Where to Paddle Board in Bend, Oregon

Bend, Oregon is one of the all-time great outdoor-lover destinations.  And in fact, that ample abundance of outdoor adventure is one of the main reasons I moved here!  Kayaking & paddle-boarding are two of the most popular summertime activities in Bend, due to the fact that the city lies directly on the Deschutes River ~ & is also close to numerous lakes up the Cascade Lakes Highway.  In this article, I’m detailing my top picks for “Where to Paddle Board & Kayak in Bend.”  I’ll start with the most popular spots in town, then work my way out to more remote & typically less crowded, beautiful places to paddle.

Where to Paddle Board & Kayak in Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

The most popular place to paddle board in Bend is right downtown, by the Old Mill District, on the Deschutes River. This shot was taken in May 2021 on a weekday, & you can see that we practically have the river to ourselves!

Map of Great Paddle-Boarding Spots by Bend

Check out the map below for a quick overview of great places to paddle-board & kayak near Bend.  And if you want to take photos while you’re paddling, I recommend bringing a waterproof Go Pro ~ or grab a waterproof case for your phone with a lanyard that goes around your neck.  I’ve been able to get a TON of great photos (& funny videos) on the river this way!

Todd Lake

Sparks Lake

Hosmer Lake

Devils Lake

Old Mill District

Sunriver Marina

Dillon Falls to Benham Falls

Elk Lake

Best Paddle-Board & Kayak Spots by Bend

1) The Old Mill District in Bend, on the Deschutes River: This is by far the most popular place to paddle-board in Bend, & it will also give you the best people-watching.  You can put your board in the water in several spots: at Riverbend Park (with all the river floaters), Farewell Bend Park (across the river from Riverbend), or if you’re renting paddle-boards at popular Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe ~ you can put your board in on their private dock…then paddle to the left, up-river, towards Riverbend Park.  The good news is: you can simply float on the way back! 

GWTW Tip: This section of the river gets SUPER BUSY on hot summer weekends ~ if you’re looking for more peace & quiet, or are new to paddle-boarding, you may want to rent a board on a weekday or check out one of the lakes up Cascade Lakes Highway for a more peaceful experience.

Outdoor Gear & Inflatable Paddleboards You Need this Summer, Guide to a Perfect 3-Day Weekend in Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

The three iconic stacks let you know that you’re in the Old Mill District of Bend: by far the most popular place in town to paddle-board! You can even paddle in the evening, like we are in this picture, during concerts at Les Schwab Ampitheatre…

2) Lakes on the Cascade Lakes Highway (Century Drive): If you don’t mind a 25-minute drive up the mountain towards Mt. Bachelor, & you have either racks or an inflatable paddle-board ~ the scenery up here is INCREDIBLE for paddle-boarding, & you’ll have a more peaceful experience than at the Old Mill….even on weekends.  The most popular lake to paddle-board is Elk Lake, but it can get really crowded here on weekends, so come early!  This is the largest lake near Bend, & one of the only that allows motorized vehicles; plus there’s a restaurant & cabins along the lake, & often live music on weekends!

Where to Paddle Board by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

Elk Lake Resort is the most popular lake on the Cascade Lakes Highway for paddle-boarding ~ & you can rent boards here! But there are motorized boats & it can get really crowded here, so come early.

Two more popular lakes to paddle on are Sparks Lake & Devil’s Lake: both are gorgeous, & you can park very close to both lakes.  Sparks Lake is larger, & you can almost always find your own little private beach ~ but you’ll need to drive on a dirt road for a half-mile or longer.  (Note: Sparks Lake can get really low late in the summer; be careful that your paddle board doesn’t get “stuck” in the muck here).  Devil’s Lake is one of my favorite Cascade Lakes for its gorgeous, milky turquoise-green color; park in the parking lot here or along the side of the highway, & walk just a few steps to put your board in the lake.

Top Five Lakes by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World, Devils Lake

TURQUOISE!!! And FREEZING!!! That sums up Devils Lake in two words : ) If you fall off your paddle board, you’ll most definitely get a refreshing little dip!

