Here in Oregon, it’s almost always a good idea to take the scenic route. Our state is rich in natural beauty, and there’s no better way to experience its full measure than by taking a road trip. From enchanting coastal highways to snow-capped mountain routes, these nine roads have some of the best windshield views in the Beaver State. Take a look:
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date. If you know of a local business that could use some extra support during these times, please nominate them here:
1. Pacific Coast Scenic Byway
This magnificent route traces the entirety of Oregon's rugged coastline along US-101, taking in over 363 miles of pure magic. The byway begins in historic Astoria and ends south of Brookings and offers spectacular views of the most scenic spots on the Pacific Coast.
Points of interest along the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway include the Astoria-Megler Bridge, Cannon Beach's iconic Haystack Rock, Cape Meares, Devils Punch Bowl, Seal Rock, Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, the Umpqua and Rogue Rivers, and 11 stunning lighthouses - seven of which are open to the public. These are just a handful of the hundreds of highlights.
2. Historic Columbia River Highway
Clifftop panoramas and wild beauty are just a few reasons why this scenic road has some of the best windshield views in the state. As America’s first scenic highway and a National Historic Landmark, this 70-mile route travels from Troutdale to The Dalles along Historic Columbia River Highway No. 100 (also marked as US-30 and I-84 in portions).
The route is divided into three sections. The Waterfall Zone in the western portion will carry you past some of the state's most famous falls and the breathtaking Chanticleer Point. The central segment - the Columbia River Zone - hugs the Columbia River between Cascade Locks and Hood River. The High Plateau Zone on the eastern end features the Mosier Twin Tunnels and Rowena Crest. Along the entire route, you'll travel across dozens of historic bridges as well. This is one trip that belongs on every Oregonian's bucket list.
Note: Due to the Eagle Creek Fire in 2017, a portion of this route between Bridal Veil and Hood River is currently closed. Keep an eye out for updates about when this section will reopen, and in the meantime, check out the scenic highway on each side!
3. Hells Canyon Scenic Byway
Journey from the mountain's edge to the valley floor along this beautiful route that follows the Wallowa River, passes Hells Canyon (North America's deepest river gorge), and circles the Wallowa Mountains.
One endpoint can be found in La Grande, where it travels along OR-82 through the towns of Wallowa and Joseph before heading south to meet with OR-86 and continuing west to reach the other endpoint in Baker City.
4. Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway
There are plenty of high points along this storied route, including the one-of-a-kind Crater Lake (pictured above).
The route begins on OR-138 south of Chemult, turning onto OR-209 through Crater Lake National Park and following the Rim Drive around the caldera. The byway continues onto OR-62 near Mt. Scott and along Upper Klamath Lake and before passing Mt. McLoughlin and joining OR-97 near Bear Valley National Wildlife Refuge and continuing down into California.
5. Journey Through Time Scenic Byway
Take a step back in time with a trip on the Journey Through Time Scenic Byway. This roadway runs south on OR-97 from Biggs Junction on the Columbia River down to Antelope, before turning east onto OR-218 toward Fossil. Here, you'll find yourself near the John Day Fossil Bed National Monument and the Painted Hills. The route continues east on OR-26 through John Day before meeting up with OR-7 and ending in Baker City.
5. Journey Through Time Scenic Byway
This road travels through multiple ghost towns, including the well-preserved Shaniko (pictured above). Obvious highlights include the stunning Painted Hills and John Day Fossil Beds, where you'll find millions of years of history on display right before your eyes, and portions of the Wild and Scenic John Day River, as well as lesser-known spots like Picture Gorge near Dayville. The landscape around Prairie City with the Strawberry Mountains Wilderness and the road up into the Blue Mountains is a sight to behold!
6. Oregon Outback Scenic Byway
The beauty of the high desert is on full display on the Oregon Outback Scenic Byway. Wide open spaces and grazing animals will make you feel like you're miles away from it all. The route, which travels from La Pine to Lakeview, California along OR-31, passes by several stunning natural features, including Fort Rock (pictured above).
The southern end of the Oregon Outback Scenic Byway will give you a stunning view of and Summer Lake near Paisley. The Summer Lake Basin is a birdwatcher's paradise and is home to bald eagles, great blue herons, and sandhill cranes. This rural route is the picture of peace and quiet.
7. Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway
This 172-mile route takes you past two of Oregon’s nationally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers - the North Umpqua River and the Rogue River - as well as a host of stunning waterfalls.
One of these waterfalls, Tokatee Falls (pictured above), drops an impressive 120 feet and is definitely worth pulling over for. In the fall, this road comes alive with vibrantly colored foliage. You'll also pass by Diamond Lake and will catch a great glimpse of Mt. Thielsen along OR-230. Near Union Creek, you'll find a lovely overlook of the Rogue Gorge, a collapsed lava tube along the Rogue River.
8. Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway
The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is a 66-mile route traveling west from Bend through the Deschutes National Forest and past Mt. Bachelor before continuing on to Forest Route 46 and ending at the junction with OR-58 southeast of Oakridge.
As its name suggests, this byway is famous for its alpine lakes - there are 14 of them along the way - and the snow-capped mountains and postcard-worthy vistas along the way will leave you speechless. Don't forget your camera!
9. McKenzie Pass - Santiam Pass Scenic Byway
This 82-mile National Scenic Byway offers a loop tour through the Cascade Mountains that is best traveled in the summer (as heavy snowfall can close portions of the route in winter). It begins and ends in Sisters and travels along OR-126 over Santiam Pass, then south along the McKenzie River before turning onto OR-242 and heading over the McKenzie Pass.
Along the way, you'll be treated to views of several Cascade Range peaks, including Three Finger Jack, Mt. Washington, the Three Sisters, as well as Suttle Lake, Lava Camp Lake (pictured above) Hoodoo Ski Area, the Dee Wright Observatory, high-mountain lava fields, and the beautiful Deschutes National Forest. Few routes are more scenic than this!
How many of these roads have you traveled? Share your experiences with us in the comments below, and don’t forget to share photos from your adventures on our
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