Travel to Central Oregon – Episode 744

categories: USA Travel

Things to do in Bend Oregon (Podcast) - Amateur Traveler

Hear about travel to Bend and Central Oregon as the Amateur Traveler talks to Catherine Ryan Gregory from To & Fro Fam about this adventure travel playground.

Catherine says, “I grew up in Oregon, in Eugene, which is a couple of hours from Central Oregon. My family traveled around the state and the Pacific Northwest quite a bit. I grew up going to Central Oregon on family vacations. Then when I was an adult, I moved back to Oregon. And now pretty much whenever I need a dose of sunshine, since I live in Portland. I try to get over to Central Oregon because it’s sunny almost all of the time there. There’s just so much to see and so much to do. With so much happening in Central Oregon, I always love to go back.”

Central Oregon is popular with people looking for outdoor activities. You can ski in the winter or hike and mountain bike in the summer. Catherine bases us in the city of Bend Oregon on the Deschutes River. In the summer, the locals spend a lot of time on the river paddling or floating. It’s one of only four US cities that has an extinct volcano within city limits. She recommends starting at that volcano, Pilot Butte, with a hike up to get your bearings. You can either drive to the top or you can hike an easy two miles to the top and you get a 360-degree view of the city and the surrounding mountains in the high desert. You can see the mountains that Central Oregon is so famous for like Mount Bachelor and the Three Sisters.

Also in Bend, Catherine recommends going to two of the most sort of happening neighborhoods. The old mill District has converted a bunch of old mill buildings into an upscale shopping cultural dining area. It’s right along the Deschutes River so you can rent a bike or bring your own and cycle around on the really wonderfully maintained bike paths along there. During the summer, you can hear music from the Les Schwab Amphitheater across the river, which has live music throughout the nice weather months. Nearby, there is also the Box Factory which is a newly renovated area where it has quirky shops and small boutique restaurants. 

Ben has something like one craft brewery in the city for every 4000 residents. Deschutes Brewery is probably the best-known local brewery.

On day 2 we head south of Bend to Newberry National Volcanic Monument. It is a 1,200 square mile volcano (about the size of Rhode Island) that remains active today. You can hike in a lava tube at Lava River Cave but bring light as you can hike a mile underground. To learn more about volcanoes stop at the Lava Lands Visitor Center. Take a shuttle from the visitor center to the top of Lava Butte. Catherine also recommends a hike at Big Obsidian Flow for an easy half-mile loop trail. If you have time Paulina Creek Falls Trail is just a little way up the road.

On day three, we head to the huge cliffs of Smith Rock State Park. Get there early in the day as it gets busy. The area is popular for rock climbers. She recommends hiking Misery Ridge and Summit Trail Loop or the Fall River Trail or Homestead Trail. Bring a picnic lunch as there is no food in the park.

On day four, we head to Tumla Falls which is right near Bend, and then play on the river. She and her husband took a Moonlight Canoe trip with Wanderlust Tours for their 10th anniversary and she highly recommends it.

On day five we head to the charming town of Sisters. near Sisters is Skylight Cave. It is a lava tube with skylights where the sun shines down during the morning.

Things to do in Bend Oregon (Podcast) - Amateur Traveler

On day six we head up the Cascade Mountains on the Cascades Scenic Byway.

Catherine gives us recommendations for where to eat and drink or visit the last Blockbuster Video store in the U.S. There are a series of alpine lakes along the way where you can hike or camp. On the way back to Bend you can stop at Mt Bachelor and take the ski lift to the lodge for dinner, even in summer.

We cap the trip with a 2-hour drive to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and especially to the colorful Painted Hills with barren hills in reds and yellows. At the Sheep Rock Unit, which is about an hour away, you can see some of the many fossils that were found in this park. 

Come for the hikes, the scenery, the volcanos, or the beer, but enjoy a week outdoors in Central Oregon.

