17 Oregon Scenic Byways, Drives, & Road Trips 2023
If you’re an adventure enthusiast or craving an escape, then Oregon’s scenic byways, drives, and road trips are your ticket to experiencing the state’s unrivaled landscapes!
Oregon, the Pacific Northwest gem, is a place that can captivate every traveler with its diversity in natural beauty. From towering mountains and lush forests to pristine coastlines and meandering rivers, this state offers an array of breathtaking vistas waiting to be discovered.
I spent 3 weeks in the summer of 2021 driving up and down both the coast and inland of Oregon, seeing all the best views along the way.
Whether you’re embarking on a weekend getaway or planning an extended road trip, this guide aims to equip you with everything you need to create lasting memories on the road less traveled.
So get ready to embark on an unforgettable exploration of Oregon’s scenic byways, drives, and road trips!
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Best Oregon Scenic Byways, Drives, & Road Trips
1. Historic Columbia River Highway
- Distance: 70 miles.
- Best time to drive: Year round.
- Driving time: 4-6 hours, allow more time if stopping to hike.
You can’t miss America’s first scenic highway along the Columbia River in Northern Oregon. This 70 mile stretch of road includes many vistas, waterfalls, and bridges next to the river.
One of the top spots to along the Columbia River Gorge is Multnomah Falls, the tallest waterfall in Oregon standing at 620 feet tall. There are many other great waterfalls along the highway, such as Latourell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Wahclella Falls, Wahkeena Falls, and Horsetail Falls.
If you’re up for a longer hike, stop by the Eagle Creek trail and hike to Tunnel Falls. The trail is 13.6 miles round trip with 2,360 feet of elevation gain. This trail features a few waterfalls, but Tunnel Falls is an epic, unique spot where a tunnel is cut through the rock behind the waterfall you can walk through!
There are also quite a few wineries along the Columbia River Gorge, such as Phelps Creek Vineyards or Cathedral Ridge Winery both near Hood River, OR.
2. Pacific Coast Scenic Byway
- Distance: 363 miles.
- Best time to drive: Year round but preferably summer or fall.
- Driving time: 10-12 hours but preferably 2-4 days to see all the best spots.
Driving down the Pacific Coast Highway in Oregon is not to be missed. I have driven the entirety of Oregon’s 101 PCH and it is wild, epic, and in my opinion the best stretch of coastline in the United States. This is why the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway is one of the best scenic drives in Oregon!
The Oregon Pacific Coast Byway has plentiful wildlife, towering coastal Redwood trees, sand dunes, and arches and rocks carved out by years of erosion.
Driving from Portland down the coast you’ll pass Cannon Beach that has the infamous Haystack Rock. Going further South down the coast is Oswald West State Park, Cape Kiwanda, and Cape Perpetua.
The Southern Oregon Coast is my personal favorite, starting at the town of Bandon with Face Rock Recreation Area and heading down to Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor. Samuel H. Boardman is what your coastal forested dreams are made of!
3. Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway
- Distance: 500 miles.
- Best time to drive: Summer or early fall.
- Driving time: 2-3 days.
This scenic drive is the ultimate road trip for you if you’re chasing snow capped mountain views. Well, actually the mountains are volcanoes.. no big deal right?
This epic 500-mile journey extends from Crater Lake in Southern Oregon and ends in Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California. It passes through diverse landscapes, including volcanic peaks, lava fields, pristine lakes, and picturesque forests.
Start in Crater Lake National Park, where in the summertime there are many hiking trail available including one that takes you down to the lake’s shores. You can go swimming, cliff jumping, and take a boat tour around the lake from here.
Next head to Lava Beds National Monument to explore lava tube caves, see petroglyphs, and learn about the rich Native American history here.
Cross the border into California and drive down to Weed, California, where Mount Shasta looms. Check out nearby McCloud Falls and Burney Falls which are both incredibly gorgeous.
Soak in views of Shasta by hiking the Heart Lake trail from Castle Lake. This hike is 3 miles round trip with 813 feet of elevation gain to get picture-perfect views of the snow-capped volcano with a lake.
End this road trip by going to Mount Lassen, another volcano just South of Mount Shasta. While here you can hike the 3 mile Bumpass Hell trail, a large hydrothermal area with mud pots, boiling pools, and steam vents. Or go kayaking or paddle boarding on Manzanita Lake near the park’s entrance.
- Distance: 33 miles around the rim of Crater Lake.
- Best time to drive: Summer months of late June- early September. The Rim Drive is closed due to snow starting in the late fall, winter, and spring.
- Driving time: 90 minutes without stops. You can spend a full day doing this drive with hikes and stops along the way.
Crater Lake National Park is in Southern Oregon, a 4 1/2 hour drive from Portland. At over 1,900 feet deep, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the U.S.!
