Oregon Scenic Drive: Outback Scenic Byway

Highlights of the Outback Scenic Byway

Creek Bridge sits high above Devil's Elbow State Park just off the Outback Scenic Byway.
Creek Bridge sits high above Devil's Elbow State Park just off the Outback Scenic Byway.

The Outback Scenic Byway is one of the most scenic routes in the Great Basin Region. You pass through different environments as you drive the byway, and the changes among environments are dramatic.

The different environments include old-growth ponderosa and lodgepole pine stands found in the Eastern Cascades, the sagebrush steppe, the wetlands, and the other high-desert ecosystems.

One of the most striking scenic features along this byway is the sweeping view of Winter and Abert Rims. These rims are 2,000-foot fault escarpment blocks that tower above the byway. Abert Rim is Oregon's longest, most dramatic, and most photographed fault escarpment. This rim is also considered one of the most continuous fault escarpments in the United States.

Starting at the southern end of the byway coming out of California on U.S. Highway 395, you'll see the following sites. If you start on the other end of the byway, begin at the bottom of this list and make your way up.

Lakeview: Lakeview is the hang gliding capital of the West. One mile north of Lakeview is the only active geyser in the West, called Old Perpetual. Bring your camera to take a picture of the geyser, which erupts every 90 seconds.

Lake Abert: Continue north on the byway, and if you have an extra 30 to 60 minutes, head east on U.S. Highway 395 to the Abert Rim drive and Lake Abert. If you don't have that much time, continue north on Highway 31 to the town of Paisley and the annual Mosquito Festival that occurs there every July. Continue on past the Summer Lake Lodge and wilderness area; if you have a day to spend in the woods, the area is excellent for fishing and hiking.

Picture Rock Pass: Just north of Summer Lake is Picture Rock Pass, an area named for the ancient Native American petroglyphs that decorate rock within walking distance of the highway.

Fort Rock: Continue your drive on Highway 31 to Fort Rock. While there, visit the remnants of an ancient volcano at Fort Rock State Natural Area, just seven miles off the byway. Nearby is the Homestead Village Museum, which takes from 30 to 60 minutes to explore. From Fort Rock, continue on Highway 31, where the Outback Scenic Byway ends as it meets U.S. Highway 97.

Hole-in-the-Ground, Devil's Garden, The Blowouts, and Derrick Cave volcanic formations: If you have extra time to see additional points of interest, from Fort Rock you can travel Country Road 5-12 past Cougar Mountain to many volcanic formations, such as Hole-in-the-Ground, Devil's Garden, The Blowouts, and Derrick Cave.

If you have even more time, from Country Road 5-12, head east to Country Road 5-12B and then south on BLM Road 6109C to Four Craters Lava Flow and Crack-in-the-Ground. Keep heading south to Christmas Valley, head east on Country Road 5-14, and then go north on Country Road 5-14D to the Sand Dunes and the Lost Forest.

Long to escape the beaten path? Look no further! Take a drive through the remote backcountry via the Outback Scenic Byway.

Find more useful information related to Oregon's Outback Scenic Byway:

  • Oregon Scenic Drives: Outback Scenic Byway is just one of the scenic byways in Oregon. Check out the others.
  • Lakeview, Paisley, La Pine: Read about what to do in cities along Outback Scenic Byway.
  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond Oregon? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.