A Trip Along the McKenzie Pass (Hwy 242)

Did I ever mention that I love Oregon?  Sometimes I think I make myself sound like a travel agent.  Seriously, Oregon is one of the most AMAZING places visually in the US.  After spending months exploring the country, I decided there is just no place like home.  I’m so happy that I get to enjoy this amazing splendor just hours from my own front porch!

After we left Bend we drove to Sisters, Oregon.  Usually I love to stop and visit this small town.  I just didn’t feel like it so we drove straight through.  Not ready to go home we decided to drive the McKenzie Pass (Hwy 242) over to the Santiam Pass (Hwy 126).  The McKenzie Pass is closed from November to July due to snow so we’ve only driven over it a couple of times.  This day was a bright, sunny day so we headed up the road!  We stopped half way to see the Belknap Crater and lava field.  So cool…but not as cool as the little critter waiting for us! 

A Trip Along the McKenzie Pass

The summit of the pass is at 5,325 feet.   I don’t know why we didn’t stop the times we have driven this pass before.  It is A MUST stop on this drive.  The Dee Wright Observatory was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935.  Named for the foreman, it is made entirely of lava rock.  But the best part of the summit is that on a clear day you can see all six Cascade Peaks:  Little Brother, Three Sisters, Mt Washington, and Mt Jefferson, as well as several buttes and craters.  On a VERY clear day you can even see Mt Hood in the distance! 

A Trip Along the McKenzie PassA Trip Along the McKenzie PassA Trip Along the McKenzie PassA Trip Along the McKenzie PassA Trip Along the McKenzie PassA Trip Along the McKenzie Pass

While there we could also see the Bridge 99 Complex fire.  Sad to see our beautiful green forests burn … still, we know that forest fires are a part of the complexity of our planet so we try to not be too sad.

A Trip Along the McKenzie Pass

Once we were done taking in the amazing beauty at the summit, we headed down the other side.  Along the way we discovered the Proxy Falls Trail #3532.  Waterfalls and a hike … score!


Luckily we had $5 to pay the day use fee.  A quick stop in the outhouse (it’s actually CLEAN) we began the hike.  The hike itself is pretty easy.  There was some rugged spots in the beginning as we climbed up and through lava fields.  Bad knees would not like this hike!


The trek is worth it.  I didn’t know we had something this beautiful in Oregon! 


The first falls.  I’m sure it’s probably even more spectacular in the early spring…but you can’t get to it because of the snow!


The second falls.  I had to walk around a holding pond and over some large logs, hanging from the side to get a good shot!  This one had us perplexed.  There’s no creek in or out…just a holding pond.  This one is a little more rugged, but still spectacular!

Eventually we arrived at the junction of 242 and 126.  We decided to be adventurous and head back up 126 toward Sisters.  What a drive this was!