9 Best Stops on the Portland to Bend Drive

Last Updated on

by Audrey Webster

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. That means if you click a link and make a purchase, we may make a small commission. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, see our privacy policy.

A Portland to Bend drive takes travelers through mountain passes, dense forests, and sprawling desert landscapes. Those looking for a few pit stops along the way are in luck – there’s a little something for everyone on this route.

This roughly 160-mile drive offers everything from mountain hikes near Mt. Hood with stunning views of the surrounding landscape to colorful fields of wildflowers. 

Many stops along the drive are well known and loved by tourists while others are secrets that locals prefer to keep tucked away.

Planning a Portland to Bend Drive

Taking the Portland to Bend scenic route invites travelers to explore the many natural and manmade wonders Oregon has to offer.

After a relaxed exploration of Portland, immediately head east along Interstate 84. This road takes you through the famous Columbia River Gorge. I-84 runs directly alongside the Columbia River, with Washington State on one side and a dense forested hillside on the other. 

The best route from Portland to Bend doesn’t keep travelers in the Gorge for long. After 20-30 minutes, exit the interstate and transition onto the U.S. Highway 26. The highway takes you around Mt. Hood and through Central Oregon before finally arriving in Bend. 

The drive through the Gorge offers plenty of places to stop for meals, gas, and snacks. However, once past Sandy, Oregon and east of Mt. Hood, there are fewer places to stop.

Warm Springs and Redmond are two places along the way where travelers can refuel, but the drive predominantly traverses forests before transitioning to a desert landscape. You should plan to have a full tank of gas and all desired road trip snacks before setting off toward Bend. 

If you need to rent a car for this trip, you can check out Rentalcars.com to find deals across major suppliers. Alternatively, browse Outdoorsy for RV or campervan rentals if this drive is part of a long road trip such as from Portland to Crater Lake or even all the way to San Francisco!

City of Bend with Mt Hood in the background
City of Bend with Mt Hood in the background

How Far is Portland to Bend?

A Portland to Bend road trip is about 160 miles and takes just over three hours, depending on traffic. Highway 26 transitions into a two-lane highway near Mt. Hood and offers few passing lanes.

The amount of time it takes to reach Bend will also vary based on how many stops are made along the way. You can expect to run into traffic in Redmond, near Mt. Hood, and as they approach Bend. 

Those traveling in Oregon during winter should carry tire chains to safely traverse the pass near Mt. Hood.

They should also anticipate a longer drive time during the colder months as the highways are more slippery. Much of the drive from Portland to Bend will be covered in snow, but the main highways are usually well-groomed. 

Best Portland to Bend Road Trip Stops

Portland Japanese Gardens 

Those looking for a peaceful afternoon in a sprawling city will flock to the Portland Japanese Garden. The gardens are located near Washington Park in Northwest Portland. This tranquil and mesmerizing destination will both relax and inform visitors in its unique history.

It was established in 1963 and spreads over 12 acres, including eight different garden styles. Visitors can wander the gardens, sip tea at an authentic tea house, and catch spectacular views of Mt. Hood. The garden also transforms with the seasons, making it a beautiful place to visit year-round. 

When the former Ambassador to Japan visited the Japanese Garden, he declared it “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan.” Strolling through the Japanese garden brings calm to visitors as they engage with sounds of wildlife, trickling streams, and rustling trees.

The Portland Japanese Garden is the perfect first stop on your road trip. It’s open 10 AM – 3:30PM and closed on Tuesday.

Japanese Garden in Portland
Japanese Garden in Portland

Multnomah Falls

As one of the most famous waterfalls in Oregon, it’s going to be hard to miss Multnomah Falls on a Portland to Bend drive.

This two-tier waterfall can be seen from Interstate 84 as visitors travel through the Columbia River Gorge toward Bend. Visiting the site only requires a quick detour to a parking lot beside the interstate.

Multnomah Falls towers at an impressive 620 feet and welcomes over two million visitors every year. That said, it’s important to plan your visit accordingly as it’s a heavily-trafficked site all year round.

Visitors can hike to a bridge that spans the top of Lower Multnomah Falls or begin at the base of the falls and trek east for some easy day hiking. A cafe, gift shop, and visitor’s center are also at the base of the waterfall. 

