Road Trip Reflections | Bend & Sunriver, OR | Oct 2023

If you missed any road trip blog posts and would like to catch up, you can find them all here.

I feel like this is where our road trip really began since Oregon is somewhere I had never driven to before! (If you're curious how the drive from Los Angeles to Bend is, you can find the itinerary I used and all the details in this post.)

The reason I decided to make a stop here in Central Oregon was because of one of my favorite artists, Katie Daisy--she used to live in Bend! She would talk and post about it and it looked really lovely! Here's more about our AirBnB, the different dog-friendly and vegan places we went, and highlights of exploring OR! (If you prefer videos over blog posts, you can watch the vlog over on my YouTube channel!)

As I pulled up to my AirBnB in Sunriver (about 20 minutes from Bend), light rain started to fall. I was surrounded by big tall trees and it felt exactly how I thought the Pacific Northwest would feel like!


I actually didn't realize my AirBnB was in a different city, but it worked out because Sunriver was a bit different from Bend and it was nice to experience both! 

One of the main reasons I booked this AirBnB was because of this painted rock that was shown in one of the listing pictures:

It's one of my most favorite quotes and when I saw it, I felt like it was a sign I should book it--and I'm so glad I did!

When we first arrived, the owner was home and we decided to introduce the pups to each other. Rascal is the resident black lab at the AirBnB and the introduction to Valentine went GREAT! I actually had never seen Val play SO much with another dog! It was so cute and felt like a very good sign for our 10 day stay here.

The AirBnB I booked was in a residential neighborhood in Sunriver. It is very forest-y and reminded me of being somewhere like Big Bear in CA. I really loved being surrounded by nature and getting to stay somewhere that was peaceful and quiet. 

The space is a detached guest house with the backyard separating it from the main house where the owner and her kids lived. This felt very safe to me--I had my own space and privacy but if I needed anything people were nearby. 

The lot is huge, I believe at least an acre, and there were beautiful trees in the backyard! It was so wonderful to get to wake up and walk outside to this view. Valentine enjoyed it as well, there was a lot to sniff and explore! The owner also had chickens and ducks on the property which I enjoyed as an animal lover. Valentine didn't even notice them until the third day lol. It was a very comfortable stay with the added bonus that Valentine got to make a new friend and loved Rascal!

The only few cons I can think of is that there weren't many vegan options in Sunriver that I could find (but Bend was only about 20 min away and there was never any traffic!) and it was SO dark at night! I made sure to get home before dark because it's hard to see without street lamps and I was worried that I might accidentally hit wildlife crossing the street! 

Also, each of the houses on the street are on huge lots with big back and front yards. However there are no sidewalks--the driveway and the main road outside is asphalt (see pics below). This just made it a little harder to walk Val because it feels like you're in the street, but since we had access to the backyard Val had plenty of space to walk and go potty. She is very used to going on walks though so I would try to take her other places or spend a long time in the backyard with her.

Inside it was nice and cozy with a great heating system for the cold and rainy nights. The bathroom was bigger than I expected which is always a nice surprise! The space had everything I needed for our stay (except a washer/dryer which I had totally forgot to look for). The internet connection for working from home was a little spotty sometimes but when you're in the forest you really shouldn't be on the internet anyway :) 

Overall I loved this AirBnB and it was such a nice place for our first longer stay and made for a great experience! If you're in the area I highly recommend this spot, let me know if you're interested and I can send you the listing on AirBnB!



FORT ROCK PARK This was quite close to where I was staying and I was bummed I didn't find it earlier! It has a lovely walkway going around a large area of grass with trees and some rocks along the outer perimeter. There's also a nice playground for kids, tables and benches, and tennis courts. It's not a dog park but I did see many owners letting their dogs off leash to play catch and frisbee in the grassy area. They didn't bother me and I felt like were far away enough from the path. This was also were I saw 2 deer walking in the rocks and trees! 

    SUNRIVER NATURE CENTER & OBSERVATORY This place is NOT dog friendly but if you are able to go, it looks really beautiful (I did stop in the parking lot then found out dogs aren't allowed for the safety of the wildlife there.)


      DOWNTOWN BEND was SO cute!! The tree lined streets with little shops, bookstores, and restaurants were so quant and lovely. The leaves on the trees were starting to change into fall colors. It kinda felt like I was in Stars Hollow! There was plenty of parking (always a plus!) and I had a great first impression because as I carried Valentine out of the car, a lady immediately said Valentine was cute lol. We also bumped into a family who stopped to pet her and a guy who took a picture to show his wife later because she was inside a store. (Valentine really does make friends wherever she goes :)) The area felt very safe and clean, people were friendly, it was dog friendly (we saw lots of other pups), and I really enjoyed walking around.

