Bend, Oregon is a popular year-round destination for anyone who enjoys being active in the outdoors. It is especially popular for those who travel with their dogs! I lived there for about eight months and had a chance to explore some of the amazing dog-friendly trails in Bend.
The small mountain town can get pretty packed during peak travel seasons, however, there are so many trails that it is possible to escape the crowds by driving a bit farther or choosing a less popular hike.
Hiking with a Dog in Bend, Oregon
First, it’s important to know that Bend has off-leash seasons. What that means is that during certain times of the year, dogs are not allowed on some trails. Other trails have leash restrictions during specific months.
If you know me at all, then you already know that my favorite hiking season of all is the fall. There are fewer crowds and restrictions and the weather is perfect.
Summer Trail Leash Restrictions
According to DogPAC, an advocacy group for recreational rights for dogs in Bend, The Deschutes National Forest has more summer leash restrictions than any other national forest in Oregon.
However, these restrictions account for just 54 miles of trail, leaving 1,200 miles of off-leash access for dogs during the summer. In the winter, dogs are permitted off-leash on 99% of trails.
Bend summer leash restriction guidelines:
- Dogs on leash between May 15 and September 15 on the Deschutes River Trail between Benham Falls and Meadow Camp.
- Dogs on leash between July 15 and September 15 on trails in the Three Sisters Wilderness area (Green Lakes, Moraine Lakes, South Sister, Soda Creek, Tood Lake, and Crater Ditch)
- Dogs ARE allowed off-leash to play in rivers in the national forest, even on restricted trails.
Winter Trail Dog Restrictions
During the winter months, dogs are NOT allowed on any of the trails or Sno-Parks located on the north side of the Cascade Lakes Highway.
This includes the Virginia-Meissner, Swampy Lakes, Vista Butte, and Dutchman Sno-Parks. Skijoring and dog sledding are allowed on these trails with a permit.
The east side of town sees fewer recreators and is on BLM land, so dogs are always allowed off leash.
In my experience, dogs have fewer rules in Central Oregon and owners are not always the best about trail etiquette and recalling their dogs, so just be aware when you’re out on the trail with your pup.
Bend’s New Permit System
With some of the Bend areas more popular trails seeing surges of 300-500% increase in foot traffic in recent years, the Forest Service implemented a permitting system for the Central Cascades region in April 2021.
The permitting system applies to 19 trailheads in the following areas:
- Mt. Jefferson Wilderness
- Mt. Washington Wilderness
- Three Sisters Wilderness
Popular trails like Green Lakes, Tam McArthur Rim, and South Sister all require permits. For a full list of trailheads, consult this map. Do not show up to a trailhead without first checking to see if the trail requires a permit! There are rangers checking regularly.
How to Get a Central Cascades Wilderness Permit
Permits are required for both day use and overnight use. A portion of day use and overnight permits are released during the spring, with the remaining permits released on a 7-day rolling window.
If there is a trail you really want to do and need to plan well in advance, make sure to note the initial release date for a better chance of securing the dates you prefer.
You can get your permits through recreation.gov at the following links:
- Central Cascades Wilderness Overnight Permits – Full Season in Advance
- Central Cascades Wilderness Overnight Permits – Seven Days in Advance
- Central Cascades Wilderness Day Use Permits
One of the reasons for the permitting system is due to the amount of waste left behind by users. Wilderness rangers have had to clean up over a thousand pounds of human waste. Gross.
Favorite Dog Friendly Trails in Bend, Oregon
There are SO many great dog-friendly hikes in and around Bend, Oregon. Since I was only there for a short period, I wasn’t able to even tackle but a handful of them. I chose hikes I’ve done so that I could provide accurate descriptions.
You’ll notice a mix of popular trails and trails that you may not see in guidebooks or on other top lists. This is because I choose trails for quietude and fewer people. It may mean that the view isn’t quite as spectacular or it’s a bit steeper.
I’ve also included several trails outside of Bend. Central Oregon has thousands of miles of trails within an hour radius, including in nearby towns like Sisters, Terrebonne, and La Pine. They’re worth the drive, I promise!
Some trails are better suited for the winter, while others should be avoided during the summer.
A few important notes:
- I have indicated which of the hikes below requires a day pass permit. If you plan to backpack, then check to see if you need an overnight permit.
- Many of these trails require a Northwest Forest Pass, which you can purchase at REI. Check before you go.
- Cascade Lakes Highway, Paulina Lake Road, and McKenzie Pass (242) all close around Thanksgiving each year and reopen in the spring. Closures and openings are snow-dependent.
- Wildfires are prevalent in the West during the summer and thus there are generally fire bans at all campgrounds, including (especially) in the backcountry. Don’t be the person who sets the forest on fire.
- Central Oregon can get hot in the summer. Choose your hike carefully and know how to keep your dog cool in the heat.
Dog-Friendly Hikes within Bend
Senoj Lake (Cascade Lakes Highway)
Length: 7.4 miles
Season: Fall,Spring, Summer
Because this mostly-flat hike is located further down the Cascade Lakes Highway, it sees less foot traffic than other trails located closer to Bend and leads to a chain of alpine lakes.