The Crater Lake Rim Drive has 8 main viewpoints and 15 other turnout vistas. The drive has many hikes, including hiking to Mount Scott, the highest point in the National Park.
Hike the Cleetwood Cove down to the lake’s shores where you can go swimming, cliff jumping, or take a tour to Wizard Island or around the lake.
5. Three Capes Scenic Loop
- Distance: 40 miles.
- Best time to drive: Year-round.
- Driving time: 4 hours.
Oregon’s Three Capes Scenic Loop is a stunning coastal drive that takes you on a scenic journey along the Pacific Ocean.
The loop is named after the three prominent capes it encompasses: Cape Kiwanda, Cape Lookout, and Cape Meares.
Starting at Pacific City, the loop begins with Cape Kiwanda. This cape is known for its towering sand dunes, stunning rock formations, and the iconic Haystack Rock.
As you explore Cape Kiwanda, you can climb the dunes for panoramic views of the coastline, witness the crashing waves, and capture memorable photos of the picturesque landscape.
Continuing along the loop, you’ll reach Cape Lookout. This cape is home to a majestic state park, offering hiking trails that lead you through lush forests and along the rugged coastline.
The Cape Lookout Trail provides breathtaking views of the ocean from high cliff edges, making it a popular spot for whale watching during the migration season. The park also has a campground if you wish to extend your stay and immerse yourself in the coastal atmosphere.
The final cape along the loop is Cape Meares. This cape is known for its historic lighthouse, which has been in operation since 1890 and offers panoramic views of the surrounding ocean and forested cliffs.
Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint is also home to the famous Octopus Tree, an ancient Sitka spruce with unique branch formations.
6. McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway
- Distance: 80 miles.
- Best time to drive: Summer and early fall.
- Driving time: 4-5 hours.
The McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway is a breathtaking route that takes you through the heart of the Central Oregon Cascades, offering panoramic views, stunning landscapes, and access to several natural attractions.
Starting in the town of Sisters, the scenic byway winds its way through towering pine forests and volcanic landscapes. As you drive along the route, you’ll encounter a variety of landscapes, from lush forests to barren lava fields.
The byway also provides access Clear Lake and Sahalie and Koosah Falls. Clear Lake is a stunning mountain lake known for its crystal-clear waters and ancient submerged forest. You can rent a boat or kayak to explore the lake or simply take a leisurely stroll along its shores.
Sahalie and Koosah Falls are impressive waterfalls on the McKenzie River, cascading through a picturesque gorge. The hike to these falls is a 3 mile trail with 360 feet of elevation gain.
Another amazing waterfall hike on this scenic byway is Proxy Falls. The trailhead is only accessible during the summer months. The hike to Proxy Falls is just 1.6 miles round trip with 150 feet of elevation gain.
7. Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway
- Distance: 172 miles.
- Best time to drive: Summer- Early Fall.
- Driving time: 5-7 hours.
The Rogue- Umpqua Scenic Byway starts in Roseburg in Southern Oregon. Some of the major highlights along this route include Umpqua hot springs, Toketee Falls, Watson Falls, Diamond Lake, and Crater Lake National Park.
Umpqua hot springs is right down the road from Toketee Falls making it easy to do both in one morning.
The hike to Umpqua hot springs is less than a mile round trip, but steep with 300 feet. of elevation gain. Note these hot springs are clothing optional, and there is a 5$ day use fee to be paid at the parking lot. Get here early to avoid crowds as these small hot pools get filled quickly!
The hike to Toketee Falls is also less than a mile round trip, with 165 feet of elevation gain. This spot is really beautiful and unique, with the 113-foot tall waterfall between basalt lava columns.
If you’re looking to stop at another waterfall, go to Watson Falls, the third tallest waterfall in Oregon. The moderate trail to get there is 0.8 miles round trip with 360 feet of elevation gain.
Visit Diamond Lake on your way to Crater Lake National Park. This lake is surrounded by beautiful snow-capped mountains. You can rent boats on the lake, or ride bikes on a trail that wraps around its’ shore
8. Mount Hood Scenic Byway
- Distance: 105 miles.
- Best time to drive: Year-round.
- Driving time: 4 hours or more if you plan to stop and hike.
This byway offers breathtaking views of the iconic Mount Hood, charming alpine landscapes, lush forests, sparkling lakes, and cascading rivers.
Mount Hood is a towering stratovolcano and the highest peak in Oregon. Its majestic snow-capped summit serves as a dramatic backdrop along the entire route.
In the summer you’ll find numerous hiking and biking trails and lakes to paddle out on. In the winter, skiers and snowboarders will love the Mt. Hood Skibowl or Mt. Hood Meadows resorts.
