What is the Over the River and Through the Woods Scenic Byway?
The over the river and through the woods scenic byway in Oregon is the highway that encompasses ground from Brownsville Oregon to the junction of OR-226, OR-22 and US-20. The byway offers magnificent views of winding rivers, lakes, and snow peaked mountains. It is an ideal place to take a drive when visiting Oregon.
The byway moves through a temperate rainforest along a winding river before climbing into the mountains with towering fir trees. Once near the top, snow covered mountain tops can be seen in the distance.
The highway covers 66 miles and takes about 2-3 hours to cover if you do not stop to enjoy the hikes or views. Spring through fall, snow can affect the travel time as well.
What You’ll See Going Over the Mountain
The Over the River and Through the Woods Scenic Byway begins in Brownsville Oregon, the third oldest town in all of Oregon. Brownsville houses the Linn County Historical Museum, an incredible place to learn the area’s history before you venture out.
Once officially on the byway, you will soon pass Foster Lake and Green Peter Dam. Both are extremely popular places to camp, fish, swim, boat and even attempt adventurous water activities such as water skiing.
Another great place to plan a stop along the Over the River and through the Woods Scenic Byway is in the Cascadia State Park. Here you can picnic, swim in the river, or take a short hike to Soda Creek Falls.
The Historic Santium Wagon Road also weaves through this area. It often overlaps the existing road, but occasionally small roadside signs will point to gravel covered turnoffs that allow you to follow what is left of the original wagon road. Taking this route can lead to mountain top views before looping back into the Over the River and Through the Woods Scenic Byway.
By now the byway has reached the Willamette National Forest where you can stop at the Walton Ranch Interpretive trail. This ADA accessible trail features a viewing platform where elk can often be seen.
From here, the road continues to steadily climb and wind through the trees. As you near the top, the trees become taller, almost towering, and snow-covered mountain peaks rise in the distance. A stop at Tombstone Trail is a great place to stretch your legs and take a short hike to see Iron Mountain and Cone Peak.
Shortly after Tombstone Pass, on the right hand side, is the Hackleman Old Growth Trail. Known for being one of our favorite trails on the Over the River and through the Woods Scenic Byway, Hackleman Old Growth Trail is an easy hike through immense fir, cedar and hemlock trees. These trees dwarf anyone who approach them and make for great photo ops.
Over the River and Through the Woods Scenic Byway: Off the Beaten Path
Just off the Over the River and Through the Woods Scenic Byway are a few experiences that are for the more adventurous. One of the most popular is a visit to one of the various snow parks speckled around the mountain. Many of these parks are for cross country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding or even snowmobiling.
If you’re traveling through the byway during the warmer months, which is the better time to do so, you may want to try the extended portion of the Hackleman Old Growth trail. The main trail is ADA accessible, and while it shows many of the large trees, it does not show all of them. The extended version of the trail is a little more off the beaten path.
The trail is covered in fir needles and littered with roots of the behemoth trees above. It winds through towering trunks and briefly opens up to offer a unique view of the mountains in the distance and the valley below.
If caves don’t bother you, there is a unique cave along the Over the River and Through the Woods Scenic Byway. The Cascadia Cave is found just outside of Cascadia State Park. This ancient cave was once a shelter for fishermen, as well as a spiritual gathering place for the indigenous people of the Kalapuya and Molala people.
Many historical drawings exist in the cave giving us a glimpse into the lives of the people who gathered there. Unfortunately, the cave was looted in the mid 19th century, resulting in many of the original artifacts being lost.
The cave can be opened to visitors who schedule a tour. The Sweet Home Ranger Station, assisted by local tribe members, lead occasional tours through the cave. With the cave drawings slowly disappearing from harsh weather and vandals, you will want to visit sooner rather than later.
Over the River and Through the Woods Scenic Byway: Best Time to Visit
When going over the mountains and through the woods in Oregon, it is best to know the conditions based on the time of year. The best time to drive the byway is from late spring to early fall.
During these months, the Over the River and Through the Woods Scenic Byway should be clear of snow, providing the opportunity to enjoy the hikes and viewpoints.
During the colder months, the byway is often covered in snow. It can be dangerous to pass over the mountain, and often chains are required. Another thing to consider during winter travel is clouds and lack of visibility. Winter storms and weather will limit your views at the viewpoints and could prohibit you from hikes.
That being said, if your goal is to enjoy the snowparks or the snow sports in the area, winter may be the best time for you.
Over the River and Through the Woods: What’s Nearby
Besides the hikes, lakes, rivers, and viewpoints along the Over the River and Through the Woods Scenic Byway, there is a lot to do in the nearby towns.
At one end of the byway, Brownsville boasts a large museum that is sure to keep you occupied for a few hours. The town of Brownsville also has a self-guided walking tour that showcases historical points around Oregon’s third oldest town.
Not too far outside of Brownsville is the Thompson Flouring Mills located in the now forgotten town of Boston. The mill was once a staple of a town that packed up and moved overnight. This historic mill building still operates for visitors daily and showcases the history of flour and the railroad in the area.
On the other side of the byway, just after the junction, Suttle Lake is a must visit. Suttle Lake boasts a large campground, a lodge, rental cabins, and a small restaurant. This lakeside resort is a great place to stay and swim, boat, or fish.
Further down the road you will find the town of Sisters. Sisters features a variety of restaurants and shops all created with an old western theme. Here you can stay in one of the hotels or even better, one of the many rental homes or condos.
Sisters can keep you busy all day and night. During the day enjoy shopping, snacking and walking around the picturesque town. Many art galleries feature unique artwork of different mediums. In the evenings relax at one of several restaurants, many of which offer wine tastings.
Just outside of Sisters is a myriad of hiking opportunities or snowy adventures.
What Will You Do Along the Over the River and Through the Woods Scenic Byway?
Whether you would like a leisurely drive, to stop and hike, or adventure out into the snow, the byway is perfect for you. No matter your desires, this drive offers something for everyone. The real question is, how will you make it your own?
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