- Trip Name: Deschutes River Trail - Old Mill District
- Trip Length: Varies; 1 - 6 mile loops
- Best Time To Visit: Year round
- Difficulty Rating: 2
- Views: 6
- Wilderness Experience: 2
- Recommended Activities: Walk, Run, Bike (See map for "no bike" zone)
- Best For: Walkers, Runners, Dogs (leash required), Families
- Restroom: Yes; Old Mill Shops, Riverbend Park, Miller's Landing Park (Under construction, scheduled summer 2013), Farewell Bend Park
- Permit: n/a
- Recommended Map(s): Visit Bend Map. Maps are also on posts along some portions of the trail
- Click here to download our FREE trail map
- Click here to download this trail Guide as a PDF
Trip Technical Data:
- Parking: There are numerous parking lots that allow access to the River Trail. Please refer to the map for parking locations and see below for links to directions.
- Trip Time: Depending on how long of a loop you choose; 15 minutes to 2 hours
The Deschutes River Trial in Bend is one of the most popular walking, running and biking trails in the region as it is accessible from almost anywhere in Bend. The trail leads for many miles following both the east and west banks of the Deschutes River as it flows into, through and the out of Bend heading north to Lake Billy Chinook, then, eventually into the Columbia River.
There are endless options for walks within Bend ranging from short 1 mile loops to 6 miles of more. Here I will describe what I call the Full Loop from Columbia Park at the north to South Canyon Bridge at the south. This is the 6 mile loop following paved and dirt paths, making its way through several parks, the Old Mill District and into the woods towards South Canyon. Although I will describe the longest loop I will point out the several bridge crossing where shorter loops are possible. See the end of this post for several of the loop options.
As mentioned in the trip technical data, there are numerous parking options for this trail. I walk and run this trail several times a week and always begin at Miller's Landing Park. The only reason for this is that it is very close to my house. Miller's Landing is still under construction (as of May 2013) however the parking lot is complete and available for use. Other popular and easy to access parking locations are the River Access Parking lot on Columbia Street (on the west side of the river), Farewell Bend Parking (on the east side of the river) or the trail can be accessed by parking in the Old Mill Shopping District.
Starting at Miller's Landing Park head south towards Colorado Avenue following the bike/walking path. In just 0.15 mile you will reach the Colorado Spillway bridge (here is the first option for making a shorter loop out of the walk. If you cross the Colorado Spillway here and take a right once crossed and head north through McKay Park to Columbia Park your loop will end up being just shy of a mile). Continuing beyond the Colorado Spillway, on the east side of the river, you will pass under Colorado Avenue. Be very careful here especially with kids or dogs as the path is directly on the river and very narrow most of the time - and watch your head!
The next stretch of trail follows along the edge of the river through lawns and a gravel path on private property (please respect the owners) for about a third of a mile until you reach the Old Mill District. On clear days the view of the Cascade Mountains from here is spectacular. You will also notice the Les Schwab Amphitheater across the river with its beautiful murals recently painted by Erin Sayer. As you meander through the Old Mill District past many shops and restaurants you will also pass another foot bridge which I call the Flag Bridge. Many of the foot bridges do not have official names, so for clarity I have come up with my own. I gave Flag Bridge its name because there is always a changing array of colorful flags blowing in the wind on the sides of the bridge (Here is the second option for crossing the river). Using Flag Bridge to cross the Deschutes River will make about a 2 mile loop. See below for trail directions after crossing Flag Bridge.
Making your way along the paved trail and through a small tunnel with more beautiful artwork, under Columbia Street, at 1.25 miles into the walk you will reach Two Bits Bridge (another one of my given names). An interesting sculpture, one of dozens throughout Bend, called Two Bits, stands here guarding the bridge. If you cross here and follow the trail back to Miller's Landing Park your walk will be 3 miles. If you park at the Farewell Bend Parking and follow the trip from here and return to your car by Two Bits Bridge you will have also completed 3 miles.
Moving forward you quickly come to the last option to cross the river before heading out of town and into the wooded section of the trail. If you choose to cross at the Bill Healy Memorial Bridge (an actual name) bear left on the trail and join the sidewalk on Reed Market Road to cross the river and take a sharp right just after crossing to rejoin the River Trail on the west bank. This final option for crossing creates a 3.6 mile stroll.
