McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass loop, Sisters

4.9
Must see · Scenic Drive · Tourist Spot
McKenzie Pass is a mountain pass in the Cascade Range in central Oregon, United States.
It is located at the border of Linn and Deschutes counties, approximately 20 mi northwest of Bend, between the Three Sisters to the south and Mt. Washington to the north. Oregon Route 242 passes over the pass.
At the summit of the pass, Oregon Route 242 crosses a 65sqmi lava flow just west of Sisters. Surrounded by lava, the Dee Wright Observatory was constructed in 1935 by Civilian Conservation Corps workers and named after their foreman. Visitors climb to the observatory to view the Cascade peaks visible from McKenzie Pass. Also near the summit is Clear Lake, a renowned location for fresh-water diving.
Highway 242 is not recommended for large trucks, trailers or motor homes due to numerous tight switchbacks. The pass is closed from November to July due to snow.
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McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass loop reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating
TripAdvisor traveler rating 5.0
240 reviews
Google
4.9
TripAdvisor
  • A beautiful drive, lots of curves, some burned out areas, but still very beautiful. The lava fields in the middle are very interesting. The Dee Wright Observatory was something you will not find...  more »
  • Great loop drive with lots of interesting things to stop and see along the way. Flowers, Dee Wright Observatory, Proxy Falls, Clear Lake, Salhalie/Koosah Falls, Camp Sherman, Head of the Metolius...  more »
  • We had a beautiful drive up the McKenzie Pass, at times it was quite steep with a gorge at the side. So also a little terrifying (but eh, we’re Dutch so our country is flat). And the enormous...  more »
Google
  • If you ever get the opportunity to take the pass it is well worth it so much to see and so much fun while you were going through the twists and turns the observatory is awesome once you get there as well
  • The Mckenzie Pass drive is beautiful and not crowded. It summits at the Dee Wright Observatory. On the side of the road is a small stone complex which allows for a view of several mountains and other geological rises in the region. Furthermore, the area is in a lava rock filed. These unique rocks add an other worldly feel to the area.
  • The Dee Wright Observatory is located at the pass, which provides a panoramic view and identification of nearby volcanoes and mountains. Hiking trails allow for a good walk through the lava fields, with lots of informational and educational signage to explain the history and geology. There's roadside parking available, and a few restrooms, too -- a rarity on this part of the back country roads.
  • Beautiful no matter what time of the year
  • Beautiful drive up the pass an the Dee Wright Observatory is a must stop along the way! Previous years fire on the east side has devastated the area, but the route is still beautiful. Be careful of the bicycles using this route. Some will ride 2 or 3 side by side going up & down the pass. Please give them space because there not much of a shoulder. I usually tap my horn about 50 yards to let them know I am coming up from behind. Tour groups please don’t use this route during busy times! It’s a recipe for getting someone hurt/killed. Steep grades, no shoulder, beautiful views an distractions galore just means driver & bikers will not be paying attention to the road! This is from someone who regularly rides his bike.

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