With our camping gear packed in the back of our Subaru Forester, we started our journey home along a highway filled with alpine lakes, majestic pine trees and lava rock as far as you could see. Around every corner the sun sparked off the clear water of a lake or a trailhead marked the entrance to a hidden gem. Mountains played peek-a-boo with us and glistened against the bright blue sky. Even if you didn’t plan on stopping at any lakes, this highway takes you on a gorgeous adventure.
The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is a 66-mile stretch of highway that starts near Bend and continues west until it hits OR-58, near Crescent Lake. Adventure seekers can start on either end and can plan a day trip or camp at the lake campgrounds. Backpackers can enjoy hike-in only lakes like Green Lakes, Doris Lake or Lucky Lake.
One of the first lakes on the byway is Sparks Lake. This lake is known for its epic views of the South Sister and Broken Top. The Ray Atekeson Trail circles the lake, providing hikers (and photographers like the trail’s namesake) with numerous spectacular views.
Devils Lake is easily spotted from the byway: the emerald green waters can be seen from the road. Devils Lake is a small and shallow lake, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth spending some time at. With a walk-in campground right on the edge of the water, this lake offers a beautiful place to camp. Bring your fishing pole and catch some rainbow or brown trout.
Lava Lake offers beautiful views of the Three Sisters and is known for great boat fishing. A small lakeside store offers snacks, drinks and supplies to day-goers or Lava Lake Lodge guests. Little Lava Lake offers more seclusion than its big sister.
With all of these lakes being so close to one another, trails go from lake to lake along this byway and many can easily be done in a day. Ditch the car and head out to explore. If you’re wanting to mix it up from a lake setting, the Deschutes River Trail offers a riverside hike as well as two waterfalls.
If you want to explore epic lava rock formations, Davis Lake is the lake for you. Huge hillsides of black volcanic rock jut up against the edge of the highway as you near Davis Lake. There’s also a few campgrounds dispersed around this large body of water.
With an adventure around every corner, the Cascades Lakes Scenic Byway is a place you’ll find yourself coming back to — there’s too much beauty to be seen in just one trip. Pack up your car, your backpack, your camera (and maybe your fishing pole or kayak) and start exploring!