Bend, Oregon is known for its proximity to volcanoes, caves, lakes, National Forest and beer. This article tackles what other towns are similar to Bend, Oregon.
Bend is in the Oregon mountains and is known for its proximity to volcanoes, caves, lakes, National Forest, and beer. It is big enough that people can find work outside of the tourism industry, including tech. Then after work, folks can ski, mountain bike, take a hike, or go climbing, depending on the season. But what other towns are like Bend, Oregon?
Like Bend, Oregon, other mountain towns are Jackson, Wyoming, Flagstaff, Arizona, Salida, Colorado, and Taos, New Mexico. But for seeking a smaller version of Bend, there is Sisters, Oregon, and Estes Park, Colorado.
Bend is growing fast. Back in 1980 the city was only a town of a little more than 17,00 and was only 3,000 more in 1990. But these days, it is estimated to have over 100,000 people. So when looking for places like Bend, it is good to know if you are hankering for the city or the town it used to be. Whichever it is, we have the place for you in our 21 suggestions.
21 Towns Similar to Bend, Oregon
Oregon might be famous for rain, but Bend is actually on the edge of the Cascade Range in the high desert. So while there are lakes and an annual snowfall of 21 – 24 inches of snow per year, it gets less than 12 inches of rain. That’s significantly less than the nearly 43 inches Portland gets.
Thus, when most people get a hankering for a town like Bend, they’re looking for an arid climate where there is enough snow in the winter to ski and plenty of sunshine the rest of the year so they can explore the outdoors. Which doesn’t mean some breweries and live music are not appreciated, too. As people in Bend know well, life’s all about balance.
1. Bishop, California
Bishop, California, is the largest town in Inyo County and has less than 4,000 people. This is a community for folks who adore what Bend has to offer but want more elbow room. This mountain town is in a snow and rain shadow, giving it unbelievably great weather despite the elevation and proximity to snowcapped peaks.
Those in the bouldering scene are already well acquainted with Bishop, thanks to The Buttermilks. However, the area offers plenty more than that, including horseback tours, mountain biking, fishing, camping, backpacking, hiking to see one of the many waterfalls, and, of course, snow sports.
Despite the small size, the community has a number of restaurants, bars, and cafes. They are home to Good Earth Yogurt which offers far more than dairy products made from the grass-fed cows raised on family farms. They offer wine, locally brewed beer, homemade pies, cheesecakes, and pressed sandwiches.
2. Boise, Idaho
Boise, Idaho, has almost twice the population as Bend, but there is plenty of room with the Rocky Mountains in their backyard. The university town has a healthy job market, museums, and supports the arts, including being committed to public art. There is a reason why Boise is ranked so highly for work-life balance.
Of course, people love to take advantage of the outdoors. But the city is host to many events, too. Popular festivals to look out for are the Treefort Music Fest, Boise Beer Wars IPA Fest, Blues and Bones BBQ and Blues Festival, and the famous hot-air balloon event, Spirit of Boise.
3. Bozeman, Montana
Bozeman, Montana, has slightly fewer people than Bend, with a population of 46,000, but the surrounding Rockies even earn the Cascade Mountain range huge respect. Nicknamed “the most livable place,” it is an area that takes pride in a work-life balance. The weather is to a Bend lover’s liking, too, with over 300 days of sun a year.
Bozeman has plenty of nature right outside its town limits, but the bigger attractions of Gallatin National Forest and Yellowstone Park are only an easy drive away. Popular nature outings are picnicking at Palisade Falls, tubing down Madison River, and hiking the M Trail.
In town is an abundance of art galleries and studios, coffee shops, book stores, and breweries. But there is great food here, too. If you’re looking for a cozy cafe, stop in at Cateye Cafe for good comfort food. But if it is a burger you are craving, Backcountry Burger Bar will fix you up, even have bison. For fine dining, give Feast Raw Bar a look.
4. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, has the water (55 lakes nearby), pine forests, and surrounding peaks that Bend fans love. However, the town has about half the population and sits nearly a third lower than Bend. But Coeur d’Alene has a similar climate, with its dry summers and snowy winters.
The area is popular with golfers, famous for having a floating golf green. But this ex-lumber and mining town has more to offer than that. It is a big draw for water enthusiasts, bicyclists, hikers, and people that just want to relax on the lakeshore beaches. If you prefer to watch sports than take part, you can catch the Snake Pit Derby Dames in action.
