Although Bend is the heart of Oregon's high desert country, its arteries stretch out to neighboring hamlets. Take a 30- to 45-minute drive in almost any direction, and you’ll arrive at another quaint, unique and worthwhile township, just waiting to be explored.

Wild West throwbacks, up-and-coming cosmopolitan townships and charming hole-in-the-wall one-horse towns pop up like oases in this otherwise beautifully desolate desert landscape.

Hopscotching through these Central Oregon outposts is a satisfying scavenger hunt and a reason to visit in its own right. Check out these top destinations for day trips from Bend.

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Experience the charm of a high desert resort town in Sunriver

South of Bend, among the lodgepole and ponderosa pines, you’ll find the long-established resort town of Sunriver. Mainly comprised of cabins and condos, this high desert nook has been a vacation spot for some families for generations.

Spend the morning sipping on coffee-to-go while you meander around the town center. After lunch, float on the Deschutes River, visit the Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory or take a horseback ride. With indoor and outdoor pools, slides and a lazy river, Sharc (Sunriver Homeowners Aquatic Recreation Center) is always a family crowd-pleaser at any time of day.

For dinner, find fine casual dining and a quality micro-brewery at the town's namesake Sunriver Brewing Company. Folk often arrive at Sunriver for a vacation and sink so deep into the serenity of the forest, meadows and mountain sunsets that they never want to leave.

How to get to Sunriver from Bend: Driving is the easiest way to get to Sunriver. Form Bend, head south on US 97 for 20-30 minutes; there are three access exits to choose from, all connecting to the resort. There's also a mountain bike trail connecting Sunriver to Bend. 

View of Mt Bachelor from Newberry National Volcanic Monument near Bend, Oregon
Discover rugged beauty in the lava fields of Newberry National Volcanic Monument © melissamn / Shutterstock

See other-worldly landscapes at Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Newberry National Volcanic Monument is a world of its own. It stretches across a vast landscape, and each stop requires driving and trail hiking. If you come for the day or weekend, start your visit by driving to the monument entrance at Lava Lands Visitors Center which has an interpretive center and gift shop, then walk paved, accessible trails that traverse dramatic lava flows that resemble black ocean waves frozen in time. Continue your drive to the Lava River Cave or Lava Cast Forest, both unique and memorable locations with hikes leading to dramatic lava formations.

For a longer, multi-day or weekend trip, continue south to the entrance to the Newberry Caldera, a collapsed volcanic caldera (much like famous Crater Lake). Spend a day or two angling at Paulina and East Lakes, eating and relaxing in the lakeside Paulina Lake Lodge and Marina, exploring the Big Obsidian Flow and gazing out over the Cascade Range from the lookout at Paulina Peak. Some parts of the monument are accessible year-round while some places are only open in the summer; check the forest service website to see which attractions are open when.

How to get to Newberry National Volcanic Monument from Bend: Get to Newberry by car; the attractions are spread out across a large area and you'll need a vehicle to pack as much in as possible. Head south on US 97 out of Bend for 20 minutes to get to Lava Lands Visitor Center, then continue south on US 97 for another 20 minutes to reach the entrance to the national volcanic monument. 

Horses grazing in a central Oregon meadow near Sisters with the three sisters mountains in the background
It would be hard to find a more Oregon landscape than the mountains around Sisters © Bob Pool / Shutterstock

Check out the modern Wild West in Sisters

The town of Sisters delivers modern western charm in the form of nostalgic building fronts and the attitude of locals, and it makes a great day trip or weekend away. If you're hungry for coffee and brekky, stop by Angelina’s Bakery for outstanding pastries and Sisters Coffee House for a caffeine hit and great souvenir apparel. Held in June, Sister’s summertime rodeo – branded as 'the biggest little show in the world' – brings in folks from all over.

After you get your fill of team roping and bull riding, head over to the kitchen and farmstand at Rainshadow Organics located between Terrebonne and Sisters. Sights on this desert farm include acres of crops, free-roaming chickens, turkeys and ginny hens, a curious milk cow, and miles and miles of cattle grazing land. As the sun drops on the horizon, consider an evening hike along wild and scenic Whychus Creek or Three Creek Lake

When you're ready to lay out your bedroll, somber into Five Pine Lodge and Spa for the night. But not before stopping at the in-hotel salon and watering hole, Three Creeks Brewing Company for a nightcap.

How to get to Sisters from Bend: By car, go northwest on the McKenzie-Bend Highway (US 20) for 25 minutes or travel from Bend to Sisters on the Cascade East Transit number 29 bus. 

A female rock climber ascends a cliff at Smith Rock State Park
Smith Rock State Park is a playground for rock climbers © thinair28 / Getty Images

Get a taste of contemporary desert life in Redmond

To the northeast of Bend, Redmond is a rising star in the Oregon desert. New hotel Soul Community and Planet (SCP), has brought in flocks of visitors with its focus on catering holistically to patrons. In particular, the fancy desert rooftop bar on the premises has led to many a dropped jaw.

For an easy adventure, traverse the paved trail along Dry Canyon by bike, scooter, skateboard, inline skates or on foot. Stop and gasp at the arch littered with climbing holds, bolts and fixed quickdraws under Maple Bridge; bring a rope if you want to tackle the routes.

For even more adventure, explore Smith Rock State Park, slightly further north, where its said sport climbing was first invented. Admire the welded outcrops of ash tuff and columnar basalt lining the Crooked River from lookouts on the rim or venture down to get a closer look – Smith Rock never disappoints.

When you're weary at the end of the day, Wild Ride Brewing will revive you with microbrews and tons of fare to choose from care of an expansive pod of food carts.

How to get to Redmond from Bend: Just drive northwest on US 97 for 20-25 minutes or take the Cascade East Transit number 24 bus. 

Crook County Courthouse at Prineville, Oregon
Get a taste of the old Oregon at Prineville © Rex Wholster / Shutterstock

Meet cowpokes and ride mountain bike trails in Prineville

Straight east from Bend, you’ll find Prineville, the site of the first homesteads and settlements in central Oregon. Around these parts, genuine cowpoke culture is still alive and thriving. Learn more about Prineville's rich history of sheep herding, logging, wildland firefighting, railroad building and more with quaint hands-on and family-friendly displays at the AR Bowman Museum in the middle of town.

When you're ready to stretch your legs, walk through Prineville's green belt along Ochoco Creek which boasts a pump track for cyclists, a skateboard park, tons of picnic spots and an epic playpark with forts and castles to clamber over. If mountain biking is more your speed, check in at Good Bike Co, a friendly Prineville cycling outpost and community hub; ask the staff which seasonal local attractions are popping.

In particular investigate the Ochoco Overlander bikepacking route and the trails at Lookout Mountain in the Ochoco National Forest & Crooked River National Grassland. You’ll find this area is far less congested than Phil’s Trail or other iconic mountain bike destinations closer to Bend.

For provisions, dine at the throw-back diner Tastee Treet or Crooked Roots Brewing, named for the nearby Crooked River. After hours, when you're ready to hang up your spurs, camp out at Oregon’s first International Dark Sky Park, Prineville Reservoir State Park.

How to get to Prineville from Bend: From Bend, head east on US 20 for a few miles, then take a right on Powell Butte Highway. Eventually, you'll reach a T junction with US 126 (also called the Powell Butte Highway at this point) – take a right, and you'll arrive at Prineville, after a total drive time of around 40 minutes. Road cyclists occasionally ride this route, and Cascades East Transit buses connect Prineville to Redmond along US 26.

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