Bend, Ore.: Home Of The Trails

Bend is known for endless miles of great running trails. Photo: Mario Fraioli

This Pacific Northwest gem sports miles of trails and open road for runners.

When British author James Hilton was describing the fictional place known as Shangri-La in his 1933 novel Lost Horizon, he might as well have been talking about modern-day Bend, Ore. In his book, he describes a mystical and harmonious valley, an earthly paradise isolated from the outside world, with a healthy and vibrant local populace.

Simply put, Bend is a trail running utopia.

Situated in central Oregon on the eastern flanks of the Cascade Mountains, it has both numerous nearby trail running options around town and a seemingly endless array of long-haul routes at higher elevations. Because of its small-town convenience, adventure-oriented population and 300 days of sunshine per year, Bend ranks with any town in America as a trail running destination.

Located three and a half hours southeast of Portland, Bend has a pleasantly remote ambience that leads to the calming feeling of never wanting to leave. As such, it’s become a haven for runners, triathletes, mountain bikers and kayakers.

“Bend is an amazing place to live as a runner,” says Max King, elite trail, road and track runner. “For me it’s the combination of trails right from town; an amazing outdoor community where you get runners that bike and swim and do everything; and two great specialty running stores with several events a week that tie everything together.”

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Bend sits at the junction of the Cascade foothills and the high-desert terrain that spans central Oregon, with the flowing waters of the winding Deschutes River and adjacent singletrack trails serving as a mystical connector between the two. On the mountain side, lush trails are flanked by Ponderosa pine forests, a colorful array of wildflowers and bubbling creeks as they climb into the remote mountains. Other flatter routes around town are replete with junipers, sagebrush and bitter-brush.

Bend’s mild weather makes it an especially attractive place to run from spring to late fall. Afternoon summer temperatures usually peak in the low 80s, but the weather is cooler the higher up you go.

Throw in moderate in-town elevation (3,620 feet), big skies, clean air and no humidity — plus dozens of options for sweet and savory cuisine and freshly brewed beers — and you have all the makings of an epic trail running getaway.

“It’s an amazing place all year-round, that’s for sure,” says local physical therapist Jay Dicharry, an avid trail runner, mountain biker and skier. “It’s got everything you would ever want or need in a town.”

Where To Run

Bend is a trail running wonderland, with more than 65 miles of trails accessible from downtown, and more long-haul routes are a short drive away in the foothills and larger mountains of the Cascade Range. The Deschutes River Trail and First Street Rapids Trail are can’t-miss options close to town that wind along the river about 5 miles each, with numerous offshoots for weekly variety. The dozens of popular routes close to town include the Green Lakes Loop, an 11-mile loop that winds through Green Lakes Basin and the Three Sisters Wilderness, while offering several creek crossings and mountain views; the North Fork Trail, which can be made into an 11-mile loop with waterfalls and panoramic views by way of Happy Valley and Farewell trails; and Tam McArthur Rim, a 5-mile singletrack route that starts at Three Creek Lake and winds to the top of Tam McArthur Rim.

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Where To Race

The 10th annual Deschutes Dash Weekend (July 13-14, deschutesdash.com) is a festival of 10 endurance events that start and finish in Riverbend Park, including a 5K, 10K and various multisport races. Other summer races include the Run for the Birds 8K (July 28; sunriver-resort.com) in nearby Sunriver, Ore., Haulin’ Aspen Trail Marathon and Half-Marathon (Aug. 11; haulinaspen.com), and the Flagline Trail Fest (Sept 22; flaglinetrailfest.com), which has a 50K, half-marathon and kids 1500-meter run. Super Dave’s Down & Dirty 1/2 (Oct. 20, superfitproductions.com) is a great fall race situated on the trails adjacent to the Inn of the Seventh Mountain. The 13.1-mile Dirty Half (June 2014; footzonebend.com/dirty_half) is one of the premier trail races in the Pacific Northwest and has doubled as a U.S. championship race in recent years.

Where To Eat & Drink

Situated in a craftsman bungalow on the west side of town, Ariana Restaurant (1304 NW Galveston Ave.) is known for its homemade pastas, steaks and seafood. It regularly gets the best reviews in town, and if you have the seared wild jumbo sea scallops served over Dungeness crab and herb risotto, you’ll probably agree. Save room for the Shokinag Chocolate Sachertorte, a flourless chilled chocolate cake served with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. Barrio (163 NW Minnesota Ave.) draws from Mexican, Spanish and a variety of South American cuisines to create unique Latin-inspired dishes, including a wide variety of tapas and paellas. Kebaba Modern Middle Eastern Foods (1004 Newport Ave.) has mouth-watering kebabs, shwarma, soups and falafel. Super Burrito (1133 NW Wall St.) and Parilla Grill (635 NW 14th St.) are unmatched for the daily grind.

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Where To Shop

Bend is a small town with two great running stores. FootZone (845 NW Wall St.) and Fleet Feet Bend (1320 NW Galveston St.) are both top-tier shops that offer great service and all the gear you’ll need for a weekend of trail running. Stop by either one for expert local knowledge, trail maps and last-minute needs like socks, visors or a few gels. If you need more trail and outdoor gear, there is also an REI store (380 Powerhouse Dr.) housed in an old power plant, as well as Nike and Pearl Izumi shops in the Bend Factory Stores complex (61334 S Hwy 97).

Weather

Mild temperatures and moderate levels of precipitation make Bend an ideal place to run from spring to fall. High temperatures in July and August usually peak in the low 80s, while nighttime lows dip into the mid- to upper-40s, making for crisp early morning runs. While it does rain some, July through October are the driest months of the year.

Etc.

Led by renowned physical therapist and running form guru Jay Dicharry, Rebound Physical Therapy (1160 SW Simpson Ave.; reboundoregon.com) has one of the most advanced labs in the country for running gait analysis and injury prevention/rehabilitation. The facility also has locations in south and east Bend.

This piece appears in the July 2013 issue of Competitor magazine.

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