National Scenic Byways and Other Recreational Drives


Oregon offers the scenic driver exciting routes. Hells Canyon, with the deepest gorge in North America, offers breathtaking views. Or, get a taste of pioneer days on the historic Oregon Trail. And throughout, there are stopping points for taking in the vast natural beauty, along with a variety of recreation areas.

Oregon offers the scenic driver exciting routes. Hells Canyon, with the deepest gorge in North America, offers breathtaking views. Or, get a taste of pioneer days on the historic Oregon Trail. And throughout, there are stopping points for taking in the vast natural beauty, along with a variety of recreation areas.

Aufderheide Memorial Drive
The Robert Aufderheide Memorial Drive on the Willamette National Forest parallels for 70 wiles the South Fork of the McKenzie River and the North Fork of the Willamette River and offers views of cascading streams and large, old-growth Douglas fir. The byway offers one of the best opportunities in the nation to view a variety of forest management activities.

Bend Oregon
Bend is base camp for Oregon's high desert country. The area includes forests, steppes, mountains, even some wetlands.

Blue Mountain Scenic Byway
The 130-mile Blue Mountain Scenic Byway offers panoramic views of Potamus Canyon and the Wild and Scenic North Fork John Day River. as well as an abundance of wildlife. The route offers abundant opportunity for history buffs as it travels coal and gold mining areas, passes the Fremont Power House, and highlights four historic Forest Service stations. If this byway whets your appetite for more, it conveniently connects to the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest's Elkhorn Drive.

Cascade Lakes Highway
The Cascade Lakes Highway traverses 93 miles of forests and meadows on the Deschutes National Forest and provides year-round access to the Cascade Mountains in Central Oregon. The route provides outstanding views of volcanic peaks, and offers access to eight resorts, dozens of lakes, and the largest ski resort in the Northwest.

Clear Lake Loop
The Clear Lake Loop follows major highways along the McKenzie River, past the beautiful Koosah and Sahalie Falls and Clear Lake, through lava flows and down the Santiam Highway 20 past many historic landmarks. The loop is possible all year round, but is exceptionally beautiful in the early summer and fall.

Coast Highway
Drive the entire 400-mile spectacle of the Oregon coastline, with 70 parks and waysides and dozens of scenic side loops leading to overlooks, lighthouses, observatories, waterfronts and marinas. You're never far from welcoming accommodations or generous helpings of Oregon's famous fresh seafood. All along the route, major highways connect you to the cities of inland Oregon.

Columbia River Gorge
The sights along the Columbia River Highway are many, as well as the opportunities for getting out of the car and catching the view, picnicking, and leg and soul stretching hikes.

Crater Lake National Park
Twenty overlooks along the 33-mile rim drive makes this a spectacular excursion.

Crescent Lake Loop
The Crescent Lake Loop will take you from Eugene on Highway 58 to Oakridge, past Hills Creek Reservoir and over Emigrant Pass to Summit and Crescent Lakes, to Highway 58, and back to Eugene. Highlights of this trip include a side trip to Timpanogas Lake, a hike to Indigo Lake, a side trip to Waldo Lake and crossing both the Emigrant and Willamette passes. This route follows the approximate route of the Oregon Central Military Wagon Road that was eventually replaced by the Willamette Pass Highway 58.

Elkhorn Drive Scenic Byway
Elkhorn Drive begins in Baker Valley at an elevation of 3,400 feet and rises to over 7,000 feet in the Elkhorn Range of the Blue Mountains. Along the 106-mile loop, travelers visit Sumpter Valley where they can see reminders of the earlier gold rush and logging days, enjoy recreation opportunities from swimming to skiing, and take a ride on a restored narrow-gauge railroad. Visitors can also view a recovering fire area, forest pest management activities, old-growth areas, and a variety of wildlife.

Hat Point Scenic Overview
Hat Point, 6,982 feet high, and balanced on the west edge of Hells Canyon, overlooks the deepest gorge in North America. The Snake River, elevation 1,276 feet, and Idaho's Seven Devils Mountains, over 9,000 feet in elevation, are both visible from the vantage of Hat Point.

Hells Canyon Roads
The landscape of Hells Canyon is a study in contrast, from the steep desert-like lower slopes and sandbars edging the Snake River, to the rugged peaks and alpine lakes of the majestic Seven Devils Mountains towering almost 8,000 feet above.