      WILD ROSE (in downtown) I went to downtown to pick up dinner from Wild Rose, a Northern Thai restaurant recommended by my friend Cynthia. There are several dishes that can be made vegan and it's clearly indicated on the menu which is super helpful! I tried the Gang Om, an herbal broth infused with coriander, Thai basil, eggplant, green beans, lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves, and cilantro. When I eat out I try to choose things I would not be able to make at home and I rarely cook with eggplant so this caught my eye. I had it with rice and at first the broth was a little spicy for me (I'm totally weak sauce though when it comes to spice!) but the more I drank it the more I liked it. I think if I ever go back, I want to try the curry basil noodles!

        PAPER JAZZ (in downtown) A very cute stationery and gift shop in downtown! The ladies there were so nice to Valentine and welcoming! There's a wide variety of greeting cards and I picked up a few to send out.

        BONTA GELATO (in downtown) Even though it was starting to get pretty chilly, Bonta had a few vegan flavors so I had to go and try! I had the Chocolate Coconut which was creamy and delicious! 

        JEM ORGANICS (in downtown & online) Bonta had mini JEM Organics nut butters at the counter so I decided to pick one up. I thought it was SO good! I love that they had this caramel flavor that was vegan! You can order from their website or pick up from certain retail shops.

        PIONEER PARK Gorgeous park along the river! There's a walkway that takes you through the trees to a bridge and a large grassy area to picnic or hang out on.

        RIVERBEND PARK This was our favorite park! It's really big and also runs along a river. It's very well kept and clean (all the parks are) with a really nice pathway. You can enter the river here and I saw people paddle boarding and kayaking as well as dogs running in the water too! There's a bridge you can cross and access more grassy areas and a playground. You can also go on this wooden walkway that takes you to the center of the river. The scenery is so beautiful here and we met a lot of nice people! We went back several times. It's also close to the Old Mill District.

        OLD MILL DISTRICT Stroller through Old Mill DIstrict, really nice path along the water. Very cute area, had a bridge, river life! An  older dude  stand up paddling with their dog. 

        GREETINGS FROM BEND, OREGON MURAL BY KATIE DAISY & KAREN ELAND The mural is located in the Old Mill District shopping center and it's even more big and beautiful in person! I was taking a picture of Valentine and these nice girls offered to take our pic for us (shown above), so sweet of them!

        A FALLEN ANGEL FOOD CART I got the Mt. Bachelor Hash because I can't say no to potatoes! It was a griddle potato hash w/ wild mushroom gravy, braised greens, roasted chilis, smoked turtle beans, & avocado and comes with grilled corn tortillas. This was a really solid meal with a lot of food! It also felt healthy, not greasy or too salty which I liked. I took it back to Sunriver Park and Valentine snoozed while I ate :)

        SAWYER PARK All the parks here are like forests to me! This park had good access to the river and I saw people and dogs playing in it and people fishing as well. Even though there are a lot of trees, there's a lot of area where it's not very dense / it's clear so on a hot day it gets warm pretty quickly! The lot was pretty packed when I got there in the later morning so I recommend getting here earlier than later, especially on a hot day! 

        BENHAM FALLS OVERLOOK I tried to bring Valentine here and drove allll the way to the parking lot (partially on unpaved road which felt so bumpy and loud and crazy even through the road didn't even look rocky lol) where I realized I didn't have a parking pass! :( There were all these signs saying you need a pass so they freaked me out and I decided not to risk it because I would've been really sad to get fined! I think the parking passes are only $5 though and if I had known that, I would've left $5 under my windshield wiper with a note! I could hear the waterfall from the lot :( But I took a few pictures before we left.

        TOASTY, LOCATED IN THE PODSKI FOOD TRUCK LOT This was a cute spot, perfect for hanging out with friends! The food truck was located near the back on the right side and I got their most popular item, the vegan crunchwrap! It was really good and a lot of food!

        MILLER'S LANDING PARK I took the crunchwrap to Miller's Landing Park which was a 5 minute drive away. Another really nice park with river access. We walked by a group having a picnic and they asked if Valentine could say hi so we stopped to chat. They were so sweet to her! And look at the fall foliage!

        HIGH DESERT MUSEUM I didn't go here but it was highly recommended to me! Dogs aren't allowed on the museum grounds but they actually have free kennels where you can put them while you go to the museum. I felt like that would've been stressful for Valentine so didn't try the kennels but love that they have this option.  



