McKenzie Pass is certainly the most spectacular scenery you can drive through in Oregon and it's only about 40 miles from Redmond. This ride was featured in the May BMW ON. From the rally site it's a nice 3 hour round trip, riding time. Only you will NOT want to just ride this without stopping for the scenic views.
Here is the article I wrote for this ride, please note, I'm NOT a good writer. Maybe that is why my article wasn't used in the News.
SISTERS OREGON AND MCKENZIE PASS RIDE
If you only have half a day to go riding at the Rally, this is the one to take. It has the most spectacular road in Oregon, incredibly close up mountain views, lava fields, hiking trails, waterfalls and crystal clear mountain lakes. It can be done in three hours riding straight through, and is a very nice ride. But try to make a day of it and enjoy this great ride.
From the fairgrounds, go to Hwy 97 and turn north to Redmond. Look for the highway sign and left turn on Hwy 126 to Sisters. It’s 20 miles to Sisters with increasingly better views of the Cascade Mountain volcanoes. Sisters is the last place for gas on this route for the next 100 miles and eateries are few and far between.
Sisters is named for the Three Sisters Mountains, three 10,000’ snow capped peaks just west of town. The town is small, about 1700 people, but LONG on shopping. It has an 1880’s theme in its architecture. There are many restaurants, deli’s, coffee stands and a very popular bakery. All are located on the main drag through town or one street to either side. Gas up, feed up, coffee up and get ready for some fabulous country coming up.
Go all the way through Sisters till you are just leaving town. Take a left hand turn to the McKenzie Pass Scenic Route, Hwy 242. You enter Deschutes National Forest very soon after leaving town. Ride up through very scenic Ponderosa Pine forests. As you climb you move into Sub Alpine forests. The forest will suddenly open up to open views of the lava fields and Mt. Washington at Windy Point Viewpoint. This is a must stop for a photo op.
A few miles past Windy Point the road enters the lava fields. This is where the road changes character. For the next 30 miles FORGET about going fast. It is very narrow and twisty. It was newly paved in 2009 so the road surface is in great shape. Keep your eyes on the road and stop often to look around.
At the summit of McKenzie Pass is Dee Wright Observatory. It is a lava rock structure built by the CCC in the 1930’s. Take a walk to the top and get the best views of the surrounding mountains you can find. Portals built into the structure point to all of the surrounding mountains and peaks. Starting at the Observatory is a half mile long paved trail through the lava fields. It’s a good place to stretch the legs and learn about lava flows from the info plaques.
Proceeding on, you go by several hiking trails and access to some lakes. Soon you come to Deadhorse Grade. About 10 miles of 10, 15, and 20 M.P.H. corners as you drop in elevation. You simply have to go slow and take you time. The biggest hazard is 4-wheeled cages coming up the grade and freaked out about the narrow road. Toward the bottom of this stretch is a parking area and hiking trails to Proxy Falls. This hike is not very long and has very interesting terrain and vegetations along the trail. The two falls are worth seeing also.
The road now enters a Douglas Fir Old Growth forest. It’s straight smooth and level till it come to the intersection with McKenzie Hwy. A left takes you to Eugene (take the left to get to the Aufderheide Forest Drive). You want to turn right on Hwy 126, the Clearlake Cutoff.
Its 20 miles to the Santiam Hwy and along the way you go by two falls on the McKenzie River that can be driven to, Kosah Falls and Sahalie Falls. Both are worth stopping and seeing. If you like, there is a hiking trail all along the river and between the two falls. A couple miles up the road is a turn off with a short drive down to Clear Lake. There is a small hamburger/sandwich shop where you can also rent rowboats for the lake. The lake has some of the clearest water in existence and the remnants of trees can be seen still standing up from the bottom in the upper lake. These trees were drowned 3000 years ago when the lake was formed by a lava flow.
A few miles farther and you merge to the right with Hwy 20, South Santiam Hwy, going east. A few miles farther, the highway merges right with Hwy 22, the North Santiam Hwy. Pop up over Santiam Pass and drop back into the Eastside of the mountains. In the pass area are turnoffs to Hoodoo Ski area, Big Lake picnicking and access to the Pacific Crest Trails system, a trail from Canada to Mexico. Dropping down the pass is a viewpoint with another nice view of Mt. Washington and access to Suttle Lake and Suttle Lake Resort.
Next stop is Sisters and a return home to the fairgrounds.