The McKenzie Highway is CLOSED until further notice, due to wildfires.
Lava fields, snowcapped peaks and rushing rivers mark this 82-mile loop around two of central Oregon's Cascade Mountain passes. Whether by car, motorcycle, bike or foot, the McKenzie Highway is one of the most picturesque scenic byways Oregon offers.
The McKenzie Highway (Oregon 242) travels through Lane, Linn, and Deschutes counties, beginning at the junction with Oregon 126 near McKenzie Bridge and ending at the junction with U.S. Highway 20 and Oregon 126 at the City of Sisters.
The McKenzie Highway is part of the McKenzie Pass - Santiam Pass National Scenic Byway. Through part of the project area, Oregon 242 travels between two federal wilderness areas, and there are many historic, recreational, and scenic features and sites along the route. The boundaries of the Mt. Washington Wilderness and Three Sisters Wilderness are 66 feet from the highway centerline.
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
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.