Old McKenzie Highway Loop

The Old McKenzie Highway opened on Monday after the Milli/ Separation fires & winter closure. This sounded like a good excuse for a little auto touring. It was interesting to see the fire areas as they backed up to the lava flows. We decided to drive the whole loop around Mt Washington and, in the process, stumbled onto Sahalie and Koosah Falls on the McKenzie River in the Cascade Mountains. It was quite scenic.

Koosah Fall Koosah Falls

Sahalie Falls McKenize River & Sahalie Falls

Exploring the Old McKenzie Highway Loop: A Scenic Road Trip in Central Oregon
The Old McKenzie Highway loop, also known as Oregon Highway 242, is an 82-mile scenic byway that winds through the Cascade Mountain range in central Oregon. It offers travelers a chance to immerse themselves in stunning natural scenery and discover the region's fascinating history. From towering volcanic peaks to crystal-clear rivers, here's why this road trip should be on your bucket list.

Connecting Two Passes: McKenzie Pass and Santiam Pass
The Old McKenzie Highway loop connects two mountain passes - McKenzie Pass and Santiam Pass. This means you get to experience not just one, but two breathtaking sections of Oregon's landscape in a single trip.

A Journey Back in Time
Originally established as a wagon road over the Cascades in the late 19th century, this route holds a significant place in Oregon's transportation history. It served as a vital link between the Willamette Valley and central Oregon until the 1960s when a new highway was constructed for better accessibility throughout the year.

Stunning Natural Landscapes
One of the main attractions along the Old McKenzie Highway loop is McKenzie Pass, a high-elevation crossing that takes you through an awe-inspiring terrain of ancient lava flows and volcanic peaks. As you drive through this area, you'll be surrounded by the majestic Three Sisters Wilderness to the south and the scenic Mount Washington Wilderness to the north.

Outdoor Recreation Opportunities
The abundance of natural beauty along this scenic byway means there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy. Here are some popular options:

  • Hiking: Lace up your boots and explore one of the many hiking trails that crisscross the surrounding wilderness areas.
  • Camping: Pitch a tent at one of the designated campgrounds along the route and spend a night under the stars.
  • Fishing: Cast your line into the McKenzie River, known for its excellent trout and salmon fishing.
  • Rock Climbing: Challenge yourself on the volcanic cliffs that dot the landscape near McKenzie Pass.

Dee Wright Observatory
Located along the Old McKenzie Highway, the Dee Wright Observatory is a unique stone structure built in the 1930s. Its purpose? To provide visitors with panoramic views of the surrounding volcanic landscape. Climb to the top and marvel at the beauty of nature stretching out before you.

McKenzie River National Recreation Area
As the highway winds its way through the Cascade Mountains, it also passes through the McKenzie River National Recreation Area. This scenic area is home to the pristine McKenzie River, famous for its crystal-clear waters and abundance of waterfalls. Take a break from driving and explore this natural playground on foot.

Seasonal Access
It's important to note that the Old McKenzie Highway loop is typically open from late spring to early fall. This is due to heavy snowfall during winter months, which makes the road impassable for regular vehicles. However, don't let this deter you! During the warmer seasons, when the weather is mild and the scenery is vibrant, this road trip is an absolute must-do.

A Journey for All
Whether you're an outdoor enthusiast, a history buff, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of nature, there's something for everyone on this scenic drive. The Old McKenzie Highway loop offers a chance to disconnect from everyday life and immerse yourself in Oregon's natural wonders.

So, what are you waiting for? Add this road trip to your itinerary and get ready for an unforgettable adventure through central Oregon's Cascade Mountains.

Any comments, questions, etc? Contact us.

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