Dee Wright Observatory


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.

view of Dee Wright Observatory from the parking lot. It looks like a pile of lava that you can climb up view along the path up along the side of Dee Wright headed to the top.  Views of mountains are in the distance View from the top of the observatory through an opening to see the North Sister


  • 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.

What Will I See?

  • Located in the Cascade Range at 5,187 feet, this mountain observatory offers panoramic views of the Mount Washington Wilderness and Three Sisters Wilderness.
  • On a clear day, you can even see Mt. Hood located a whopping 78.5 miles to the north.
  • A panoramic view across 65 square miles of black lava rock that looks like a moonscape. In 1964 NASA conducted drills with astronauts in the lava as they prepared to travel to the moon!
  • Mountains, mountains, and more mountains! If the snow has melted don’t forget to look for the glaciers on the Sisters Mountains! Collier (on the North Sister) is the largest glacier in Oregon.
  • Life in the lava! Even in these harsh conditions you can find trees, a variety of lichens, and animals.
  • Local and international visitors. You may also meet hikers traveling through the area on the famous Pacific Crest Trail.

Check out the photo gallery of scenes in and around Dee Wright.

At a Glance

Current Conditions: McKenzie Highway is closed in winter (approximately November – July, snow dependent)
Operational Hours:
  • 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.
Usage: Heavy
Closest Towns:
  • McKenzie Bridge, OR (west)
  • Sisters, OR (east)
Restroom: Yes
Information Center: McKenzie River Ranger District

General Information


 See video for accessibility information.


From McKenzie Bridge, OR travel east on Highway 126 for about 5 miles; turn right on Highway 242. Continue on Highway 242 for 22 miles to the Dee Wright Observatory at the top of the McKenzie Pass.

From Sisters, OR travel west on Highway 242 for 15 miles to the Dee Wright Observatory.

You can see the observatory from the highway. Parking is adjacent.

Think safety:

  • 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.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information

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  Latitude : 

  Longitude : 

  Elevation : 
5187 feet