Visit the falls in the winter when it’s covered in snow and icicles to create a majestic winter wonderland. Or visit in the early spring when snowmelt dramatically increases the amount of water spilling over the falls. Visitors are now required to purchase tickets in advance.

Multnomah Falls is a gem of the Pacific Northwest that travelers won’t want to miss. 

Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls

Timberline Lodge

Visitors will recognize Timberline Lodge if they have seen The Shining film. This historic site is where Stanley Kubrick brought Stephen King’s terrifying novel to life. Timberline Lodge sits at the base of Mt. Hood and was constructed in 1937. Visitors can opt to spend a night in the lodge or make a quick stop for lunch at the restaurant inside.

The lodge champions a Cascadian Architecture designed by William I. Turner. The steep decline of the roof is meant to mimic the slopes of Mt. Hood in the lodge’s background. Local stone and wood compose the walls, creating a rustic and cozy feel. 

During a clear summer day, visitors can look from the windows of the lodge up toward Mt. Hood. Huge fields of wildflowers, snow-capped peaks, and pockets of dense trees make this part of Oregon truly unique. Winter brings several feet of snow and transforms Timberline Lodge into one of the area’s most popular ski lodges. 

Trillium Lake

Trillium Lake is a favorite location for visitors and locals. The lake is located at the base of Mt. Hood. Visitors park at the Trillium Lake trailhead south of Mt. Hood before trekking down a steep hill to the lake.

Upon arrival, visitors are met with a stunning view of Mt. Hood standing tall over the lake and surrounding forest. On a clear day, the lake creates a perfect mirror image of the mountain that draws in photographers from everywhere. 

The hike is less than four miles roundtrip, with easy walking on a nicely groomed path. It’s the ideal location for a picnic and afternoon swim.

During the winter, visitors can be found traversing the snow on cross-country skis or snowshoes, but the path is still accessible for those in regular winter boots. The summer brings dense forests, wildlife, and warm weather for a lovely afternoon by the lake. 

More ambitious hikers can opt to hike around the lake, kayak, or paddle board. Trillium is one of the few lakes in the area that doesn’t permit motorized boats, making it a favorite location for relaxed water sports. 

Trillium Lake
Trillium Lake

Peter Skene Ogden State Park

Two massive suspension bridges are on display at Peter Skene Ogden State Park. Located nine miles north of Redmond, Oregon off U.S. Route 97, this state park is a favorite pitstop for travelers as they approach Bend.

For years, the canyon was a daunting obstacle until the Oregon Truck Line Railway Bridge was built in 1910.

The second bridge, the Crooked River High Bridge, was constructed in 1926 and spans 464 feet. The Crooked River High Bridge is only open to foot traffic, granting visitors stunning views of the Crooked Canyon below. 

This state park is perfect for a midday picnic with an impressive outlook. Basalt walls plummet down 300 feet to where the Crooked River carves its wobbly path before feeding into the Deschutes River.

Visitors looking for an adrenaline rush can check out Oregon Bungee. Jumpers get the experience of the canyon up close by leaping from the Crooked River High Bridge. Although, it’s equally exciting to watch jumpers from the comfort of a picnic table in the state park. 

Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint
Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint

Tamolitch Pool

Tamolitch Pool, also known as Blue Pool by locals, is a vibrant blue pool found in the Willamette National Forest and about an hour’s drive from Bend. About 1,600 years ago, a lava flow from Belknap Crater buried a 3-mile section of the McKenzie River.

The water resurfaces at Tamolitch Pool, predominantly fed through porous lava rock that has seeped up to the surface. This process gives the pool its impressive bright blue color. The pool is also fed by a waterfall that only flows steadily during the spring. 

Visitors are invited to swim in these pristine waters, but bring a warm towel and clothes for after because the water averages 37 degrees Fahrenheit all year round. Two trails are available to visitors who wish to access the pool – one is about three miles and the other about two miles.

While the hike is short, the terrain remains relatively rocky, so hikers should make sure to wear sturdy shoes. The best time to visit Tamolitch Pool is spring to fall, but the trail is open all year. 