        • While we were walking at Pioneer Park, we came across another dog walker. When we passed for the second time, he stopped to tell me how his ex-girlfriend had two poms and one of them was so special. He really bonded with her and even though this was years ago, he still thinks of that pom and misses her. It was so sweet and I understand that special bond you develop with certain dogs! I love hearing stories like these and thanks to Valentine I get to have lots of conversations with people I otherwise wouldn't ever talk to!

        • Because I didn't get the parking pass, we left Benham Falls Overlook and went back to Riverbend Park instead. As we were sitting there, all of a sudden I hear someone behind me say, "VALENTINE?!?" I was like, who the heck do you know where Valentine?! lol It was actually this lady and her family we had met a few days ago! It was so nice to bump into them again and I loved that they remembered Valentine's name :) It also made me feel better about the BFO fail because if we had stayed there we wouldn't have bumped into them again!



        • SEEING ALL THE DEER!!!! 
          • I first saw 2 deer crossing the main street right outside the neighborhood. One had already crossed, the other was taking her sweet time to get over. I was like, deer, get out of the street! I was super worried about them getting hit by cars but there were lots of signs and it felt like the locals made sure to drive slowly in that area. It is SO dark at night there because there are no street lights so I tried to get home before it was too dark to see so I wouldn't hit any--that was my biggest fear!
          • I saw 2 more deer at Fort Rock Park (I got them on video! You can watch on my YouTube channel). I was so excited! I heard a little bit of noise off the path and looked up and there they were! One had antlers and the other did not. We were a good distance away on the walkway and the stag looked at us but then kept walking. I was feeling super excited then as I was pulling into the driveway coming home from the park, I saw 3 (!) more deer just eating the greenery at the front of the house! I drove very slowly and stopped for a quick picture then let them finish their dinner. Here's the pic:
          • Then a few days later, again as I was leaving the house and turning off the driveway, across the street at the neighbors were 5 or 6 deer eating! It's so amazing and beautiful to me to see wildlife naturally. 
          • Final deer count: 12-13! (I had never seen any out in the wild like this before in my life!)
        • There is NO rush hour traffic! This absolutely blew my mind! I picked up dinner in downtown and realized I'd be on the highway at 5:30PM and was like ohh noo hope it doesn't take too long! There was ZERO traffic!! AMAZING.
        • Not really a highlight as much of an observation: there are a lot of roundabouts here! But they were easy to drive through and smaller so doesn't seem as scary as driving through ones in CA, like the one in Long Beach.
        • Rascal & Winston (who was the cutest puppy and also at the AirBnB while we were there, see picture below :))! Honorable mention: the old man grumpy boston terrier who was also visiting and grunted at us several times lol



        • WHAT TO WEAR: We actually had some 70-80 degree weather while I was there from October 1st to October 10th! There were also some chillier days where I wore my jacket with a scarf! It did rain while we were there as well.

          I recommend having one very warm jacket, sweaters / sweatshirts, and a scarf but also a few t-shirts and long sleeve tops. I think being able to layer is key!

          The rain was pretty light most of the time. Having a hat was helpful and my jacket happens to be waterproof. If you want you could bring a thin hooded raincoat to keep dry but I honestly felt like it was fine just wearing a hat!

          I basically wore these shoes the entire time (I'm still wearing them!) and they were perfect for the rain, gravel, dirt, good for lots of walking, and were comfortable for me in the warmer weather as well!

          The weather seems to vary so much from year to year so definitely take a look at the forecast before you go to help with packing! 
        • TIRE CHAINS: I did not need chains in early October but if you are going there in the winter, check the rules. I believe you need to have chains in your car or can get fined. I had to use chains later on when I was driving from WA to Bend!

        • SOME OF MY FAVORITES: I put together a list of some of my favorite things for road tripping if you want to check it out! They are on my Amazon storefront and are things I have bought, tried, and loved! If you purchase from one of my links I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support!


        Overall I absolutely loved Bend! I would definitely go back and highly recommend spending at least a weekend here if you're passing through.

        Although it wasn't as diverse, everyone was very nice and I never felt unwelcome or out of place.

        The food truck scene is fun and there were plenty of good vegan options and I loved how dog-friendly it was!

        It was easy getting around and driving, and there were lots of places to check out!

        I would love to return during warmer weather to do some fun river activities! (I saw a guy, maybe in his late 60s?, paddle boarding with his dog! :))

        Thank you Bend & Sunriver, hope to see you again! 

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