Trillium Lake, located near the base of Mount Hood, is a popular spot for fishing, kayaking, and picnicking, offering stunning reflections of the mountain in its tranquil waters.
The byway also winds its way through the Hood River Valley, an area famous for its abundant fruit orchards and vineyards. This region is known for its production of apples, pears, cherries, and wine. You can stop at farm stands, taste fresh produce, and even participate in harvest festivals, particularly during the summer and fall months.
Along the byway, there are several charming towns and communities to discover. Government Camp, a small alpine village located near Mount Hood’s slopes, offers amenities, accommodations, and dining options for outdoor enthusiasts.
9. Blue Mountain Scenic Byway
- Distance: 145 miles.
- Best time to drive: Spring, Summer & Fall. Spring and fall are preferred for the best weather. Snow in the winter can close portions of the highway in higher elevations.
- Driving time: 3-4 hours.
The Blue Mountains are located in Northeast Oregon. This Oregon Scenic Byway will take you along Interstate 84 offering views of mountains, forests, and valleys.
The Blue Mountains are not towering, pointed mountains like most other mountain ranges. Instead, there are canyons and plateaus throughout these peaks.
Along your route, look out for diverse wildlife such as deer, elk, birds, and potentially black bears or cougars.
Some of the best hiking on your route will be in the Anthony Lakes area. Hike to Van Patten Lake, a moderate 4 mile trail with 1,000 feet of elevation gain to a beautiful alpine lake. Or do the Anthony Lake to Black Lake trail which features 2 lakes and is 2 miles round trip with 230 feet of elevation gain.
10. Hells Canyon Scenic Byway
- Distance: 218 mile loop.
- Best time to drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall. Portions of the road is closed during the winter at high elevations due to snow.
- Driving time: 6-8 hours.
The Hells Canyon Scenic Byway in Oregon is a picturesque route that winds through the magnificent Hells Canyon, one of the deepest river canyons in North America. This byway offers breathtaking views of the rugged Wallowa mountains, dramatic cliffs, and the mighty Snake River.
You’ll pass through lush forests, open meadows, and panoramic overlooks that offer awe-inspiring vistas.
One of the highlights of the byway is the Hells Canyon Overlook, located at an elevation of 8,000 feet. This viewpoint provides a panoramic view of the deep canyon, stretching as far as the eye can see.
Hell’s Canyon has excellent whitewater rafting and fishing opportunities along the Snake River.
11. Willamette Valley Scenic Byway
- Distance: 130 miles.
- Best time to drive: Year- round.
- Driving time: 2-4 hours.
The Willamette Valley Scenic Byway is a picturesque route that takes you through the heart of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, known for its fertile farmlands, vineyards, and charming small towns. The byway offers a diverse array of landscapes, including rolling hills, lush vineyards, picturesque farms, and the majestic Cascade Mountains in the distance.
The byway begins in the town of Cottage Grove, located south of Eugene, and stretches about 130 miles North to Portland.
One of the highlights of the Willamette Valley Scenic Byway is the abundance of vineyards and wineries. The valley is renowned for its wine production, particularly Pinot Noir. You can visit wineries for tastings, learn about the winemaking process, and enjoy the beautiful vineyard landscapes.
If you’d like to enjoy the Willamette Valley wineries without driving, consider this small group tour! You’ll visit 3 wineries with transportation and lunch included on a full day tour from Portland.
The byway also offers opportunities for outdoor activities. There are several parks and natural areas along the route where you can hike, bike, or have a picnic. The Willamette River flows through the valley, providing opportunities for boating, fishing, and other water-based activities.
12. Journey Through Time Scenic Byway
- Distance: 285 miles.
- Best time to drive: Year-round.
- Driving time: 10 hours.
The Journey Through Time Scenic Byway is a captivating route that spans approximately 286 miles through the rugged and diverse landscapes of Eastern Oregon. It takes you on a journey through time (hence the name) showcasing the region’s rich geological history, cultural heritage, and stunning natural attractions.
The byway begins in the city of Biggs Junction, located along the Columbia River in north-central Oregon. From there, it winds its way through a variety of landscapes, following the path of the Oregon Trail and passing through several small towns and areas of historical significance.
One of the highlights along the byway is the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, which consists of several units, including the Painted Hills, Clarno, and Sheep Rock.
These feature remarkable geological formations, fossil discoveries, and scenic vistas. You can explore the vibrant colors of the Painted Hills, marvel at the ancient rock formations in Clarno, and visit the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center to learn about the area’s rich fossil history.
13. Outback Scenic Byway
- Distance: 170 miles.
- Best time to drive: Spring and Fall.
- Driving time: 5-6 hours.
This Oregon scenic byway will take you through Oregon’s desert. This part is known as the Oregon Outback, a hidden gem part of the state not many visit.
