My husband and I moved to Bend several years ago, and we are still awestruck by the beauty of this region. Walking throughout the city and taking in the views is one of our favorite hobbies. In fact, many of our favorite walking trails are Bend Park & Recreation District’s scenic loop trails.
Luckily, the much-loved Deschutes River Trail — commonly known as the DRT — is within walking distance of our home. There are 12 miles of trails that take you through some of the most picturesque stretches of Central Oregon. There are two convenient loop trails as part of the DRT — the Old Mill Reach and the South Canyon Reach. We visit these trails often.
Old Mill District Reach
Located from Farewell Bend Park to McKay Park and the Bend Whitewater Park, the Old Mill Reach of the trail is on both sides of the river and connects within the popular Old Mill District.
The Old Mill section of the trail is an interesting path because, even though it’s in town with lots of people, stores, restaurants and activities, there’s an impressive array of wildlife sightings on this loop trail. I have spotted a giant beaver, multiple eagles, an owl, otters, great blue herons, king fishers and more.
Three footbridges connect the Old Mill Reach of the DRT trail across the Deschutes River, providing convenient loops for walking, cycling, running and wildlife viewing. The trail is wide, paved, relatively level and separated from the street, making it safer and more accessible for everyone, with connections to parks, restrooms and ADA parking.
South Canyon Reach
The South Canyon Reach of the DRT, currently a one-way trail for COVID-19 safety, never disappoints.
This gorgeous section of the DRT is my favorite trail because it has paths along both sides of the Deschutes River, creating a convenient and functional exercise loop. The trail is connected by a footbridge approximately 1.5 miles upstream of the Farewell Bend Park bridge.
You’ll enjoy ponderosa pines and be treated to the sights and sounds of the Deschutes River as it rushes through a beautiful canyon. On this seemingly instant escape from the hustle and bustle of Bend’s activity, it’s a good place to go for a little health and happiness break in nature.
Other loop trails
If you haven’t checked out Shevlin Park’s loop trails yet, I highly recommend it. Shevlin Park is arguably the crown jewel of the park system; it’s only four miles west of downtown Bend, and it has great loop trails. Not only that, Shevlin Park just turned 100 years old. The Tumalo Creek Trail offers views of the creek and the park has accessible restrooms and parking.
On the east side of Bend, there are several highly rated loop trails options. Pine Nursery Park features over four miles of trails throughout the park. Paved, wide and relatively level , the paths provide accessible routes to the sports field areas, parking lots and dog parks. The renovated playground is also accessible.
Another recommendation is Rockridge Park, with trails looping through small, rolling hills covered in old-growth juniper, lava rock, sage and bitterbrush. There is a soft-surface fitness loop and a paved loop that is just under one mile. With 60% of the park as natural space, the park can make you feel like you are miles outside of town.
The Stone Creek Park Trail in southeast Bend offers yet another looped trail that weaves through basalt lava and offers sweeping views. Most of the 6-plus acres remain natural and are accessed via the unpaved trails.
I hope you get the chance to enjoy these exceptional loop trails with water views wildlife, and a refreshing escape outdoors.