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McKenzie Pass Scenic Bikeway

Scenic Bikeway

  • Length:
    38 miles
  • Difficulty:
  • Origin:
  • Attributes:
    1 Day Rides, Extended Climbs, Forest, Mountain Views, Wilderness

Elevation Chart

Powered by Ride With GPS

For more information and to obtain an export of this ride, visit

Stay Safe

In Oregon, a bicycle is legally considered a vehicle, and the same Oregon road laws apply. Please “be seen” and practice safe riding. Vehicle traffic, farm equipment and narrow shoulders exist on many Oregon roads, and you may find that construction projects, traffic or other events may cause road conditions or signage to differ from the map results, ride descriptions and directions. For travel options plus weather and road conditions, visit, call 511 (in Oregon only), 800.977.6368 or 503.588.2941. Routes listed on this website are for informational purposes and intended as a reference guide only.

Rider alert (6/15/2017): If you want to ride car-free, get  out there this weekend! ODOT has announced that McKenzie Pass will be open to vehicle on Monday, June 19. For the most current information, please check ODOT’s McKenzie Pass webpage.

Official Maps from Oregon Parks and Recreation: Download map and cue sheet

Route Description

McKenzie Pass is without a doubt the most spectacular ride in Central Oregon, showcasing forests on both the east and west sides of the Cascades (they’re different) as well as a lava-rock moonscape at the top that’s unlike anything you’ll probably ever see on a bike ride again.

The route begins at the Village Green Park in the center of Sisters. The vast majority of the route is on Oregon Route 242 (selected to be on the U.S. Register of Historic Places, March 2011). Most of Oregon Route 242 is closed during winter months, but bicycles are usually allowed in the spring before it’s reopened to cars – providing miles of traffic-free road riding as the snow melts.

Restrooms and potable water can be found at the Village Green Park in Sisters and at McKenzie Bridge store. There are restrooms at the summit and various campgrounds throughout the descent.

While it is a challenging ride, it is possible to do the route over and back in one day. There are also lovely campgrounds on either side of the route — perfect for a great night out under the stars. Horse Creek LodgeMcKenzie River Mountain Resort and Cog Wild operate shuttles in the area.

The official route starts in Sisters and heads west past hay meadows, ascending 2,000 feet through ponderosa pine forests. The road follows an 1860s wagon route, emerging from the forest at Windy Point and revealing a view of Mt. Washington and a 2,000-year-old lava flow. The 25-mile, 4,000 ft descent to Highway 126 snakes down exhilarating switchbacks to the dense, verdant Cascadian forests and rushes out over the McKenzie River. It’s these dramatic transitions through such diverse natural environments that define the uniqueness of this Bikeway.

McKenzie Pass is also a well-known secret among the riding community. Why? Because at certain times of the year you can ride this road when cars can’t drive it. The pass is only open during the summer/fall season, but It’s often navigable by bike long before It’s officially open. Check with the Blazin’ Saddles or Eurosport bike shops in Sisters for current access info, and check for current road closures.

This road is worth riding anytime, but parts of it can be a little nerve-wracking in the presence of cars and RVs. The unique setting and overall beauty are worth it, though. You can ride it from either side (starting in Sisters or from Highway 126 east of Eugene, near Rainbow); the map here shows it from Sisters. It’s a longer climb from the Eugene side, with switchbacks through deep forest before you emerge into stark and barren lava fields left by three separate volcanic eruptions. It looks like the moon, but with snow-capped mountains and rocky buttes looming on the horizon. At the top of the pass is a small “observatory” built out of lava rock; it gives spectacular views of 360 degrees of peaks, with special windows built to frame the peaks. It’s worth the stop. On the Sisters side, it’s a shorter climb and descent, but still exhilarating.

A major repaving project in recent years has made sections of this ride absolutely sublime, with smooth asphalt that will make you feel faster than you are.

Motorized Vehicle Traffic: None (when closed) to moderate

Seasons: Summer, fall

More Resources

For more to see and do near this Scenic Bikeway, check out Sisters Country, the McKenzie River Chamber of Commerce or Visit Central Oregon.

Shuttle services:
– McKenzie River Mountain Resort
– Horse Creek Lodge
– Cog Wild

Several area parks offer services and resources:
Sisters Creekside Campground in Sisters offers camping, including hiker-biker sites.
– The scenic Proxy Falls offers restrooms.
– Camping and restroom facilities are available at Cold Springs Campground (4 miles west of Sisters), Scott Lake Campground (near McKenzie Bridge), Alder Springs Campground (12 miles east of McKenzie Bridge), and Limberlost Campground (5 miles east of McKenzie Bridge).

