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Bowzer Friendly Bend

It's a fact: Bend, Oregon is beautiful, a high desert playground perched on the Newberry volcanic bed stacked against the Cascade Mountains.
Written by Val Mallinson | Photos courtesy of RuffWear & Visit Bend
Everywhere you look are snow-capped peaks—famed ski mountain Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top and Three Fingered Jack, the Three Sisters, presidential Mt. Washington and Mt. Jefferson, and distant Mt. Hood on a clear day.

Bendites are a highly fit, outdoorsy bunch, who often have dogs in tow wherever they go. DogPAC estimates that almost 50 percent of Bend households have at least one dog (actual stats: 49%, 1.2 dogs). They’re strict about leash laws in town and city parks, but as a consolation, there are pick up bags at Dog E Rest Stop stations everywhere. This city of 80,000 also boasts an impressive seven off-leash dog parks, along with a winter-recreation area (Wanoga SnoPark) specifically groomed for canines and their human companions.

There are 48 miles of groomed walking trails within city limits, and from May to September, outdoor seating is standard at the majority of dining establishments. Bend is world headquarters for RuffWear, one of the country’s largest makers of hardcore gear for sports-minded dogs. You came out here to experience the great outdoors, and Bend’s got plenty of it.

Frankly, it’s a whole lotta’ fun. So, let’s get started, shall we? Our game today is “The Place is Right,” and no matter which itinerary you pick—Outside, Eastside, or Westside—you’re gonna’ love “What’s Behind That Doggie Door?!” By the way, the price is right, too; lodging is very affordable and the lack of sales tax in Oregon really helps out, too.

Door #1: Outside
Around Bend, the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is your ticket to a larger than life outdoorsy playground. As you pass one gorgeous mountain and lake after another, you’ll understand why Scenic America named this 66-mile stretch one of the most important and beautiful in the country. There’s a cool downloadable Print-n-Go Map at byways.org (or click here). Along the Byway is big Mt. Bachelor, where dogs who aren’t afraid of heights are allowed to ride the Summer Sightseeing chair lift with human passengers. Sure, you can hike to the 9,065-foot summit too, led by a Forest Service guide (mtbachelor.com). And, summer and winter dog sledding is available by Trail of Dreams at Mt. Bachelor.

The Cascade Lakes Highway also takes you past the many camping, boating, fishing, rock hounding and hiking opportunities of the Deschutes National Forest. There are so many choices you may want assistance from the folks at the Bend Ft. Rock Ranger Station, open Monday through Friday from 7:45 to 4:30 (541.383.5300, 1230 NE 3rd St.). Dogs are allowed off leash in all National Forest areas.

But what do the locals recommend? The unanimous decision for a destination is the Upper Deschutes River Trails, encompassing seven trailheads, two picnic areas, and three waterfalls from Bend to Sunriver. Justin, a PR director, and his dog Shadow suggest the Lava Island access point, from Century Drive out of Bend about seven miles to Forest Road 41, past Seventh Mountain Resort.

Another great place is the Meadow Camp area—out Century Drive, take the gravel road immediately before Widgi Creek Golf Course. You can head up the river for some steeper climbs and nice overlooks or down the river for a less technical meander plus there are multiple spots for a sip or dip in the water and you’ll see plenty of wildlife. On your way out or back, you’ll want to hit the dog-friendly patio at the Cascade Lakes Brewing Company Lodge (a.k.a. The Lodge) for lunch, dinner, and good microbrews.

For another spot to hike upriver, start at Farewell Bend Park in the Old Mill District. You’ll be in good company -- easily four out of five cars at Farewell Bend are downloading dogs at any given moment. Plus parking off Reed Market Road is free for up to four hours.

As for camping, we dig Tumalo State Park even though it’s hardly legit ‘camping’ off a major road close to downtown. The solar showers are hot from the moment you turn on the tap, and the trail leading from the day use area along the Deschutes River is the right length for a morning constitutional (oregonstateparks.org).

Door #2: Eastside & Downtown
For dog-friendly digs, check out the Oxford Hotel at 10 NW Minnesota Avenue. This boutique hotel located in the heart of Bend’s historic district caters to humans and canines alike. The Pet Package features amenities for your pooch that include a comfy pet bed, two travel dog bowls for your use (one is a gift to keep), Joshua Tree Pet Salve sample, organic dog treats and a map with dog walking trails and parks. The pet package is $55 per pet, per trip and is in addition to the guestroom rate, which is $239+ per night.

With bragging rights to seven dog parks (yes, seven), Bend is definitely dog friendly. Our visit includes Big Sky Dog Park. Head down Hamby Road and left on Neff. Wind past the soccer and baseball fields to get to the OLA, a fully fenced four acres of woods and brush with a nice centralized open space. Both entrances have bag dispensers and handy, double-gate access for leashing/unleashing. Locals also highly recommend Pine Nursery Dog Park, with 18 acres for Rover to roam.

