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Five Magnificent Scenic Drives/Areas to Experience in Oregon

1. Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. This National Scenic Byway is a 66-mile adventure through central Oregon, in which travelers will witness alpine lakes and forests and snow-capped mountains of the Cascade Range. Starting in Bend and heading southwest on OR-372, you'll first encounter forests of pine, fir, and hemlock as you approach the base of Mount Bachelor (9,065 feet elevation). As you descend to Dutchman Flat, you get a peek at Broken Top Mountain, an extinct, glacially eroded stratovolcano, and then Sparks Lake, a jagged-edged lake covering 250 acres. As you continue to the emerald-green Devils Lake, you'll also see Devils Hill. As you turn south on Highway 46, lakes abound, including to the west, where trails lead to lakes hidden in the 287,000 acre Three Sisters Wilderness in the Willamette and Deschutes National Forests. On the east side, the Elk Lake offers views of Mount Bachelor, campgrounds, and much more. Continuing onward, you'll follow the Deschutes River a few miles before reaching Crane Prairie Reservoir, a 4,000-acre human-made lake ranked as one of the best fishing spots -- especially if you like trout. The eastern shore of the reservoir is an osprey management area; the fish-eating birds of prey are frequently seen here, along with other raptors and shorebirds, including Sandhill cranes. The byway ends, but a nice side trip is to continue east on Highway 43, and then loop north on Highway 97, stopping at LaPine State Park, a 2,300-acre park (with camping) known for its scenic views of the Deschutes river -- and the largest Ponderosa Pine in Oregon, Big Red (estimated to be 500 years old) -- as well as dozens of high-mountain lakes, where you might be treated to seeing eagles or red-tailed hawks grabbing breakfast right in front of you. Drive this route June through October.

2. Historic Columbia River (Gorge) Byway. This 70-mile route located in northwestern Oregon, nicknamed The King of the Roads, is the first scenic highway in the U.S. AND a National Historic Landmark; the original Columbia River Highway is more than 100 years old. This drive follows the route of the powerful Ice Age floods, where you'll get to witness sheer walls of basalt, covered in firs and ferns, and accented with many amazing waterfalls. The Columbia River Gorge is known as one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon, and you'll discover why very quickly. Starting just outside Portland in Troutdale (exit 17 on Interstate 84), follow the Sandy River upstream, the wind uphill through Corbett to Chanticleer Point at the Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Viewpoint, where you'll want to stop for your first panorama of the Gorge. As you continue winding along the old highway, you'll soon discover that the byway skirts the base of five significant waterfalls: Latourell, Shepperd's Dell, Bridal Veil, Wahkeena, and the iconic -- and most photographed -- 620-foot Multnomah, one of the tallest waterfalls in the nation. Next up, a stop at Ainsworth State Park, equal parts waterfall wonderland, hiker's playground, and camper's delight. For example stop and hike Nesmith Point Trail and enjoy a splendid view of St. Peter's Dome, a majestic basalt monolith rising 2,000 feet above the mighty Columbia River. Continue on to the Bonneville Lock and Dam, the first of many dams to tame the Columbia. The extensive Visitors Center includes an underwater window where you can watch fish wriggling up the fish ladder to bypass the hydropower turbines. Continue on to Mt. Hood Scenic Byway and hike the Twin Tunnels Trail, a scenic 5-mile section of the Historic Columbia Highway State Trail (and closed to motorized traffic), named for long tunnels chiseled through the basalt as part of the original road. End the drive with a stop in Mosier (and more waterfalls), The Dalles, at the eastern gateway to the Gorge, where you can check out murals depicting its history, first as a Lewis and Clark encampment, then as a staging area for Oregon Trail pioneers. Consider backtracking a bit for a side trip south on Highway 35 to Mount Hood, another of the 7 Wonders of Oregon.

3. McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway. Located in central Oregon, is 82-mile loop begins and ends near the town of Bend, crossing a mountain pass and traveling through a region of national significance -- home to several endangered species, centuries-old pristine forest, and noteworthy volcanic geology. Travelers will find the greatest concentration of snowcapped volcanoes with glaciers in the lower 48 states, in addition to panoramic views of lava fields, six Cascade peaks, and lakes from the summit of McKenzie Pass. Start the trip in Sisters, going northwest on US 20/Highway 26. A scenic viewpoint overlooks the Metolius headwaters, meadows and a grand view of Mt. Jefferson to the north. Continuing on the byway, you'll past Suttle Lake, carved by glaciers, and popular for boating and fishing. At Santiam Pass (elevation 4,817 feet), the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT) crosses over. Consider a stop at Belknap Hot Springs, located on the McKenzie River, one of Central Oregon's hidden jewels. Past the town of Belknap Springs, the byway swings east onto OR-242, the McKenzie Highway through forests until it reaching McKenzie Pass (elevation 5,335 feet), an expanse of dark and broken lava that stretches for 65 square miles. It's one of the most recent and most remarkable examples of volcanic activity in North America, the result of eruptions from Belknap Crater about 2,000 years ago. Learn more on the Lava River National Recreation Trail, stopping at the Dee Wright Observatory, built from lava rock as part of a 1935 Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) project, which offers amazing and panoramic views of 17 different mountain peaks and two volcanic craters. From here the route begins its descent, with one last overlook at Windy Point, which provides a view of Mt. Washington across the various lava flows of the McKenzie Pass area, before reentering the forest and returning to Sisters. While in the area, don't forget a visit to the Deschutes National Forest, which encompasses 1.8 million acres, including five wilderness areas (200,000 acres,), six rivers, 157 lakes and reservoirs, approximately 1,400 miles of trails, and the unique landscape of Newberry National Volcanic Monument, which includes Paulina Peak (7,985 feet elevation.), showcasing views of the Cascades, Newberry Caldera, and across the High Desert.

