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McKenzie Highway

McKenzie pass 

UPDATE: ODOT crews have begun clearing the McKenzie Highway (OR 242) and repairing damage after last year's fire. The McKenzie Highway is strictly closed to all users Monday through Thursday and when "Extreme Danger" signs are posted.

Whether by car, motorcycle, bike or foot, the McKenzie Highway (OR 242) is one of the most picturesque scenic byways Oregon offers.

The McKenzie Highway is part of the McKenzie Pass - Santiam Pass National Scenic Byway. The McKenzie Highway (OR 242) section of the scenic byway begins at the junction with Oregon 126 near McKenzie Bridge and ends at the junction with U.S. Highway 20 and Oregon 126 at the City of Sisters. The highway travels between two federal wilderness areas, and countless historic, recreational, and scenic features and sites. The boundaries of the Mt. Washington Wilderness and Three Sisters Wilderness also border the highway.

The McKenzie Highway typically opens to motorized vehicles the third Monday in June. However, heavy snow pack can delay the summer opening. Check back for updates on scheduled highway opening. 

Learn More About the Scenic Byway

Map of pass routes  

Background

The highway route was originally built with private funds in the 1870's as a wagon toll road. The section between the towns of Blue River in Lane County and Sisters in Deschutes County (which includes the project area) became a Forest Road in 1919 (Oregon State Highway Commission, 1920). The road was relocated and widened in 1920, graded and surfaced between 1920 and 1924, and became a Oregon State Highway in 1925.

The McKenzie Pass Highway became a seasonal scenic highway in 1962 with the completion of the Clear Lake-Belknap Springs section of Oregon 126. Even during its tenure as the main route between the southern Willamette Valley and Central Oregon, the narrow, twisting roadway and high elevation (5,325 feet) made the highway too difficult to maintain and keep clear during the winter months.

Since this time, the Oregon Department of Transportation closes the highway each fall and reopens it in early summer after the snow melts. During the summer, about 300 cars a day travel the highway.

Historic Opening and Closing Dates

View a list of the opening and close dates for the McKenzie Highway back to 1925.

Chart of McKenzie Pass opening dates


Chart of McKenzie Pass closing dates


 

News

OR242 Extreme Danger Signs
2018 clearing efforts on OR242

Crews are working to reopen the McKenzie Highway for the 2018 summer season after the Milli Wildfire heavily burned the area last summer. Forest Service and ODOT officials are working together to remove danger trees from the roadside and repair damage to the roadway. This means that visitors are not allowed on the highway while crews are in the area repairing and restoring it. 

Crews will have heavy equipment on the highway Monday through Thursday. Signs are posted indicating “extreme danger” and “road closed” to warn potential visitors of the hazards along the highway. On weekend, crews will remove the warning signs to indicate that visiting is permitted. However visitors, including cyclists and pedestrians, must be aware that ODOT is not maintaining the highway for wheeled travel at this time, and visitors are on the highway at their own risk.

It is anticipated that normal summer activities will be permitted on Highway 242 on the third Monday in June.

For the most current road conditions for the McKenzie Highway visit TripCheck.com.

ODOT Contacts

Peter Murphy
Public Information Officer
541-388-6224 

Abbey Driscoll
Community Liaison
541-388-6064

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