written by Bronte Dod | photo of McKenzie Highway by Kirt Edblom
As the snow melt runs into the river and the days grow longer, take the long way around during your next road trip and explore these scenic byways that are only open in the summer.
The Steens Mountain Loop Road bypasses Highway 205. The route travels into Steens Mountain in the southeastern corner of Oregon, beginning at Frenchglen and winding through 52 miles of wilderness. Like other mountain byways, this route is spotted with rivers, lakes, campgrounds and mountain views along the way.
The main reason to take this route is to get a view of Crater Lake, since the drive along the crater’s rim is only open in the summer. The entire route is more than 500 miles long and travels through southern Oregon and northern California. Crater Lake is the northernmost site of the byway and California’s Lake Almanor, near the active geothermal features at Lassen Volcanic National Park, marks the southern end to the route.
The best way to take in Eastern Oregon is to travel over the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway. Along with traveling through small towns like Joseph, the highway leads to views of the towering Wallowa Mountains and Eagle Cap Wilderness. The route is a picturesque alternate to I-84.
The 66-mile long Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is aptly named. Alpine lakes are scattered on both sides of the road, providing ample opportunities to hike, fish, kayak and paddleboard along the way. The road also provides view of Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top and the Three Sisters as it follows the Deschutes River.
The stretch of the McKenzie River Highway that is open in the summer travels from Belknap Springs to Sisters. Popular with cyclists, the route has a variety of terrain from arid desert and lava rock flows to lush forests and waterfalls.
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