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Auto Tours  •  Volcanic Legacy

Set out on an auto tour in Klamath, Lake and Modoc Country, and prepare to see a greater variety of scenery and history in one day than you can see in a week in most places. Start in the dense forests of the Cascade Mountains, drive through open stands of ponderosa pine and camp out under a blizzard of starlight on the high desert!

Our highways will take you past well-known attractions such as Crater Lake National Park and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, while backcountry roads lead to many secret spots still undiscovered by crowds. Along the way you'll find many curiosities, such as local museums, gift shops, art galleries and scenic viewpoints.

Wildlife will be easy to spot along any of the auto tour routes described here. Several national wildlife refuges and state wildlife reserves are located in the region. At certain times of year, ducks, geese, swans, eagles and dozens of other species are so plentiful that huge flocks are often seen on fields and pastures next to roads.

Historic markers and parks are also scattered throughout the region. Several sites of the Modoc War are located in and around Lava Beds National Monument near Tulelake, CA. The Applegate Trail, a branch of the Oregon Trail, has a monument off Hwy. 97 at the California/Oregon border, and is just one of the historic routes that cross Klamath, Lake and Modoc Country.

But perhaps the most spectacular attraction in Southern Oregon and Northern California is the scenery. Old homesteads framed by quaking aspens and mountain streams, checkerboard potato and grain fields, sagebrush and juniper rangeland, lakes reflecting the grandeur of countless mountain ranges - it's all waiting for you in Klamath, Lake and Modoc Country.

Tread Lightly is like the "Leave No Trace" ethic of the hiker. It means that you provide the next user the same experience that you enjoyed by staying on the trail, picking up litter, practicing trail courtesy and respecting public as well as private property. It's a small but thoughtful price to pay for the well being of our outdoor environment!

Places to Go

Graphic: The number 1.

Klamath Lake Tour - 93 mile loop

This tour route traces the shoreline of Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon's largest body of fresh water.

Begin in Klamath Falls, OR, following Lakeshore Drive west to its junction with Hwy. 140, where you'll turn right.

Hwy. 140 skirts the west side of the lake, offering a great chance to view abundant bird life, including bald eagles that nest in the area.

Near Rocky Point, head north on the West Side Rd. to Fort Klamath along the Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge.

After grabbing something to eat in the colorful ranching community of Fort Klamath, drive south on Hwy. 62 and Hwy. 97, back to Klamath Falls.

Other attractions: Fort Klamath Museum, state fish hatchery, Klamath Tribal Museum, and canoe trail at Upper Klamath Wildlife Refuge.

Information: Discover Klamath, 1-800-445-6728.

Graphic: Number 2

Greensprings Tour - 125 mile loop

Explore the Southern Oregon Cascades, a unique area where fir forests meet oak savannahs and tall pines.

From Klamath Falls, OR, follow Hwy. 66 west as it winds its way along the historic route of the Applegate Trail. A number of markers along the roadside detail the emigrant's journey.

Nearing Ashland, turn right on Dead Indian Memorial Road towards Lake of the Woods and Fish Lake, just two of the many pristine mountain lakes of the region.

Finally, turn right on Hwy. 140 and head back to Klamath Falls, winding your way down mountains with spectacular views of Mt. McLoughlin, Pelican Butte and Upper Klamath Lake.

Information: Discover Klamath, 1-800-445-6728.

Graphic: Number 3

Wildlife Refuge Tour - 110 mile loop

Probably America's premier bird-watching auto tour route.

See the nation's first waterfowl refuge - Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge - established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt. There is an auto tour fee.

Take Hwy. 97 south from Klamath Falls. Just over the state line, turn east on Hwy. 161 through the refuge for approximately 20 miles, and then head south to the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Be sure to stop at the Visitor Center, and then follow the clearly signed route through this beautiful refuge.

The largest concentration of bald eagles in the lower 48 states is centered at Tule Lake and Lower Klamath Refuges each winter.

Your return to Klamath Falls is via Hwy. 139.

Information: Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges, 530-667-2231.

Graphic: Number 4

Crescent Lake Tour - 105 mile loop

Take in the high lakes of the Cascade Mountain Range, famous for great fishing and spectacular views.

From Chemult, OR, take Hwy. 97 north, and 58 west to Crescent Lake Junction. Turn left at Crescent Lake Jct., following Forest Service Rd. 60 south. This road turns to gravel after a short distance, so inquire locally as to road conditions.

Follow FS Rd. 60 south over Windigo Pass to its intersection with Hwy. 138. Here, a left turn takes you past Diamond Lake and on to the north end of Crater Lake National Park. Hwy. 138 joins Hwy. 97 just ten miles south of your starting point in Chemult.

