If a scenic road trip is what you’re after this summer, we’ve got the perfect highway for you. It’s surrounded by mountains, lakes, and forests, and it even comes with a history lesson. The Cascade Lakes Highway, also known as Oregon state highway 46, was once used by some of the first explorers such as John C. Fremont, Kit Carson and trapper Nathaniel J Wyeth.
The horse trails and wagon roads that use to wind through the area were first replaced by a main wagon road from Bend to Sparks Lake and the Elk Lake country in 1920. The city was originally named “Farewell Bend” and the community was founded by Alexander Drake in 1900. Its name came from the Farewell Bend Ranch, which was used as a campsite for early travelers. In 1905, the “Farewell” was dropped by postal authorities and “Bend” was incorporated as a city.
Back to the highway… During the winter months, Cascade Lakes Highway is closed due to heavy snowfall. This happens from about mid November through May, but once the snow is gone, the roads open back up and travelers are free to take advantage of the beautiful drive. Traveling on the outskirts of town, you’ll enter the Deschutes National Forest and just beyond the forest boundary, Forest Service Road 41 accesses the Deschutes River, which offers fishing, rafting, kayaking, canoeing, and camping opportunities. Continuing West you come to Mount Bachelor. Home of the Pacific Northwest’s top ski resort. The ski season continues all the way through June! But even after ski season is over you can take the ski lift up for a magnificent view of the mountain skyline. A 9,065 foot peak, to be exact.
Moving on, you’ll come to High-Mountain playground, and as the Byway drops down to a large meadow, you’ll reach Sparks Lake. Watch the meadow closely at dawn and dusk, as this is an excellent spot to see elk and deer.
A popular camping spot is Devils Lake.Visitors are treated to an eerie optical illusion where the crystal clear water and a shallow white pumice bottom make it seem as if boats on the surface are floating in midair. How cool is that?! When you’re ready to continue on your way, you’ll come to Elk Lake next, which offers a marina, rustic lodge, and a historic guard station staffed by volunteers ready to make you feel at home and tell you stories of years gone by. You can also rent boats by the hour here. Just beyond Elk Lake is Hosmer Lake, a fly-fishing-only fishery that’s prized for its Brook Trout and landlocked Atlantic Salmon. Primitive campsites are available here. The list of lakes goes on and on throughout the stretch of 87 miles.