Eco Tourism in Bend, Oregon
Bend lies in the center of Oregon, and if it keeps going at the current rate of evolution, the vibrant mountainous town could easily rival any outdoor urban destination in the world. But something extra special is going on with Bend. Yes, it’s growing, but rather than compromise the natural environment and local economy, they are using the opportunity to enhance it.
Guides educate visitors of the importance of conservation, whether hitting the lava fields on wheels with sustainable Outriders Northwest, or just canoeing the rivers. The food scene is hyper local or organic, even when it comes to beer and spirits. Not only is Bend becoming quite trendy, the destination is paving the way, along with other cities, for a world centered around eco-conscious travel.
Bend isn’t just tearing down buildings to erect towering hotels, old motels are being restored, into something truly eclectic and modern. Simultaneously, more luxurious options exist, that still center around the outdoor surroundings.
LOGE Bend is one example of this revitalization, as it used to be an outdated Travelodge. But with its optimal location right at a Deschutes National Forest trail head, and within bike-able distance to downtown, LOGE is an outdoor adventurists’ haven. Rooms feature bike and ski racks, hammocks hanging from the ceilings, and rustic touches. Guests can roast marshmallows around the outdoor fire pits, or grab a local kombucha and paleo muffin from the cafe.
Riverhouse on the Deschutes has had a steady presence over the years, and offers glimpses of the well preserved river. The onsite restaurant is local ingredient focused, serving coffee from nearby Thump roasters, and wholesome breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.
Riff Craft Food and Beverage
There’s a local circle that exists among the Bend food scene. Restaurants source ingredients from nearby farms, many of which are organic— you’ll notice sandwich shops source bread from neighboring businesses like Sparrow Bakery. Vegan, vegetarian, gluten free and allergen free choices aren’t hard to find amongst the vast selection of restaurants in the city.
Riff Craft Food and Beverage not only has amazingly interesting cold brew coffees with hops and other unique flavor profiles, they have a fresh menu with vegan, vegetarian and gluten free picks, like the taco bowl with cauliflower rice, avocado, and cream sauce, topped with local meats, or blackened tempeh. The Huevos Riff-cheros with coffee infused enchilada sauce is an incredible lacto-ovo vegetarian pick.
Angeline’s Bakery is actually in Sisters, Oregon, but is more than a worthy mention, as the adorable shop whips up decadent baked goodies like the gluten free “jam jam” and a mouthwatering selection of vegan cookies and breads.
Bend’s water source, from a mountain top fed spring, is so pristine that it has attracted an impressive list of breweries and even distilleries. Ancient volcanic rock serves as a natural filter, leaving crafters with an optimal base for making crisp beer or smooth spirits. If you wanted to travel to the Willamette Valley, you’d get a taste of a complex wine scene.
Worthy Brewing is one of the dozens of breweries in the area, who has their very own hop varietal discovered through a university program. Some hops are also grown in an onsite garden, which go into a special batch of brew each year. To reduce the impact of production, Worthy takes advantage of Bend’s 300 plus days of sunshine by partially using thermal energy. Leftover grains and hop remnants are sent to local farms for feed or natural fertilizer. Topping off all the eco-conscious efforts made by the brewery, they source ingredients from the same farms, for their restaurant menu.
Crater Lake Spirits by Bendistillery can be sampled at either the actual distilling facility, or the downtown tasting room—you’ll notice drinks from other restaurants feature the brand. Lava rock filtered water is used to create smooth vodkas, gin and other specialty spirits that are soaked with regional ingredients to cultivate unique flavors. A special brew of coffee from Sisters Coffee Company is used to make the hazelnut espresso vodka. But the pepper vodka ingredients are imported from Mexico, and make for an unreal Bloody Mary.
Bend’s volcanic land has cultivated a diverse eco system, and striking terrain over many, many years. While ensuring habitat protection and conservation, the people here encourage exploration of the buttes, forests and rivers.
Sometimes diving in with a tour is the best way to get your feet wet. Wanderlust Tours works to educate its adventurers about the local environment, while leading the way in a variety of nature explorations, from kayaking the crystal clear Deschutes River, to canoeing the cascade lakes. Motors aren’t allowed on these waters, to prevent pollution. In the summer, nighttime canoe trips offer a special way to view the dark sky stars.
Worthy Brewing is also home to the “Hopservatory”, a huge tower adjoined to the brewery that houses a powerful telescope for viewing Bend’s dark sky. Guests can see star clusters, the most detailed glimpses of the moon, and sometimes planets, like Saturn.
Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway loops through the Deschutes Forest, and allows travelers to see a multitude of bright blue and green lakes.
Pilot Butte offers an overview of the city that has formed below. In the morning, people walk up the steep incline for an ultimate reveal of 360 degree views of volcanic mountains and landscape. If you can make it up there for sunrise, you’ll be treated to something truly magical.
When visiting, the opportunity to support the surrounding community, and a sustainable way of life, will be all around you. Visit Bend asks visitors to take a “leave no trace” pledge when visiting, to protect the special land that has been cultivated by the love and care of their own citizens, and past travelers—you could even win a free trip. From the places you choose to eat, the things you choose to do, to where you stay, one can practice an eco-conscious way of travel in beautiful Bend, Oregon.
Photos by Erick Wofford