Bend, Oregon may be one of the world’s coolest outdoor playgrounds, but in the summertime this high desert can get downright hot. The arid slopes of the Cascades are beautiful and offer unique hiking trails and chances to explore ancient lava tubes, but if you need to beat the heat this summer, we have you covered.

Floating Down the River

Without question, the coolest way to cool off is by “toobin” one of the crystal clear and refreshing rivers that flow through this beautiful region. Grab a sturdy inflatable air mattress or inner tube (or rent one from Sun Country Tours or Tumalo Creek Kayaks), some aqua socks, and your sunscreen and then head to Riverbend Beach Park. The shallow beach area is an ideal spot to launch your “flotilla” in the Deschutes River. Be prepared for some small rapids and a thrilling adventure as you while away the day floating downstream in the cool waters of this pristine river. You will have the option of braving the Bend Whitewater Park and its man-made rapids, or bypassing them and continuing lazily on to Drake Park. Exit here and catch the River Shuttle back to your car at Riverbend.

SHARC Attack

Sunriver Homeowners Aquatic Recreation Center (SHARC) is a massive indoor/outdoor aquatic center featuring recreational pools, lazy rivers, water slides, a hot tub (hey, it’s there if you want it), a tubing hill, and plenty of grassy areas for sunbathing, picnicking, and relaxing. Just a short 20-mile drive away from Bend in Sunriver, this outdoor playground is a great way to stay cool with the whole family, especially if river tubing is a little too daredevil for you and yours. Admission is $20-25, but well worth it for the incredible variety of aquatic adventures that await you.

Alpine Lakes

Another way to beat the heat is to head for the hills. Drive up, anyway you can, and seek out the cooler temperatures at higher altitudes, particularly at one of the many scenic lakes that dot the foothills around the Cascades. The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway passes several charming spots, and part of the fun is choosing your own adventure. If you need some tips, Blow Lake and Devil’s Lake offer easy access and are excellent choices for swimming, paddling, floating, and relaxing. Cultus Lake Resort and Elk Lake Resort feature amenities and equipment rentals if you want to try your hand at paddleboarding or kayaking.

Hot Days, Cold Beer

Another popular way to cool off in Bend, one of the microbrew capitals of the world, is the Bend Ale Trail. This charming walk through downtown Bend takes you to several of the best breweries and wineries in the country, all locally owned and operated. Try the Fresh Squeezed IPA at Deschutes Brewing, the Apocalypse at 10 Barrel, and many more. Along the way you can stop at the unique, charming, and eclectic stores (most of which have A/C). Score!

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