Central Oregon Scenic Drive

Discover waterfalls, stunning vistas, and a ghost town in central Oregon.

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Last fall, the U.S. Forest Service finished paving the former logging roads that link Cottage Grove and Oakridge, Ore. The 55-mile route, which starts 20 miles south of Eugene, passes trailheads, swimming lakes, a ghost town, and stunning vistas. Give yourself a half day to explore. Start at the Cottage Grove Ranger Station (78405 Cedar Park Rd., 541-767-5000) and pick up a map. After a storm, call ahead for road closures. Area code is 541.

  • COTTAGE GROVE In this town famed for historic covered bridges, fuel up the car and your passengers—you won’t find services along the route. Café Sheilagh dishes up omelets. 616 E. Main St., 942-5510.
  • DORENA LAKE Leaving town, Row River Road passes by a covered bridge and then hugs the shore of this lake. At lakeside Harms Park, pick up the Row River Trail and walk along the old Oregon & Southeastern Rail line, the same route the boys followed in Stand by Me. 683-6600, www.americantrails.org/nationalrecreationtrails/blm/rowriver-or.html.
  • UPPER TRESTLE CREEK FALLS The road rambles through pastures filled with grazing goats before entering the dusky Umpqua National Forest. From the Champion Creek trailhead, you can hike 1.5 miles uphill to this 65-foot waterfall.
  • FAIRVIEW PEAK LOOKOUT TOWER An 11-mile detour takes you to this fire-watch tower. From the top, gaze out at the Cascade Range and catch a glimpse of a ghost town where miners struck gold in the 1860s.
  • HILLS CREEK RESERVOIR The road climbs to the top of 5,164-foot Grass Mountain before descending to this lovely lake. Take a swim or cast your line for rainbow trout.
  • OAKRIDGE Wrap up your drive in this rural community with a stop at the Trailhead Coffeehouse for cask-conditioned beer and rich chicken Alfredo. 782-2223.

Illustration by Michael Klein

This article was first published in November 2006. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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