Whether you’ve lived in Bend, Oregon all your life, or you’re just passing through for the weekend, you’ll want to take advantage of the beautiful picnic spots the city has to offer. Some parks are big; some small. Some are well known, and well-trafficked; others are more off the beaten path. No matter what you are looking for, Bend has a park for you. In this list, we’ll look at places that are perfect for a romantic evening for two, kid-friendly spots where you can bring the whole family, and even a few places where you can head by yourself to reflect for a few hours. Grab something delicious from Mother’s and check out our favorite places in Bend for a picnic lunch:
Everyone in Bend probably already knows about Drake Park, but it’s well worth inclusion on this list: at 13 acres, you won’t struggle to find a spot to fall in love with. Before your picnic, try taking a walk along the Deschutes River, or enjoy your meal as you sit by the world-famous Mirror Pond. Drake Park is a great place for a picnic at any time of the year; during the winter, bundle up and take the family out for a meal and a snow day. When the summertime comes, you can set up a picnic under the stars while you listen for signs of the park’s famous great horned owl population. Drake Park is also a great place to go for a hike, bike ride, or to attend holiday festivities such as the Fourth of July Celebration.
Another park that’s situated along the Deschutes River, Columbia Park is most famous for the “SS Columbia” ship playground, which makes it a great place to bring young children. It’s not as busy as Drake Park, which makes it a perfect spot to visit if you are looking for a more peaceful getaway. The park is also known for its huge lawn; perfect for a game of flag football with a group of friends.
Part of the goal of this list is to recommend a wide variety of different parks depending on your specific needs. Some are great for families, while others will suit couples perfectly. Hillside Park, on the other hand, is the perfect place to take your dog! The east side of the park features an off-leash area where your four-legged friend can run and play while you enjoy a picnic lunch. The west side has a fantastic grass area with lots of shade for trees. It’s actually like three parks in one- an open, shaded grass area, a playground, and a dog park. This secret spot is always peaceful and great to observe the local plant life during a stroll. This park is one of Bend’s hidden gems.
Once a state park, Sawyer is an incredible place to go if you want to enjoy being surrounded by nature. Set up your picnic next to a babbling stream, and after you’ve enjoyed a meal, grab your binoculars and try to see how many of the park’s more than 140 species of birds you can find. If you’re not sure what to pack for the picnic, how about catching some fresh trout right there in the park? Both bait and fly fishing are permitted in the park year round; you can take up to two trout per day, provided they are at least eight inches long.
One of the most massive parks on this list, Shevlin Park is 1000 acres of rugged wilderness located only a few short miles from the city proper. Most of the land was originally donated to the city in 1920, with a huge expansion taking place in 2017. This park has it all, including plenty of picnic areas where you can enjoy a quiet afternoon alone, or host a big outdoor party with family and friends. The park’s sheer size means that you’ll have plenty of room to enjoy all of your favorite outdoor activities; fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and jogging are just a few of the activities that visitors enjoy throughout the year. The historic Aspen Hall is also located in Shevlin Park; a popular place for family reunions, weddings, and other big events.
Another park that offers something different from the others, Pioneer Park features a rose garden you can enjoy before setting up your picnic on one of the many expansive lawns nearby. This park is not far from Drake Park and is actually within walking distance to Sawyer Park; however, unlike those two it’s a bit more quiet and less trafficked. Pioneer Park is a great place to walk along the river and enjoy the calming smells of juniper and pine, while enjoying the songs of local birds.
Pine Nursery Park
Another massive park, Pine Nursery covers 159 acres and is a great place to go with a group of friends for an active afternoon of sports and games. Enjoy lunch at one of the picnic tables, then take the kids to play on the playground, or let your dog run around for a while at the 14 acre off-leash area. The primary draw of this park, however, might be all the spots where you can play games and sports; for example, the park has spots designated for pickleball, softball, basketball, disc golf, and fishing. Of course, there’s also plenty of space for running, mountain biking, and even skateboarding.
The Deschutes river has been mentioned over and over again on this list, since it winds its way through so much of the city’s expansive park land. At some point during your time in Bend, you should take advantage of the river itself; head to Riverbend Park to do a little Stand Up Paddleboarding, kayaking, or simple wading. You can even head to the nearby Bend Whitewater Park to continue the fun; grab a tube and jump in the rapids for an adrenaline filled time. After you’ve spent a few hours at play, you’re likely to have worked up an appetite; set up your picnic on the riverbank and relax to the sound of the water rushing right beside you.