Staying on the River Trail you will pass under Bill Healy Bridge and exchange the paved trail for an almost single track, dirt trail in the woods following closely to the river's edge. Leaving the last few homes in the Southern Crossing neighborhood behind you will cross a boardwalk and pass by a concrete structure that serves as an outlet for a 5.5 megawatt hydropower plant. Just after the boardwalk, at 2.1 miles, take a right at a sign post to continue to follow the Deschutes River Trail. You will then climb a short hill, gaining about 50 feet in about a quarter mile. Following the trail along the top of this small cliff you come to several very nice view points of the river where it narrows and forms several sections of rapids. Occasionally you may see a kayaker or two running the rapids through here.
Descending from here back down towards river level, heading towards South Canyon Bridge, you pass through a gate beyond which is once again private property and no bikes are allowed. Again, please respect the owners of this property and their wishes for no bike riding. If you are riding you can take a left at the gate and head uphill into the Southern Crossing neighborhood and make you way back to town this way. Bikers see the VisitBend.com map for other trail options
Just after the gate you will reach the South Canyon Bridge and the approximate halfway point of the hike (2.7 miles). Crossing here and beginning to head north back up the west bank of the Deschutes River you will come to another trail intersection at which you need to bear right continuing to follow the trail near the river. The trail meanders from right next to the river to some sections where the river can barely be seen. From the trail intersection, in 0.8 mile you will come to another gate marking the end of the bike restriction and then quickly drop down under Bill Healy Bridge. In another third of a mile you will reach Two Bits Bridge and leave the dirt trail for pavement once again.
Passing the Bend Park and Recreation building and park you will then pass the River Access Parking Lot and one of Bend's many off-leash dog parks. This dog park includes a fenced in area with river access where our dogs love to stop for a drink and a swim on a hot Bend afternoon. Just after the dog park you will pass under Columbia Street through another painted tunnel. And then, at 4.8 miles, you will pass Flag Bridge.
As you approach the Les Schwab Amphitheater there are two options, through or around the Amphitheater. Typically the trail will go through the gate and straight ahead along the river but occasionally the gate is closed due to an event or maintenance. In this case, you will need to take a left and follow the outside of the Amphitheater to Shevlin-Hixon Drive where you will take a right. If you are able to go through the gate follow the paved trail along the river and through another gate, then turn left along the back of the stage out to Shevlin-Hixon Drive.. In both cases continue north on Shevlin-Hixon Drive, taking a right at the stop sign and then under Colorado Avenue. Here you can turn right and cross over the Colorado Spillway path and head back to Miller's Landing Park completing a 5.5 walk, or continue along Shevlin-Hixon Drive.
If you want to do the entire 6 mile loop, continue straight and into McKay Park. Once in McKay park leave the sidewalk on Shevlin-Hixon Drive and head towards the river and the fence at the edge of the park. Follow the fence line through some tall shrubs to a set of stairs. Climb the stairs and follow a short path to NW Allen Road and take a right and then follow the road to the right which leads to Columbia Park at 5.6 miles. In Columbia Park join the paved path as it bends right and falls towards the river and another foot bridge. Once over the foot bridge you can either continue straight on Gilchrist Avenue or turn right towards Miller's Landing Park. If you follow Gilchrist Avenue turn right at the four way intersection and head into Miller's Landing Park. Whichever way you go after the footbridge you will end up at Miller's Landing Park and finish your 6 mile walk.
Loop Distances and walking times from bridge to bridge:
Foot bridge in Columbia Park to Colorado Spillway bridge = 0.9 mile, 10-15 minutes
Colorado Spillway bridge to Flag Bridge = 1.0 mile, 10-15 minutes
Flag Bridge to Two bits Bridge = 1.3 miles, 15-20 minutes
Flag Bridge to Bill Healy Memorial Bridge = 2.0 miles, 40-45 minutes
Two Bits Bridge to South Canyon Bridge = 3.0 miles, 1 hour
Foot bridge in Columbia Park to Bill Healy Memorial Bridge = 3.6 miles, 1-1.25 hours
Foot bridge in Columbia Park to to South Canyon Bridge = 6.0 miles, 2 hour
Please, always use caution and good judgment around and in the river. Although there are many great places for you, your kids and pets to swim in the river, there are many dangerous places with hidden obstacles and fast moving water. Enjoy the river and be safe!