Bend Oregon definitely prides itself as a dog town. Most breweries and eateries offer outdoor seating where you can sit with your dog. There are some great locally owned pet shops that carry quality merchandise for your furry best friend. And out of the 81 human parks, there are 8 off-leash dog areas. In all honesty, eight off leash dog parks is not a lot. Most other towns I have lived in or visited have well over ten parks where your pup can run wild and free. However, the quality of these 8 dog parks greatly surpasses those I have been to elsewhere. Wide-open spaces, usually fenced-in, in safe neighborhoods, and maintained by the wonderful people at PAC and Bend Parks n Rec. Below you will see a list (in no particular order) of the off-leash areas in Bend, with some notes as to what to expect when visiting them.
- Big Sky– 5 acres, both fenced and unfenced, broken up into several sections. When you first enter the off-leash area from the main gate, you will be in a High Desert trail environment. Walking through the second gate will bring you into some more desert trails, and a nice big grassy field with some picnic tables, a water spigot, and plenty of room for some Chuck-It. Through yet another gate you will find the unfenced area where you can walk the trails and reach the pond and canal. This area requires a leash. Dogs are not allowed to swim in the pond or canals, though that does not stop many pups or their people from doing so. If you continue along the canal you’ll reach a large empty stretch of land, again on leash please. (UPDATE: this area after the pond is now private property, but all the “No Swimming” signs have been removed!) This park is not often very busy, but it is surrounded by a lot of human activities (soccer, lacrosse, biking). If you go during the hours of 8am & 10am you might run into a very large dog group, so if your dog is easily overwhelmed you might want to wait until the afternoon.
- Bob Wenger at Pine Nursery– 18.8 fenced acres, including a small dog area (which I have never been in). This park is nice and spread out, allowing you to walk a variety of paths and giving your pup different sights and smells. Most of the park is High Desert walking trails, with benches along the way, one of which features an amazing view of the mountains to the West. The trails open up to a very large grassy field, with partially open fencing along the perimeter to help you keep an eye on your pup. There are some picnic tables and a couple water spigots throughout the park, as well as poop bag stations and trashcans. This park has several entries/exits which allow you to access the greater paved trail that goes around the entirety of Pine Nursery. Your dog must be on leash whenever outside of the off-leash dog area. The visitors of this park vary, including the regulars that attend almost religiously, and the tourists who just Googled “dog park” and voila! Most people in this park are great, but this is the park I have experienced the most issues at. Humans on cellphones not paying attention to their dogs, dog walkers dropping their pack off and letting them have free rein, and nonlocals who bring their not-so-friendly pooches along just to get some energy out. I have also run into quite a few dog-free bicyclists in this park. *Note- the dog park shares a parking lot with the pickleball courts, which can get very busy*
- Discovery– 1.6 acres fenced. I’m going to be blunt, I never come here. It was originally created by West Bend Property Company, and was recently taken over by Bend Parks n Rec. It’s Snoozeville to me and my pack. I would probably go more often if I had an elderly Havanese that enjoyed strolling at a snail’s pace. The human park is very nice and peaceful, but the dog park is lacking. The good news is, it is very rarely busy, and it’s a new park so there is a lot of opportunity for growth and improvements.
- Ponderosa– 2.9 fenced acres with a separate small dog area. This is my most frequented park, mostly because it’s in my ‘hood. It’s a much smaller scale Pine Nursery, with desert-like walking trails that lead into a small opening where you can play ball. Rather than having a nice grassy clearing for ball play, the entire park is dirt, except for the small dog area. The small dog area is all grass, with some small trees and benches. It has a chain link fence separating it from the big dog area. A lot of the little dogs love to run up and down this fence line barking at humans and dogs on the other side, and a lot of the owners do not correct this behavior, so if you have a dog that loves fence fighting this may not be the park for you. Most of the park is shade, which is great on hot days, but makes things very chilly on cold days. There is a water spigot, and it is surrounded by a human park, complete with two skateparks, a soccer field, a playground, and some paved walking paths. This park is mostly used by those who live in the neighborhood, but you also see some out-of-towners. A lot of cellphone use at this park, and a lot of people sitting at benches while their dog is on the opposite side of the park. Also, for some reason, a lot of people bring human food to this park and eat it at the picnic table in the middle of the dog play area.
- Riverbend– 1.1 acres fenced with small dog area and dog access to the river. Bleh. I apologize if it sounds like I’m talking smack, but if you live in Bend and have taken your dog to this park, you probably share my view. It’s an afterthought. It’s at the end of the lush, grassy Riverbend Park, tucked away at the other end of a rocky parking lot. The terrain is all tiny rocks, which makes poop scooping a game, cracking toenails and paw pads a cinch, and the rocks become scorching hot on sunny days and icy and treacherous in cold months. There are a couple benches, but absolutely no shade. And no drinkable water, unless you count the river, which isn’t technically drinkable. The small dog area is not worth the visit. The river access is reached by leaving the dog park and entering another gate across the path. Access is only granted to those that love launching into water from the rocks above. Imagine if you’re friends told you they were taking you swimming, and then you arrived only to realize you had to jump from a rock cliff into the water below. This is where all tourists bring their dogs. Close to Old Mill, hotels, and a very popular human park, it offers quite a bit of convenience to those who are visiting. I have come across more unattended dogs at this park than any other (unattended meaning they are left alone in the fenced park without their human) I do not know where the human goes, but my guess is for a nice relaxing float in the Deschutes. I realize I have nothing positive to say about this park except that it is connected to the River Trail, which is a fantastic LEASH walk.
- Awbrey Reservoir– 5 acres, slightly fenced. Yes, slightly fenced. The park is surrounded by some wooden post fencing, but it is not closed in by any means. Please be aware that the parking lot is attached to a semi busy road, and the park runs along 12th, which people love driving super fast on. This park is connected to Hillside Park, and yes it is on a hillside. It is sprinkled with unpaved walking trails that allow you to wander the hill and lead you to a great view of town. There are a couple picnic benches, where I have actually seen families having sit down dinners. There is no water spigot in the park, but there is a drinking fountain in the parking lot equipped with a lower fountain for dogs (dog bowl is not included). This park is mostly inhabited by neighborhood locals, and most of the park’s visitors do weekly cleanups of poops and trash. It’s not really a place to play ball, but it is nice for a relaxing sunrise/sunset stroll.
- Overturf– 4.6 fenced acres. This park is perched up above a children’s playground and surrounded by newer homes. It has a forest feel, with tall trees covering most of the sky, and dirt trails throughout. The hill gives dogs a good workout, and just outside the dog park you’ll find Skyliner Summit Loop, where you can enjoy a peaceful walk after your pup gets to play with some pals. The park is never crowded, and most guests are neighborhood locals. There is no water spigot or drinking fountain, and people have been kind enough to bring water jugs. If you remember, bring a gallon of H20 along on your next trip to Overturf.
- Hollinshead– 3.7 acres unfenced. This park is good for more mellow dogs who like to lay in the grass, stroll and take in the sniffs, and possibly play some light ball. The area is surrounded by a much larger human park, and it’s difficult to tell where the off-leash area begins and ends (especially for dogs who can’t read) so you have to be aware of the off-leash posts and make sure your dog stays where he is supposed to so you don’t get accosted by the nondog people. Right next to the dog park is a barn, where a lot of Bendites get married, so please make sure your pup isn’t off eating wedding cake or running away with a bride. This park also has some great LEASH walking trails around it.
Hopefully these tidbits prove helpful, and hopefully we can continue to improve these parks and open others up to off-leash play! Please do your part and pick up poops and trash while visiting Bend’s glorious parks!