You can rarely find Bend, OR mentioned without the words “dog friendly” before it. With miles of groomed walking trails, 7 off-leash dog parks, dog friendly national forests, several sparkling lakes, and dozens of dog friendly businesses, Bend is an ideal vacation spot for active people who love traveling with their dogs.
Oh, and Dog Fancy Magazine named Bend the 2012 Dog Town of the Year.
Not surprisingly, the number of Bend households that have dogs is almost 40% higher than the national average (50% vs. 36%).
Located in central Oregon about 2 hours east of Portland, Bend is in the Cascade Foothills along the Deschutes River with an elevation of 3623 ft. above sea level and a high desert climate.
DOG FRIENDY ACCOMMODATIONS
While Bend has a plethora dog friendly hotels, my cousin (we went with her family) reserved a dog friendly house through Airbnb, and it was an ideal place to stay with our dogs because the house was on a 50 acre working farm.
While several areas of the farm were off-limits, we had plenty of room to stroll around with Miguel and Haley. It was so nice to be able to walk around the property without having to leash them and watch them dash around excitedly exploring every new smell.
The only potential danger we had to worry about were the horses – the owner’s daughter told us they had run down her dogs after they chased them (the dogs sustained serious injuries but are fine now).
The house wasn’t the most luxurious place I’ve stayed, but it was roomy, clean, and comfortable with internet access and Direct TV.
At $2200, the rent was a bit high, but between splitting it with my cousin and saving money on meals by making them in the kitchen, the cost was about the same as staying in a hotel.
And having lots of open space to walk with the dogs? Priceless.
I hadn’t used Airbnb before, but when we travel with our dogs again I will check it out to see if I can find more dog friendly places on the site.
DOG FRIENDLY HIKES
Bend is one of the best places in the Northwest to hike with your dog not only because of the gorgeous scenery and varied terrain but also because it is located just outside the 1.8 million acre Deschutes National Forest where 95% of the trails are open to dogs off-leash in the summer and there are 1,200 miles of summer trails on the forest. In winter, dogs are allowed off-leash on 99% of national forest lands managed by the Deschutes National Forest.
We went on 2 hikes with the dogs when we were in Bend.
Our first hike was along the Deschutes River in Tumalo State Park. This is a great off leash hike for older dogs with limited mobility and/or people who want a easy, scenic walk.
The hike is only about a half mile each way with very little change in elevation (i.e., no steep climbs), and along the way you get great views of the river and surrounding mountains. We took about an hour to finish but we walked slowly and made several stops to look around and take pictures.
The hike stops at a boulder field. Some people said the trail continued on the other side of the boulders but neither we nor our dogs were inclined to find out.
Our second hike on the Green Lakes Trail in the Deschutes Nation Forest was a bit more challenging. One of the most popular hikes in Central Oregon, the Green Lakes Trail is about 4.5 miles each way with a gradual incline of about 1000 ft.
During your hike you’ll see old growth trees, clear running streams, piles of volcanic rock, and of course, Green Lakes.
Dogs have to be leashed, which is a good idea the trail has a few narrow spots along steep drop offs. We took about 5 hours – including rest stops and an hour hanging out at Green Lakes – to complete the hike.
Be sure to bring plenty of water and food/snacks. The good news is you don’t have to carry water for your dog because most of the trail is alongside Fall Creek which is accessible in several places. And of course Green Lakes is one giant water bowl.
One thing I didn’t expect is that you have to walk across a log bridge 3 times at various points on the trail. The logs are sawed so humans can walk across them easily, but if you have a big dog that would have trouble walking on flat log about 8-10 inches wide or a dog that’s scared of bridges, getting across them could a challenge.
Our dog Miguel does NOT like heights or bridges, and he refused to go over the first log bridge at the beginning of the trailhead, so I had to carry him across. The second one wasn’t a problem because the water was so low there we could walk across the stream. At the third bridge we put Miguel directly behind Haley, who had no fear of walking on the log, and he followed her like a champ! And he crossed all three of them by himself on the way back!!
You should plan to stay about an hour at Green Lakes. The views are spectacular, and it’s the perfect spot to recharge your batteries for the walk back. If your dogs like water it’s also the perfect spot for them to take a dip.
On the day we didn’t hike we went to Elk Lake Resort which is about 30 miles outside of town. It was a little crowded but the Elk Lake is an ideal spot to standup paddle board, canoe, and kayak. We saw a few dogs riding paddle boards with their people while others played in the water. If you’re looking for a relaxing day by the water with your dog, Elk Lake Resort is your spot.
Since we ate most of our meals at our great Airbnb house and didn’t do much shopping, we weren’t in downtown Bend often, but we did spend a few dog friendly hours there.
Virtually all the stores allow dogs, and dogs are welcome on the patios of the restaurants/breweries. If you ask someone if their business allows dogs he/she will look at you like a Seattleite looks at tourists when they cross a street against the “Don’t Walk” sign.
When we were in clothing store that shared a space with an upscale jewelry store the manager told us she wasn’t sure the jewelry store was dog friendly. But before we could ask the sales clerk in the jewelry store if they allowed dogs she swooped down on Haley for a long petting session. Yes, they allowed dogs.
You can also take your dog for a walk on one of the 28 trails in the Bend Park and Recreation District. With 65 miles of walking trails, including some beautiful ones along the Deschutes River, you should have no problem finding one that’s right for your and your dog.
So if you love to share outdoor adventures with your dog, Bend should be a must see stop on your itinerary. But even if you aren’t into hiking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, or standup paddle boarding, you can still find a plethora of more leisurely activities to do with it.
For more information about dog friendly activities in and around Bend go to these sites:
DogPAC – Website devoted to information about off-leash activities in Central Oregon
Deschutes National Forest – Lots of info about hiking and camping with your dog
Wanoga Snow Play Area – Groomed, dog friendly winter trails
Visit Bend – Tons of info about what to do in Bend with or without a dog
Visit Central Oregon – Same as Visit Bend but has info about areas around Bend too