Bend Roadtrip: Broken Top Crater and Smith Rock State Park

We’ve officially been living in Portland for almost a whole season. Summer was great to us. We floated the Sandy river with friends, hit up a bunch of concerts in the city, fell in love with Laurelhurst Park and our neighborhood of Slabtown. But I have to let you all in on a secret– before we moved to Portland, I had tried (and failed) to convince Don that we should move to Bend instead. 

“It’s a really cool town that’s close to the mountains... everyone is super outdoorsy and wears Patagonia fleeces and drives vans in Birkenstocks.”


Look at it in the winter!

Gah, I can’t wait.

Regardless, while I thought it was an easy sell, we made the compromise that rather than live in a cute town in the middle of nowhere, we could just visit it often. After the weather forecast looked super gloomy up in the North Cascades this weekend, we decided to switch up our original plan to go backpack Yellow Aster Butte and hit up Broken Top Crater and Smith Rock State Park.

And i’m so glad we did. Read on to see our mountain-filled, sunset chasing adventures this weekend in Bend and Smith Rock State Park!

One of the glorious things about Portland is the easy access to the Three Sisters Wilderness. I remember living in Seattle and always wanting to visit the Seven Wonders of Oregon, but the last time I tried to hit Crater Lake, I got stuck in a whiteout. The drive to Mt Rainer. alone was a pain enough that I never made it down here as often as I’d like. 

But now we live here!  Pretty funny how life can change so easily. 

As we were heading to Bend, we kept constantly throwing back the music to the days of Cartel and Cute is What We Aim For. One of my favorite things about roadtrips are the opportunities to listen to music and talk about all the good times with your friends. You can find some pretty amazing playlists on Spotify (click here to get mine!). My favorite is the Summer Rewind– it always seems to bring back the goodies!

Our first hike was up to Broken Top Crater. The road was strictly 4x4 vehicles, and we even got stuck for a half a second at the start of the road before Don’s jeep kicked into beast mode. The larches and colors are starting to melt into beautiful fall colors! When we got to the top the wind started picking up… to where we weren’t able to enjoy our summit beers. But, hey, at least I snapped a picture first.

Don was able to get a few amazing portraits before we almost fell into the lake.

When I say windy, I MEAN WINDY.

I’d probably guess the gusts were at least 50mph…. it was the most intense thing i’ve ever felt. (And that’s coming from someone who has been to Everest Base Camp.)

One pro tip about this hike is that there we’re some AMAZING campsites with some prime mountain views on this road. Bend has many dispersed camping options along the Cascade Lakes Highway. We met two guys and three super cute pups who we’re camping hoping to get the first snowfall on Mt Bachelor. Again… CAN’T WAIT.

Our bones we’re pretty frozen after the hike, so we were very happy to have gotten a hotel Saturday night. We got back down to Bend just in time to hit up the hot tub!

If you come to Bend and want to warm up after a hike, but don’t have a hotel, check out the Soaking Pool at Mcmenamins St. Francis School. Doesn’t this remind you of a hot tub right out of Alice in Wonderland? We can’t wait to stay here once we finish our McMenamins Passports!

The next day we fueled up with a big brunch from McKay Cottage. The wait was what you would expect from a brunch spot, but I have to admit it was almost humorous to see SO MANY outdoors-y people all in one place. I met some nice people waiting who had also come to Bend for a weekend of adventure before the weather starts getting cooler. Was it just me or did this feel like the last weekend of summer? (Sad face. But also… happy face. Because I love fall. and pumpkins, and halloween.)

Smith Rock State park

I was very excited to check this one off my list! A climbers and hikers paradise, this place feels like it was ripped out of Utah.

We hiked the Misery Ridge Trail, and then climbed all the way down the backside where it met up with the River’s Edge Trail. It was intensely steep, but also intensely worth it. Once again, can’t wait to see this place with some more fall foliage and snow covered landscapes. Until next time!

Curious what the Seven Wonders are? Here’s the list!

  • Columbia River Gorge

  • Crater Lake

  • Mt. Hood

  • Painted Hills

  • Smith Rock

  • The Wallowas

^^ I’m very excited to be checking the last one off this week! My friend Logan and I are celebrating her b-day with a four day backpacking trip to the Wallowas. Stay tuned for more adventures coming up very soon!

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