Tumalo Falls

Tumalo Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls of Central Oregon. The waterfall is located on Tumalo Creek in Deschutes National Forest, just west of Bend. Visitors engage in a moderate 6.5-mile hike before arriving at the 97-foot waterfall.

The trail is accessible year-round, but many people snowshoe here during winter. The trail itself is relatively flat, making it accessible for the majority of visitors. Although hikers should bear in mind the trails are also used by mountain bikers, so keep an eye out for them. 

Visitors are required to purchase a Northwest Forest Pass or day-use pass before using the area. This can be done online in advance or at a kiosk upon arrival at the Tumalo Falls day-use area. Here, visitors can have lunch at picnic tables, take a day hike, or mountain bike on 14 miles of trails.

If hikers want to go even further, they can take a 12.5-mile hike that goes beyond Tumalo Falls to the two-tiered, 65-foot Middle Tumalo Falls. 

Tumalo Falls
Tumalo Falls

Smith Rock State Park

Smith Rock comes as one of the most recommended sites near Bend. It’s frequented by visitors and locals for hiking, rock climbing, trail running, mountain biking, and horseback riding. The protruding orange, red, and yellow wall of rock stands out against a flat landscape.

Visitors hike around or to the top of the rocks for a tremendous view of the surrounding area. Greenery fueled by the Crooked River surrounds Smith Rock and brings plenty of wildlife. Visitors should keep an eye out for eagles, great blue herons, river otters, among other unique fauna.

The park is open to visitors year-round, but summer temperatures can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit, so make sure to bring plenty of water if visiting then. Smith Rock became a state park in 1960 and encompasses 652 acres near Bend.

The unique rock formations found here were created through a series of supervolcano eruptions an estimated 27.5 million years ago. About 400,000 years ago, an eruption from nearby Newberry Volcano diverted the Crooked River to press up against Smith Rock. This diversion helped sculpt the towering rocks seen today.

Visitors are required to purchase a day pass for $5 or a year pass for $30. 

Smith Rock State Park
Smith Rock State Park

Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint

For a final stop on the drive from Portland, consider Pilot Butte located just outside Bend. Lookout from the top of the dormant volcano for outstanding views of the surrounding landscape. Visitors hike up one of three trails that wind around the volcano before arriving at its peak.

Driving to the peak is also an option during the summer months. On a clear day, visitors can see Mt. Jefferson, Mt, Hood, Black Butte, Broken Top, Mt. Bachelor, and Three Sisters. Pilot Butte is also a fun place to watch the sunset after a day of driving from Portland to Bend. 

Bend is one of four cities in the United States to have an extinct volcano within its city limits (Portland is another with Mount Tabor). It’s thought to be over 780,000 years old and was named in 1851 by Thomas Clark, the leader of the first expedition of European explorers to settle near current-day Bend.

It became a public park in 1928 and has since been a staple of one-of-a-kind sites in Bend, Oregon. 

Where to Stay in Bend

Hampton Inn & Suites — If it’s a consistent chain hotel you’re after, then this is a great choice for you. They have countless clean and comfortable rooms available, good facilities and amenities and a great location for exploring everything Bend has to offer.

Oxford Hotel — If you’re after a locally-run and eco-friendly place to stay in Bend, then this is an excellent option for you. This boutique hotel has a range of rooms available to suit all kinds of visitors, great amenities, and a very central location. A hearty breakfast sourced from local farmers is available each morning, as well.

Private Rental — If you would rather stay in your own space, then there are lots of private rentals to choose from in Bend such as this historic home.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more hotels in Bend!

Drake Park in downtown Bend
Drake Park in downtown Bend

Countless unique natural and historical sites along the Portland to Bend drive ensures there is something for everyone. Oregon welcomes visitors to explore its unique sceneries and sites. 

Are you planning a road trip from Portland to Bend? Have any questions about the stops on this drive? Let us know in the comments!

Like It? Pin It!
Avatar photo

Audrey Webster is a writer for The World Was Here First. She is an Oregon native who has visited countries across the globe and currently spends her weekends exploring the Pacific Northwest and surrounding states. Her approach to traveling combines exploring famous tourist sites and wandering off the beaten path to discover new destinations.


Leave a Comment