Oregon : Safety by CityUnited States - safety as a country Oregon - state review
When you plan a trip to Bend, Oregon, be prepared to spend a lot of time outside.
Even the tourism bureau doesn’t get to indoor activities until Activity #6, which are still breweries with outdoor or rooftop patios, so that doesn’t really count.
I’m not sure what the exact name is for people who thrive in the Bend vibe – Granola used to be the word.
Is it just outdoor lovers?
Socially conscious explorers?
Bend is like an REI commercial at every corner of every cave, waterfall, volcanic hike, and float down the river.
Tourists and new residents are asked to take a symbolic pledge upon arrival.
Here’s the Bend Pledge from VisitBend.com:
- Smile, say please & thank you, give right-of-way, and simply slow down
- Adventure and explore in a manner that is respectful to the land, wildlife, and the people you share it with.
- Plan and prepare for your time on the trails, in the mountains, and on the water.
- Walk more, drive less, and stick to established trails, routes, and parking areas.
- We must take care of the places that take care of us; we are all visitors here.
The Deschutes (“duh-SHOOTS”) River is the literal local watering hole.
It’s not like you can’t get enough outdoor life in town – you can climb a dormant volcano in the city limits – but you are surrounded by some of Oregon’s most amazing natural wonders.
Willamette National Forest fills the landscape to the west.
(FWIW – Willamette is pronounced “Will-am-UHT,” and people are known to say “Willamette, Dammnit,” so visitors say it correctly.)
Here you don’t just walk through a cave.
You explore the lava tube of a once-fierce volcano.
You don’t just kayak on the lake, you take in the mountain air of an alpine lake in the high desert.
Grab your water shoes and Birkenstocks.
Let’s explore the fascinating vibe you can only find in Bend, Oregon.
Warnings & Dangers in Bend
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low risk in Bend, with the city taking the number 6 spot on the Safest Cities in Oregon list. Crime rates are low, but there is a risk in some of the outdoor adventures if you aren't very experienced.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Cascades East Transit (CET) is the fixed route bus system. You can also get a taxi or rideshare. People are encouraged to reduce their carbon footprint and walk or bicycle as much as possible. You can rent regular bicycles, electric bikes, surreys (multi-rider bicycles), or fat-tired bikes which handle well in the snow.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
There is a medium risk here, with 23 pickpockets reported in 2020 for an average loss of $500. This statistic surprised me because the city has fewer than 100,000 people. The twice-as-large Eugene, Oregon, with much higher crime rates, had about the same number of pickpockets. While it's not an overwhelming risk, it's enough to make you think twice about that pledge, and don't leave your stuff lying around or your car unlocked while you head in to grab something to eat.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Deschutes County ranks the top natural hazards in order of importance and potential damage: winter storm, wildlife, windstorm, drought, volcano, and earthquake. Flooding and landslides also make the top 10. This adds up to medium risk, but barring being in the middle of one of those emergencies, you'll love the mild weather here.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here, with the robbery rate being below the national average. Thieves are looking more to make a quick theft than hold you up at gunpoint. Only 10% of the robberies reported happened in public places.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
Since Bend is so secluded from the rest of Oregon and not near a major city or military base, there's a low risk here. The weather can be the biggest terrorist of them all, however, so don't negate that potential when researching your trip.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
While there aren't any scams that cause this to rise any higher than a low risk, this is a fast-growing city with more than 20,000 people moving there since 2010. This has fueled a bunch of Craigslist rental scams. Just don't rent from Craigslist, okay? Never wire money to secure a property, and to be 100% sure the person is legit, insist on going for a Facetime walk through the home where you can see the landlord's face. Then ask them to show proof of a rental license.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women, provided they can handle themselves outdoors, are going to love Bend and can enjoy it at low risk. There are a lot of alcohol-fueled adventures and a brewery trail, so just use common sense when drinking. Recreational marijuana is legal here too, which could impact the ability to make smart decisions.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
Mike Buettner, the Utility Department Director, states in the 2021 Water Quality Report, "We are pleased to report that, once again, in 2021, our drinking water quality was equal to or better than state and federal requirements that safeguard public health." There was a violation in 2021 that was related to reporting data five days later, but it didn't impact the quality of the water at any point.
Safest Places to Visit in Bend
Bend is located between the Cascade Mountains and a high-desert plateau, giving two types of ecosystems to explore.
