Two Great Days In Central Oregon

From bike trails to brewpubs, there’s plenty to do in the heart of the state By: By Mindy Poder

Smith Rock State Park is ideal for rock-climbing and hiking. // © Mindy Poder 2010

Smith Rock State Park is ideal for rock-climbing and hiking. // © Mindy Poder 2010

Though often overshadowed by a city to the northwest, central Oregon offers the eco-consciousness, craft brews and fresh organic food associated with Portland, in addition to a natural environment favorable for myriad recreational activities. Based on my recent visit to this rich destination, here is my suggested itinerary for two full days there.


Day One

10:00 a.m.
Smith Rock State Park
If the thousand-plus rock-climbing routes of this world-renowned adventure spot don’t appeal, clients can still appreciate views of the surrounding area — the Crooked River and the park’s major welded tuff and rimrock rock formations — on a number of hiking, mountain-biking and horseback-riding trails. Located near the towns of Redmond and Terrebonne, Smith Rock State Park is a great picnic spot, abounding with wildlife such as golden eagles, mule deer and river otter. A day-use parking permit costs $5. Novices who want to learn how to climb and clients who seek the most challenging routes can rely on First Ascent Services Inc., whose guides have facilitated safe climbing at Smith Rock since 1993. It costs $250 for a private five- to six-hour rock-climbing lesson.

1:30 p.m.
Lunch at Zydeco Kitchen & Cocktails
A unanimous Bend favorite, Zydeco Kitchen and Cocktails features fresh, homemade food made mostly from organic and hormone-free ingredients. The grilled redfish ($25) and barbecued baby back ribs ($22) are local favorites, but the kitchen also features vegetarian options and an entire gluten-free menu (including a gluten-free ale). Supporting local wineries, Zydeco does not charge a corkage fee for wines produced in Oregon, Washington or Idaho.

3:00 p.m.
Hanging Out in the Old Mill District
The Old Mill District is a convenient spot to pick up practical items needed in Bend, such as outdoor gear at a REI store staffed with recreation enthusiasts. However, the center offers more than just shopping, movies and dining. The brick buildings and tall smokestacks that house the retailers are remnants of Bend’s timber production, which was the community’s largest employer for over six decades and produced billions of feet of quality lumber. The historically significant spot also boasts an amphitheater for quality and varied performances, including such upcoming live acts as the Goo Goo Dolls, Merle Haggard, Steve Miller Band, Clint Black and Willie Nelson.

6:30 p.m.
Dinner at Deschutes Brewery
Beer samples on the brewery tour are a plus, but Pub-goers can actually decide the fate of future Deschutes beer. Brewed on-site, pub-exclusive beers that sell well get bottled as seasonal releases and, if the beer does well seasonally, it can become offered annually. Guests don’t need to endure drinking from the pub’s 18 taps on an empty stomach, thanks to the sustainable and fresh fare offered here. Soft pretzels, veggie burgers and pizzas, made from the spent grain used in the brewing process, and beef burgers, made from locally-farmed beef raised on Deschutes spent grains and hops, are a tasty complement to Deschutes’ Organic Green Lake beer. Savor the synergy between food and drink with the $11 Beer Burger, which is glazed with Mirror Pond Pale Ale Wort, topped with Black Butte Porter roasted shallots and slathered with Mirror Pond Pale Ale ketchup.

Day Two

8:30 a.m.
Breakfast at the Strictly Organic Coffee Co.
Free wireless Internet access and bottomless drip coffee are enough to catapult any coffee shop and cafe to the highest echelon, but Strictly Organic Coffee Co. really shines in its commitment to sustainability. The Bend business roasts only Certified Organic and Fair Trade coffee and tea, which tastes delicious paired with breakfast and lunch menu items such as burritos, sandwiches, soups and salads. The cafe is a favorite hangout in the community, hosting an open mic night on Thursdays and performances ranging from harpists to folk balladeers on weekends.

10:30 a.m.
Hiking Up Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint
An extinct volcano within the city of Bend, Pilot Butte is an American rarity that doubles as a popular hike with an ascent of approximately 500 feet. Those who want to enjoy the peak’s panoramic view of Bend, Mount Hood, Black Butte and Three Sisters can bypass the three trails that lead to the summit and take the road that winds up the butte.

1 p.m.
Lunch at McMenamins, Old St. Francis School
What was once a Catholic school is now a hotel, brewery, pub, movie theater and Turkish-style soaking pool. The establishment maintains the 1930s Catholic school kitsch via original tile work, fixtures and student artwork, but it has embraced religious heresy. Clients who stay in a guestroom or in one of the four cottages enjoy free admission to the movie theater, which shows an eclectic mix of blockbusters and niche films. Plush chairs and sofas, cheap admission ($3 per adult and $1 per child all day) and a theater bar serving McMenamins’ handcrafted brews, pizza and snacks are hard to beat. Clients should also check the events calendar, so as not to miss free beer tastings and live music.

3:30 p.m.
Learning to Quilt at the Stitchin’ Post
Twenty miles from Bend, Sisters is a small, sleepy town known for holding the world’s largest outdoor quilt show. More than 1,000 quilts from around the world are on display or sale, covering cars and buildings or attached to posts and tents. The beautiful quilts liven up the frontier-themed town with diverse people and live music while raising money for local charities and community organizations. Though the show takes place only one day out of the year in July, visitors can experience Sister’s relationship to quilting year-round at the Stitchin’ Post which features an expert staff, classes, workshops and a variety of quilt kits, books, fabrics and patterns.

7 p.m.
Dinner at Bronco Billy’s or Jen’s Garden
If clients prefer Old West kitsch to quality food, then Bronco Billy’s Ranch Grill and Saloon is an appropriate dining spot. Foodies visiting Sisters, however, will prefer dinner at Jen’s Garden. The small cottage specializes in five- and three-course Prix Fixe menus of southern French fare, priced at $52 and $39 respectively. The five-course menu includes a choice of first course, a salad course, a fish course, a choice of dessert and a choice of main course with options ranging from grilled tenderloin of beef with port wine to roasted game hen with thyme au jus over sweet pea risotto. Since the restaurant serves regional and seasonal foods, the menu and wine list change every three weeks. Reservations are recommended and private parties with up to 30 people can be arranged.