Where to Paddle Board in Bend, Oregon

Bend, Oregon is one of the all-time great outdoor destinations.  And that 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 on the Cascade Lakes Highway.  In this article, I’ll detail 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 on a weekday….we practically have the river to ourselves!

Map of Great Paddle & Kayak Spots by Bend

Check out the map below for a quick overview of great places to paddle-board & kayak by Bend.  If you want to take photos while paddling, bring a waterproof Go Pro ~ or simply pick up 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 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 also gives you the best people-watching.  Put your board in at one of these spots: at Riverbend Park (with all the river floaters), Farewell Bend Park (across from Riverbend), or if you’re renting paddle-boards at popular Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe ~ just 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, rent a board on a weekday, or check out one of the lakes outside of town 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 (Up Century Drive): If you don’t mind a 25-minute drive up the mountain towards Mt. Bachelor, & you have racks or an inflatable paddle-board ~ the scenery up here is INCREDIBLE, & 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 on weekends, so come early!  This is the largest lake by Bend, & one of the only that allows motorized vehicles; plus there’s a restaurant & cabins on the lake, & 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/kayak are Sparks Lake & Devils Lake: both are gorgeous, & you can park very close to both.  Sparks Lake is larger, & you can almost always find your own little private beach ~ but you’ll need to drive on a b-u-m-p-y dirt road for a half-mile.  (Note: Sparks Lake can get really low in late 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-blue color.  Park in their parking lot here, or along the side of the highway, & walk just a few steps down to put your board in the lake.

Best Paddle-Boarding Spots by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

My friend & I just paddled Sparks Lake two days ago with puppy + infant! Great views of Bachelor & South Sister from here…

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 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 need to carry your board about an 1/8 mile to reach the lake from their dirt lot.  But that means you won’t see too many other SUP’ers out here.  Hosmer is just past Elk Lake, & a little hidden: this is by far my favorite place to paddle-board by Bend.  You can’t really see any of this lake from the parking lot ~ which means you have to either kayak or paddle out to see how gorgeous it is here.  This is a local’s favorite spot, but there aren’t many places to camp out on the beach here.

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.  And even further, Cultus Lake Resort is on the right side; you can paddle-board & kayak 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 Conklin Road: This is more of a “Local’s Spot,” so I don’t want to give too much away here.  And 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 next to the river, & paddled to the right, towards Benham Falls.  Once you 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 through 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, & perfect for beginners to learn how to paddle-board or kayak.

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

Sunriver’s famous bike path runs right along the Deschutes River. The river is extra wide through Sunriver, giving you plenty of berth to get around rafts & 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, which gives you access to loads of amazing paddle & kayaking options on the Deschutes.

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

Tetherow is one of the best hotels in town: they’re pet-friendly, have amazing restaurants on-site, killer mountain views ~ & are close to almost EVERY spot listed here.

Where to Paddle Board & Kayak in Bend

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

xoxo Noelia

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