Road Trips on Oregon’s Scenic Byways

June 25, 2014 (Updated July 30, 2014)

Oregon’s outdoor recreation is boundless, especially in the summertime. And just getting to the great outdoors is pretty darn beautiful around here. The state is home to more than two dozen scenic byways, which lead to beautiful hikes, friendly small towns and epic vistas. To find out more about Oregon’s scenic byways, order a free copy of the Oregon’s Scenic Byways Guide. If you are out to enjoy Oregon’s scenic byways this summer, here are few ideas to get you started.

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West Cascades Scenic Byway

Length: 220 miles/352 kilometers
Starting/ending points: Estacada/Westfir

This lovely north-south route travels along the foothills of the Cascade Mountains between Portland and Eugene. As you drive through the wooded highway of the Mount Hood, Willamette National and Deschutes National forests, take your pick of outdoor attractions. Stop for a soak at Breitenbush Hot Springs or a picnic at Detroit Lake. Visit thunderous Sahalie, Koosah and Proxy falls, three of the area’s most gorgeous waterfalls. Watch for views of Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington, Three Fingered Jack and the Three Sisters to the east. Stop in Oakridge, just past the byway’s terminus at Westfir, at Brewers Union Local 180 for inspired pub fare and cask-conditioned real ale. Spend the night at the Westfir Lodge on the North Fork of the Willamette River.

McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway

Length: 82miles/132 kilometers
Starting/ending point: Sisters

This loop starts in the quaint little mountain town of Sisters under the shadow of the snow-covered Three Sisters peaks. The route includes a stunning vista of Mount Washington and a dramatic, ancient lava flow at the top of McKenzie Pass (5,335 feet). Take a side trip to the Dee Wright Observatory for breathtaking views or look for wildlife at lovely Scott Lake. Stop to view the wild and scenic section of the McKenzie River and historic portions of the Santiam Wagon Road as well as the Pacific Crest Trail intersecting with Santiam Pass (4,817 feet). Back in Sisters, browse the boutiques and galleries in the small downtown. Stop for coffee at Sisters Coffee Company or some Italian cuisine at Open Door Wine Bar. Book a rustic cabin or a campsite at Clear Lake Resort and enjoy starry nighttime skies.

East Steens Tour Route

Length: 143 miles/230 kilometers
Starting/ending points: Burns/Fields

One of four scenic byways in Oregon’s southeast corner, the East Steens Tour Route affords gorgeous views of the state’s rugged desert. Leaving the town of Burns, the route passes several rustic hot springs near the town of Crane. Upon reaching East Steens Road, the gravel road takes you through sage-brush covered landscape to Five Cent, Ten Cent, Fifteen Cent and Juniper lakes and dramatic views of Steens Mountain, which rises to a height of nearly 10,000 feet above the Alvord Desert floor. Stop at Mann Lake for fly fishing and, for an outdoor soak, at privately owned Alvord Hot Springs. Stop at the Fields Station Café for juicy hamburgers and creamy milkshakes. Check into the historic Hotel Diamond and don’t miss the savory homemade breakfast.

Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway

Length: 140 miles/225 kilometers
Starting/ending points: Crater Lake National Park/Klamath Falls

This tour route is part of a 500-mile All American Road that stretches south into California. From the north, make your way to Crater Lake National Park and drive the 33-mile rim road around the edge of the caldera. If you want to extend your time at the park, book a room at Crater Lake Lodge and watch the sun slip down past the caldera’s rim. Further south, check out historic Fort Klamath, a military outpost from the 19th century. Don’t miss world-class bird watching at Klamath Lake Basin National Wildlife Refuge.

Looking for more great road trip ideas? Find more inspiration for traveling on Oregon’s scenic byways.

About The
Author

Eileen Garvin
Eileen Garvin lives and writes in Hood River. When she’s not hunched over her keyboard or digging in the garden, you can find her mountain biking, kiteboarding, hiking, skiing or camping somewhere in Oregon.

Featured in this story

Crater Lake
Klamath Falls, Southern Oregon
Alvord Hot Springs
Princeton, Eastern Oregon
Steens Mountain
Princeton, Eastern Oregon
Dee Wright Observatory
McKenzie Bridge, Willamette Valley
Scott Lake Campground
Sisters Coffee Company – West Hood Ave.
Breitenbush Hot Springs Resort and Conference Center
Sahalie Falls Loop
Proxy Falls
McKenzie Bridge, Willamette Valley
Crater Lake Lodges
Fort Klamath, Southern Oregon