Known as “Faith, Hope, and Charity,” Central Oregon’s triad of basalt stratovolcanos reign as landmarks of the high desert. The loop around them leads through distinct and wondrous biozones: expansive, chunky andesite and basalt lava fields, sparsely decorated with brilliant chartreuse lichen; timbered groves of mountain hemlock, western hemlock, ponderosa pine, and lodgepole pine, full of Columbia black-tailed deer, Roosevelt elk, martens, minks, and ruffed grouse; high-desert wildflower meadows, peppered with purple lupine, red Indian paintbrush, columbine, arnica, and larkspur. And the high point, Green Lakes Pass, is flanked by crevasse-riddled glaciers marked with wiry subalpine fir. The journey is long, but it’s as varied as they come.
INFO: Get an Obsidian entry permit from the McKenzie River Ranger District, McKenzie Bridge, 541-822-3381. Permits are limited and go fast. They become available 30 days before date of travel.
DIRECTIONS: From Portland, drive south on I-5 for 38 miles. Drive east on Highway 22 for 80 miles. Drive west on Highway 20 for 3 miles. Drive south on Highway 126 for 20 miles. Drive east on Highway 242 for about 20 miles to McKenzie Pass. Total 161 miles, 3 hours. Note: Highway 242 is closed in the winter so check to make sure it's open. Lava Lake Trailhead is one mile east of McKenzie Pass. The parking area is 1/2 mile down a gravel road from the highway. NW Forest Pass is required.