5. Estes Park, Colorado
Estes Park, Colorado, is essentially the gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Park. The cozy town has less than 7,000 people, so it is significantly smaller than Bend. But it has the wildlife and outdoor sporting opportunities that people in Bend love. And even loyal Oregonians have to admit, the scenery is amazing.
Despite its small size, Estes Park is home to live music, art exhibits, and festivals. Their popular events are the Fall Back Beer Fest, Jazz Fest, Autumn Gold (celebrating music, brats, and beer), and Elk Fest.
6. Flagstaff, Arizona
Flagstaff, Arizona, is closer to the size Bend folks are used to, with 70,000 residents. The area is adored for the good winter snowfall and its average of 80 F summer days. With the Grand Canyon a mere 80 miles away and built 7,000 feet into the mountains, outdoor lovers never lack something to do.
Flagstaff also takes great pride in its local breweries. Thus, the city created the Flagstaff Brewery Trail. To join, visitors pick up their “passport,” follow the route, collect stamps (no purchase required), and pick up a souvenir glass when done. There are also fun beer events like Barks & Brews that even raise money for a good cause.
Nor does Flagstaff lack in culture. The area is rich in museums, galleries, the performing arts, and embraces public art, which can be found around the city. They also have many festivals, including Heritage Fest, Wool & Fiber Fest, Celtic Fest, Chili Fest, and more.
7. Fort Collins, Colorado
Fort Collins, Colorado, is full of 161,000 people who mostly love two things: biking and beer. This is something people from Bend can completely understand. Also, like Bend, Fort Collins is growing as a place for tech startups. Thus, the area offers many job and business opportunities outside of tourism along with the great outdoors.
Fort Collins takes biking seriously, both in town and beyond. The city has a Platinum rating as a Bicycle Friendly Community with over 200 miles of dedicated bike lanes to prove it. Forgot to pack a bike? No worries, Fort Collins has plenty of places that rent them. Of course, the area is also great for mountain biking, and you can find more about the trails here.
You can also use your bike to explore the over twenty local craft breweries, many of which give tours and host events. New Belgium Brewery, for example, not only makes great beer but is socially conscious, so much so, they are certified B Corp.
Another fun beer stop is the eye-catching Jessup Farm Barrel House. They’re set up in a 133-year old restored barn and have a knack for blending their beers in barrels that were once used for making other drinks such as bourbon.
Lastly (because we can’t mention them all), be sure to check out Funwerks. They’ve won numerous awards for their Belgian-inspired brews. Unique offerings include Raspberry Provincial, which began as a sour summer ale and got creative. For those that can’t tolerate gluten, they have a Lemon Ginger Hard Seltzer that’s worth your time to try.
8. Jackson, Wyoming
Jackson, Wyoming, with over 10,500 residents, is the largest town in the 400-square miles of Jackson Hole valley. With the Grand Tetons looming nearby, Jackson attracts adventurists from all over, be it whitewater rafting in the Snake River, visiting the National Elk Refuge, skiing, mountain biking, fishing, hiking, or trying out dog sledding or lama trekking.
The town is home to the Jackson Hole Center of the Arts. Its campus boasts an art gallery and gives space to performance theater, classrooms, and dance studios. There are many other art galleries to visit, including the Horizon Fine Art Gallery and Rare Gallery. There are annual festivals, too.
Like Bend, the area has many thriving breweries. Uniquely, Melvin Brewing got its start thanks to a Thai restaurant. StillWest Brewery & Grill is a 10-barrel brewhouse and has a modern western vibe. But it is Snake River Brewing that holds the title as Wyoming’s first brewpub, established by an ex-Anheuser Busch distributor that hailed from Oregon.
9. Joseph, Oregon
Joseph, Oregon, is a tiny mountain town of less than a thousand people. It welcomes folks with a sign that states: “This little town is heaven to us. Don’t drive like hell thru it.” This isn’t just because the town is so cute, but because there is wildlife everywhere. Deer and elk surround the area, and they sometimes wander in.
Joseph is for those that like the idea of Bend but are tired of living around so many people. Those that come to Joseph have to want to be there, as it isn’t easy to reach. But in that seclusion is a wild paradise and a town that’s very much alive and enjoys visitors. That is, so long as you drive nice and slow.
10. Lander, Wyoming
Lander, Wyoming, has less than 8,000 people and bills itself as “where the rails end and the trails begin.” Outdoor lovers flock here for a wide array of outdoor activities, including climbing. Popular areas are the Sinks Canyon State Park, Wild Iris, and the Wind River Range.