4. Pacific Coast Scenic Byway. Located on the west coast of Oregon, from the Columbia River to the California state line via Highway 101, this byway is truly a long and winding road of amazing vistas, from amazing sandy beaches and ocean views to old growth forest sightings. Your travels along this 360-mile journey can be divided into three regions -- the North Oregon Coast, Central Oregon Coast, and Southern Oregon Coast. Starting at the north, your first stop is the historic little seaport of Astoria, the first permanent American settlement in the Pacific Northwest. Driving south, you'll want to stop at Fort Stevens State Park and Fort Clatsop National Memorial. A stop at Cannon Beach to witness the often-photographed Haystack Rock, a 235-foot tall bullet-shaped monolith. About two miles further south is the wonderful Oswald West State Park -- four miles of coastline in dense, temperate rainforest, with beautifully secluded sandy beaches and miles of trails leading to breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Keep heading south to Tillamook, where cheese-lovers must take a self-guided tour and sample cheeses at the Tillamook Cheese Factory. After filling your belly, go west on OR-131 for a side trip along the Three Capes Scenic Loop to visit Cape Lookout, the Cape Meares Lighthouse, and the massive sand dune of Cape Kiwanda. The route rejoins the byway north of Lincoln City and the Cascade Head Preserve, which offers trails bending up through old growth forest. Continuing south to Near Yachats, find Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, a large forested headland projecting into the Pacific Ocean, and part of the Siuslaw National Forest. Twelve miles south, find the Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon's brightest beacon. Consider taking an elevator down into massive caverns at the nearby Sea Lion Caves. Continuing south, take a break at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park to see the 1892 lighthouse, more forests, a lake, and crazy high sand dunes... which you can also see at the nearby Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. After driving a while, take a break at Cape Blanco State Park, a 1,900-acre area that is perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific that includes the Cape Blanco Lighthouse, as well as trails down to a black and beach. Later, stop in Port Oxford, one of the oldest fishing settlements in Oregon, before continuing to Cape Sebastian State Scenic Corridor, which offers amazing views of craggy cliffs and rocky coves, as well as amazing Sitka spruce. Finally, end your drive at Brookings, known for its temperate "banana belt" climate and the largest stand of coastal redwoods in the state.

5. Willamette Vineyard and Valley Scenic Route. A 150-mile tour that starts 28 west of Portland in Banks on Highway 26, a route that is sure to entertain and enthrall you -- with both amazing nature and wonderful wines. While in Banks, consider a walk or bike ride on the 22-mile Banks-Vernonia State Trail, which weaves its way between two towns in the foothills of northwest Oregon's Coast Range following an old railway used for the lumber industry. Next, drive south on Highway 47 in the northern part of the Willamette Valley where cool-climate varietals like pinot noir are transformed into wonderful wines, preparing to stop from Forest Grove to Gaston to taste the latest wines from the more than 30 wineries in the area. Continue south on Highway 47 to 99W, where you'll want to go north toward Tigard if you want to stop and taste some more amazing wines. Before getting to Tigard, stop at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, a 1,856-acre wetlands and lowlands sanctuary. Jump on I-5 south toward Salem. Continue east on Highway 22 (stopping at more wineries if you wish) to Highway 214 and end this journey with an excursion to Silver Falls State Park, a 9,200-acre property nicknamed the "crown jewel" of the Oregon State Parks system for its size, beauty, recreational opportunities, and historic presence. Be sure to save time and energy for the 7.2 mile (loop) Trail of Ten Falls, which weaves through dense forested landscapes and a series of breathtaking waterfalls along a rocky canyon -- including South Falls, a 177-foot waterfall that you can walk behind.

EmpoweringSites.com CEO Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is an educator, author, and blogger, as well as founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including EmpoweringAdvice.com. Dr. Hansen has been helping empower people to achieving success his entire adult life. He is also founder of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, and EmpoweringRetreat.com. He is a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. Dr. Hansen is also an educator, teaching business and marketing at the college level for more than 25 years. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com. You can also check out Dr. Hansen on Google+, as well as Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.


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