Scenic USA - Oregon

McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway

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South Sister and Sparks Lake

Photo by Alastair Allan
Alastair's Photo Gallery
Inset photos by Denny Barnes

     Oregon's first time visitors are Clear Lake - Oregon Route 126 introduced to the McKenzie Pass- Santiam Pass Scenic Byway as a land of fire and ice. Black lava fields, paved with gutters and deep crevasses, provide a deep contrast with snowcapped mountain peaks and glaciers. The byway boasts the largest collection of white-capped volcanoes in the lower 48 states, including Broken top, Mount Washington and the Three Sisters. This beautiful reflective view of Sparks Lake from Century Drive, south of the byway, shows off the impressive South Sister. Named Faith, Hope and Charity, the Sisters dominate the byway nearby McKenzie Pass, with all three topping 10,000 feet. One of the great mountain bike trails, boasting a 1500 foot descent from the trailhead at Clear Lake, follows the McKenzie River. Seen as technical trek, the 26 mile McKenzie River Trail is serious, as well as one of the most scenic biking trips in the state.
      The 82 mile byway, closed to vehicles over 35 feet, weaves its way up a steep Oregon Route 242. Heading west from McKenzie Pass, the Deadhorse Grade drops 1200 feet in four miles. After several hairpin turns, travelers arrive at Proxy Falls.
      West of the town of Sisters, Route 126 joins U.S. Route 20 and traces the 150 year old Santiam Wagon Road. Sisters - McKenzie Pass The pass, discovered by Andrew Wiley, was named for the Santiam Indian branch of the Kalapooian Tribe. This section of the byway passes Big Lake, the Hoodoo Ski Area and magnificent views of Mount Washington. Access to the Pacific Crest Trail offers backpackers incredible views of this section of the Cascade Range. Throughout the circular byway, Oregon's sightseers will encounter outstanding examples of dormant volcanoes, cinder cones, deep glaciated canyons, old growth forests, crystal clear lakes and plenty of wildlife, all centered on the Mount Washington Wilderness Area.

    Byway Map


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