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Thursday, 30 April 2015

Bend, Oregon: Hiking & Breweries

Written by David Clewett
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In January we traveled to Bend, Oregon following the promise of good beer and even better hiking.  For quite a long time we have been hearing about all the excellent breweries and hiking opportunities in the Bend area, but what we didn’t count on was the small town feel and friendly culture of the region.  Over 81,000 people call Bend home but it still has a small town feel with minimal traffic and a cozy vibe.  In preparation we had a list of the hikes we wanted to accomplish along with the breweries we hoped to visit throughout the weekend.  


Our first stop in the Bend area was at the Newberry National Volcanic Monument where we walked the interpretive trail of the Lava Cast Forest through lava rocks and twisted pines.


The trail is ten miles south of Bend near the Sunriver Resort. There is a wood plank trail that leads over an expansive field of lava rocks and formations.

Close Up Lava

In its entirety the trail is approximately 2.5 miles long.  The first thing we noticed were the many large lava holes that were so big we could climb inside.

Lava Hole 1

Another thing that fascinated us was the twisted and seemingly mangled trees that appeared to be tortured by the molten lava flowing around them. At every great viewpoint opportunity there was a nice bench to take in the view out across the expansive lava beds.  After taking in the panoramic view at the windy peak of the trail we turned the corner heading back toward tree protection. The lava fields are a great introduction to the volcanic history of the region and a good way to get our trip started.  

Twisted Bark 1

On the way to our weekend lodging we came across the High Desert Museum which was also on our checklist of things to accomplish.  The museum is fun for all ages and is especially great because it predominantly features animals found in the region.  We walked around looking at snakes, spiders, owls, eagles, turtles, and lizards.  Outside they have an old west village that you can walk through.  The day we went through the park was “Spirit of the West Day” where volunteers dressed up as old west characters and sat in front of their display to talk about life in the old west.  There was an old bearded miner who taught us the trick to finding gold by identifying quartz. We also met an old west school teacher who taught us to write with a quill pen and dipped ink.  One of the most unique features of the museum is a large room with several exhibits that document the history and teach about brewing beer in Oregon.  It was both informative and a good way to get us excited for our upcoming beer trip.  


Once we finished at the museum we finally made our way to Bend.  Our lodging for this trip was a bed and breakfast called the Mill Inn. We chose the Mill Inn for its location and proximity to the many things we hoped to see in town.  It also has a rich history in the community originally serving as lodging for the mill workers in the early 20th century.  

Mill Inn


In downtown Bend we made our way to 900 Wall which is a popular restaurant in the heart of downtown and right across the street from the historic Tower Theater.  The experience in the restaurant was flawless and they have a superb happy hour menu.  We had two of the best sandwiches we’d ever had and excellent cocktails as well.  The place had a perfect ambiance with a low rumble of lively conversation that couldn’t be described as noise but more like energy.  


After dinner we made our way across the street for a movie at historic Tower Theater in downtown Bend.  It is an iconic landmark for the town with the florescent tower poking high above the rest of the buildings.  It was originally built in 1940 but has undergone renovations over the years.  The facility is beautiful both inside and out.  The movie they were showing was The Big Lebowski but they often have live entertainment as well. What made the movie going experience worth mentioning is that it wasn’t just a quiet theater movie.  There was the historic building, the energetic vibe of the crowd, a costume contest, and crowd participation as everyone laughed and shouted and sang during some of more notable scenes in the movie.  It was truly a communal experience making a great first impression of the people of Bend.

Big Lebowski 3 


One of the first hikes on our Bend adventure was the Shevlin Park hike.  Afterwards we went to 10Barrel Brew Pub to get the Bend Ale Trail underway.  We ordered a flight of their beers and a pizza that Mallory said was “the best pizza I ever had.”  As we were enjoying the outdoor seating and sunshine we got to talking with our server and let her know we were heading out for more hiking.  When we told her we were on our way to Smith Rock she insisted that we must hike the Misery Ridge Trail.  Of course, we were excited by any trail called misery but she also warned that we shouldn’t look down below until we reached the top due to the narrow trail and intense elevation change.  

Misery Ridge Trail 

There are many ways to experience Smith Rock but the Misery Trail is one of the best hikes as a test of endurance.  It is a 3.8 mile looping trail leading to the Monkey Face Viewpoint.  We arrived at Smith Rock and quickly prepared for our next adventure.

Smith Rock 1

We walked excitedly down to the river to find the trailhead where we were greeted by several winded and tired hikers who were holding their legs and backs and panting after making the return trip from the summit.  It was at that point we realized we were in for a serious test.  



We took a couple quick pictures at the trailhead before beginning the ascent.  The Misery Ridge Trail is an intense uphill climb with some zig zagging and 1000 feet of quick elevation gain.  We actually had to stop several times to catch our breath as our hearts were beating heavily and we were winded.  This is a serious endurance test for all who dare make the trek and it was the biggest hiking challenge we have faced.  Along the way we saw two different rock climbers and stopped to watch them work their way up the face of the rock.  It is believed that Smith Rock is where the hobby of rock climbing was founded.  It was fun to watch as somebody on the ground assisted and communicated with the person a hundred feet up hanging from the side of the rock.   

Smith Rock Trail 6 

Eventually we made it to the summit and found a bench to rest and look out at the incredible view.  The sun was starting to go down which provided an incredible setting for taking in the scenery.  We took several pictures to document the reward for our accomplishment.  

Smith Rock Viewpoint 2

Smith Rock Viewpoint 3

Unfortunately however, the reward was short lived as Mal suffered from a bloody nose due to the rapid elevation gain.  This was quite a frightening experience but also rewarding as another lesson learned in preparedness.  We didn’t have a first aid kit with us or really anything to help stop the bleeding.  A shirt was sacrificed to help stop the bleeding but for all future hikes we will definitely have a proper medical kit for any injuries while on the trail.  Lesson learned.  We did manage to stop the bleeding long enough in order to get a picture together from the top of Smith Rock before making our way back down.  This was by far our biggest hiking accomplishment and we celebrated our return to the parking lot with a high five and a hug.  It was a great feeling and almost a rite of passage proving to ourselves that we can in fact be serious hikers.  This hike was very satisfying in that regard.  

Smith Rock Us

After settling into the car we made our way back to the Bend Ale Trail to finish the day and celebrate our full day of great hiking accomplishments at the local breweries.


(c) David Clewett


For more info:

Bend, Oregon Tourism:



The Mill Inn:

Last modified on Friday, 01 May 2015