Other than the roads we take to work each day, the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway, or more commonly known as the Cascade Lakes Highway, is probably one of the roads in Central Oregon that we have driven most often. Why? Because there are just so many beautiful places to stop and hike, or just to just enjoy the beauty that is Central Oregon.

Does this sound good to you? If so grab your CamelBak, other Hydration Pack or Hydro Flask, some snacks and a nice picnic lunch and head on out to the Cascades Lakes National Byway. And if you plan on doing any hiking along the way check out these hiking tips as well. Keep in mind the Cascades Lake Highway is closed during the winter due to snow. The road usually closes in early November, or whenever the snow starts to fall hard, and usually opens up around the Memorial Day holiday. You can check for current road conditions at either the Deschutes County road page, or the Oregon Department of Transportation page.

You will begin your trip in Bend, Oregon, and you can just drive up to some of the best spots and turn around and go back the way you came, or you can make it a loop drive and take the Cascade Lakes Highway to where it meets the Crescent Cutoff Road and turn left toward Crescent and you will come to Highway 97 which will take you back to Bend. We usually just drive up to a favorite spot and return the way we came, but if you are looking for a nice drive you might want to consider the loop.

The easiest way to find the Cascade Lakes Highway is to head in a westerly direction on SW Reed Market Road in Bend and follow that to the second roundabout after you cross the Deschutes River where you will see signs pointing the way to Mt. Bachelor ski resort and the Cascade Lakes Highway. About seven miles after the roundabout you will come to the Cascade Lakes Welcome Station, where you can view some great information on what to see and do along the highway.

Todd Lake and Cascade Lakes Highway Photo Gallery

View photo gallery of Todd Lake, and traveling the Cascade Lakes Highway

Mt. Bachelor, several sno-parks, Todd Lake, Sparks Lake and Devil’s Lake

As you continue up the highway you will come to several sno-park areas, and of course the Mt. Bachelor ski resort, one of the highest rated ski resorts in the nation. While the drive to Mt. Bachelor is very beautiful, in our opinion the best places to see on the Cascade Lakes Highway are yet to come, including my personal favorite location Sparks Lake. A couple miles before the Sparks Lake turnoff you will come to the turnoff for Todd Lake, which is a nice place for a picnic, and also where the trailhead for one of our favorite hikes is, the hike from Todd Lake to the Green Lakes. During the summer months if you have a 4WD high profile vehicle you can also continue from the parking area for Todd Lake up a very bumpy non-maintained road which will take you to the trailhead for the Broken Top Trail #10 hike, which will take you on a hike up to a to the “Hidden” or “Unnamed” moraine lake on the east side of Broken Top.

The next stop along the Cascade Lakes Highway that you don’t want to miss is Sparks Lake. To me Sparks Lake is my favorite place in Central Oregon. You get fantastic views of South Sister, Broken Top from the lake. To get to the lake you will take the turnoff to the left and follow the dirt road for about two miles. Depending on conditions, and your vehicle the dirt road should give you no problems, and I have taken my Toyota Corolla up the road to the lake several times. However use your best judgement on whether or not your vehicle can make it up the dirt road.

A few miles up the Cascade Lakes Highway from the Sparks Lake turnoff is Devil’s Lake. You can see this lake from the highway, and there are nice places along the highway to turn off, or there is a parking area for the lake and the South Sister trailhead.

Elk Lake, Hosmer Lake, the Lava Lakes and more

After Devil’s Lake you will come to Elk Lake, which is home to a very popular lakeside resort, Hosmer Lake, and Lava and Little Lava Lake and Cultus Lake. You can stop at any of these lakes and enjoy the view and the water, and there are also campgrounds in the area if you want to rough it a little and spend the night.

Further up the highway you will come to some other popular lake destinations for boating, fishing and relaxing like the Crane Prairie Reservoir, North and South Twin Lakes, the Wickiup Resevoir and Davis Lake, which is a very popular fly-fishing destination.

Many of the national forest campgrounds in the area are managed by Hoodoo Recreation and are very well maintained.

More Scenic Drives

While just about every drive in Central Oregon is scenic, you can find more scenic drives in the area on our Scenic Drives page.

Hiking along the Cascade Lakes Highway

Sparks LakeAs you can see the Cascade Lakes Highway has recreation opportunities for just about anyone, and while many are into boating at the beautiful lakes, we are of course into hiking, and there are several beautiful hiking trails along the way that you won’t want to miss. One of my favorite places, Sparks Lake is located along the Cascade Lakes Highway, and there is also the Green Lakes, Senoj Lake Trail, Six Lakes Trail, South Sister hike, Todd Lake and Green Lakes trails, and many other beautiful hiking trails. Click the links below for information on some of our favorite hikes, and for photo galleries of each area as well.

So grab your favorite Hydration Pack or Hydro Flask and get out on the trail! And to be safer out there, here is a list of hiking tips and some of the essential items you should always have when out hiking.

Cascade Lakes Highway Hikes

Ray Atkeson Loop Trail Photo Gallery

View photo gallery of Sparks Lake & Ray Atkeson Loop Trail – Counterclockwise hiking loop

Sparks Lake & Ray Atkeson Loop Trail Photo Gallery – Summer

View photo gallery of Sparks Lake & Ray Atkeson Loop Trail – Summer

Ray Atkeson Loop Trail Early Winter Photo Gallery

Ray Atkeson Loop Trail at Sparks Lake taken on a early November day with snow.


Cascade Lakes national Scenic Byway Loop map