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Central & Southeastern Oregon

Updated on November 13, 2014

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.

Getting There

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.

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


Get Oriented

show route and directions
A markerHoliday Farm -
Blue River, Oregon
get directions

B markerSisters -
Sisters, Oregon
get directions

C markerBend -
Bend, Oregon
get directions

D markerFrench Glen -
French Glen, Oregon
get directions

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.

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.

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!

Any comments or suggestions about Central and Southeastern Oregon--or this lens? Add them here!

Reader Feedback

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    • Northwestphotos profile image

      Northwestphotos 5 years ago

      I love Oregon! I can't get enough of it, as there is so much to see! It's a pretty big state with so much geological diversity.

    • profile image

      johntarantino1 6 years ago

      Oregon is my favorite state in the offers so much, I use to live in Eugene, now I live in Portland...I love travelling to central Oregon in the summer for mini-vacations. Really cool Lens, thanks =)

    • LiquidGranite1 profile image

      LiquidGranite1 6 years ago

      I love the mini virtual tour!

    • ArtByLinda profile image

      Linda Hoxie 8 years ago from Idaho

      I love this lens, You have really hit the highlights of some great places to visit in Oregon! Thanks for being part of the Exploring Oregon Group. I have just updated our group and wanted to invite all the lensmasters to see our new facelift! 5* to a great Squidoo Lensmaster!


    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I was just in central Oregon visiting Crater Lake and the high desert area around Bend. I know about the Painted Hills areas and really, really want to go back to visit and photograph them when the temperatures aren't so hot. Perhaps in the fall would be a good time to go before the snow hits the mountain passes since I have to travel from WA. Thanks for the great information given on your lens. The Pacific Northwest is a great place to live!

    • profile image

      GHouse 9 years ago

      Hi!! Just come to see your nice lens. I did my travel lens too. It's about my hotel in hua hin Thailand. Hua Hin is a charming town of clean white sandy beach. If you come to Thailand, please visit us.

    • KokoTravel profile image

      KokoTravel 10 years ago

      Very nice presentation of the Central and Eastern Oregon... It is, most definitely, an impressive area.