Hells Canyon Scenic Byway System
Some of the most dramatic scenery in the country is found along the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway on the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. Located on a combination of county, state, private, and National Forest roads, this 314 mile trip includes a loop road through the Wallow Mountains with side trips to view the impressive Hells Canyon of the Snake River, the deepest river-carved gorge in North America.

Highway 26 Prineville Tour
View areas of desert, irrigated valleys, mountains, straight sided rock formations, desert rivers and mountain streams. The geological and demographic variety of these tours invites further visits and takes the traveler from the times of the first settlers to the present. Experiences of all varieties are available.

John Day Fossil Loop
An eight-hour drive that takes you back 30 million years. This full-day circuit begins and ends in the neighboring towns of John Day and Canyon City. From wheat fields to white water, rockhound finds to remnants of Oregon's pioneer history, it passes remarkable variety and beauty. Along the way, the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument preserves a unique record of the region's ancient life.

Lake/Harney Scenic Byway
Tour the"Oregon Outback" on this 200-mile scenic byway from Burns to Lakeview Traverse vast rangelands, national forests and mountain ranges. Explore wildlife refuges, fossil beds, rock and mineral fields, geologic formations and scenic wonders all along the way.

Lower Crooked River Back Country Byway
Interested in exploring Oregon's back country, those places often overlooked by highway motorists on their way to well-known attractions? For those with the time and desire to turn off the beaten track onto a country road, Oregon Back Country Byways provide access to a diversity of landscapes and attractions just waiting to be rediscovered. From forests to deserts, from mountains to canyons, the willing explorer can find some of Oregon's spectacular but lesser-known attractions.

Lewis and Clark Trail
A two-week family outing following in the footsteps of America's two greatest adventurers.

McKenzie-Santiam Pass
These are some of Oregon's most beautiful mountain landscapes, right in the heart of volcano country. The byway follows rivers, climbs over high passes, crosses lava flows, passes picturesque lakes and winds through old growth forest. The highest point is McKenzie Pass, at 5,321 feet. Here, and at Santiam Pass, you can walk on the famous Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail.

Mt. Hood/Columbia River Gorge Loop
Drive through the national treasures that neighbor Oregon's largest city. Loop around 11,235-foot Mt. Hood through the magnificent Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, past a dozen waterfalls, Bonneville Dam, Cascade Locks, Timberline Lodge and countless panoramic Viewpoints. Stop along the way to learn of the region's rich pioneer and Indian history. Although you can cover the entire route in a leisurely four-hour drive, you'll want a day or two to really take in the sights.

Oregon Trail
Follow historic footsteps along the Oregon Trail from the state's eastern border to the Trail's official end in Oregon City. Along the way, stop to view the area's beautiful scenery.

Portland Drives
Hitting the road in the Columbia Gorge and northwestern Oregon's Coastal Range, Willamette Valley and seacoast.

Rogue/Umpqua Scenic Byway
From Ashland, Medford or Roseburg, embark on a 1 72-mile scenic route that takes you to the edge of the indigo-blue waters of Crater Lake, past Diamond Like, along the wild Umpqua and Rogue rivers, and to waterfalls, parks and campgrounds. Save a day to follow the National Byway signs along this beautiful Southern Oregon drive.

Santiam Rivers Loop
This loop travels on major highways through forest and farm land. Historical markers and stopping places and a variety of alternate routes highlight this trip. This is a lovely trip to observe fall color. The McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Loop Scenic Byway, located on the Deschutes and Willamette National Forests, traverses 81.5 miles and offers views of recent Cascade vulcanism, spectacular lakes, and vibrant fall colors.

Steens Mountain National Back Country Byway
Skirting a high desert wilderness. Includes a self-guided tour of the Diamond Craters geologic area.

Sumpter Valley Railway
This auto tour of the historic narrow guage Sumpter Valley Railway is a trip into the past. The area was originally known for gold mining. Along with the railroad came a logging industry, and later on, a shipping industry for cattle. The tour is filled with historic sites, actual railroad cars and other artifacts.

Willamette Valley Covered Bridge Loops
Although they were built to protect their wooden platforms from Western Oregon's abundant rainfall, covered bridges also became known for protecting couples in search of a little privacy. And thus, these bridges earned themselves the nickname "kissing bridges." Set out via car or bike to tour a dozen of Oregon's remaining covered bridges, showcased on these two loops that surround the Albany and Cottage Grove areas just off I-5. And relive the romance.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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