How to Plan an Amazing Portland to Bend Road Trip

At just three hours away from Portland, Bend is the ideal weekend getaway for Portlanders. No other city in Oregon gets as much sun (158 days of full sun and 108 partial sun each year), and when you’re coming from the often-gray metropolis of Portland that vitamin D can be awfully enticing. Plus, its location makes it perfect for a loop trip so you won’t have to doubleback on places you’ve already been to!

As a lifelong Oregonian, I’ve been all over the state and this Portland to Bend road trip is my jam! In fact, just writing this is making me want to plan a trip soon to see friends!

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How far is it from Portland to Bend?

If you take the most direct route (US-26 E to US-97 S) it’s 163 miles from Portland to Bend, and it’ll take you a little over three hours to get there.

Note that if you’re traveling in the winter, the distance from Portland to Bend will feel a lot longer due to slowdowns caused by snow on the passes. 

But this is a road trip, so who cares about the most direct route? You’re trying to see the sights after all!

I’ve laid out two routes for you here, and both will take around four hours of drive time each way (which is still not a lot as far as road trips go). 

How Many Days Do You Need? 

Because the ultimate destination is Bend, you should spend at least two nights there plus one overnight on your way there and one on your way back.

That means allotting five days and four nights to get you back to Portland in one piece.

BUT! Oregon just has so much to offer that you could really spend a week or more putzing around, and you have my full permission to take as many days as you can!  

I’ll propose two route options that are intended to be done as an out and back trip, but you can also combine the two together to make a big loop. Alternatively, either of these can easily be done as a Bend to Portland road trip if it’s easier for you to start in central Oregon.

What Route to Take From Portland to Bend?

The most direct route driving from Portland to Bend is on the US-26 E then down the US-97 S. This is actually a really lovely drive as it takes you through the Mount Hood National Forest and then into the dryer, desert climate of central Oregon.

Theoretically, you can take this same route there and back (as I’ll often do for a weekend trip), but there are a couple great longer options that let you see even more of the diverse glory that is Oregon!

Route 1 (Portland to Bend): Portland → Columbia River Gorge → Hood River → Mount Hood → Smith Rock SP → Bend. Here’s a map to visualize the route

Route 2 (Bend to Portland): Bend → Sisters →  McKenzie River → Eugene → Silver Falls → Portland. Here’s a map to visualize the route

You can do either of these routes as an out-and-back, OR combine them into one mega loop trip! With the loop trip you’ll get to see a ton of the state, but you’ll want to allot a bit more time if you do this. Five to seven days should be sufficient to spend at least two nights in Bend and also a couple overnights on either side coming and going.

Here’s a map of what that full loop looks like

When to Drive from Portland to Bend 

The central Oregon mountain passes will be open in the winter months barring any huge blizzards and are generally well-plowed, but you’ll need a car that can handle the snow. And just because I’ve managed this in a front-wheel drive Honda Civic with no chains doesn’t mean you should be as reckless! Take a 4WD vehicle or chain up if you’re heading out in winter. 

The ideal time for a drive from Portland to Bend, Oregon is in the summer or early fall for typically clear, warm and sunny weather. The only thing that may cause extra traffic would be other people like you trying to get away for the weekend. I’m partial to traveling in early/mid September since kids are back in school and the tourist attractions and campsites aren’t nearly as crowded.

The Best Stops to Make on a Portland to Bend Road Trip 

If you’re looking for a fun route to drive from Portland to Bend, we’ve got you covered.

Best Stops on Route 1: Columbia River Gorge & Smith Rock State Park

This route takes you through the amazing, waterfall-packed Columbia River Gorge and into the windsurfing capital of the world, Hood River. From here you’ll head south, skirting the eastside of Mount Hood then on down to Bend with a stop at the majestic Smith Rock State Park.

Here’s what this route looks like in map form. 

The Columbia River Gorge

Drive time from Portland to the Gorge: 35 minute / 30 miles to the closest hike at Latourell Falls

Your first stop after departing the City of Roses is the magnificent Columbia River Gorge. If you live in the Portland area, you’ve hopefully spent some time in the Gorge, but even so there’s just so much to do that it would be hard to cross it all off your bucket list.

