It isn’t necessarily the most exciting topic. But, if you’re thinking of moving to Bend (or anywhere for that matter), it’s an extremely important one. What’s the weather like in Bend, Oregon?
We take weather for granted, but few factors can have as big of an impact upon quality of life. People relocate for all kinds of reasons. Job opportunities, proximity to family, cost of living, and child-friendliness are big ones. But no matter your reasons for relocating, being able to live your best life is a big piece of the puzzle.
Bend is nationally renowned for being, well, a fun place to live. That’s good, because it’s far from a cheap place to live. A lot of our clients come here on vacation once or twice then fall head over heels in love and want to uproot their whole lives and get over here as soon as humanly possible, or sooner.
We can understand the excitement. But we usually urge our clients to cool their jets a little bit and carefully consider all the pros and cons.
Making a move cross cross-county or even buying a vacation home is a big deal, and before you sign on the dotted line, you need to make sure that all the pieces fit together. One of the biggest pieces is is the weather.
Let’s explore all the ins and outs of Bend weather and climate.
Sunshine, Water, and Good Vibes: What Bend is Like in the Summer
Unless you’re super into skiing, snowboarding or other winter sports, it’s likely that your first introduction to Bend will happen during the summer months. It’s vacation time for many folks, and let’s face it, Bend is just totally gorgeous in the summer.
You can step out into the crisp, cool mountain air early in the morning, drink a cup of coffee on a patio overlooking the Cascades mountains then take a leisurely walk down by the Deschutes river before hitting the shops in the Old Mill District.
As things heat up heading into the afternoon, you can take a dip and even rent a paddleboard or float down the river on an inner tube. But even though Bend gets plenty hot during the summer, with highs peaking at an average of 85 degrees in July, it’s not uncomfortably hot most of the time. Temperatures rise above 90 degrees an average of only 12 days per year.
By late afternoon, it might be time to start hitting the breweries then head for a nice dinner before catching some live music. Time things right, and you might hit Bend during one of the area’s major summer festivals. And all of that is to say nothing of the day trips and outdoor adventures that are right at your fingertips.
Just bring a jacket and a warm sleeping bag if you’re planning to camp out. This being the mountains, you can expect it to cool down significantly at night, with average lows of 49 degrees in July and August.
Bend’s growing season is relatively short, with frosts possible as late as May 31 and as early as September 1, so summer gardening might be an uphill battle. In addition, you might be surprised just how cold some days can be heading into the late spring and early summer. We get a lot of nice ones, but you’ll also want to be prepared for a bit of snow even well into May.
Let it Snow? What Bend is Like in the Winter
Of course, being in Bend in the middle of July is very different from being in Bend in the middle of February. You may think that you like snow, but what about being in it and working around it day after day?
In truth, people often overestimate the amount of snow that Bend gets in a usual winter. Sure, Bend is in the mountains, and that means snow. But while Bend is just a short distance from peaks that are 8,000-10,000 feet high, Bend itself sits at just 3,623 feet.
That’s getting up there if you’re used to living near sea level, but it’s no Denver, Santa Fe, or Lake Tahoe. Low temperatures average 23 degrees in January and February. Highs average 42 degrees and 50 degree weather isn’t too uncommon. So a lot of the time, there’s ample opportunity for the snow to melt before the next big fall.
In addition, Bend’s climate is relatively arid. “High desert” is a relatively imprecise term, but it’s often used to describe most of Central (and Eastern) Oregon. While Bend gets most of its precipitation in late fall and winter, annual snowfall is a relatively modest 33.8 inches. On average, the snow gets deeper than 2 feet only once in every 20 winters.
The winter of 2018-2019 was one such year, with nearly 46 inches of snow in February alone. It was a winter few here will forget, but that amount of snow remains a serious outlier. Of course, the fact that it’s an outlier means Bend lacks the infrastructure to keep things moving when big snowstorms do hit. But hey, who doesn’t mind a snow day or two?
Does Bend Really Get 300 Days of Sunshine Per Year?
The rumor started a long while ago that Bend gets 300 days of sunshine per year, but unfortunately, it’s not really true. In actuality, clear days average 158 per year, with an additional 105 that are mostly sunny.
That’s not bad at all, but cloudy skies are the norm between November and February, with an average of just 3 hours of sun per day. The long and short of it is that you need to be prepared for weather that might not match your idealized image of Bend. That’s especially true if you’ve only visited during the summer.
Depending where our clients are coming from and what their expectations are, sometimes we recommend renting in Bend for a full year before committing to a home purchase. That’s the best way to get the full-course sampler on what the Bend life has to offer. As a bonus, you’ll get to know Bend’s different neighborhoods much better than you possibly could during a short visit.
What’s the Air Quality Like in Bend?
Ask people what their biggest draw is to the Bend area, and the mountain air is bound to be high up on the list. Vistas like the one above are certainly a feast for the eyes, and there’s also just something about the air that seems to nourish the spirit in a deep way.
Just how pristine is the air in Bend really, though? Bestplaces.net ranks Bend 55 out of 100 on its air quality index, slightly below the national average of 58.
The Bend area has relatively little in the way of industrial pollution and good air circulation. Because Bend isn’t situated in a narrow valley, even during an inversion the air remains relatively clear. Wood stoves are less and less common.
So what’s the main factor affecting air quality in Bend? The answer: wildfire smoke.
In September of 2020, a perfect storm of high winds, low moisture, and dry lightning resulted in unprecedented wildfires across Western Oregon. The smoke eventually made its way to Central Oregon, leading to a week of extremely unhealthy air quality.
That level of smoke is not the norm in Bend, but during the wildfire season in late summer and early fall, smoke does make its way into the area from fires both near and far. Bend itself is unlikely to be vulnerable, and there are several reasons for that. But as long as unprecedented dry conditions continue around Oregon and California, wildfire smoke will remain a factor.
In regard to Bend’s air quality, there’s another potential scourge that bears mentioning: juniper pollen. Juniper allergies hit hard in March and April, affecting more people in the Bend area than any other allergen. If you’re sensitive, it will be necessary to take steps to limit your exposure during those months.
In Conclusion: It’s Only the Weather
Even though the weather is something that can affect your life a lot, it’s also one of those things that people simply get used to. It’s important to have a sense of what you’re in for, but if you’re thinking of relocating to Bend or even just buying a vacation home, it’s important to weigh all the different factors carefully.
We’re here to give you the information you need to guide you in your process and fill in all the blanks so that you can make an informed decision.
We won’t beat around the bush – Bend isn’t for everyone. Even if it feels like a good fit for you and your loved ones, the reality of its housing market might not end up lining up with your life situation. But no matter where your process leads you, we are here to help.