Bend's South Canyon

Footbridge at Old Mill

  • Easy (to Farewell Bend Park)
  • 1.3-mile loop
  • No elevation gain
  • Open all year
  • Use: hikers, bicycles

  • Easy (to South Canyon)
  • 4.4 miles round trip
  • 200 feet elevation gain
  • Use: hikers

For a walk through time in Bend, set out from the Old Mill District and follow the Deschutes River Trail upstream into a cliffy canyon. A paved 1.3-mile loop showcases the city’s history. A longer loop continues into South Canyon, a whitewater gorge where the modern city seems centuries away.

Start by driving Highway 97 …

Pioneers often camped here because a nearby bend of the Deschutes River was one of the few places shallow enough for wagons to cross. Travelers setting off from the river called the place Farewell Bend. In 1884 a rancher applied to open a post office in his cabin. Postal officials told him the name “Farewell Bend” was too long, and shortened it to Bend.

When developers platted Bend’s streets in 1904 they centered the town a mile to the north, but after the railroad arrived, attention returned to this southern riverbend. In 1916, two enormous sawmills opened on either side of the river within a month: the Shevlin-Hixon mill on the west shore and the Brooks-Scanlon mill on the east. Together they employed 1500 men and shipped a quarter billion board feet of ponderosa pine lumber a year. The smokestacks atop REI belong to the brick powerhouse of Brooks-Scanlon’s second mill, from 1923.

Walk …

Other Options

For an extra 1.1-mile loop after you return to the Old Mill District, continue …

This chapter is an excerpt from 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Central Oregon Cascades.

Old Mill district

South Canyon trail