The name of the game here is hiking, but even for the non-hikers you can still experience some magnificent views and waterfalls. There are over 30 trails on the Oregon side alone and there’s something for everybody, no matter what your fitness level is.

  • Latourell Falls: It always amazes me how close the Gorge really is to Portland, and Latourell Falls is a mere 30 minutes from town! This is a popular, three mile loop hike that takes you past both an upper and lower falls (and they’re both spectacular). I prefer doing the loop clockwise because I like the big “reveal” of the falls at the end, but it can be done either way.

  • Multnomah Falls: If you’ve done it before you can move on to the next bullet point, but if you haven’t it really is worth your time. Multnomah Falls is the most popular attraction in the Gorge and it sees a whopping two million(!) visitors a year. If you’re traveling in the summer you’ll have to reserve a time slot, but it only costs two bucks and it really does help cut back on the crowds (though it will still be crowded so try to get there before 9:00 am if you can). You can actually see the falls as you drive by on I-84, but it’s worth parking to get a closer view. There’s a short but steep one mile hike up to the top that I recommend, or you can just hang out at the Visitor’s Center and still see it all!

  • Vista House: I’m a huge “earn your views” kinda hiker, but even I like stopping at the Vista House every now and then for the views of the Gorge and the views of this incredible 1917 Art Nouveau building. If you’re a fan of this architectural style, don’t miss it, but do note that the inside is only open Friday – Monday.

  • Punchbowl Falls: I gushed about the reopening of the Eagle Creek to Punchbowl Falls hike in my last post and I’m gonna do it again here! This particular hike carries sentimental value for me as I used to do it a lot as a teenager. A great swim spot for a hot day.

  • Dog Mountain: (Note this is on the Washington side) Dog Mountain is one of the most iconic hikes in the Gorge and is best known for its wildflowers in the spring and early summer. And they really are amazing! This hike is a doozy, so only try it if you’re reasonably confident in your hiking skills, but the views at the top are extraordinary. Another great Washington-side option is the seven mile Hamilton Mountain hike, only slightly less-hard than Dog and is one of my favorite hikes in the Gorge. Afterwards you should reward yourself with a beer either in Stevenson at Walking Man Brewing or in White Salmon at Everybody’s Brewing, both outstanding Gorge breweries. 

Hood River

Drive time from the Gorge to Hood River: 20 – 50 minutes depending on what trailhead you’re leaving from.

I’m convinced that every Portlander has secretly dreamed of moving to Hood River at some point in their lives. And when you visit, you’ll see why. Hood River also makes an ideal spot for an overnight, and there’s nothing better than hitting up a brewery in town after a long day on the trail.  

  • The Fruit Loop: It’s not just a clever name. The Hood River Fruit Loop is a 35-mile driving or biking route that wends through the bucolic Hood River valley through cherry, apple, and pear orchards, lavender fields, farm stands, wineries, breweries, distilleries, and cideries (which I’ve just learned is in fact a word). Stop and sample wine, cider, and local produce as you take in the grandeur of the valley. I always head out here in early fall to get ridiculously cheap and delicious apples for sauces and pies. I highly recommend stopping for wine tasting and pizza at Grateful Vineyard.

  • Water Sports: Hood River is a decidedly “outdoorsy” town, and the activities of choice are all about water, specifically windsurfing or kite-surfing. If you’ve spent any time out here you’ve probably seen kiteboarders catching 20 feet of air out on the Columbia, but beginners can find their sea legs in an area called the “Hook” that has much calmer waters. If you’re curious about these sports, there are plenty of outfitters right in town who can show you the ropes. Try Big Winds or Brian’s Windsurfing to get gear and friendly lessons. 