Time to head downtown, where you can while away a day along four blocks of main streets Wall and Bond. Get a Bend Urban Trails Map at the Bend Visitor Center on the corner of Lava and Oregon, where you’re welcome to bring your dog in for a biscuit and a belly rub. Get your fix at Bellatazza Coffee, where there are always pooches on the patio. Get Life is Good gear and running shoes at FootZone, where, when we asked if pups were allowed in, they looked at us like we were aliens and said, “You mean there are stores that don’t?” For lunch, we recommend Soba Noodle and Rice to-go and for an elegant dinner, try sidewalk dining with dog at 900 Wall. Zydeco is another great option and they’ll even give your four-legged friend a free gourmet dog treat.

Shopaholics who like dogs can take it one step further, down to the Old Mill District, by far the dog-friendliest shopping center we’ve ever encountered. There’s also a small dog park in the Old Mill District, but don’t bother. Simply cross the footbridge next to the Red Robin and the grassy knolls of the Les Schwab Amphitheatre are your dog’s to roam, leash free as long as you have good voice command. As a private property, the management of Old Mill has decided that every good dog should have his day.

Door #3: Westside
If a convenient location to all the best action is your thing, the Studio Suite at the Hillside Inn B&B is another great choice for Bend lodging. This desirable destination is modern, with a separate entrance and private patio. It’s got the “you thought of everything” factor—including Internet, satellite TV, DVD, and hot tub—and is perfectly located to much that is hip and happening in Bend from $140 a night.

For example, it’s a half-mile to Drake Park, a classy city park that makes us wish the Commons went through in Seattle. You can pester the ducks and geese (on leash, please), and walk the intricate flagstone paths under the canopy of trees along Mirror Pond.

The Victorian Café has the best breakfasts ever, complete with a canine lounging lawn. Unfortunately, everybody knows about it, so if you’re not prepared to wait, snag a quicker bite at Nancy P’s Baking Company, including fat homemade dog biscuits. Bend Pet Express has a Westside location as well, for stocking up on toys, treats, and last-minute gear. For lunch, make the effort to hunt down the little storefront of The Village Baker (look for crowds of hungry Bendites to mark the location).

Out this direction, Tumalo Falls and Shevlin Park are two more don’t miss destinations that are easy to master and even easier to reach. From downtown, head straight west on Galveston until it becomes Skyliners Road to reach the falls, or straight out Newport Avenue until it becomes Shevlin Park Road. Can’t keep up with your four-legged friend? Rent a bicycle at Hutch’s (541.382.9253) or NW Adventure Tours & Cyclery (541.385.6599). At the end of a hopefully long and tiring day, relax with outdoor dining at Kanpai for award-winning sushi and sake, or Kebaba for, well, kebabs.

On your way in or out of town, the Terrebonne Depot is a must stop for lunch or dinner. At this bistro a half-hour north of Bend, dogs are welcomed with water bowls on the wide and sunny deck and as for humans, the fish tacos and cocktail menu are divine.

Parting Gifts
Now that you’ve seen all the good sides of Bend, there are really only two downsides worth mentioning: red dust and roundabouts. No matter where you go or what you do, your skin and fur and clothes and car will be coated in the former, a constant reminder of Bend’s ancient geology. Remember your yielding skills when driving around the latter, also known as traffic circles, the main form of navigation on city streets.
 
If you’ve come this far, about a six-hour drive from Seattle, you might as well do it when there are a couple of pet-centric events happening. At the Bend 4th of July Pet Parade, where 5,000-plus pets and people have been known to strut the streets starting from the Bend Public Library in downtown, dogs make up the majority along with lizards, goldfish, llamas and other critters. Other doggone events include the Ruff Run happening in August and Oktoberfest in September where the much anticipated wiener dog races take place. You can find details about these (as well as TONS of other dog-related info at DogPac.org).
 
For more information about all things Bend, go to visitbend.com.
 
Digs
Bend Hillside Inn, bendhillsideinn.com
Best Western Sisters, bestwesternsisters.com
Absolutely Bend Vacation Homes, abvhs.com
Marriott Fairfield Inn & Suites, 541.318.1747
The Oxford Hotel, oxfordhotelbend.com
 
Eats
The Lodge, cascadelakes.com
Devore’s Organic, 541.389.6588
Kebaba, 541.318.6224
Kanpai, kanpai-bend.com
Terrebonne Depot, terrebonnedepot.com
900 Wall, 900wall.com
Bella Tazza, bellatazza.com
Mother’s Juice, 541.318.0989
Nancy P’s, 541.322.8778
Soba Noodle & Rice, 541.318.1535
Village Baker, 451.318.1054
 
Shops
Bend Pet Express, bendpetexpress.com
Old Mill District, theoldmill.com
Foot Zone, footzonebend.com
RuffWear, ruffwear.com

To read our article about dog-friendly Sunriver Resort, located just 15 miles south of Bend, click here.

Gear up for Bend at the CityDog Shop.
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