Want more? Here is a short 5-mi. interpretative drive titled "Desert Journeys Infostop." While still on Hwy. 138, go S on Forest Service Rd. 70. There is a kiosk with interpretative information. Pick up a brochure for the 3.7- mi. Ponderosa Postcards Drive, which is a forest ecology interpretative drive. Numbered posts are keyed to numbers on brochure. There are short interpretive walks.

Information: Crescent Ranger District, 541-433-2234.

Graphic: Number 5

South Warner Auto Loop - 90 mile loop

The self-guided South Warner Loop tour begins in Alturas, CA.

Travels south to Likely, east over the beautiful South Warner Mountains to Eagleville, north to Cedarville and returning west via Hwy. 299 to Alturas. Fall is a special time to travel this loop. Both the route over the South Warner Mountains and the return trip from Cedarville to Alturas offer magnificent colorful displays of fall aspen colors.

Information: Warner Mountain Ranger District, 530-279-6116.

Graphic: Number 6

Crater Lake National Park - including 33 mile Rim Drive

The 1,932 foot deep lake is one of America's favorite vacation destinations. Plan to take a day exploring every view of the lake from Rim Drive, plus the fascinating forest and geologic formations surrounding it.

Begin with a stop at the park headquarters for background history and other information. Then plan to spend a full day making the Rim Drive. Scenic pull-outs are located in many spots, and hiking trails ranging from a quarter-mile to nearly three miles lead to fascinating views of the lake.

While thousands of people visit the lake each summer, some people believe the park is even more spectacular in winter, with snow depths often over 10 feet. A dream for cross country skiers. Rim Drive is closed in winter, but a road to the Rim is kept open despite snow piles higher than cars.

Information: Crater Lake National Park Service, 541-594-2211.

Graphic: Number 7

Lake County Tour - 96 mile loop

From Lakeview, "Hang Gliding Capital of the West," take Hwy. 395 north.

Then, turn west on County Rd. 2-16, and then right onto County Rd. 2-16A. This will lead you to Forest Service Rd. 28, a narrow paved road through the Fremont National Forest.

Near Dairy Point, a small picnic area, turn left on Forest Service Rd. 34. Keep an eye out for deer, black bear and bald eagles.

Forest Service Rd. 34 cuts down alongside the Gearhart Mountain Wilderness Area, a popular destination for local day-hikers. The trailhead is clearly marked.

Near the Gearhart Mountain Wilderness, Mitchell Monument commemorates the site of the only fatalities resulting from a Japanese attack on the U.S. mainland during World War II. Look for this monument erected by Weyerhaeuser Company.

In the logging community of Bly, Forest Service Rd. 34 intersects with Hwy. 140. Take 140 east back into Lakeview.

Information: Lake County Chamber of Commerce, 541-947-6040 or Fremont National Forest 541-947-2151.

Graphic: Number 8

Modoc Small Town Tour - 95 mile loop

This tour of the Pit River country offers a chance to explore a number of small historic towns of the Modoc plateau.

Start in Adin, on Hwy. 299, where Ash Creek provides several swimming holes. In days gone by the creek powered a mill at this site.

Take Hwy. 299 north to Canby, named for a U.S. Cavalry General killed in the Modoc War. The historic Canby Hotel has been in operation for more than 90 years.

Take Hwy. 139 northwest, and then head south on County Rd. 91 to the community of Lookout. The town is said to be named for a hill used by Indian sentries. The route passes pine forests, old ranches and farmlands.

Continue six miles south to Bieber, where a fine museum is located. Adin lies east. On your return, be sure to look for waterfowl at the Ash Creek Wildlife Area.

Information: Modoc National Forest, 530-233-5811.

Graphic: Number 9

Watchable Wildlife - Four hour loop tour

Nine sites along this route are marked as special wildlife viewing areas. Antelope, deer and birds migrate through the area. Wild turkeys are occasionally seen along Gerber Rd.

Take Hwy. 140 east from Klamath Falls, turning onto Hwy. 70 to Bonanza in the heart of eastern Klamath County ranchlands. In Bonanza, take E. Langell Valley Rd. For approximately 10 miles to Gerber Rd. Follow Gerber Rd. to Gerber Reservoir.

Picnic areas and fishing are available at Gerber Reservoir, where bald eagles and osprey commonly nest.

Information and brochure: Bureau of Land Management, Klamath Falls Resource Area, 541-883-6916.

Graphic: Number 10

Medicine Lake Volcano - 50 mile loop

The Medicine Lake volcano dominates the geology of Modoc Country along this tour route.

From Hwy. 139 thru Lava Beds Nat. Monument or Tionesta to Medicine Lake. Ice caves and obsidian flow are common in this area. Look for Glass Mountain, Little Mount Hoffman and Cinder Butte enroute to Lava Beds National Monument.