  • Explore Downtown: Foodie culture is big in Hood River as more and more of the top Portland chefs are opening up shop out here. Try Bette’s Place for breakfast, Broder Øst for lunch, and Sixth Street Bistro for dinner. My favorite beer in town is Pfriem or Double Mountain, but Full Sail has the best views from their dining room and you can watch their bottling line in action from the street! 

  • Stay: There are some really cool choices for lodging in Hood River no matter what you’re going for. If you’re feeling the B&B vibe, stay at the Inn at the Gorge for comfortable rooms and a kick-ass breakfast. For a chic stay, head across the river to the Society Hotel in Bingen that has both hostel-style bunk houses or modern, private cabins. Or, for simple and clean (and dog and kid-friendly) rooms, try the Adventure Lodge

Mount Hood

Drive time from Hood River to Mount Hood (Tamanawas Falls): 50 minutes / 35 miles 

Mount Hood (or as I called it when I was a kid, “Mountain Hood”) will always be on the horizon whether you’re in Portland or Bend, and there’s tooooons of outdoor recreation to be done here. Or, if you’re keen on camping, there are several incredible campgrounds to pitch a tent and watch the stars.

Here’s my guide to the best hikes near Mount Hood, if you’re looking for even more hikes to add to your list.

I’ll keep my recommendations mostly to the east side of the mountain so you don’t have to veer too far out of your way.

Tamanawas Falls near Mount Hood
  • Tamanawas Falls: A shortish (3.5 miles) but wonderful little hike to a 110 foot waterfall! Tamanawas Falls is doable most times of the year (and is even a fun snowshoe hike), but it’s really at its most beautiful in the spring.

  • Paradise Park: Okay—this is a hard one and also one that’s really only doable in the summer, but it’s just so frickin’ gorgeous! This 12 mile trail starts at Timberline Lodge and takes you through stunning alpine meadows of wildflowers, past waterfalls and glaciers, and in and out of canyons. Wear a hat, bring plenty of water, and stop at the lodge when you’re done for a well-deserved drink.

  • Lookout Mountain: There are a few Lookout Mountains in the area but this one is the highest at 6,000 feet. This hike is a great bang-for-your-buck for the views it affords at the top. A nice, easy stop if you can’t spend your whole day hiking.

  • Timberline Lodge: If you’re just sight-seeing, stop by the historic Timberline Lodge to grab lunch and a drink before hitting the road again. This lodge was made famous when it was used in the exterior shots of The Shining (the interior was shot at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO that I snuck into with my sister a few years back. Try as we might, we did not encounter any creepy twin girls.

  • Frog Lake: There are plenty of lakes surrounding the mountain, but Frog Lake has the added bonus of being directly on your route to Bend. It’s smaller and has less fanfare than its neighbor Trillium Lake, but it still makes an ideal spot for an afternoon picnic and swim. If you’ve got more days to kill, it also has a great campground. And, as a super bonus, the PCT runs right through it so you’re bound to see some starving thru-hikers in the summer—cook them a burger! 

  • Mirror Lake: The Mirror Lake trailhead takes you just a bit off course, but it’s an exceptional hike at a little over four miles round trip. And, if you’ve got more time and want to burn some calories, stay on the Mirror Lake trail and continue up to Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain (my favorite Hood hike!). 
Timberline Lodge is gorgeous, and well worth a stop

Peter Skene Ogden State Park

Drive time from Mount Hood to Peter Skene Ogden SP: 1 hour 36 minutes / 93 miles 

Bungee jumping anyone? But seriously, you can go bungee jumping here or at least watch other people fling their bodies off a 300 foot bridge. This is a super easy stop to make since it’s right off the 97.

Coming from the thick forests of Mount Hood, you’ll now be in a distinctly different, Grand-Canyon-esque environment. The Peter Skene Ogden State Park is the perfect place to stretch your legs and marvel at the scenery.

Smith Rock State Park

Drive time from Peter Skene Ogden SP to Smith Rock: 10 minutes / 5 miles 

Smith Rock State Park is a destination in and of itself whether you’re a climber, hiker, or just like to stand in awe of the natural world around you. Smith Rock seems to pop up out of nowhere and the 3,200 foot volcanic ridge is well known as the birthplace of American sport climbing, and climbers come from all over the country (and world) to try its routes. 