The city is a mix of outdoor activities with the charm of a mountain town filled with unique stores with Oregon-made products and health food restaurants serving farm-to-table food.
(For what it’s worth, as I write this story, I keep getting caught in a daydream of wanderlust looking at all the amazing views from this city!)
The Bend Ale Trail is a way to experience the best brews in the area and meet some great people along the way.
Download the app or purchase a $5 souvenir passport at the visitor’s center.
Pace yourself because this does include 30 breweries.
If hops aren’t your thing, you can try everything from cider to wine to kombucha.
The Old Mill District is an eclectic mix of shopping, dining, and art built into former working mills.
Sculptures line the sidewalk while mountains dot the landscape.
If you’re attending an event at the amphitheater, this is the neighborhood you’ll be in.
You can also hear the concert’s sound by floating down the river.
Drake Park downtown is where the Deschutes River expands to Mirror Pond.
You can enjoy the stunning views on the grass or rent a kayak for a smooth ride.
If you want whitewater rafting, head a little more south down the river to Bend Whitewater Park.
Deschutes River Trail runs on both sides of the river in Bend.
The trails are smoothly paved, with several safe pedestrian/bicycle bridges to cross back and forth.
Adults and children can enjoy trails there.
The High Desert Museum is a great prequel to a trip to the Oregon Badlands to the east.
The museum is an interactive exhibit of history, art, and animals.
You can see some of the unique wildlife, like porcupines, then visit one of the traveling exhibits that make their way here throughout the year.
Every visit here is a little bit different.
Let’s head to the wilderness, alright?
If you want to explore a dormant volcano, head to Pilot Butte State Park or Newberry National Volcanic Monument.
Each one has a series of peaks, caves, and waterfalls for adventurers.
Hikers will love the Three Sisters Wilderness area, Smith Rock State Park, Tumalo Mountain, Deschutes National Forest, or the Oregon Desert High Trail.
Cave explorers should check out Redmond Caves or Boyd Cave.
To see waterfalls, you’ll enjoy Steelhead Falls, Paulina Falls, and Beham Falls.
In the winter, Dutchman Flat Sno-Park, Mt. Bachelor Ski Area, Hoodoo Ski Area, or Three Sisters Backcountry are great places to enjoy skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling.
Take a ride on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway if you’re muscles are fatigued or you just want to relax and soak in the views.
Places to Avoid in Bend
The crime that does happen in Bend is evenly spread throughout the city, but it’s also not a large city with less than 100,000 people.
It is growing, so there might be a lot of construction happening during your visit.
You can check road conditions and travel status at TripCheck.com.
Avoid going to a mountain summit on your first day.
While Bend’s elevation is 3,600 feet above sea level, the surrounding mountains can go up to 10,000 feet.
Take your time to acclimate when hiking, or give yourself longer to reach the top.
There’s no shame in turning around if you feel nauseous, dizzy, or unable to breathe.
Some people choose to bring oxygen with them as a backup.
If you are driving a rental vehicle, please stick to the speed limit and use extra caution on mountain roads.
There can be quick elevation gains and drops, wicked hairpin turns, and deep drop-offs on the side of the road.
Never take a picture while driving.
There are plenty of places to pull over at great vantage points.
Just because it’s not snowing in Bend doesn’t mean it isn’t snowing in the mountains.
Bend gets less than three feet of snow yearly, but Mount Bachelor gets almost 31 feet on average.
You’ll need an all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle in the winter.
It’s a smart choice in the other season too.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Bend
- Don’t be a reckless or inattentive driver in Bend. The fast growth of the city has led to the city taking complaints from residents (or tourists) to keep an eye on certain vehicles that are parked illegally, speeding, running red lights, etc. If you need to report a vehicle, call the non-emergency hotline at (541)693-6911.
- Recreational marijuana is legal in Oregon for those over 21 years of age. This doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all. You should review whatslegaloregon.com to see specifics about the law. In the broadest explanation, you can’t use it in public (even gummies), drive while under the influence, or purchase/carry more than the legal limit. There is also an Instagram for awareness @whatslegalOR.
- Plastic bags are banned in Oregon, so you should pack some extra reusable shopping items of your own. Some venues allow you to bring your own cup in to avoid throwing away plastic cups. Review the “Sustainability Plan” on the city’s website to see what other restrictions or allowances are made in the name of being green.
