Your Southern Oregon Guide


  • outback byway
  • outback byway
  • outback byway
  • outback byway

Learn for yourself why outback means "isolated rural country," when you drive through this rugged and remote area of Oregon. Let this byway take you through Oregon's outback, where the agricultural and timber industries are tied to life, heritage, and values; where the landscape ranges from lush green forests to arid desert; and where the people that live here seek independence but know each other by first names. While you're here, you'll also notice that community is paramount to the people who call this area home.

The drive starts in the Deschutes National Forest, through stands of lodgepole and ponderosa. Experience the beauty of this rural country, with geologic oddities that are the remains of volcanic activity in the area. You can walk along the edges of Hole in the Ground, a volcanic explosion crater, or visit Homestead Village, a living history museum near the unique formation of Fort Rock.

There are also lava flows and caves, and the nation's largest flow of obsidian and cinder cones from volcanoes can be found here. Visitors can walk along the paths with molten lava boiling three miles below the surface and see the obsidian chips once valued by the Native Americans for arrowheads.

Volcanoes aren't the only scenery along this byway, where you can also experience the beauty of Old Perpetual, Oregon's only geyser, or see the snow-covered ridges of Abert Rim. Visit some of the various lakes of the area, such as Abert Lake, where a palette of desert colors are reflected in the alkaline waters. You can hike trails, unravel the mysteries of petroglyphs, or bike the quiet country roads at Summer Lake. Walk along the paths of the past by visiting Newberry Crater, which was home to Native Americans some 10,000 years ago, or when you go through Picture Rock Pass, imagine the hands that engraved the petroglyphs thousands of years ago.

With beautiful scenery and geologic wonders, take the chance to experience this unique drive along the "outback" of Oregon. See the Lava and Landmarks along the Outback Scenic Byway. Step out of your car at any given point on the Outback Scenic Byway, and you will be startled by the ever-changing landscape. Transitioning from forests and lakes to sagebrush and desert, the Outback Scenic Byway offers an awe-inspiring view of the diverse nature and landscapes of southern Oregon. Round up the family and head out on this resplendent northwestern drive for an unforgettable encounter with nature.

Hole-in-the-Ground -Travel about 20 miles south from the byway’s beginnings in La Pine and then go about 10 miles east off the byway. Here you’ll find a giant bowl-like formation in the landscape, known as Hole-in-the-Ground. While some mystery surrounds this interesting landmark, it is most commonly recognized as the result of volcanic activity. Measuring at about 4,500 feet east to west and 5,500 feet north to south, this crater is a must-see. Stop and explore this 300-foot-deep dish-like crater-- you'll marvel in its sheer magnitude!

Devil’s Garden - For more striking evidence of volcanic activity, travel about 10 miles southeast of Hole-in-the-Ground and 20 miles east of the byway to Devil’s Garden. You and your family will love exploring this lava flow that left a system of lava tubes behind. Stand near the site and notice how porous and light the lava rocks are. Picture what the landscape could have been like millions of years ago.
Fort Rock - For more volcanic excitement, drive along the byway about 10 miles southwest of Devil’s Garden and then go about 5 miles east from the byway. You’ll see miles of sagebrush until suddenly a giant rock formation stands before you, a solitary peak in the surrounding flatlands. This marvel, known as Fort Rock, is a crater from a dormant volcano and has been designated a National Natural Landmark. To really experience this 325-foot-high tower, enjoy a picnic or a day hike on any of the trails near the crater. Complete your Fort Rock adventure with a stop at the nearby old Fort Rock Homestead Village, a quaint ghost town filled with buildings that date back to the 1800s. Pay a visit to the Fort Rock Valley Historical Homestead museum and learn about the captivating history of these buildings and the Fort Rock area.

Crack-in-the-Ground - From Fort Rock, head about 30 miles east, just above Christmas Valley, and you will see a truly unusual landmark known as Crack-in-the-Ground. Cracks and fissures like Crack-in-the-Ground are common results of volcanic activity or earthquakes, and most fill quickly with magma or rubble. However, this is not the case for Crack-in-the-Ground-- this fascinating fissure has been open for about 1,000 years! Spend a few hours exploring and hiking this 2-mile-long chasm. You can even hike on the bottom of the crack—some places reach depths of 70 feet with a width of only 10 to 15 feet.
Rock Pass- While considering the long history of this area, visit Picture Rock Pass, about midway along the byway, 20 miles south of Crack-in-the-Ground. See evidence of past civilizations in the many pictographs on the surrounding rocks. Study these images and imagine Oregon natives leaving their mark on the world 12,000 years ago-- the age of some of the drawings. Capture these pieces of art with your camera, but be careful not to touch them.

Abert Rim - Drive further south along the byway to the Abert Rim, a 30-mile fault escarpment just east of Lake Abert. The ground level has been broken and elevated here, due to plate tectonics. Rising 2,000 feet above the Outback Scenic Byway, Abert Rim is a giant compared to the flat land you’ve been driving. Looking to stretch your legs? Try hiking around Abert Rim on one of the many trails that vary in length and elevation. Plan the perfect day hike, as there are no developed campgrounds in the area.
Old Perpetual Geyser - As you near the end of the byway, stop at Oregon’s only continuously spouting geyser, Old Perpetual. This waterspout shoots a tower of 200-degree water 60 feet in the air every 30 to 90 seconds. As the only geyser of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, Old Perpetual is truly an anomaly. Take a short walk from Old Perpetual to another watery wonder known as the Hot Springs. Relax in water from this geyser and, according to local legend, you may be healed of whatever malady you may have.

The sun falls on another cool Oregon day as your byway journey comes to an end. From astounding landmarks to rich history to soothing hot springs, this one-of-a-kind Oregon experience will have you planning your next trip on the Outback Scenic Byway as soon as you leave!

Photo Credits:
Photo1 Crooked Creek by Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Photo 2 Fort Rock by Parks Dept.
Photo 3 Abert Rim Snow by Lake County Chamber.
Photo 4 Devil's Rock by  Brett Hansen.

Information Courtesy of National Scenic Byways Online.

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