Central & Southeastern Oregon
Low in Population/High in Natural Beauty
Having lived in the beautiful and varied state of Oregon for 20 years, I have many favorite places. Here I talk about some of them in the McKENZIE RIVER area, CENTRAL OREGON and SOUTHEASTERN OREGON. From where I lived in Eugene, I could drive up the McKenzie River, through Central Oregon and on into the southeastern corner of the state. It's a fabulous trip, but any one of the areas on its own is worth a visit.
The photo here is of the Painted Hills in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument area, an absolutely gorgeous place.
The journey is the goal
East out of Eugene, Oregon you can follow the McKenzie Highway along the beautiful McKenzie River and into the Cascade Mountains and Lava Beds.
It is a gorgeous drive. You will eventually go through Sisters, a charming little town, and then, if you wish, follow the road signs on into Bend, an increasingly popular mountain town. After that, just keep going and going and going ...
This is what you will find along the way.
Hidden Gems On the McKenzie River Drive - A Magical Road
- Holiday Farm
About an hour on your the way up the McKenzie River, you will find a turn-off to your right which will take you by Holiday Farm in Rainbow. It is not exactly as quaint as I remember because it changed ownership, but check out all the great cabins!
- Black Butte Ranch
A beautiful place to stay about halfway to Bend and before Sisters. Many of the houses here are privately owned and in a gated section, but renting is possible. Call ahead. There are pretty trails, a pond, golf course and horse-back riding.
- Mckenzie Hot Springs Cottage
A cozy, very private creek-side cottage with a natural spring water hot tub. This site gives you good suggestions for things to do while there. If you are adventurous, try a white-water rafting trip: fabulously exciting.
- Belknap (Foley) Hot Springs
Belknap (Foley) Hot Springs is a commercial hot spring along the McKenzie River Drive. This privately owned spot has a large, outdoor, spring-fed pool with 2 sections: hot and hotter. You can stop in for a soak, but call for their hours. Cabins too.
- Waterfalls West
Sahalie Falls is easily accessed when driving up the Mckenzie. Look for it on your left. It is a short walk out of the parking lot to see the falls. Find the trail which leads downriver to another falls. It is a very sweet and lovely spot.
The Alternate Scenic McKenzie River Pass
Off McKenzie River Drive, you can take the "McKenzie Pass" part-way up As it splits off to the right. You will find yourself turning off onto a lush, hilly, curving road with waterfalls, trails and a spectacular view of the Lava Beds at the peak.
It eventually rejoins the main road and is well worth it. But, you can only make this split after the snow has melted, usually sometime after June 30, depending on the weather and you cannot take a trailer on this road because of the tight turns.
Oregon Lava Beds, McKenzie River Pass
The History of the McKenzie Highway
- Old McKenzie Highway Honored in American History
Pioneers started with an old Native American trail up the McKenzie River in 1862. Engineers improved the route for tourism in the 1920s. Now the Old McKenzie Highway is a nationally recognized historic place. Read more + Photo Gallery.
With All The Wildflowers Along the Way, This Will Be Helpful
Central, Oregon Towns - and places of interest
After your trip up the McKenzie River Drive you will pass through Sisters, Oregon and eventually reach Bend, in what is called Central Oregon. This is a good jumping off place for many adventures.
- Sisters Oregon Guide - Visit Sisters in beautiful Central Oregon
Sisters is a fun, little, artsy community with quite a few events in the summer--all of them listed here. In addition, this link will take you to a very good listing of cabins, cottages and resorts, events, recreation, art galleries and dining in the
- Bend Oregon Visitor Bureau for Hotels, Lodging or Restaurants
Bend is located in Central Oregon in what is called the high desert area. You will find very good winter skiing there, resorts and great restaurants. You can find Bend, Oregon lodging and food or events and activities at this official Visitors and Co
- SmithRock.com - smith rock climbing routes, climbers guide, state park info, gyms and gear for the c
A popular area for rock face climbing, Smith Rock is also a great place for an interesting hike. It is a beautiful area offering climbing, hiking and mountaineering. This site is a great resource of information for outdoor recreation in the area with
- Welcome | High Desert Museum
The mountains which you will see in the distance on your way to Bend are semi-active volcanoes and are called The Three SIsters. Here is some information about them related to their volcanic activity.
- Oregon Resorts, Vacation Rentals & Lodging | Sunriver Resort | Bend Oregon Hotels & Lodging
Not far from Bend is Sun River Resort where you can stay, eat, golf and enjoy a number of outdoor adventures.
- Crater Lake Lodges - Crater Lake National Park
After this lodge was renovated and first re-opened in the 1990"s, I stayed here in a room overlooking the lake. It is fantastic. The lake is so clear that, the day before, a helicopter pilot hovering overhead had become disoriented and flew right int
- John Day Fossil Beds National Monument (U.S. National Park Service)
This is the official National Park Services site for the John Day Fossil Beds. Included in the park is a house with a small exhibit and information on the fossil formations. Each section of the park has a very unique feature or view. I have not even
The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument - One of my very favorites
From Bend, you can head to the John Day Fossil Beds. I happened upon this park quite by accident, as it is not well known. There are several sections which are a good distance apart, but it is well worth a visit. In fact, I think it is stunning—especially the Painted Hills section, which is beautiful. It has always been empty of people every time I have been there, so it is peaceful and feels like you have stepped back in time to another world.
Located in the northern section of Southeastern Oregon, it is a bit isolated and the nearby towns are very small. One option, if you wanted to, would be to make a stop there on a trip between Portland and Bend, or you can spend several days driving around the area and camping.
Painted Hills, John Day Fossil Beds
Malheur Wildlife Refuge & Steens Mountain
Now, just keep going…. Further out from Bend in Southeastern Oregon is Steens Mountain and the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. There is nothing for miles and you may feel sort of lost, but eventually you reach French Glen where you can stay overnight. Known mostly for the variety of birds in the area, I found it to be stunningly beautiful with hillsides covered in wildflowers, bees and butterflies and a night sky that rivals any I've seen before. The French Glen Hotel (Bed & Breakfast) is out in the middle of seemingly nowhere, but it is a wonderful place to explore.
You Will Want a Good Book On Steens Mountain
French Glen Hotel
Here are some more tips for you
- When in Oregon say "Orygun", not "Oregone".
- If you go in late July, August or September, you should not have to deal with the rain that falls all winter and into autumn in the Willamette Valley.
- Enjoy this beautiful state. There is much more to see, but I couldn't possibly include it all!
Comprehensive Oregon Website
- Oregon Cities, Towns & Regions | Travel Oregon
The best comprehensive web site on travel in all of Oregon. it divides the state into sections and provides all kinds of good information in an easy to use format.
Any comments or suggestions about Central and Southeastern Oregon--or this lens? Add them here!