RoadRUNNER’s Bucket List Roads: McKenzie Pass—Santiam Pass Scenic Byway

Jun 03, 2017 View Comments by

McKenzie Pass—Santiam Pass Scenic Byway

McKenzie Highway (State Route 242) started out in the 1870s as a wagon toll road, which wound its way through massive lava flows. The road was widened in 1920, graded and surfaced between 1920 and 1924, and became an Oregon State Highway in 1925. The first recorded crossing of the pass was in April 1859 by an expedition searching for a cattle trail over the Cascades from Willamette Valley to Central Oregon.

This picturesque ride loops around two passes in central Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. The recommended start/finish location is in the charming Western community of Sisters, OR.

Best Time to Go: July – October
Scenery: Everything from lava fields, crystal-clear lakes, fir and cedar forests, to snowcapped peaks, rushing rivers, and deep, glaciated canyons.
Curves: Numerous technical mountain curves during the ascents and descents of McKenzie and Santiam Passes.
Traffic: Usually light. The McKenzie Highway is a seasonal road, which may be open only from July to October because of snowfall accumulation. Be sure to check road conditions before departing.
Distance: 85 miles
Time Required: One day
Technical Difficulty: Appropriate for experienced mountain riders on most street-legal motorcycles.
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