- You are likely to meet a lot of dogs in Bend. The city is dog-friendly and has a splash park just for four-legged friends. Never pet a dog without asking the owner’s permission.
- Bend Police use drones when needed to search for suspects or get a closer look at a potentially dangerous crime scene. If you see one of these drones and are worried about your safety, you can read the UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) policy on the department’s website.
- Parking is at a premium in this growing mountain town, especially in the popular downtown district. There might be times you can’t find a space at all. This doesn’t mean you should just park anywhere thinking, “They won’t ticket or tow me!” They will. (Remember the pledge, “I will not invent my own parking space.”?
- You don’t need to bring all your ski and snowboard equipment with you if you don’t want to because rental options are plentiful. It’s worth stopping by an outfitters’ store to learn how to layer up clothing properly in the winter if this is new to you.
- Bend is so full of roundabouts on the roads that there are even roundabout sculptures to make them more exciting. If you don’t know how to drive through a roundabout, please review it on YouTube to be safer on the roads. People who roundabout wrong are incredibly frustrating and can tie up traffic or lead to fender benders.
- The Whitewater Park in downtown Bend has waves that are man-made. A surfer died in the spring of 2022 after becoming trapped under the gate that helps create the waves. As part of increased safety efforts after this death, leashes on surfboards won’t be allowed, and safety gear like helmets and lifejackets will be available for loan from park officials.
- Before going to any of the outdoor parks, check the forecast and the fire status at the park. For example, as I write this, there are two closures related to a fire that is burning or a scorched area that needs time to heal without human interference. Review the USDA Forest Service website to see what fire restrictions are in place.
So... How Safe Is Bend Really?
Bend is a laid-back, “Peace, love, and happiness” kind of town.
You can see the pressure points the city experiences through the Pledge items.
Bend is exactly how it wants to be, so don’t try to bring in a big-city attitude or talk about how “Colorado is better at this or that.”
The crime rates are mostly below the state and national levels, aside from theft, which is slightly higher.
31% of thefts are due to car break-ins.
While this is a safer city, you still need to lock your car and don’t leave valuables inside.
This goes even when you head to a wilderness area.
40% of violent crimes happen in homes, lowering a tourist’s risk from the start.
38% of violent crime victims were strangers to their assailants, but the rest were among people who knew each other.
While marijuana is legal to an extent, there is an illegal drug problem in Bend.
A recent bust took a cocaine dealer off the streets who was providing products at the bars and nightclubs of the city.
While you shouldn’t take illegal drugs in the first place or take a prescription that isn’t yours, there’s an opioid crisis in America.
If you purchase drugs from a dealer, there’s a good chance the stash will contain a lethal dose of Fentanyl, and there’s no way you’ll know about it until it’s too late.
You need to study outdoor safety and survival because of the wide expanse of wilderness here.
Don’t do anything crazy just to get social media views, like trying to dangle from a rock.
You’ll meet a lot of outdoor experts here who can better help you plan for a safe adventure.
How Does Bend Compare?
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- Visas - You need a U.S. Travel or Work Visa to visit Bend, and you must get that from the U.S. Embassy in your home country. Be sure to check how far in advance you need to schedule your visa interview. You'll also have to provide five years' worth of social media presence, even if you don't use the account any longer. Your visa is only needed at the airport, so store it somewhere safe in the meantime. You don't want to lose your visa in a skiing accident and then be stuck in America until you can figure it out.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here and exchange any currency at the airport. In some instances, it's better value to exchange the currency in your home country before you depart. Try to avoid carrying large amounts of cash and limit purchases to credit cards. You have better fraud protection on a credit card than on a debit card.
- Weather - You'll need long sleeves and pants throughout the year, as the temperatures in the summer can still dip down to chilly temperatures. Winter requires full outerwear, especially if you are visiting the mountains. Bring reliable and sturdy hiking boots. Sunscreen is a must because the higher elevation means a greater risk of sunburn. Be casual and comfy here. This isn't a city where anyone gets dressed up.
- Airports - Redmond Municipal Airport is about 20 minutes north of Bend. You can get to major cities on international flights from there. There are charter buses and some shuttles available to larger airports if you'd prefer. To drive to Portland's airport, it's going to take about three hours by car in good weather.
- Travel Insurance - You should get travel insurance for your flight, rental car, and adventure activities. Especially for international travelers, a fall at the ski resort can add up quickly if you don't have medical insurance.
Bend Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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