is locally run and the antique options are endless.
The town is one of the leading cultivators of lavender, and the Southern Oregon Lavender Trail offers a picturesque stroll through a dense garden filled with a variety of different lavender plants.
Start your day off right with a hearty breakfast from the Mustard Seed Cafe or a rich cup of joe from GoodBean Coffee, and enjoy a combination of quick bites and fine dining options for dinner.
If you want to spend some more quality time with nature, consider taking on the challenge of climbing to the top of Table Rocks, where you can admire panoramic views of the surrounding area.
Very similar to the atmosphere you’ll find in Bend, Sisters offers the same great outdoor-friendly qualities without the large crowds and its downtown streets are nothing short of charming.
The downtown area has an extremely rustic vibe, with a variety of stores to shop sporting western-themed gifts, antiques, books, pieces of art, and so much more.
The town is also a great starting point for many popular hiking trails leading to beautiful natural wonders like waterfalls, canyons, and panoramic views.
You can’t go wrong with visiting any of the local restaurants and cafes in town – but you definitely don’t want to pass up the rich, freshly roasted coffee from the Sisters Coffee Company and the exquisite pastries from the Sisters Bakery.
Be sure to check the town website before planning your trip to see when the latest festivals are taking place, like the largest quilt festival in the country and the classic rodeo parade.
14. North Umpqua River
Stretching over 100 miles, the North Umpqua River is one of the best places to take a day trip from Bend when you’re looking to spend all your time on and around the water.
With a good portion of the river dedicated strictly to fly fishing, it is no surprise that fishing is one of the most popular activities. Common catches include Chinook and salmon.
Not interested in fishing but still want to spend time on the water? Kayaking and whitewater rafting are common here as well, with different sections of the river being perfect for all levels of experience.
If you’re feeling the urge to explore, head out on one of the hiking trails that branch off from the river leading to over a dozen different waterfalls that’ll leave you in awe.
Deadline Falls may be the smallest in height, but it makes up for it with its width and strength as it gushes from a wide mouth river with cool sightings of salmon jumping as it descends. Watson Falls is narrow but plummets down 272 feet – making it not only the tallest waterfall in the area, but in all of Southern Oregon.
Once you’ve fallen completely in love with the river and its surroundings, book a night at one of the eight campgrounds available to keep the good times rolling.
Nestled along the coast of Central Oregon, the lengthy drive to the small town of Florence is absolutely worth the trip with its many beaches, in-town activities, and active marine life.
Nicknamed “Oregon’s Coastal Playground”, Florence’s beachfront appears to be endless, with people surfing, building sandcastles, sunbathing, and exploring tide pools along its shore.
However, the most popular sandy location is Heceta Beach, where you’ll spot families and friends hanging out and enjoying classic beach activities every day of the week. Here, you’ll also find the largest sea cave in the country – and you can take a short elevator ride down into its depths for a chance to see hundreds of wild sea lions bathing in the sun.
Head out on an adventure along the Hobbit Trail, leading you to a desolate beach known as Hobbit Beach– and let your imagination run wild in its fairytale-like setting.
The Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park is just a stone’s throw away and is the perfect place to explore sand dunes, coastal rainforests, and crystal clear lakes.
Make sure you save enough time to walk through Historic Old Town Florence, where you can explore a variety of local shops while taking in the waterfront views of the Siuslaw River.
Head over to the Waterfront Depot Restaurant for the best seafood in town or check out some of its close competitors, like the Bridgewater Fish House.
16. Cottage Grove
Within the town, you’ll find 7 covered bridges, each with its own appeal – such as historic significance, flowing rivers, and drive through access.
Aside from these beautiful displays, the town is peppered with unique murals that bring the neighborhood to life and reflect its strong sense of community.
Check out the Bohemia Gold Mining Museum to learn about how the town contributed to the gold mine boom and check out a large variety of mining artifacts along the way.
With a handful of wineries within a 20-mile radius, you can always spend the way hopping from one vineyard to another, sipping some of the state’s finest wines and munching on artisan cheeses.