The town is home to the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), which offers a wide range of courses that range from a two-week backpacking trip to an entire semester of exploring the mountains.
The small town is home to plenty of chain-free places to eat, including Crux Coffee. However, if you need something harder to drink than coffee, pop by Lander Brewing. Also, make sure to check out their local bookstore, The Lost Chapter, and stop in at the Museum of the American West.
11. Leavenworth, Washington
Leavenworth, Washington, is a Bavarian Christmas storybook of a town in the Cascade Mountains along the Wenatchee River. This town boasts of German beer and food and is even home to a Nutcracker Museum. Like Bend, it has nearby skiing, wineries, spas, and farmers’ markets.
The area is known for its celebration of the arts. Leavenworth Summer Theater puts on outdoor shows every year. Like Bend, live music is embedded in the local vibe, including the Cashmere Community Concerts. Or check out the Icicle Creek Center for the Arts, where something is always happening, including education opportunities and events.
Leavenworth’s German roots are part of the local cuisine, including the fast and tasty München Haus, the sweet-tooth lover’s Gingerbread Factory, and the authentic and charming Andreas Keller. Locally sourced food is a matter of pride to establishments such as Watershed Cafe and Mana.
But of course, Leavenworth takes pride in its beer. Icicle Brewing Company is named after the creek that provides the water for their brews and is fronted by a rustic style pub. Doghaus Brewery is tiny, but yes, they are dog-friendly and serve eight in-house brews. Blewett Brewing is a fine choice for anyone craving pizza and beer.
12. Missoula, Montana
Missoula, Montana, is known as “big sky country,” but it is surrounded by the Rocky Mountains. The biggest problem for outdoor enthusiasts in this area is picking which activity to do first. Winter brings out the snowboarders, snowmobiles, sledding, snowshoe trekking, and downhill and cross-country skiing.
Summer is equally spoiled for choice. Take watersports, for example, where they even have a place to surf in town, thanks to Brennan’s Wave. Nor do you have to venture outside to climb, as they have a number of climbing gyms. But of course, there is plenty of natural whitewater and rocks outside the city limits, along with camping, hiking, biking, and more.
Missoula is also home to the Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre, which has even toured internationally. While plenty of establishments offers live music, there is also the Missoula Symphony for those that enjoy classically. The city also offers plenty of theater, art galleries, and festivals, including the Celtic Festival and Travelers’ Rest Fest.
13. Provo, Utah
Provo, Utah, is a city of similar size to Bend, with around 116,00 people. Like Bend, it has a thriving tech industry, plenty of mountains, and Utah Lake is the third largest west of the Mississippi (for freshwater). It is also home to Provo Canyon and the Bridal Veil Falls. Also, the area is known for dinosaurs, and you can’t get much cooler than that.
Provo, like Bend, is a community where you can find your work-life balance thanks to the outdoor and cultural abundance.
14. Salida, Colorado
Salida, Colorado, is the perfect little mountain town for folks that like lots of snow nearby but only a dusting in their driveway thanks to sitting in a snow and rain shadow. The tree-lined town only boasts a little over 6,000 folks but is a mere 2 hours from Colorado Springs.
With more than a dozen 14,000-foot-plus peaks, there are outdoor winter sports aplenty. But the milder snowfall in town allows for year-round biking. In the summer, visitors and residents can brave the whitewater, fish, camp, and even take part in archery. But for people looking for a slower pace, they can relax in the area’s natural hot springs.
Salida is also a great place for those that love to eat. There are your brewpubs such as Moonlight Pizza & Brewpub and Amicas tap-house and scratch kitchen. If you are craving some fine dining, check out 216 Ferraro’s. If a more casual yet tasty venue is your thing, then stop in at Currents for steaks and seafood.
15. Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe, New Mexico’s license plate declares itself “Land of Enchantment,” and locals swear that it isn’t a lie. The city has over 83,000 people, and its historic crooked streets are filled with Pueblo-style architecture. Like other communities on this list, this is a city for people who love the outdoors. You want to do it; Santa Fe has it.
Santa Fe’s culture punches high. In addition to their plethora of art galleries and studios, the city is home to The Santa Fe Opera and is co-host to the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. There is a weekly Artists Market to go along with their Farmers Markets. Plus, the area is saturated in history and historic sights thanks to its rich Native American heritage.
Local brew fans will not be disappointed by the many local breweries on offer. Santa Fe Brewing is the first, started back in 1988, and its most famous IPA is the Happy Camper. Second Street Brewery has a variety of homebrews to go with their pub fare and live music. While those looking for smoked beer can find it at Chile Line Brewery.
