Our little family has had quite the year — we bought a house, DIY’d a kitchen remodel, and got married! Rigby didn’t help much for the first two, besides being very patient with months of strange smells and noises. But she was an excellent ring bearer!
Reveling in our newfound post-wedding free time, we planned a small weekend getaway to Bend, Oregon. This trip was actually on the calendar for 3 consecutive summers, but life (and wildfires) kept getting in the way. This year, we finally made it happen, and of course we brought the dog!
We decided to stop “on the way” to check out the John Day Fossil Beds (I use that term very loosely here, as it added about 3 hours to the drive). There are three units that make up the monument, but they are 1-2 hours away from each other, so we only had time to visit one.
Sheep Rock has the most to do, but the best trail (with vertebrate fossil replicas) has metal grates that can irritate dogs’ feet, and they also aren’t allowed inside the Paleontology Center. The Clarno unit has some dog-friendly trails where you can see plant fossils, but we ultimately chose to visit the Painted Hills, one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon.
The Painted Hills were as interesting to learn about as they were to look at! The layers formed when ancient volcanic eruptions covered the area in ash deposits, some when the area had a tropical climate (red), and others when it had a drier climate (yellow). Erosion eventually revealed the hills we see today, their colorful stripes representing 40 million years of geological history.
Once we arrived at the monument, we followed the signs for Overlook Trail, a short dog-friendly path with sweeping views of the clay hills. I was afraid I might be disappointed after seeing so many heavily-photoshopped images online, but the colors were even more striking in person.
“I want to eat these hills.”
Next, we drove a short distance to the Painted Cove trail, a 0.3 mile loop where you can get a closer look at the vibrant red and gold paleosol. There was even a surprise band of lavender (the remains of a rhyolitic lava flow).
We spent just over an hour total admiring all the unique textures and colors, and probably would have stayed longer if we had the time. The detour was well worth it!
From there, we finished our drive to Bend. We stayed in an Airbnb, but there were tons of great options for pet-friendly lodging, from camping at Tumalo State Park to booking a suite at McMenamins Old St. Francis School.
The town itself gives “dog-friendly” a whole new meaning. Dogs are accommodated in more places than normal, sure. But people don’t just tolerate dogs in Bend, they truly love them! Rigby got so much attention from visitors and locals alike: “Is that a whippet?” “Can I say hi?” “Would your dog like a treat?” “What a cute bandana!” Music to my ears.
We stayed near downtown, and there were lots of little galleries and shops to explore. Similar to Cannon Beach, most businesses had signs to signify if pups were allowed in, so we didn’t need to feel intrusive by asking.
Restaurants & Breweries
Usually when we visit a new place, there are one or two pet-friendly eateries to choose from. Here, it seemed like every restaurant and brewery had an outdoor area, and we didn’t find a single one that didn’t welcome dogs. With so many to choose from, we could be picky! Here are the places we went, as well as some runner-ups:
- Barrio – Tapas & paella in a nice, roomy covered patio.
- J Dub – Burgers & sandwiches with patio seating in the back, plus a surprisingly extensive menu for dogs.
- McKay Cottage – Brunch food in a cute craftsman, with a large garden patio out back and amazing marionberry scones.
- Looney Bean – Coffee & pastries with a peaceful grassy backyard right on the river.
- Nancy P’s – Another cafe/bakery with some tables out front, serving homemade “barkscotti.”
- Crux Fermentation Project – Brewery with a huge lawn to picnic on. We had the option of ordering outside from food carts, as well, which was a plus.
- Bend Brewing Co – Another brewery with a lawn, and a beautiful view of the river. Also had an outdoor booth where you could order beer.
- GoodLife Brewing – Didn’t get a chance to try this one, but it also has a grassy outdoor area. Can you tell I like picnics?
Bend has an entire volunteer organization that advocates for more off-leash access in Central Orgeon, and their website was super helpful in navigating seasonal leash laws in the area. Most trails in the Deschutes National Forest require leashes come summer, with the notable exception of playing river fetch — not super applicable for Rigby, as she’s still working on her dog-paddle.
The Rimrock trail, AKA Good Dog, seemed like our best bet since it’s off-leash all year. It also requires no special permits, and is an easy 10-minute drive from downtown Bend.
This was a great place to let Rigby run around for a bit. There were lots of branching trails to explore, including some that went down to the river. And with barely any elevation change to speak of, we didn’t get too tired in the hot weather.
One thing I really appreciated was the lack of steep drop-offs. Rigby doesn’t have a great sense of self-preservation, so I prefer to keep her leashed when there’s risk of her zooming straight off a ledge.
The paths on Good Dog did get pretty dusty, and some parts had little shade. If you go on a sunny day, make sure your pup doesn’t burn their paws — at one point Rigby did the “hot pads” dance and we needed to carry her for a bit.
And if you’re not super comfortable with your dog’s recall, Bend has tons of fenced options, as well! Pine Nursery Park has 17 acres of fully-enclosed trails for you and your dog to explore.
Floating the River
One thing I knew we had to do while in Bend was float the Deschutes River. The most popular route starts at Riverbend Park and winds up north to Drake Park. I think we figured out the best way to go about it logistically with a pupper in tow, assuming you have at least two people:
- First, drive to the Tumalo Park & Float near McKay Park — it’s free to park in the huge lot.
- Buy a single $3 shuttle pass wristband (gets you access all day). You also have the option to rent tubes here, but it’s the same price to just buy your own beforehand.
- Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on the shuttle. So the workaround is to send one person on the shuttle with the tubes, while the other person walks with the dog to meet at Riverbend Park (a short 15 minute walk away). The park even has a fenced off-leash area with river access, in case you want to tire your dog out beforehand.
- Start floating! Rigby just chilled out on my lap and enjoyed the sun. We saw some people with larger dogs on stand-up paddleboards or in kayaks. If it’s your dog’s first time floating, bring a few treats to make some positive associations.
- About 45 minutes in, you’ll approach a third bridge with signs pointing left to exit the river. The rapids are pretty mild, but some people were definitely flipping out of their tubes, so I recommend exiting here if your dog is with you. I was worried it might be difficult to navigate my tube with Rigby in it, but the current was so slow that it was easy to hand-paddle around.
- There’s a little beach just after the rapids where you can put back in. Or, if your dog seems stressed, it’s a short walk from here back to the Park & Float.
- Keep floating for another 30 minutes or so. Shortly after the second bridge, you’ll exit the river to your right.
- Follow the other tube-carrying people to find the shuttle pick-up point. Just as before, the person with the pass can take the two tubes back, while the other person walks (again, about 15 minutes) with the dog back to the Park & Float to meet at the car.
We jammed a lot of activities into one weekend, but there is still so much left to explore! We can’t wait to make it to the area again next summer, maybe with enough time to visit Blue Pool or Smith Rock.
Do you have any favorite dog-friendly places to adventure in Central Oregon? Share in the comments below!