Top 10 Scenic Drives in Oregon

Oregon may not get a lot of press as a vacation destination, but that doesn’t mean it is devoid of things to see and do. In fact, the opposite is the case because this state is full of natural and man-made wonders. From the Cascades Mountain Range to the Pacific shoreline, a wide range of natural features is waiting to be explored. Start your Oregon adventure with one of our favorite scenic drives, and you’ll soon agree that this state is a well-kept secret you’re happy to have discovered:

No. 10 – Cascade Lakes

Cascade Lakes Oregon
Flickr user: Bruce Fingerhood

Starting Location: Bend, OR
Ending Location: Bend, OR
Length: 146 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

The glaciers that were once in the region and volcanic activity throughout the years resulted in unusual rock formations and over 150 lakes. Although it would be difficult to see every lake, this drive takes travelers by quite a few, including Elk, Cultus, and Twin Lakes. To get an idea of the volcanoes that were active in the past, stop at Newberry National Volcano Monument to view a dormant and half-collapsed volcano up close.

No. 9 – Mount Hood National Forest

Mount Hood National Forest Oregon
Flickr user: Lisa Norwood

Starting Location: Portland, OR
Ending Location: Hood River, OR
Length: 98 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

Experts may disagree about whether 11,240-foot Mount Hood is a dormant or potentially active volcano, but they likely agree that it is a magnificent sight. This scenic drive winds through the Cascades Mountain Range, of which Mount Hood is a part, and is full of panoramic views. To get a closer look at this fourth-largest member of the cascades, stop at Timberline Lodge to take a chairlift near the top.

No. 8 – Cottage Grove Covered Bridge Tour

Cottage Grove Covered Bridge Tour Oregon
Flickr user: Sandy Horvath-Dori

Starting Location: Cottage Grove, OR
Ending Location: Hamblen Creek, OR
Length: 23 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Covered bridge enthusiasts will especially enjoy this country drive that loops around Doreen Lake, passing by six charming bridges in a relatively short time, which is why the region is known as the “Covered Bridge Capital of Oregon.” Stop at each of the following to complete the tour, allowing a few hours total to explore each one: Stewart Bridge, Mosby Creek Bridge, Currin Bridge, Chambers Railroad Bridge, Centennial Bridge, and Swinging Bridge.

No. 7 – Outback Scenic Byway

Outback Scenic Byway Oregon
Flickr user: Gord McKenna

Starting Location: La Pine, OR
Ending Location: Lakeview, OR
Length: 159 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Beginning in the Deschutes National Forest and ending at the California Border, this route goes through two very different terrains. The first part of the trip is characterized by dense pine growth, but it soon turns to wide expanses of desert, resplendent in textures and colors. Stop for photos at Picture Rock Pass, where Native American petroglyphs reside and Three Sisters Mountain is visible on clear days.

No. 6 – Columbia Gorge

Columbia Gorge Oregon
Flickr user: Bret Vogel

Starting Location: Portland, OR
Ending Location: Kennewick, OR
Length: 205 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

The breathtaking Columbia Gorge along the Columbia River has been in the making since before the Ice Age, largely formed by volcanic activity. Waterfalls abound along the way, with the most notable ones being Multnomah Falls and Latourell Falls. Don’t miss the prime photo opportunities of the Gorge from above and Mount Hood in the distance at the Bridge of the Gods or Panorama Point.

No. 5 – Oregon Coastline

Oregon Coastline
Flickr user: Doug Kerr

Starting Location: Astoria, OR
Ending Location: Brookings, OR
Length: 338 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

The drive along the Oregon coastline affords spectacular views of both the Pacific Ocean and verdant forests. Near Lincoln City at Boiler Bay State Park, travelers may be able to spy gray whales migrating before hiking to nearby tide pools. At the Visitor’s Center of Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, costumed staff enact the story of the area’s lighthouse, which is also open for visitors to climb to its top.

No. 4 – Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway

Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway Oregon
Flickr user: Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington

Starting Location: Roseburg, OR
Ending Location: Grants Pass, OR
Length: 208 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

Passing through the western portion of the Cascade Range, this drive provides a plethora of mountain views. Stop in Glide where the North Umpqua River meets the Little River to see the churning phenomena known as the Colliding Waters. Although there are lots of overlooks to take striking photos, don’t miss the Rogue Gorge or Swayne Viewpoints.

No. 3 – Hell’s Canyon

Hell’s Canyon Oregon
Flickr user: Nan Palmero

Starting Location: LaGrande, OR
Ending Location: Baker City, OR
Length: 197 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

Passing through Oregon’s sparsely populated northeast corner, the highlight of this route is Hell’s Canyon, the deepest canyon carved by a river in North America. Stop in the city of Elgin, which is nestled in the Blue and Wallowa Mountains, to see historic buildings like the 1912 Elgin Opera House. Any anglers traveling this way will especially appreciate a stop on Minam River, where the rainbow and steelhead trout are plentiful.

No. 2 – McKenzie-Santiam Scenic Byway

McKenzie-Santiam Scenic Byway Oregon
Flickr user: Minh-Kiet Callies

Starting Location: Sisters, OR
Ending Location: Sisters, OR
Length: 89 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

It may only take a couple of hours without stops to travel this entire byway, but the sights along the way are a veritable treasure trove. It has a bit of everything from ancient lava flows, to old-growth forests, to waterfalls. Windy Point is a spectacular spot for photographs with the Cascades, Mount Washington, and lava flows in view, and the area around Sawyer Ice Cave is a hiker’s paradise.

No. 1 – Journey through Time Scenic Byway

Journey through Time Scenic Byway Oregon
Flickr user: Julius Reque

Starting Location: Biggs Junction, OR
Ending Location: Baker City, OR
Length: 250 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

The primary attraction on this top Oregon scenic drive is the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, which is home to some of the lushest fossil beds on the planet. It also rich in Old West culture and rural towns that can charm virtually any traveler. Much of the route is lined in amazing geological formations as well, such as Cathedral Rock and Picture Gorge, so it is highly recommended to take more than one day to explore everything this byway has to offer.

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