More information on volcanoes and lava flows of the area are offered at Lava Beds Visitor Center. Hiking trails lead to several caves.

At the north base of the volcano is the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, where millions of birds make a stop along the Pacific Flyway. Bald eagles are commonly seen during winter months.

Information: Modoc National Forest Service - 530-233-5811; Lava Beds National Monument - 530-667-8101; Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge - 530-667-2231.

Graphic: Number 11

Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway - 150 miles

150 mi. between the junction of Hwy. 97 and Hwy. 138, near Crater Lake and Diamond Lake, and the Oregon/California state line. Drive Time: 5-7 hrs.

This newly designated Oregon Scenic Byway and "ALL AMERICAN ROAD," one of only 12 designated in Oregon, highlights the volcanic legacy of the region, some of the nation's first wildlife refuges and their key location along the great Pacific Flyway, and small, undiscovered towns with diverse histories and economies.

Crater Lake National Park anchors the north end of the route and the south end is anchored by the Francis S. Landrum Historic Wayside, at the Oregon/California state line on Hwy. 97. This Historic Wayside commemorates the Applegate Emigrant Trail, which passed nearby.

The Byway has been extended south to Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Spend an extra day and take one of the other routes suggested here, such as to the Klamath National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center and Lava Beds National Monument, to see abundant wildlife, learn about the Modoc War, and explore lava tube caves (hardhats and lights are available at Lava Beds National Monument Headquarters).

Information and Scenic Byway Brochure: Klamath County Museum, Klamath Falls, 1-800-445-6728.

Graphic: Number 12

Outback National Scenic Byway - 171 miles

171 mi. between LaPine and New Pine Creek, OR. Drive Time: 3-4 hrs.

This newly designated Oregon Scenic Byway, and National Scenic Byway, highlights the geologic wonders, wildlife, and small towns and history of a little-visited region of Oregon. There are mysterious rock formations which appear out of nowhere, like the remains of a volcano at Fort Rock St. Park, the massive escarpments of Winter and Abert Rims, hot springs, and Oregon's only geyser, Old Perpetual, near Lakeview, which shoots 60 ft. in the air every 90 seconds.

Summer Lake Wildlife Area is located about midway on the route, which is one of the major stops for migratory birds along the great Pacific Flyway. A small detour will take you to Fort Rock St. Park and a living history museum called Fort Rock Homestead Village.

Goose Lake St. Park anchors the south end of the Scenic Byway at the Oregon/California State Line. Plan on an extra day to drive the wonderful scenic routes among the Warner Mtns., just south of the State Line, described elsewhere on this page.

Information and Scenic Byway Brochure: Lake County Chamber of Commerce and Oregon Welcome Center, Lakeview, 541-947-6040.

Bonus Points

Interested in getting out of the car and stretching your legs? If you've got time to see a little more of what makes this area unique, here are a few favorite spots among locals that you shouldn't miss:

Auto Tours  •  Volcanic Legacy

Want to know what makes Klamath, Lake and Modoc Country special? Some folks know that part of the area's magic lies deep underground, in the ancient and ongoing geologic processes that continue to shape the land.

One of the easiest ways to see the fascinating world of geology is from the highways of the region. Many roads bypass interesting formations and, offer travelers a comfortable window on the earth's past. Slow down and figure out what makes this special place tick.

The sites listed here are just a handful of the interesting formations in the area. They have been selected due to their proximity to other attractions, including fishing, swimming or hiking, which makes a visit easily incorporated into a schedule.

Rockhounds should be sure to check locally for regulations. Please remember collection is strictly forbidden within National Park boundaries. Remember to "Tread Lightly."

Places to Go

Location Map: Lava Beds National Monument.

1. Lava Beds National Monument

From Tulelake, CA, E 5 mi. on East-West Rd. Turn on Hill Rd., go 9.5 mi. to monument and another 9.5 mi. to the Visitor Center.

The first stop for budding geologists. A variety of sites here include lava tube caves and spatter cones. Interpretative displays and park program help visitors understand the geologic, as well as historic, character of the Lava Beds and the Medicine Lake volcano.

Information: Lava Beds National Monument, 530-667-8101.

2. Crater Lake National Park

Location Map: Crater Lake National Park.

60 mi. N of Klamath Falls, OR, on Hwy. 97 and 62.

The deepest lake in the nation was formed inside the collapsed peak, or caldera, of an ancient volcano after a cataclysmic eruption some 7,700 years ago. Geologists estimate the force of this explosion at 40 times greater than the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption, scattering ash across eight western states and well into Canada.