There are actually several easier routes for beginner climbers (in the 5.6/5.7 range) if you’re interested, but if that’s not your thing head up Misery Ridge for a calf-burning workout that gives extraordinary views of the whole park.

Even if you don’t feel up to hiking Misery (mid-afternoon summer temps can be over 100 degrees and I wouldn’t blame you if you took a rain check), try the much easier Crooked River Trail that won’t take you as high, but the views are still magnificent.


You’ve made it! Ideally you can spend at least two nights here exploring the city and the surrounding area.

  • Hike: Incredible hiking surrounds you! Tumalo Falls is only a 30 minute drive west of Bend and is rightfully one of the most popular hikes in the area. Though the out-and-back trail is 6.5 miles, it’s really more of a casual walk in the woods with hardly any elevation gain. Slightly farther is the longer and more difficult Green Lakes Trail, but it’s one of the most beautiful trails I’ve ever been on and you can also go swimming! If you’re staying in town but still want a bit of a workout, take a short hike (or run!) to the summit of Pilot Butte for views of the city with the Cascade Mountains in the background. Depending on where you’re staying, you could literally walk to the trailhead!

  • Float the River: I truly believe to really get a taste of what Bend life is all about, you have to float the river. The Deschutes River runs right through town and you can rent tubes for a one or two hour float at Tumalo Creek then get a shuttle back to your car. Alternatively, head over to Bend Whitewater Park for kayaking, surfing, and SUPing, all in the heart of the city!

  • The Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory: Twenty minutes south of Bend is the resort town of Sunriver (a great place to spend time in its own right), but the real draw for me is the Oregon Observatory. Go there late-night to peer through one of their dozen or so telescopes at the night sky, then get a laser-guided constellation tour from an astronomer!

  • Drink Beer: It wouldn’t be an Oregon road trip without beer, right? Bend has some killer breweries and bar hopping is not only a good way to try them all out but you’ll also see the city! Some of my favorites are Boneyard, Crux Fermentation, Sunriver Brewing, and Good Life

  • Ski Bachelor: If you’re traveling in the winter or spring, join the locals over at Mount Bachelor for a day of skiing or snowboarding. If you’ve missed the snow, they also have zip-lining, mountain bike trails, and scenic chairlift rides.

  • The Last Blockbuster: That’s right—the only Blockbuster Video IN THE WORLD is right here in Bend, Oregon. Okay, you may not be in the market to rent any videos and I realize this attraction may only appeal to those old enough to actually remember video rental stores, but you should at least go for the photo op?

Best Stops on Route 2: McKenzie River Scenic Byway & Silver Falls State Park  

Starting from Bend, you’ll take a short drive west to the charming town of Sisters and then to the picturesque McKenzie River Scenic Byway.

Afterwards, spend some time in the bustling college town of Eugene before making your way north for a quick (or long) stop at Silver Falls State Park, before finishing your journey in the beautiful City of Roses.

Here’s what this route looks like, in map form. 


Drive time from Bend to Sisters: 29 minutes / 23 miles 

Y’all, you won’t believe how cute Sisters is. Honestly, the hardest decision you’ll have to make while there is where to eat. Both the Sisters Bakery and the Sisters Coffee Shop are worth a visit, as is The Barn for a lively communal atmosphere with awesome food carts.

Or perhaps you should go to the Sisters Meat and Smokehouse for a tri-tip sandwich? Or fried pickles and a chicken sandwich at the Wonderland Chicken Co.?! There’s just too much good stuff!!!

Dee Wright Observatory

Drive time from Sisters to Dee Wright Observatory: 15 minutes / 12 miles

The Dee Wright Observatory sits atop black lava flows at 5,187 feet and affords views of the moon-like landscape surrounding you and the Three Sisters mountains.

The road to get here is quite narrow with no shoulder, so if you’re traveling by RV you’ll have to take a rain check.

