BEND is the most useful base for visiting central Oregon, giving access to prime outdoor activities, and packed with good restaurants, microbreweries and sports shops. Bracketing the west side of downtown along the river, Drake Park is a popular half-mile stretch with pleasant paths, an outdoor stage and a setting near fetching Mirror Pond, the most picturesque sight in the city. Beyond recreation, the area’s main attraction is the High Desert Museum, 59800 US-97 (daily: May–Oct 9am–5pm, $15; Nov–March 10am–4pm, $10; w www.highdesertmuseum.org), a fascinating collection of artefacts from Native American and pioneer history, along with displays of regional flora and fauna – river otters, porcupines and so forth – and a reconstructed pioneer homestead and sawmill. There are panoramic views over Bend and the Cascades from Pilot Butte, the remains of a small volcano a mile east of downtown off US-20; you can drive or walk to the top. Also worth a visit is Smith Rock, about 25 miles north (day use $5, primitive camping $5; w www.smithrock.com), a state park whose towering basalt cliffs draw thousands of rock climbers; the deep gorge also creates an ideal landscape for horseback riding, cycling and hiking.