16. Sisters, Oregon
Sisters, Oregon, is just under 20-miles from Bend, with a sliver of the population. The adorable old-West style town has around 2,000 people and oozes with charm, welcome, and nature. But their small size doesn’t stop them from putting on a show. For over three-quarters of a century, they’ve been hosting the Sisters Rodeo.
You can also step away from chains and try some local brew, be it coffee or beer. An excellent way to kick off your morning is at Sisters Coffee. It was founded in 1989 and is a family-owned roastery and cafe. Then, after taking in some of the great outdoors, you can track down the Three Creeks Brewing tasting room and brewing facility or their brewpub.
17. South Lake Tahoe, California
South Lake Tahoe, California, is one of the bigger communities in the Lake Tahoe area, with over 20,000 people. This place knows how to cater to the tourists, and there are plenty of spas, nightclubs, golfing, galleries, and a casino for those that want some urban perks to their outdoor get-a-way. Thus, if you are looking for a beer trail or a hiking trail, you’ll find it here.
18. Spearfish, South Dakota
Spearfish, South Dakota, is another excellent option for those that feel Bend has become too crowded. The town has 11,000 folks and sits at the entrance to Black Hills canyon, which is beloved by climbers. In addition, this university town is a mountain biking haven, thanks to hosting the Dakota Five-O. Spearfish’s grueling race is 50-miles long and is far from flat.
Spearfish also hosts an all-woman marathon. It’s a 26.2-mile run that winds through the cannon, although there is a half marathon option. But not every sporting event Spearfish puts out is so tough. For example, their fish hatchery hosts the Black Hills Beer Fun Run/Walk.
And yes, Spearfish does do beer. Crow Peak Brewing not only makes good drinks but is a great place to go for live music. Sawyer Brewing Co makes some intriguing craft brews and is a good spot to grab a pizza. Then there is the award-winning Spearfish Brewing Company, named one of the best in the nation.
19. Taos, New Mexico
Taos, New Mexico, might only have around 6,000 people, but it has that high desert flavor. Tucked in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the historic adobe town is often referred to as nothing more than a ski resort. While there are a plethora of outdoor activities to enjoy, including skiing, rafting, and mountain biking, the Native American community is an artist colony.
Taos host numerous galleries and studios, showcasing a wide range of art, including textiles, paintings, and pottery. They also host numerous music festivals, Pueblo dances and events, a winter wine festival, races on the water and the ground, and celebrate Dennis Hopper Day.
Taos is also home to SOMOS, The Society of the Muse of the Southwest. SOMOS has many roles, a literary resource center, a bookshop, a host to conferences, workshops, and live readings.
20. Telluride, Colorado
Telluride, Colorado, is another excellent choice for people who love the spirit of Bend but are overwhelmed by its growing size. The historic mining town has a mix of Western meets Victorian flair, including the Last Dollar Saloon. Nestled into a canyon in the Rocky Mountains, the area is full of forests and peaks to have an outdoor adventure. The area is also known for its ski and golf resort.
Telluride is well known for its ski and golf resort. But skiing and golf are far from the only things this area has to offer. The location is perfect for mountain biking, horseback riding, Canopy Adventures (ziplining), fly fishing, rock climbing, and a plethora of water sports. There are also areas where you can 4X4 and ATV trails. They also host film and music festivals.
21. Truckee, California
Truckee, California, is for folks who long for the ’80s sized Bend but still want the modern food scene and the fantastic work-life balance lifestyle that the great outdoors offers. This mountain town captures the gorgeousness of Lake Tahoe without the gambling and a lot more charm.
The area is, of course, heaven for skiers both downhill and cross country. In town, there is a cute ice-skating rink, too. Come summer, there are trails for hikers and mountain bikers. Truckee, like Bend, is also located near plenty of water, where you can choose more casual paddles to the exhilarating white water.
Truckee’s boasts a healthy art scene, too. You can admire people’s fantastic creations as one of the many galleries, such as Alpen Glow, or take a class at Atelier. There are glassblowing artists, ceramics, painters, writers, and more to admire.
Those into local brews will be spoiled for choices. 5050 Brewing has a cozy pub where you can sample their selections and eat a good meal. Truckee Brewing Company is incredibly welcoming to visitors and will allow you to look at the equipment they use. The Good Wolf is another hit and offers some unique twists, such as Foraged Mushroom Ale.