If you’ve been in Bend for longer than five minutes, you know about Shevlin Park. Shevlin is the granddaddy of all Bend parks, spanning 650 acres (though the website says only 50 acres are developed) with great terrain for hiking, biking, and gawking at the beauty of Oregon.

I suppose you could go to Shevlin every day — it’s close enough (five miles west of downtown) — but if you have dogs, there’s a park even closer to downtown that will make you and your pups happy.

Might as well mix it up, right? There’s a lesser-known park in Bend, Oregon that you need to know about.

This weekend, my dog Betty and I spent a few hours watching spandex-clad men race in circles. We were at the US Gran Prix of Cyclocross Deschutes Brewery Cup, cheering on my dad (it was his 26th race of the season, and he finished 8th in his category—yay Dad!).

Our family’s aprés-race ritual is greasy grub and bloody marys at Sidelines, on Wall Street. Saturday was no exception. After a boozy brunch, it’s time to get a little exercise with the dogs. We’re not the type of family that sits on a bench while watching the dogs play—suffice it to say, the Gregory family motto is “Sitting will kill you!”

This weekend, our dog outing took us to the 45-acre wonderland that is Robert W. Sawyer Park. I can walk to Sawyer Park from the Apple-Tree House in about 25 minutes via the Deschutes River Trail, but we opted to drive (Dad wanted to watch the USGP pros race the course at 3 p.m.).

We parked in the lot at 62999 O. B. Riley Road, leashed the dogs, and walked over the footbridge and up a trail to the HUGE grassy field—it’s spectacular to come across a perfectly maintained lawn in the middle of the woods.

Between the three of us (Dad, my brother, and me) we have an assortment of rescued dogs: small (Betty, my little mutt); medium (Jane, Dad’s dog); and grande (Dexter, my brother’s mammoth beast).

On this particular day, they looked like an ad for Ruffwear (we may dress our dogs, but in our defense, it was about 34 degrees outside, and Ruffwear is a kickass Bend-based company).

But back to the gloriousness of Sawyer Park. The gigantic field can only be accessed by foot, so you have to park in the O.B. Riley lot, and cross the footbridge, or you can park off NW Mt Washington Drive and walk the River Trail.

The by-foot-only access is nice if you have a semi-obstinate dog in the group (ahem, Dexter) who might dart into a street on a whim.

We crossed the field — while the dogs raced in long looping circles, tumbling over each other in the grass — and took a left on the Deschutes River Trail, then a hairpin right onto the Sawyer Uplands Trail. 

It’s a short, steep hike to the top of the ridge, no more than ten or fifteen minutes to the first bench overlooking the city and the river. And wow, what a view.

We walked along the cliff’s edge,, taking in the city from on high, then hiked back down, through the field, and just before the footbridge, took a right onto the Sawyer Park Fisherman’s Trail and strolled along the river for a bit before turning around and heading back to the car.

The Fisherman’s Trail is one of those quiet peaceful walks that makes you happy to be alive and grateful to live in such a pretty world.

Our little jaunt in the woods just scratched the surface of Sawyer Park’s crisscrossing trails and stunning scenic vistas. It’s one of my favorite spots in Bend for a few reasons: You’re really in the wilderness and yet right near the heart of Bend; it’s usually pretty deserted (once we crossed the footbridge, we saw a total of three people during our hour-long walk); and it’s a perfect place for doggie goodtimes.

Even if you don’t have canine companions, Sawyer Park is still a great place to explore. It’s not Shevlin, but it holds its own against Granddaddy.

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