If you’re looking for some of the most exquisite and pristine territory in the United States, you’ll find it in Oregon. The state offers a tremendous number of places to view its scenery. From the coast to the top of Mt. Hood, there are plenty of scenic areas in Oregon to visit. A fantastic way to learn about a state is to drive its roads.
The National Scenic Byways Program’s mission is to “provide resources to the byway community in creating a unique travel experience and enhanced local quality of life through efforts to preserve, protect, interpret, and promote the intrinsic qualities of designated byways”. To become a NSB, the road must offer some sort of unique archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational or scenic quality that would be of interest to travelers along the way. So, of course, it comes as no surprise that Oregon has five National Scenic Byways. Here, I’ve listed three that showcase Oregon’s fabulous mountains.
The McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Byway makes its way through the Cascades among the range’s 10,000 foot-peaks. It runs through areas completely surrounded by lava (65-square miles worth!) and offers up views of Mt. Washington, North and Middle Sister, Black Butte, gorgeous waterfalls, two national forests and plenty of fishable rivers and hikable trails. The 82-mile loop tops out at McKenzie Pass 5,325-feet above sea level.
Cascade Lakes was named one of America’s 10 most important byways. The sights, sounds and peacefulness of this 66-mile lake loop will leave you breathless. The trip starts and ends in Bend. Throughout the journey travelers will see a line of snow-peaked mountains to include Mt. Bachelor and Broken Top and will get the opportunity to enjoy the mountain waters of Sparks Lake, Devil Lake, Elk Lake, Hosmer Lake and Lava Lake. But it doesn’t end there. On the way back to Bend, at least three other lakes can be seen and visited depending on the chosen return route.
The West Cascades is the drive to make if you’re travelling between Portland and Eugene and have a few extra days to enjoy. The distance for this trip measures 215 miles but the pay-off is well worth it. With miles of trails and rivers, not only can you drive the route but along the way you can also hike, fish and even stop for the night. The trip is best done in two days so as to be able to enjoy the full richness this area has to offer. On your journey you’ll see the state’s longest covered bridge, forests between 200 and 500-years old, and if you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll probably see some elk and deer. There are numerous recreation sites along the way, so if you really want to extend your trip, consider camping out for a few nights at different campgrounds, taking some time to enjoy the great outdoors and most of all, unwind from city life.
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