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Show Notes

To & Fro Fam

Bend Oregon
Pilot Butte (Oregon)
Old Mill District
Les Schab Amphitheater
The Box Factory
Foxtail Bakeshop
Drake Park
Downtown Bend
Deschutes Brewery
10 Barrel Brewing Co.
Bend Blockbuster
Newberry National Volcanic Monument
Lava River Cave Interpretive Site
Big Obsidian Flow Trail
Paulina Creek Falls Trail
Crux Fermentation Project
Smith Rock State Park
Misery Ridge and Summit Trail Loop
Fall River Trail
Mother’s Juice Cafe
Tumalo Falls via Tumalo Creek Trail
Deschutes River (Oregon)
McKay Park – Bend Park and Recreation District
Wanderlust Tours
Sisters, Oregon
Sisters Coffee Company
Skylight Cave
Americas Beer Spa
Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway in Bend
Devil’s Lake State Recreation AreaParks
Lucky Lake Trail
Hosmer Lake
Mt Bachelor
Painted Hills, Oregon
John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
Painted Cove Trail
Sheep Rock

Road Trip Games & Activities For Kids
Epic Central Oregon Guide



review by CCharmed – ?????

Satisfying my travel bug while being grounded
As a person who lives and dies from one adventure to the next being grounded in 2020 and now in 2021, has been challenging. I’m grateful to have a podcast that allows me to feel that I am traveling to new places that I’ve never been as well as opening my mind to revisiting other places that I’ve been before with a locals perspective. Thank you so much for having this podcast and can’t wait to hear what you have coming next.

Dear Chris:
When I received a new iPod for Christmas in 2007, your show was probably the first podcast I found, before I even really understood what podcasts were.  These many years later, I am thankful that your work, among all the others, has thrived.  Not only did you get me started in an amazing new platform (I have a podcast myself, link below) but you gave me great inspiration on how to plan trips when I was fresh out of college and just getting started in life.
Truly, I cannot thank you enough.

I would like to suggest a topic for you, and I understand it is a step to the side of your usual destinations… but after 700+ episodes, perhaps that’s what you’re looking for?  My favorite cruise so far (and really, my favorite trip ever) has been the Star Trek Cruise.  Would you be interested in having me do a review about it for your channel, blog, or something else?  I was on the third trip and am scheduled to go on the fifth (standard “weird world” disclaimers apply).  The STC managed to surprise me both as a seasoned cruise traveler AND as a person who has attended countless fan conventions, and I’d really enjoy the chance to reach to to cruise fans who haven’t considered the possibility of a theme cruise.

Regardless, thanks so much for all you’ve done, and thanks for reading.

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Amateur Traveler trip to Turkey in September 2020

Things to do in Bend Oregon | Travel to Central Oregon (Podcast) - Amateur Traveler | John Day Fossil Beds National Monument | Smith Rock State Park | Newberry National Volcanic Monument #travel #trip #vacation #oregon #ben #john-day-fossil-beds #smith-rock #newberry Things to do in Bend Oregon | Travel to Central Oregon (Podcast) - Amateur Traveler | John Day Fossil Beds National Monument | Smith Rock State Park | Newberry National Volcanic Monument #travel #trip #vacation #oregon #ben #john-day-fossil-beds #smith-rock #newberry Things to do in Bend Oregon | Travel to Central Oregon (Podcast) - Amateur Traveler | John Day Fossil Beds National Monument | Smith Rock State Park | Newberry National Volcanic Monument #travel #trip #vacation #oregon #ben #john-day-fossil-beds #smith-rock #newberry

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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

4 Responses to “Travel to Central Oregon – Episode 744”

Mark Carrara


One volcano in Bend? Is that all? Albuquerque has three.

Wes Snow


Couple of suggestions from my 3 weeks in Oregon in 2019.

The Kam Wah Chung Chinese Heritage site in John Day, Oregon, is a perfectly preserved Chinese general store discovered undisturbed since it’s last use in 1948. Talk about a throwback to the 40s and Chinese-American culture from that era. It’s a fantastic use of one hour of your time.

Also headed toward the John Day region and for the intrepid traveler…the Spoke’n Hostel converted hostel/Sunday church is a great layover for bike travels and those headed into the accommodation-sparce John Day region. The pastor couple running the hostel are exceptionally friendly. It’s in the little town of Mitchell, a “stagecoach stop” that probably hasn’t changed since it’s last stagecoach left. One my two night stay, I got invited to the town’s lively “hoedown” featuring the local talent and enjoyed some local town fare.

Carla Mowell


I totally agree about Kam Wah Chung museum – a gem! Thanks for all the tips – very helpful for my trip to Portland in Fall.

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