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

Located in the Cascade Range at 5,187 feet, this mountain observatory offers panoramic views across 65 square miles of black lava rock that looks so much like a moonscape that in 1964, NASA conducted drills with astronauts as they prepared to travel to the moon. Completed in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the observatory was named in memory of Dee Wright, the crew’s foreman who passed away the year before.

On a clear day, you can view Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, the South, North, and Middle Sister, and even see Mt. Hood, 78.5 miles to the north. If the snow has melted, don’t forget to look for the glaciers! Collier glacier on the North Sister is the largest glacier in Oregon.

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, openings frame the surrounding mountain peaks.

The accessible Lava River National Recreation Trail located next to the observatory provides remarkable views of lava that flowed from the surrounding craters.

Check out the photo gallery of scenes in and around Dee Wright. See it before you hike it! Use Travel Lane County’s Google-Trekked Trails to see Google's "trail view" of this trail. Click on the "trail details" for more information on the trail itself. Dee Wright Observatory / trail details

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Access is dependent on McKenzie Highway (OR Hwy 242), which is closed in the winter. Check for conditions.
Operational Hours: Access is dependent on McKenzie Highway (OR Hwy 242), which is closed in the winter. Check for conditions. 
Usage: Heavy
Closest Towns: McKenzie Bridge, OR (west)
Sisters, OR (east)
Restroom: Yes
Information Center: McKenzie River Ranger District

General 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.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Day Hiking

Viewing Scenery

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  Elevation : 
5187 feet