Also, the observatory is on OR-242 which frequently closes for the winter between November and June, so if you’re traveling during this time you may have to forgo this stop.

The McKenzie River 

Drive time from Dee Wright Observatory to McKenzie River Trail: 20 minutes / 20 miles

The McKenzie River is just so beautiful and if you ever find the time, I highly recommend hiking the entire McKenzie River Trail (but it’s 24 miles long so I’m guessing you’ll save that for another trip). However, a very doable stop is at the magical Tamolitch Pool and this 3.5 hike will give you a taste of what the entire trail is like.

If you’re just looking for a place to relax, hit up the Belknap Hot Springs (also a good place for an overnight stay if you’re doing an extended trip).

Also worth a stop is Koosah and Sahalie Falls that both stand at around 75 feet tall, and this easy 3 mile hike is right off the road.


Drive time from McKenzie River to Eugene: 57 minutes / 54 miles 

Eugene is a lovely, tree-filled town on the southern end of the Willamette Valley. And, even though it’s a college town, it’s big enough to not feel like a college town. It’s eminently bikeable and hikeable, and is an ideal place to spend a night. 

  • Rent a Bike: All around the city are the PeaceHealth bike stands where you can hop on and off bikes to get around town for $4.00 per hour. Eugene is mostly flat, so biking is the way to go. Hit up the awesome Saturday Market (obviously contingent on the day), or ride down Willamette River Bike Path into the neighboring town of Springfield and take a break at the Public House for local beer and food vendors. Or if you’re feeling really mellow, roll into Owen Rose Garden and relax among the flowers.

  • Go on an Art Walk: Eugene is full of artist-types and you’ll see evidence of this throughout the city. One of the coolest manifestations of this is the 20×21 Mural Project, a collective effort to add 20 new murals before the city hosts the 2022 IAAF World Championships. Download the map here and get on your bike!

  • Spencer’s Butte: Much like Bend, Eugene has a mini mountain right in town that you can scramble to the top of for expansive views of the city and valley. Spencer’s Butte Trail is only 1.7 miles, but it is a bit of a climb. Again, hop on a bike and head over!

  • Drink! (Responsibly): I mean, it is a college town so there’s gonna be some drinking happening, right? Don’t worry, I won’t send you to any frat houses. Eugene has plenty of cool cocktail bars, breweries, and wine bars to imbibe in. The Pint Pot Public House is a classic Irish pub with everything you’d expect done right (bangers and mash!). Party Bar is great for inventive cocktails in a more “date night” kinda space. Falling Sky is a nice, mellow local brewery in town with great beer and burgers. And finally for the wine lovers, you can’t go wrong with the Oregon Wine LAB where you can get bomb Vietnamese food at the cart they share a lot with, Da Nang.

  • Eat! (Irresponsibly): Have breakfast at the Studio One Cafe (where I’ve nursed more than one hangover) or the Morning Glory Cafe for a very Eugene-y vibe. For lunch and dinner try Izakaya Meiji Co., Agate Alley Bistro, or Ninkasi Brewery

  • Stay: My favorite place to stay in Eugene is the Graduate Hotel for its location, retro decor, and original wallpaper choices. The Timbers Inn is another great choice for a hip, clean, renovated motel. For the budget traveler, hit up the Eugene Whiteaker Hostel for a fun and relaxed communal atmosphere.

Silver Falls State Park

Drive time from Eugene to Silver Falls: 1 hour 22 minutes / 82 miles

You may actually see fairies flying around Silver Falls State Park if you try hard enough. This place is almost always busy even when it’s raining, but much less so. And, imho it’s best to see this place in the rain anyway. Everything here is breathtaking, and before I saw it with my own eyes, I couldn’t believe that so many waterfalls could actually fit in such a seemingly small area of the earth.

There’s a $5 day use fee to get in and tons of picnic spots if you want to bring lunch along. The best way to see the park is to hike the 7.5 mile Trail of Ten Falls loop.