Two more close options to Bend: Todd Lake is the closest lake to Bend on the Cascade Lakes Highway; the only bummer here is that you’ll need to carry your paddle-board about an 1/8 mile to reach the lake from the dirt lot.  But that means you won’t see too many other SUP’ers on the lake.  Hosmer is just past Elk Lake, & a little bit hidden: this is by far my favorite place to paddle-board by Bend.  You can’t really see any of this lake’s beauty from the parking lot ~ which means you have to either kayak or paddle out to see how gorgeous this lake really is.  You’ll tend to find more locals here than tourists.

Outdoor Gear You Need this Summer, Top Five Lakes by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World, Hosmer Lake

Hosmer Lake (just past Elk) is a hidden GEM, & ideal for both kayakers & paddle-boarders….as well as fearless, swimming puppies! All the pretty scenery here can ONLY be seen once you’re out on the lake, not from the parking lot.

Further afield: if you keep going past Elk Lake & Hosmer, you’ll eventually reach Lava Lake & Little Lava Lake (on the left-side of highway), & even further, Cultus Lake Resort (on the right side); you can paddle-board at both places.

Where to Paddle Board & Kayak by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

Cultus Lake Resort is another place where you can rent a paddle board~ but it’s about an hour’s drive from Bend; Elk Lake is only about 30 minutes.

3) Along the Deschutes River, off of Conklin Road: This is more of a “Local’s Spot,” so I don’t want to give too much away here; also, access to the Deschutes here is only off of bumpy dirt roads, FYI.  On this stretch of the river, you have major rapids & falls like Big Eddy & Benham; but between these wet & wild sections are peaceful spots, perfect for paddle-boarding.  My friend & I recently parked at Dillon Falls, inflated our paddle-boards right next to the river, & paddled to the right, towards Benham Falls.  Once you can see the falls, you’ll obviously want to turn around & head back.

Where to Paddle Board in Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

My friend Kadi & I just paddled the very peaceful section of the Deschutes between Dillon Falls & Benham Falls. Be careful here though ~ there are lots of rapids near this part of the river: go with a guide!

GWTW Tip: If you’re unfamiliar with this stretch of the Deschutes, I’d suggest paddling with a guide or a local, so you don’t mistakenly go the wrong way & end up in dangerous rapids!

4) In Sunriver, on the Deschutes River: The Deschutes River winds its way all throughout family-friendly Sunriver Resort, & there are dozens of places where you can put your paddle-board in & have a peaceful ride up or down the river.  You can also rent paddle boards or kayaks at the Sunriver Marina; this section of the Deschutes is remarkably calm, & is a perfect place for beginners to learn.

Where to Paddle Board by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

Sunriver’s famous bike path runs right along the Deschutes River in many spots, & you can see how peaceful it is to kayak or paddle here. The river is extra wide through Sunriver, giving you plenty of berth to get around rafts & other kayaks.


Where to Stay in Bend

The best hotel for accessing all these beautiful paddleboard spots is Tetherow Lodge Hotel.  It’s located right off Century Drive, close to Conklin Road, & about a 5-minute drive to the Old Mill District.  All the lakes on the Cascade Lakes Highway are also close to this luxurious, pet-friendly hotel with its massive mountain views.  Another good option for families & big groups is to rent a house in Sunriver, an epic family-friendly destination with its own amazing paddle & kayaking options.

Best Dog-Friendly Hotels in Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World, Tetherow

Tetherow is not only one of the best hotels in town: but they’re pet-friendly, have amazing restaurants on-site, killer mountain views ~ & they’re close to almost EVERY paddle-boarding spot listed in this article…

Where to Paddle Board & Kayak in Bend

If you’re bringing an inflatable kayak or inflatable paddle board to any of these beautiful spots, make sure to bring a quick-fill electric air pump that can be charged by your car!  This makes the job of inflating anything soooo much easier, & I love the fact that this particular pump has three different attachments: I haven’t found anything so far that it can’t inflate! 

Which means: more time on the river

xoxo Noelia

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