Adventures in Oregon: Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway

‘Because the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s all the wild stuff that happens along the way.’— Emma Chase

Bend is slowly starting to open and not just because of corona. My new town is at about 4,000 feet elevation and surround by mountains that are 10,000 feet plus. Due to the high elevations, a lot of the roads are closed for the winter. One of those areas is the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway and it finally opened!

This scenic highway has been voted as one of the best drives in the country. It spans just over 60 miles and starts (or ends depending on direction) in Bend! I had a day off from my new restaurant job, so I decided to hit the road. I started the day with my favorite chai from Autobahn Coffee-side note…Chad is great. He delivers coffee and chai from his VW van and it’s delicious. It’s helped so much during quarantine…The entry for Cascade Lakes is near my teaching job and it is a straight drive from there. I spent about four hours on this trip. I stopped at all the easily accessible lakes and anytime, well, I felt like it. There are lots of hiking trails and water activities, both summer and winter. I did a bit of walking but will explore the trails over time. I will say, there are no gas stations on the route, so make sure you fill up before you head out (I have a CRV and used half a tank). There also aren’t any places to eat except for a couple of lodges. Just something to keep in mind.

The drive was spectacular! Shortly after entering the byway, you get up close and personal with Mt. Bachelor, Three Sisters, and Broken Top. I am fortunate to see these peaks everyday from my apartment but I had never been this close. The size is quite something! The weather was also varied, I went from warm temperatures, to rain, sleet, snow, fog, and sunny skies. It provided some lovely photography moments. I dressed warmly but did not anticipate a 30 degree drop in temperatures. I’m so glad I brought a hat!

My favorite lake was probably Devil’s Lake. It was really peaceful in spite of its name. It was on the backside of the mountains and had this unearthly turquoise color. Elk Lake is the largest but they are all lovely. There are giant signs at the entrance points with the list of areas and the miles away. I was unable to see all of them as a couple are off the byway and were only accessible via snowshoe/snowmobile, so next time!

If you are visiting Central Oregon, I highly recommend spending an afternoon traveling the Cascade Lakes. It’s stunning, tranquil, and listening to the birds chirp is good for the soul. I am really looking forward to many more road trips this year!

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