What's the difference between walking and hiking? Well, the steepness of the climb (from no elevation gain along the riverfront, to darn near rock climbing summits). Yup, it is a good reminder that just like Mt. Bachelor offers everything from a green circle to black diamond, the terrain around Bend has a grab bag of trails to match the expectations and abilities of just about everyone.
Most any walk along the Deschutes River Trail will not disappoint, but a favorite is the four-mile stretch between Dillon and Benham falls. The trail is well traveled, making for stable footing, and easily traversed in either direction. For those not familiar with the river, do not expect "falls" in the traditional sense. The white water is much more a series of swift rapids, depending on flow, over lava rocks. Your journey can begin at either end of this section of the trail. Park at Dillon Falls, accessed off of Forest Road 41 on the south side of the Cascade Lakes Highway just west of the Inn at the Seventh Mountain Resort. Alternatively, take the Lava Lands Visitor Center exit off of Hwy. 97 and travel Forest Road 9702 to its end. If time is short, and energy is low, the very easy half-mile walk from this parking lot to Benham Falls is a must do!
The Three Sisters Mirror Lake trail is easily accessible from the Cascade Lakes Highway, approximately 30 miles west of Bend. Approximately an eight-mile, round-trip hike, it intersects the Pacific Crest Trail where you might meet a through-hiker or two (and, yes, they love being asked whether they have read Wild). Elevation gain is a moderate 600 feet, rewarding the hiker with a shallow lake that can be waded in while enjoying the quiet of the always-impressive Three Sisters Wilderness. Yes, there will be mosquitoes in July and August.
This hike is a rite of passage for many in Bend. Typically, you must wait until the snow is sufficiently gone to allow access, though it has been hikable for months in this low-snow year. More a good hike than it is a climb, there is little, if any, technical climbing. Near the summit it gets a bit steep with some loose rock, but it's doable for most. The views, of course, cannot be beat, easily justifying the 11.5 mile trek that starts at the Devils Lake Trailhead. Note that the trail is steep in spots and exposed to the weather, calling for a full day of effort (and smart planning/packing) to tame this 10,000-footer. With any luck, there'll be enough snow for the required snow angel.