There are too many geologic curiosities to list. Feel free to ask park staff what they would recommend. Be sure to schedule the boat tour for an upclose look at fascinating geology of ancient Mt. Mazama.

Information: Crater Lake National Park, 541-594-2211.

Location Map: Medicine Lake.

3. Medicine Lake

18 mi. S of Newell, CA, on Hwy. 139, take Forest Service Rd. 97, W for 26 mi.

The same geologic processes that formed the Crater Lake caldera were in action here. Use the campgrounds as a base camp and explore Glass Mountain, a 12,000 acre obsidian flow, and the burnt lava flow nearby. A number of interesting small cinder cones surround the Lake's basin.

Information: Doublehead Ranger District, 530-667-2246.

Location Map: Fort Rock/Christmas Valley Area.

4. Fort Rock/Christmas Valley Area

65 mi. S of Bend, OR on Hwy. 31, E on County Rd. 5-10.

A number of interesting features in this northern Lake County area are just off the roads that form the BLM's Christmas Valley Backcountry Byway. Three distinct lava flows, Fort Rock itself, and the surrounding area can best be seen from the Green Mountain lookout. Picnic areas are available at the nearby Fort Rock State Park.

Information: Bureau of Land Management, Lakeview District, 541-947-2177.

Location Map: Mt. McLoughlin.

5. Mt. McLoughlin

36 mi. W of Klamath Falls, OR on Hwy. 140, N on Forest Service Rd. 3650 to trailhead, approx. 3 mi.

Like much of the Cascades, this 9,500 foot peak is a young volcano shaped by the powers of both fire and ice. Ice Age glaciers carved away at the steep slopes of this, the highest peak in Southern Oregon. This trail is a tough scramble and mostly within a National Wilderness. Check on conditions first at the nearest Forest Service Office Ranger Station.

Information: Klamath Ranger District, 541-885-3400.

Location Map: Mt. Shasta.

6. Mt. Shasta

21 mi. S of Macdoel, CA on Hwy. 97, W on Forest Service Rd. 45N22 for approx. 5 mi. to summit of Herd Peak.

This striking geologic feature dominates the skyline of the border country. Over 14,000 feet high, Mt. Shasta and its younger partner Shastina Peak, may have erupted as recently as 1786. The recent ash flows are clearly visible just north of Weed, CA on Hwy. 97. For the best view of surrounding area, many local residents head to the Herd Peak Lookout.

Information: Goosenest Ranger District, 530-398-4391.

Location Map: Cinder Cones.

7. Cinder Cones

From Fall River Mills, CA, S 4 mi. on Cassel Rd., E 7 mi. on Cinder Cone Rd.

Rustic and often empty campground provides convenient access to an extensive lava flow and numerous caves offering plenty of room for exploration. A portion of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail is nearby.

Information: Bureau of Land Management, Alturas Resource Area, 530-233-4666.

Location Map: Abert Rim.

8. Abert Rim

30 mi. N of Lakeview, OR along Hwy. 395.

Abert Rim is one of the most continuous, well exposed, scenic geologic faults in the United States. The rim is about 2,000 feet high and nearly 30 miles long. Be sure to take in the scenic Warner Mountains to the east.

Information: Bureau of Land Management, Lakeview District, 541-947-2177.

Location Map: Pit River Falls.

9. Pit River Falls

From Fall River Mills, CA, W 2 mi. on Hwy. 299 to overlook.

The Pit River tumbles over a basalt cliff in a deeply cut canyon that offers a glimpse into Northern California's geologic history. The falls are in full view from this scenic pull-out along Hwy. 299.

Information: Bureau of Land Management, Alturas Resource Area, 530-233-4666.

Location Map: Lassen Volcanic National Park.

10. Lassen Volcanic National Park

Hwy. 36 E from Red Bluff to Park Headquarters, further E to Hwy. 89, Hwy. 89 through park.

Lassen Peak is all that remains after the eruption of Mt. Tehama, an eruption similar to that of Mt. St. Helens in 1980. Until 1980, Lassen Peak was the most recent volcanic eruption in the Cascade Range. For 70 years it has provided scientists with studies of plant succession which suggest possible recovery patterns for Mt. St. Helens.

Information: Lassen Volcanic National Park Service, 530-595-4444.

11. McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park

From intersection of Hwys. 299 and 89, N 6 mi. on Hwy. 89.

President Theodore Roosevelt once called Burney Falls the eighth wonder of the world. Unlike other waterfalls, these flow at a continuous rate year-round. Water flows from within several layers of lava, contributing to the unusual aspect of the falls.

Information: McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, 530-335-2777.

Bonus Points

Looking for some interesting geologic sites that are just off the beaten path? Want to get a little deeper into the study of earth's processes?

More Opportunities