Pop over to the nearest window and take a look outside. You see that? Sun! With the weather getting warmer and the skies a peculiar color (is that...blue??), it's time to pile into the funmobile and tool around the state—preferably aimlessly. Looking for your next scenic drive? The Oregon Department of Transportation has some new routes for you.
As of May 2018, the ODOT-administered Oregon Scenic Byways Program now includes three new options: McKenzie River, Trees to Seas, and Mary's Peak to Pacific. Trees to Seas, a 68-mile byway that takes travelers through the Tillamook State Forest all the way to the Oregon Coast, starts at the Banks-Vernonia State Trail in Washington County and ends at the Three Capes Scenic Loop on the Cape Meares peninsula. Mary's Peak to Pacific takes a similar route, starting inland near Corvallis and traveling more than 70 miles to coastal Waldport, crossing through valleys and farmland along the way. The McKenzie River byway begins even farther south in Springfield, winding along the lower 34 miles of the 80-mile McKenzie River to the town of Rainbow, at the foot of the Willamette National Forest, where it splits off into the West Cascades National Byway.
Oregon’s network of two-dozen-plus State Scenic Byways, State Tour Routes, and National Scenic Byways criss-cross the entire state, from Astoria to La Grande and Bend. Collectively spanning more than 3,000 miles, these roadways cover six distinct landscapes and numerous historical and cultural landmarks. These byways—different from Oregon’s also-ubiquitous official scenic bikeways—aim to promote tourism and local economies. And, fun fact: Oregon has more byways and tour routes than any other state. (So there’s no reason to stay home during this warm weather when you could be hitting the dusty trail jamming to Johnny Cash’s rendition of “I’ve Been Everywhere.”)
But how is a byway born? Each begins as an idea by members of local communities who wish to see their slice of Oregon recognized. According to Shelly M. Snow of ODOT, the hard work of starting and maintaining these roads often flies under the radar. And the benefits? Those, too, only accrue with time. "There are no fireworks, nothing spectacular," says Snow, "just a real nod to the grassroots groups that want to dedicate [scenic byways]. The impacts come in the future.”
Check out the new routes for yourself: