Under Cascade Blue Skies – Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway in Oregon

A perfect clear blue sky weather day was happening for mountain driving 150 miles to Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. The woman at the Sleep Inn Bend chuckled that I would be seeing walls of snow at Crater Lake. I did see walls of snow… and so many more indelible sights this day.

Sleep Inn Bend, Oregon

Sleep Inn Bend, Oregon with snowcapped mountains in pool background.

There are two Choice Hotels with Comfort Inn Bend and Sleep Inn Bend on Highway 20 east of downtown Bend just past Pilot Butte State Park (do not miss this photo spot on clear days). These hotels were about $82 (Comfort)and $70 (Sleep Inn) per night with Comfort Suites ranked as #8 of  38 hotels in Bend on June 23, 2011 and Sleep Inn at #23. Comfort Suites has comfortable bedding in rooms and an outdoor pool, although Sleep Inn has the better pool environment shown in the photo with mountains visible in the distance.

Both of these hotels are eligible for the 8,000 points after two stays promotion from May 19-August 11, 2011. The points are sufficient for the lowest hotel reward free nights at 6,000 and 8,000 points at about 1,500 of the 6,000+ hotels in Choice Hotels around the world. I saw this location as a high potential hotel stay spot in Bend this summer for earning at least a 50% rebate on the cost of two hotel nights with Choice Privileges. I think the free night I get with 8,000 Choice Privileges points from two Choice Hotel stays on this Vancouver trip will be worth at least the cost of one of the nights I paid.

Mt. Washington (right peak) seen from Pilot Butte, Bend, Oregon

The same kind of deal is available with Marriott Rewards from June 1 to August 31 for a free night after two stays. Fairfield Inn Downtown Bend is near shops and Drake Park while TownePlace Suites Bend near Mt. Bachelor is on the western road to Mt. Bachelor with several nearby golf courses and upscale Bend resorts.

The cost for two stays at these properties was about $120 to $130 per night. A free category 4 hotel night from Marriott Rewards can easily be a $150 to $200 per night free hotel room, so this deal is as good a rebate as Choice Privileges for a higher market segment hotel in more central locations of Bend for touring.

Summit of Pilot Butte in Bend, Oregon has Mountain Identifier

View of Cascades from summit of Pilot Butte, Bend, Oregon with Mt. Bachelor 20.9 miles away (left picture between trees) to Three Sisters – South, Middle and North about 25 miles away (right).

The AAA locksmith guy suggested I drive the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway sixty miles through the hills around Mt. Bachelor on my drive to Crater Lake. For the first time ever in five years with this car I locked my keys inside. Good thing I was sitting in a motel parking lot in Bend and not Criterion Summit on Highway 197.

Cascade Lakes Oregon Scenic Byway

The road is well paved and wide with a gentle gradient all the way up 20 miles to the slopes of Mt. Bachelor at 9,065 ft.

Mt. Bachelor, Oregon

The road around Mt. Bachelor is probably around 6,000 feet elevation and this area had the most snow where the road runs south of Broken Top (9,175 ft. and South Sister (10,358 ft.).Broken Top is pictured below.

Cascade Lakes mid-June snow and Broken Top Mountain

The spring thaw was evident within a couple miles of here.

Sparks Lake spring thaw on Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway

Nature was changing with warm sun and people were taking advantage of the seasonal recreation opportunities.

Elk Lake boating at 4,983 ft. in Cascade Lakes region Oregon

Elk Lake is the first major Cascade Lake on the road heading south about 30 miles out of Bend. There is a lodge, market, bar/restaurant and boat launch all in one spot. This is wilderness with ice cream and beer.

Elk Lake, Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway

Lava Lake below Mt. Bachelor had this Peruvian looking Lake Titicaca grass thing happening along the lakefront.


Lava Lake in Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway



The river streams forming along the flat lands of the Cascade Lakes filled the woods with streams. There were people fishing alongside the road in many places.

Trout fishing in America

There are some rustic cabin rentals at a few of the lakes along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. Elk Lake Resort has cabins for $200 to $400 per night and some rustic cabins with no power or water for $58 per night. 

I pulled into Cultus Lake Resort and the green grass lawn down to the lakeside attracted me to the lodge house with a restaurant and market. Cultus Lake Resort has 23 cabin rentals with current rates at $85 to $155 per night and a slight weekly rental discount. The site has a restaurant with all-you-can-eat ribs on Friday and Saturday nights for $16.95.

Cultus Lake Resort lakeside cabin

You’ll need to bring your own linens for the double bed and two single bunks in the cabin I saw furnished with a bathroom, shower, bedroom, sitting room with a couch and two wooden chairs, and a full kitchen with table.

Cultus Lake Resort cabin bunks in bedroom.

The ambience seemed like a friendly place at Cultus Lake and there are some views, but I am more the Crater Lake Lodge type of guest these days.

Cultus Lake Resort cabin view, Cascade Lakes region, Oregon

My car did the most off road four-wheeling of its five year sedan life (last car payment made this month) as I followed a dirt road a few hundred yards into the woods to reach Crane Prairie Reservoir.

Crane Prairie Reservoir, Cascade Lakes region, Oregon

Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway drive reminds you in places that this is volcano country. Here is a large mound of volcanic rock with one tree growing in rock amidst a forest of pines.

Lone pine in volcanic mound, Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway

Another portion of forest showed effects of fire damage and recovery.

Cascade Lakes forest fire recovery.

I came across an informational sign telling how Highway 97 was the historic Klamath Trail used by Great Basin Indians trading with Columbia River Indians. In the Treaty of 1855 the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Indian Reservation was created from 640,000 acres of the formerly 10 million acres of Indian lands in Oregon. The present reservation is located northwest of Madras, Oregon to the east of Mt. Jefferson.

Historic Klamath Trail is near Highway 97 route.

Off the Cascade Lakes Scenic Highway and back onto Highway 97 South I turned right on Highway 138 to be greeted by an informational sign for Crater Lake National Park showing the North Entrance to the park was closed when I was potentially just 30 miles from the lake.

Crater Lake North Entrance sign shows road is closed.

This meant another 70 miles of driving to reach Crater Lake from the South entrance of the park.

And continue driving I did, all the way to the Rim Drive summit of Crater Lake National Park where I stood about 90 minutes later.

Crater Lake view from Rim Road at 7,100 ft. elevation.

Related Links:

Cascade Lakes Oregon Scenic Byway road map.

National Geographic: Road Trip – Cascade Lakes, Oregon

Loyalty Traveler #TBEX11 Road Trip  – Eastern Exposure in Washington (6/21/2011)

Mountains beyond mountains in Central Oregon – Highway 197 and 97 from The Dalles to Bend (6/23/2011)

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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  1. This looks like an awesome route!

    I recently locked my rental car keys and had to call roadside assistance – Good thing I had a buffer built in to my schedule, because otherwise I would have missed my flight!

  2. One of my life’s highlights was riding the Crater Lake Century two years ago. Getting to the rim was an experience; riding the never-flat rim was exhilarating! craterlakecentury.com

  3. @Dan – That looks like a great ride for August. I remember now all the cyclists last year 2012 riding up to Crater Lake and around the rim when I was there in July.

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