Sometimes you just get a hankering to drive. It’s not about speed or distance or getting to one particular destination. It’s just about the ride and the view — scenic drives, deep forests, cascading waterfalls, mountain lakes, historic bridges, quaint towns and family-owned wineries. If you’re looking for all of the above, head to Southern Oregon. The region is home to an All-American Road, a National Scenic Byway and an Oregon State Scenic Byway. So hit the road and take in the beauty of Southern Oregon.
Umpqua River Scenic Byway (Length: 66 miles)
Take a tour of the charming little pioneer town of Oakland (pop. 927) with a host of historic buildings and antique shops. Follow the Umpqua River to the northwest on Highway 138, passing through Elkton (pop. 195), home to the state’s newest wine region with four tasting rooms located right in town. The drive includes beautiful views of working farms, a covered bridge, forests, lakes and the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area. It ends in the coastal town of Reedsport (pop. 4,000) on lovely Winchester Bay in the heart of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway (Length: 172 miles)
This National Scenic Byway leaves the town of Roseburg (pop. 22,000) and heads east, following the Umpqua River on Highway 138, including the Wild and Scenic section. This segment includes many opportunities for hiking and waterfall views. (Toketee Falls, Susan Creek Falls and Watson Falls are favorites.) You’ll pass Diamond Lake in the thick Umpqua National Forest with views of Mt. Theilsen and Mt. Bailey. Further south, you’ll travel along the Rogue River and pass the north and south entrance roads for gorgeous Crater Lake. The route ends in the town of Gold Hill (pop. 1,236), home of The Oregon Vortex, a place of unexplained mystery.
Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway (Length: 140 miles)
This All-American Road begins at Diamond Junction, just south of Chemult on Highway 97. Take Highway 138 to the north entrance of Crater Lake, the 6-mile-wide caldera containing the deepest lake in North America. The route circumnavigates the lake on Rim Drive. (Note: This road is closed seasonally.) Visit the lodge and take in views of Wizard Island or hike down to the crystalline water. Head south on Highway 62 and then 97 to pass Upper Klamath Lake, the largest body of fresh water west of the Rocky Mountains. Pass through the historic town of Klamath Falls (pop. 21,000), home of the Favell Museum, a treasure trove of Western history. Enjoy fantastic bird watching at the wildlife refuges that make up the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex.