How Bend turned me into a mountain biker

I have to make a confession. After 20 years of living in Bend, I never really got into mountain biking until I left for college. And it’s a shame, because there were over 270 miles of continuously linked single-track mountain biking trails right in my backyard.

So last year I officially tried mountain biking for the first time. I had an experienced friend take me out to Phil’s Trail, the popular biking hub that is less than 5 minutes away from PointsWest. From there, we had an overwhelming number of options of trails we could do. My friend graciously got me started on a beginner route called Ben’s trail, which has less hills and rocks than the more advanced trails do.

After clumsily falling off of my commuter bike a week before, I wasn’t too confident about dodging rocks and roots and tree branches while going fast on a bike. We started out going pretty slowly when I came to my first obstacle where the trail wound in between two trees that were only about a foot apart. I closed my eyes, gritted my teeth, and somehow made it through the death trap.

But instead of feeling nervous, I suddenly felt exhilarated. We were twisting and turning through tight trees, bombing down big hills, climbing up bigger ones, and ducking under overhanging tree branches, and I could not stop smiling. There were even smoothed out logs that you could bike over. I have always been into trail running, but this was so much more fun! The forest was our playground, and we had all day to explore.

After over a year of mountain biking in my spare time, my efforts came full circle when that same friend took me out on Phil’s again. This time, we biked out to one of the classic Bend trails that I’d never dreamed I’d be able to do called “Whoops.” The name adequately describes the trail: a section of downhill that has lots of berms and turns and ups and downs and… “whoops.” Since it was a Saturday it was a tad crowded, but everyone up there was having a blast–and they were all very supportive because it was my first time. I was slower than the people who had done it before, but not by much, and again, I could not stop smiling.

I still have a lot to learn about the sport, but I have gained so much more confidence since I started a year ago. Looking back, I was probably inching down Ben’s rather than riding it that first day, and now I can play around on Whoops with all the “cool kids.”

Throughout the year I have ridden in Bozeman, MT, and Oakridge, OR. They were both fun, but it made me realize that Bend is truly the perfect place to fall in love with mountain biking. The trails are butter-smooth and mostly shaded so that you don’t get too hot. There are hills, but there are also flatter options. There are different levels of trails that you can take, so you never get bored. And if you’re going out with more experienced friends, every trail has more difficult side detours so that they have fun, too.

There are countless trails in Bend for beginners like me along with the world-class biking crowd. It’s easy to find a friend to show you some good places to start, but Cog Wild Bicycle Tours can also be a fun way to get to know the ropes. And believe me, it’s worth it. Now I know what this mountain biking craze in Central Oregon is all about!

Find your new favorite place to swim in Central Oregon

August is typically the hottest month of the summer in Bend. Luckily, there are a plethora of unique places to swim in the area to help you cool off. We’ve compiled an eclectic collection of swimming options for you to choose from–hot, cold, indoors, outdoors, natural, and manmade–and their distances from PointsWest. Whatever floats your innertube, we’re sure you’ll find a swimming hole to (swim)suit your fancy.



Seventh Mountain Resort – 1 min
PointsWest is located right next to Seventh Mountain Resort, which means you get to enjoy everything they have to offer right in your backyard. This includes whitewater rafting, paddle boarding tours, 2 outdoor heated pools and 3 outdoor hot tubs.

Farewell Bend Park/McKay Park – 9 min
Stay close to home by meandering down to the Deschutes River at a local park. Even if you don’t bring a floatie, raft, kayak, paddleboard, canoe, or blow-up killer whale, you’ll be all set.

McMenamins Old St Francis School soaking pool – 13 min
The soaking pool at St. Francis is semi-enclosed, so you can relax even as the Central Oregon snow or rain falls in through the open ceiling. It is surrounded by stained glass windows, turquoise tiles, and a beautiful mural depicting St. Francis harvesting grapes that was handcrafted, fired and painted by Justyn Livingston. The pool is filled with soft, buoyant water, which makes for a more environmentally friendly soak. Complete your afternoon of relaxation with a glass of wine or a craft beer after your soak.

Elk Lake – 33 min
A beautiful, clear mountain lake nestled in the sunny Oregon Cascades just up the road on Century Drive from PointsWest. Water temperature varies from 68-72° F–perfect for taking a dip with a view of our beloved Mt. Bachelor.

SHARC (Sunriver Homeowners Aquatic & Recreation Center) – 33 min
Aside from sunbathing and water play activities, SHARC’s 22-acres of fun includes a tot pool and sand play area, cafe, picnic area, playground, basketball court, bocce ball court, year-round tubing hill, picnic pavilion and an outdoor amphitheater. Whew! What more could you want?

Steelhead Falls – 58 min
For the more adventurous swimmer, Steelhead Falls is a well-kept secret near Crooked River Ranch. A few miles west of Highway 97 (across from Smith Rock State Park) is a secluded area along the snow-fed Deschutes River perfect for swimming and cliff jumping with amazing views of the river valley.

Paulina Lake Hot Springs – 1 h 5 min
Many of the hot springs in both Paulina and East Lake occur under water, but there are spots where springs can be found (or constructed) along either. The ones at Paulina are typically easier to harness. Their main location is in the north east corner of the lake and along that area’s shoreline. Spring water that is isolated before reaching the lake can reach up to 126º F, so creating a pool that blends lake water and spring water is advisable. Basically, it’s a build-your-own natural hot spring. Neat!

Kah-Nee-Ta Resort and Spa – 1 h 39 min
Kids and adults alike love the 140-foot-long slide and the newer 184-foot long slide into the waters of the double Olympic-sized hot springs mineral pool. The village hot springs pool is open year-round — cooled during the summer and heated to 92 degrees during the fall season. Bonus: you can get a room at the reservation and even rent a teepee for the night.


Of course, Bend has a lot more great places to swim, but these are a good start. Besides, half the fun is finding your very own swimming hole in Central Oregon, away from all the summer crowds. Have at it!

But wait! Some pointers:
We are lucky to have so many natural and beautiful swimming holes nearby. However, they can be dangerous. When swimming at a lake, river, creek, or waterfall, observe your route FIRST, or go with others who have been before. Landing on rocks and getting caught in fast currents has a funny way of ruining your day. Always remember to bring sunscreen and supervise children.

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