If there’s one problem with driving the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway which we profiled in the September issue of Trailer Life, it may be trying to find another stretch of road that tops it. Fortunately for Scenic Route readers, I’ve found several nearby byways that offer a similar combination of jaw-dropping views and laid-back attitude.
In fact, the state of Oregon — being one of the pioneers in developing and promoting these roads-less-traveled—is positively loaded with them. A quick check of the National Scenic Byways program’s website will uncover more than three dozen routes virtually guaranteed to make worthwhile detours before or after your travels on the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway.
If that list seems a bit overwhelming, allow me to narrow it down a bit with these three scenic byways that I think make outstanding answers to that “where to next?” question:
Historic Columbia River Highway:
This winding 70-mile stretch of asphalt, which begins just 16 miles east of downtown Portland, makes an ideal alternative to the über-efficient but uninspiring east-west superslab known as Interstate 84. High points include expansive views of the mighty Columbia from Crown Point Vista House, stunningly beautiful waterfalls, adrenaline-fueled windsurfers and fascinating tidbits of American history.
West Cascades Scenic Byway:
To experience yet another side of Oregon, head south out of Portland for this enjoyable 220-mile ramble through primeval forests watched over by snow-capped peaks. The list of don’t-miss attractions here includes the longest covered bridge in the state, meadows full of wildflowers, wilderness trailheads and a fish hatchery where you’ll find ponds full of rainbow trout and salmon that look big enough to ride.
Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway:
While America has its share of mountains, few are as impressive as the massive volcanoes that make up the Cascade Range. Drive all or part of this 500 mile scenic route and you’ll be treated to spectacular views from forest service fire lookout towers, otherworldly lava caves and the impossibly blue waters of Crater Lake nestled in the caldera of an extinct volcano, not to mention the imposing 14,162-foot hulk that is Mt. Shasta.