National Forest Foundation

Nine Scenic Drives through Pacific Northwest National Forests



Category: Adventures
by Hannah Featherman

The National Forests of the Pacific Northwest do not disappoint. Filled with dense old-growth, volcanic mountains, rich rivers and countless adventures, they are a treasure not to be missed.

As with all excursions to the outdoors, be sure you check conditions first and in this case, road conditions. Many of these byways and routes are closed in the winter.

Did we miss one of your favorite scenic drives? Let us know in the comments below!

Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway – Deschutes National Forest

Distance: 87 miles

Duration: 3 - 5 hours

Beginning and ending just outside of Bend, Oregon, the Cascades Lake Scenic Byway travels along the Deschutes River and through glacial and volcanic formations. Highlights include Mt. Bachelor, Lava Lake and Elk Lake.

More info & more info.

Lava Lake.

McKenzie-Santiam Scenic Byway – Deschutes National Forest

Distance: 82 miles

Duration: 3-5 hours

Starting in Sisters, Oregon, enjoy this loop around Mount Washington as you drive through McKenzie Pass and Santiam Pass. Along the way enjoy many waterfalls, a rugged volcanic landscape and countless recreation opportunities.

More info & more info.

Photo by Thomas Shahan

Proxy Falls.

Mt. Hood Scenic Byway – Mt. Hood National Forest

Distance: 80 miles

Duration: 2 - 4 hours

Head east from Portland for this trip to see Oregon’s highest point – Mt. Hood. The drive offers plenty of opportunities for exploring: have a picnic in the Wildwood Recreation Area, go for a hike on the Mt. Hood National Forest and take in history at the Timberline Lodge. You’ll ascend to Bennett Pass with an elevation of 4,674 feet before descending to drive along the Hood River.

More info & more info.

Photo by David Fulmer

Timberline Lodge.

Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway – Umpqua National Forest, Rogue River-Sikiyou National Forest

Distance: 199 miles

Duration: 5-7 hours

Also known as the “highway of waterfalls” this scenic byway follows two legendary Oregon rivers: the North Umpqua and Upper Rogue River. You’ll probably see a few fly fishermen as the North Umpqua is known worldwide for the run of summer steelhead. Along the way be sure to stop at one of the 15 waterfalls and several lakes.

More info & more info.

Photo by Rick Obst

The North Umpqua River.

Photo by the Bureau of Land Management.

The North Umpqua River.

West Cascades Scenic Byway – Mt. Hood National Forest and Willamette National Forest

Distance: 198 miles

Duration: 7-9 hours

Take a drive through the Cascades and stop along the way at the many places to play. This byway follows four rivers and features three National Recreation Trails as well as access to hundreds of miles of other trails.

More info & more info.

Delta Campground Trail.

Photo by Sheila Sund

Detroit Lake.

Mount Adams Drive – Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Distance: 62 miles

Duration: 3 hours

If you’re up for an adventure, while you drive, the Mount Adams Drive is for you. Winding through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to Mt. Adams, the drive includes both paved and unpaved roads offering you a truly rustic experience. You’ll pass through old-growth forests and see great views of this potentially active volcano.

More info.

Photo by Alex Butterfield

Mount Adams.

Chinook Scenic Byway – Mount Rainer National Park and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

Distance: 96 miles

Duration: 2-3 hours

For a scenic drive heading east from Seattle, take the Chinook Scenic Byway. Passing through Mount Rainer National Park and then the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, the byway features great views of Mount Rainer, White River Valley and dense forests.

More info & more info.

Photo by Peter Steves.

Chinook Pass.

Mountain Loop – Mt. Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest

Distance: 95 miles (depending on start location)

Duration: 3 hours

This loop offers an ideal route to explore Seattle’s backyard forest: the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie. The route includes both paved and gravel roads as you explore the rugged peaks and dense forests. Along the way, stop for a picnic or short hike to breathe in the mountain air.

More info, more info & more info.

Photo by Sara Parker

Photo by Duncan Watson.

Old Sauk River Trail.

White Pass Scenic Byway – Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

Distance: 124 miles

Duration: 3 hours

The White Pass Scenic Byway can be a gateway for many adventures to National Forests, a National Park and a National Volcanic Monument. The byway passes through small communities, river valleys, alpine landscapes and more.

More info & more info.

Photo by Mark Levisay.

White Pass from US-12.

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