Take a trip along the southern section of the McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass National Scenic Byway to the summit of the McKenzie Highway (242) and you will find the unusual and historic Dee Wright Observatory settled atop vast, black lava flows.
As you make your way up to the observatory you will find interpretive panels with accounts of early travelers and area geology.
Continue up the stairs to the roof and you will discover a bronze peak finder with the names and elevations of the surrounding buttes and mountain peaks.
Inside the observatory strategically placed openings frame the surrounding mountain peaks.
The accessible Lava River National Recreation Trail located next to the observatory, offers an unusual half-mile hike. This paved interpretive trail provides remarkable views of lava that flowed from the surrounding craters.
From McKenzie Bridge, OR travel east on Hwy 126 for about 5 miles; turn right on Hwy 242. Continue on Hwy 242 for 22 miles to the Dee Wright Observatory.
From Sisters, OR travel west on Hwy 242 for 15 miles to the Dee Wright Observatory.
You can see the observatory from the highway. Parking is adjacent.
The narrow and curvy McKenzie Highway is a high traffic area.
Watch for bicyclists and other vehicles.
The highway is not suitable for trailers or long recreational vehicles.
At a Glance
The observatory itself does not close, but the McKenzie Highway is closed in winter (approximately November – July, snow dependent) restricting vehicle traffic.
In early spring as the snow melts there is often a window of opportunity for non-motorized traffic to travel the McKenzie Highway. Many bicyclists take advantage of this opportunity, and head over the pass.
McKenzie Highway is closed in winter (approximately November – July, snow dependent)