The trail is well-shaded with several overnight camping options for backpackers with lakeside camping options. If you wanted to, you could arrange a shuttle with friends and hike the entire trail.
Bessie Butte (Southeast Bend, near Newberry Caldera)
Length: 1.4 miles
Season: Fall, Winter, Spring
This short, but steep hike has great bang for the buck. Just about a mile and a half long, the view from the top overlooks the Cascade mountains and the city of Bend.
Located on the east side of town, Bessie Butte sees less foot traffic than other more popular hikes.
Horse Ridge (Badlands)
Length: varies, the route described is about 7 miles, but you can go longer if you like
Season: Fall, Winter, Spring
Horse Ridge was one of my go-to winter routes. There is rarely snow on the east side of town off of Highway 20, so it was a reliable loop when the snow covered all the other trails.
Mostly used by mountain bikers this network can get crowded, so I recommend going early to get a spot. While you’re out on the trail, you’ll likely see very few people as everyone spreads out.
There are some long hilly sections, so if you don’t mind a little vert, then you’ll enjoy this loop.
There are a few sections where the trail gets a little confusing. At about the halfway point, you’ll crawl under a fence to your left and then climb over another fence closer to the end.
I wish I had better instructions for you here, but I never paid attention to where these fences are since a friend showed me the loop and I just remembered after she took me!
Ancient Juniper Trail (Badlands)
Length: 3.1 miles
Season: Fall, Winter, Spring
This short trail was a go-to short dog hike on busy days. I rarely saw anyone on the trail and it’s really open, so it’s nice to go with your dog and watch them explore all the nooks and crannies.
It’s super flat, and therefore a great trail for all levels. The juniper trees make for interesting topography and there are some nice rocky outcrops.
The trail system can be a bit confusing (I once accidentally did 11 miles and returned in the dark!), so bring an offline map, like Maps.ME
Tumalo Mountain (Cascade Lakes Highway)
Length: 4 miles
Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, not open to dogs during the winter
I never made it to the top of Tumalo Mountain, unfortunately. I went to do a sunset hike one evening with Sitka and misjudged the sunset. I realized partway up that we needed to turn back if we didn’t want to get caught in the dark.
This popular hike has one of the best and most easily accessible views in Central Oregon. Snow is typically gone by July. The first section of the trail is well-shaded, but steep!
Green Lakes (Cascade Lakes Highway, Permit Required)
Length: 9.1 miles
Season: Fall, Spring, Summer
I’ve sadly never done this very popular trail with my dog, but it does indeed allow dogs!
While pet sitting in Bend before adopting Sitka, I went here to run and it was stunning with views of South Sister smack dab across the lake.
The trail is fairly flat and wide and follows Fall Creek for the first several miles. There is a fair amount of shade and plentiful water, so it’s not a bad hike to do on a hotter day. The lakes are fully exposed, however.
Soda Creek Trail (Cascade Lakes Highway, Permit Required)
Length: 7.7 miles (with options to go further)
Season: Fall, Spring, Summer
This trail starts in the same parking lot as Green Lakes, and just heads in the opposite direction. The trail follows Soda Creek for a short section of the hike, but there is no water as you climb up.
After walking through old growth forest, the trail climbs upward before leveling out for direct views of Broken Top. If you want to make this a loop, connect to Green Lakes trail on the way back (though I’m not sure this is allowed with the permit system).
Dog-Friendly Hikes near Sisters
Matthieu Lakes (McKenzie Pass, Permit Required)
Length: 6 miles
Season: Fall, Spring, Summer
This beginner-friendly loop features lava flows, alpine lakes, mountain views, and wildflowers. The loop is quite flat and backpackable if you would like to stay the night. Camping is permitted at both lakes at the designated backcountry sites.
Part of this loop follows the Pacific Crest Trail and features lovely views of North Sister and other prominent Cascade peaks.
Dog-Friendly Hikes Near Redmond
Gray Butte (Terrebonne)
Length: Various distances
Season: Winter primarily, early spring, late fall
Trail runners seeking vert and snow-free trails head to Gray Butte during the winter months. I spent many a weekend here when I lived in Bend.
Despite its popularity among trail runners, I see very few users during the winter months.
Since there are so many different trail networks, I never really tired of the area and the view at the top is well worth the tough climb. The hill is no joke and you definitely need to be in good shape to make it to the top.
Gray Butte connects to Smith Rock State Park, as well as a number of challenging trails just outside of the park.
You can choose to link up the two recreational areas for a super long run, hike and out and back to the top of Gray Butte, circumnavigate the mountain with a stop at the top and anything in between. The options are truly endless.
The Forest Service has a great map of the trails.
From the top, you can see all of the prominent Cascade peaks on a clear day.
It gets VERY windy at the peak, so bring a jacket and gloves.
If you are looking to stay in Bend, check out my dog-friendly accommodations recommendations and learn about a few more fun things to do in Bend with your dog while you’re on that page!
Planning other trips with your dog in the Pacific Northwest? Here are a few ideas for you!