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Dog-Friendly Guide to Exploring Bend, Oregon

Bend, Oregon is located in Central Oregon (about 3.5 hours from Portland) and is the perfect winter destination, especially if you are traveling with dogs. If you’ve never visited Bend or perhaps you've never heard of it, we can describe this beautiful place in one word: Magical! There is something magical about this town situated between the Deschutes River, the Cascade Mountains, and the high desert that invites you in, makes it challenging to leave, and constantly calls you back.

Man and woman with two dogs standing facing the Cascade Mountains at sunset in Bend, Oregon.

We first explored the area in 2019 when we actually moved to Bend for a few months. Although we only lived in Bend for a short amount of time, it left such a big imprint in our hearts and lives. Bend is one of our favorite towns and we’re here to share all of the reasons why!

We could list out the amazing outdoor recreation activities, the food options, and the charming town itself (which we definitely will :)). But, the number one reason Bend is so special is because of how dog-friendly it is. We traveled all across the US in 2022 and Bend ranked #1 as the most dog-friendly location we visited this year. Your furbaby will not only feel welcomed but will meet so many other furry friends during your stay.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Visit Bend. All opinions are our own.

We are those people who will drive over 1,100 miles and 17 hours through the mountains in the middle of the winter so our furbabies, Ollie and Baxter, can join us in Oregon.

To help you plan a visit to Bend with your furbabies, we put together a list of our favorite dog-friendly activities!

Pilot Butte

Arguably the best sunset view in town, Pilot Butte is a must-see when visiting! This ancient cinder cone (created as Visit Bend describes, “190,000 years ago from a now extinct volcano”!) can be seen from almost everywhere in town and offers panoramic views of Central Oregon for miles. In the summer, you can drive to the view point. However, in the winter, the road is closed and the only way to get this incredible view is to walk. The trail is 1.8 miles round trip with 452 feet of elevation gain. The walk is well worth it and your furbabies can join you. But, they must be leashed at all times. Stay for sunset as the view is hard to forget. Be sure to bring a headlamp or flashlight if staying for sunset as the walk down will be dark.

Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Just outside of town sits Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Lava Lands Visitor Center, and Lava Butte. These locations offer incredible insights into the volcanic activity of Central Oregon with a caldera, lava flows, cinder cones, lakes, and the Cascade Mountains. Although the Visitor Center is closed in the winter, the Trail of the Molten Land is open and allows you to hike along a trail that follows a basalt lava flow at the base of a Lava Butte. The trail is 1 mile round trip with 124 feet of elevation gain. It is dog-friendly, but dogs must be leashed at all times. The landscape and geological features are so unique, especially covered in snow!

Old Mill District

Located on the Deschutes River, Old Mill District is filled with great shopping and restaurants. Paddling on the Deschutes River is a favorite activity for locals and visitors alike, mostly in the warmer months. However, if you are planning a trip around the beginning of December, be sure to check out the Holiday Lights Paddle Parade! The Kayakers, paddleboarders, rafters, and participants were all decked out in holiday lights. The whole town came out to celebrate this fun and festive tradition, even with the cold and snowy conditions. In 2022, the event happened on Friday, December 9th. Old Mill District has a great dog park, River Bend Dog Park, where dogs can even jump into the river at certain times of year. There are also numerous walking trails, like the Deschutes River Trail.

Deschutes River Trail

The Deschutes River Trail is our favorite trail in town! You can access it from Old Mill District or park at one of the various parking lots. It meanders along the river and is 4.4 miles round trip with 157 feet of elevation gain. The trail is dog-friendly, but dogs must be leashed at all times. The first time we found this trail, we were in awe. To have the town roll directly into this beautiful nature was something we had never experienced before. It was actually on this exact trail with the sun rays peeking through the trees and glistening on the water that we fell in love with Bend.

