The Deschutes River Trail System is the crown jewel of the Bend Parks and Recreation Department’s Urban Trails System. Once fully developed, it will consist of 19 contiguous miles of trail alongside the river, but today there are 11 miles of completed sections, for a long loop or an out and back. The various sections of the trail are known as “reaches,” which are characterized by neighborhoods and surrounding landscapes. Although you can choose to run any of the five reaches (or a combination of them) the local favorite routes are the River Run Reach and the Old Mill Reach. Farewell Bend Park makes an easy three-mile loop past gurgling rapids and waterfalls. At the southernmost end, the River Trail links up with the Lava Connector and runs all the way to nearby Sunriver. Note that the trails along the river are not contiguous — best to pick one of the ‘reaches’.
Old Mill Reach: Bend came to fruition as a logging and mill town, but today the Old Mill neighborhood is a popular shopping hub, and a great place to access the river via a series of parks and trails. While you can mix and match trails here, the Mill District Loop is a reliable 2.4 mile loop over a medley of footbridges, paved, and unpaved trails. Trails are mostly paved on the east side of the river, while the west side has a few unpaved paths. A good place to start is Riverbend Park, where you can park at the Parks and Rec District office. From there, hop on the path along Columbia Street and head west towards Colorado Ave. Take a right on Colorado and continue up to the bridge crossing at McKay Park. The path then winds back on Mila Drive and Bond Street before crossing back on the Columbia Street bridge.
For a longer run, add Riverbend Park. It’s a pleasant 2-mile loop, adjacent to Old Mill Reach, along the river.