It’s longer, but only moderately difficult as there’s not a ton of elevation change, and you’ll get to see ten waterfalls! Some of these babies are truly jaw-dropping with three that you can actually walk behind.

If you don’t have that kind of time, you at least have to see the tallest falls in the park, South Falls, on this 2.6 mile loop that lets you see both South and Lower South Falls. 

Gordon House

Drive time from Silver Falls to Gordon House: 22 minutes / 15 miles 

This one isn’t for everyone, but it is for me so I’m including it!

Any budding architects out there? If so, please consider stopping by the Gordon House, the only Frank Lloyd Wright designed building in Oregon. It’s not free ($20) which seems kinda steep unless you’re way into midcentury design like me and then it’s totally worth it!


Drive time from Gordon House to Portland: 52 minutes / 42 miles 

Maybe you live in the Portland area, and “visiting” here is more like going home. But if you’re not from here, you really should spend at least one day and night if you can swing it on either side of your trip. I’ve written extensively about my hometown and there’s just too much I’d want to recommend, but here goes nothing!

  • Forest Park: One of the largest urban parks in the country, Forest Park features over 80 miles of trails and is like right there in town. Standout hikes are Lower Macleay to Pittock Mansion, the Ridge Trail, or Leif Erickson for my fellow runners.

  • Washington Park: Directly next to Forest Park is Washington Park which is home to several not-lame tourist attractions, namely the Oregon Zoo, the Hoyt Arboretum, the International Rose Test Garden, and the Portland Japanese Garden. These are all places I visit regularly and I’ve lived in this town forever.

  • Music: Portland’s music scene is off the hook and there are a slew of great venues all around the city, so you’re sure to find something you’re into. Some of my favorites are Mississippi Studios, the Crystal Ballroom, Revolution Hall, and the Doug Fir.

  • Beer: When in Portland, you’ve got to drink like a local which means coffee and beer. There always seems to be new breweries popping up and it’s hard to keep them all straight, but here are three that are always winners: Upright (I’m not a brewer, but I’ve been told this is a “brewer’s brewery”), Breakside, and Away Days (who also has excellent fish and chips).

  • Hop on a Bike: Much like the blue PeaceHealth bike hubs in Eugene, Portland is teeming with orange Biketown hubs. Hop on and explore the city or ride down the Eastbank Esplanade

  • Stay: First-timers to the city should consider staying close to downtown for the best selection of lodging and easy access to public transportation. You’ll have a billion options if you wanna stay downtown, but two places you can’t go wrong with are The Hoxton or the Society Hotel. If you want to check out the eastside, stay at the Jupiter NEXT or KEX Portland

Adding on Crater Lake?

If you’ve never been to Crater Lake and have an extra day (or two) to kill, you should 1,000% consider popping down to Crater Lake on your Portland to Bend road trip.

I’ve written a few posts on visiting Crater Lake so I won’t go into too much detail here, but ideally you can spend one night there.

From Bend, the drive will take two to two and a half hours depending if the north entrance to the lake is open. If you can’t swing an overnight, leave early in the morning from Bend to maximize the time you do have.

For such a short trip, there are two things you must do: go for a hike and drive the crater rim.

There are a number of hikes in the area and they’re all fairly short, so if you’re feeling ambitious you could do two! For the best views try the 1.7 mile Watchman Peak Trail or the 2.4 mile Discovery Point Trail (great for sunset!). 

The 33 mile road that circumnavigates the lake is called Rim Drive, and it is spectacular. The only caveat is that it closes down in the winter and the whole thing won’t open back up until June or July. Check conditions before you head down to see what’s open (but even if just the west side is open, it’ll be worth it!).

If you can stay the night, try to reserve a spot ahead of time at the Mazama Campground in the park, but they do hold back a quarter of their spots for first-come-first serve campers. Or, snag one of the cabins if you’re not the camping type! 

If you do choose to add Crater Lake, you’ll travel back up to Portland on US-138 W where you can stop at the majestic Toketee Falls, then head up I-5 to Eugene. Alternatively, make your way back through Bend and up US-97 N and onto US-26 W.

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