Downtown Bend

When visiting, you have to check out downtown Bend! The local restaurants and shops are all amazing, each offering something so unique to Bend. It is a great place to buy gifts for loved ones that are special and remind them of Bend. The streets in December are filled with twinkling holiday lights and the reflections of all of the colors on the snow-filled, wet ground only add to the atmosphere. You will see many dogs walking around too! Our boys loved it!

Oxford Hotel Bend

Although there are many dog-friendly lodging accommodations in Bend, Oxford Hotel Bend is our top suggestion if looking for a location to stay with your furbabies. Not only is this hotel dog-friendly, but they went above and beyond to make sure our boys were comfortable. They included dog beds, collapsable dog bowls, dog treats, and even left dog bags outside of our door each morning. If that wasn’t enough, the room was stunning! There were so many local touches from the soap to the drinks left in the fridge. Oxford Hotel Bend also focused on being sustainable and purposeful in their options in the room, such as reusable soap containers. Lastly, the hotel was in the perfect location in downtown Bend! We could walk everywhere we needed to, which was exactly what we were looking for after driving over 17 hours. When we got to the hotel, we didn’t have to jump in the car for anything. We loved this!

Drake Park

One location we knew we wanted to walk to from the hotel was Drake Park, which was less than a 10 minute walk! Drake Park is filled with beautiful walking trails, a wooden bridge, ducks, geese, and other birds. It is a great place to spend the afternoon just relaxing in the shade of the trees or by the water. Our boys (and us!) love this little piece of nature set just behind downtown.

Steelhead Falls

You can’t visit Bend and not see a waterfall! There are so many options to choose from like Tumalo Falls, Benham Falls, and Dillon Falls. So, we decided to visit a waterfall we had never visited before: Steelhead Falls. The trailhead is located 45 minutes from Bend. There is an outhouse at the trailhead, but there is no trash collection in the winter. Please be sure to pack out any trash with you and drive it into town to throw away properly. The trail is 1 mile round trip with 226 feet of elevation. Dogs are allowed, but must be kept on a leash. There is erosion on the trail. So, please be sure to follow all signs and stay on the trail to protect the vegetation and area from further erosion. The waterfall is stunning! The blues and greens of the water are so beautiful. Plus, in the winter some of the water is frozen adding to its beauty!

Adventures Without Your Furbabies

If your furbabies are tuckered out after days of playing, here are a few winter suggestions that are definitely worth checking out without dogs: nordic skiing at Mt. Bachelor and axe throwing at Unofficial Logging Co. Both of these activities are so fun and are great for beginners.

Leaving Bend Better Than We Found It

Bend has something for everyone and has more beauty than it seems possible for one place! In order to continue keeping this place so magical, we must all do our part to protect it by being responsible travelers.

One way to do this is by familiarizing yourself with The Bend Pledge. This pledge emphasizes leaving Bend and Central Oregon better than you found it. This can be by respecting wildlife, nature, and, other travelers all while planning ahead and preparing for your adventures. Our favorite part of the pledge focuses on walking more, driving less. Our biggest suggestion while visiting is to challenge yourself to walk as many places as you can within town.

Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon

Here are also some things to keep in mind when traveling with dogs to Bend.

  • Bring any necessary items: dog bags, dog booties, dog jacket, water, water bowl, map, etc.

  • Know your dog’s limit when it comes to hiking in the snow. Their paws can freeze and they can become cold much faster than humans.

  • Pick up and pack out your dog’s poo.

  • Research dog leash restrictions and if a location is dog-friendly. These rules are put in place to help respect wildlife/other hikers and to protect your dog.

Lastly, familiarizing yourself with the 7 principles of Leave No Trace which focus on recreating a little more responsibility can help protect these beautiful places and keep our furbabies safe as well! Win win in our book!

When we left Bend in 2019 to move into our van full-time, we left a piece of our hearts. Coming back in December 2022, we had high expectations for what our experience would be like. Would it be everything we remembered?

It was everything we remembered and so much more. It also reconfirmed that Bend is one of our favorite places.

Be sure to add Bend to your list of must-see places!

Steelhead Falls near Bend, Oregon

Until next time, keep adventuring!


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