You’ll begin in the town of La Pine and continue down to Fort Rock.
Fort Rock rises 325 feet out of the surrounding desert landscape. Fort Rock is a volcanic tuff ring or a circular rock formation that was formed by volcanic activity. Take just a bit of time to stop and take a picture during your drive.
Continuing down your drive, you’ll hit Silver and Summer Lakes. On the way, you’ll pass Picture Rock Pass which is a wall of Native American petroglyphs.
If you fancy a dip in a hot spring, stop by Summer Lake Hot Springs to soak with beautiful views of Oregon’s high desert. Although these are commercialized, the hot springs are natural and really beautiful and totally worth a stop on your drive!
Your scenic drive will end a little past the town of Lakeview right before you’d hit the border of California.
14. Tualatin Valley: Trees to Sea Scenic Byway
- Distance: 68 miles.
- Best time to drive: Year-round.
- Driving time: 2- 4 hours.
This was recently added in 2018, making it one of Oregon’s newest scenic byways. The route connects the Tualatin Valley, directly west of Portland, to the Pacific Ocean. You will drive through the Tillamook State Forest out to Oregon’s epic coastline.
The Tualatin Valley also has many orchards and vineyards, making a stop at a winery or produce stand a must.
Pick up lunch from South Store Cafe in Hillsboro, OR on your way to the coast. They offer fresh and homemade soups, sandwiches, pastries, and coffee!
15. Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway
- Distance: 66 miles.
- Best time to drive: June- October due to snow closing high elevation roads in the winter.
- Driving time: 3-4 hours.
This fantastic route begins just outside the adventure haven town of Bend, OR. The byway winds its way through the Cascade Mountain Range, offering breathtaking vistas and access to numerous lakes.
You’ll have views of Mount Bachelor and the Three Sisters. One of the best lakes to stop at along the way is Sparks Lake where you can take your paddle board or kayak out for the day.
Sparks Lake has amazing views of Mount Bachelor and South Sister. Elk Lake also has crazy views of Bachelor that you can paddle out on. There are also cabins for rent, as well as a coffee bar and pizza kitchen onsite making for a great overnight destination.
16. West Cascades Scenic Byway
- Distance: 215 miles.
- Best time to drive: Spring- Fall due to snow at high elevations forcing road closures.
- Driving time: 7-10 hours.
Take the West Cascades Scenic Byway for a journey through forests, rivers, waterfalls, and volcanic terrain.
The route begins near the town of Estacada, which is about 40 miles southeast of Portland. From there, it winds its way along Highway 224, Highway 46, and Highway 58, passing through the Mount Hood National Forest, Willamette National Forest, and Deschutes National Forest.
One of the highlights of the West Cascades Scenic Byway is the opportunity to witness numerous waterfalls. Popular ones include Proxy Falls, Sahalie Falls, and Koosah Falls, which are accessible via short hikes from the main road.
The byway passes by several lakes, including Detroit Lake and Odell Lake. Detroit Lake, below Mount Jefferson, is nine miles long and a popular place to take a boat out and go fishing. Odell Lake is six miles long, and features cabins and campground to spend the night in nature.
17. Elkhorn Drive Scenic Byway
- Distance: 106 miles.
- Best time to drive: Summer and Fall.
- Driving time: 4-5 hours.
The Elkhorn Scenic Byway begins near the town of Baker City and meanders through the Elkhorn Mountain Range in Northeastern Oregon.
One of the notable attractions along the byway is the Sumpter Valley Railroad, a historic narrow-gauge railway that operated during the gold mining era. Today, you can take a scenic train ride on the Sumpter Valley Railway, experiencing a nostalgic journey through the region’s mining past.
The byway also passes through several charming towns and communities, such as Sumpter, Granite, and Anthony Lakes.
The area is renowned for its hiking trails, mountain biking routes, and fishing spots. Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort, located near the byway, offers skiing, snowboarding, and more during the winter months.
Renting A Car In Oregon: Best Options
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Conclusion: Oregon Scenic Byways, Drives, & Road Trips
As we conclude our journey through Oregon’s most captivating scenic byways, road trips, and drives, one thing is clear: this Pacific Wonderland is a treasure trove of natural splendor waiting to be explored.
From the rugged cliffs of the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway to the majestic peaks of the Cascade Mountains, Oregon’s diverse landscapes offer an escape into a world of awe-inspiring beauty.
The possibilities for adventure and discovery are endless, making Oregon an ideal destination for road trip enthusiasts and nature lovers seeking peace outdoors.
Oregon’s scenic byways, road trips, and drives are not just a means of transportation; they are gateways to unforgettable experiences, a chance to witness the wonders of Mother Nature, and an opportunity to reconnect with the awe-inspiring beauty that surrounds us.