Important Traffic Information:

For current open status, please visit ODOT’s McKenzie Pass webpage.

Visit and contact local ranger districts for detailed information about roads and roadway conditions: McKenzie River Ranger Station, 541-822-3381, or Sisters Ranger Station, 541-549-7700

Scenic Bikeway routes often include roads with car and truck traffic. Although the Bikeways are routed on low-traffic and low-speed roads whenever possible, most are designated for cyclists that are comfortable riding in some amount of traffic. For traffic-free riding, please check out the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway section north of Banks and the first half of the Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway.

Photos of this Ride


  1. It would be great if ODOT allowed folks to subscribe to a notice when this route is open for bikers.

  2. Great out and back day from Sisters.

  3. I would like to be notified when it is open for bikers and closed for cars.

  4. Add me to that notification list too!

  5. Go to the ODOT website, look up info on McKenzie Pass, and you can get on the notification list. Classic ride, but check the weather. Can get really cold up there.


  7. Does anyone know when this road opens in 2014? April maybe…?!

  8. Hi Marcel! You can sign up for email alerts from ODOT here. Last year the pass was opened to cyclists in late April/early May.

  9. Sorry if this is a vague question but I’m a very casual rider. I plan on being up in the area after memorial day and would like to see proxy falls. From what I read, the best way to get there is to bike from the west gate. Looking at the chart above it seems like a few miles and a few hundred feet up to the proxy falls trailhead. Is there parking closer to the west gate than the 126/242 intersection? Also, is the estimate of a few hundred feet accurate or am I way off. Thanks for any help.

  10. Agreed that this is a great ride and even better before cars are on the road beyond the “snow” gates. For those asking, the road is open to non-motorized traffic between the gates until June 16. (Today is April 30).

  11. Hi Dave,
    The best way for bike visitors to see Proxy Falls when the gates are closed is to park at the large parking area at White Branch, go around the gate, and ride the mostly gentle climb up to the falls. Beyond the falls 242 becomes much steeper. It’s well worth the ride!

  12. is the Mckenzie pass scenic bikeway open to only bikes now? When? Thanks

  13. Yes, it’s open to bike anytime, and for as far as the road is clear. It doesn’t usually open to cars until late June, July or sometimes August. You can always get an update by calling the Eurosports bike shop in Sisters.

  14. A wonderful weekend ride! How many riders are out there mid-week?

  15. Does anyone know how much snow is on the side of the road at the top of McKenzie Pass?

  16. I would like to be notified when it is open for bikers and closed for cars.

  17. Hi Wayne,

    The last couple of years, the pass has been closed to cars from early April until mid-to-late June.

    You can sign up for emails notifications from ODOT here:

  18. Thanks Brynna! Your link is much appreciated!

  19. Great ride.

  20. Where is the gate located???

  21. i would like a notice when 242 is open for cars but closed for bikes

  22. Cascade Bike Tours by McKenzie River Mountain Resort has been offering shuttles for the McKenzie Pass (Hwy 242) since 2013. They go almost daily during the season – by appointment. 541-822-6272

  23. 2015 Update: the McKenzie Pass is open to ride now! Open to bikes only until mid June.

  24. Would love to do this ride…can anyone who has done it before tell me how steep the descent is? I actually like climbing uphill, but fast downhill speeds freak me out and I don’t want to do a ride where I have to ride my breaks the whole time. Thanks!

  25. Hey, up there, its a pretty intense down hill, coming down its easy to get caught up doing 40, then there is pretty big curves. It is absolutely worth it, did it twice one year didn’t make it last year but plan on doing it memorial weekend this year.

  26. Please add me to your notification list, thank you. Did this ride last year, was fantastic.

  27. Allen, From what I remember the west climb is longer and a bit steeper in parts and more convoluted but I don’t recall any severe gradients. The east is less severe in terms of gradient and not as long. In all I remeber mostly gradual climbing.
    I hope that helps.

  28. Work for ODOT out of McKenzie Bridge. As most of you know the road is open to you bike riders. We are still in the process of clearing winter downed trees and should be done early next week. Then after a good brooming it is yours until 3rd weekend in June. Much appreciation to those who thank us as they ride by. To the guy that complained we were making a mess…… ? Anyway, please be safe.

  29. where exactly do we start in sisters?
    And the road is clear for bikes untill the 15th correct?

  30. Add me to your notification list for bike days on this awsom ride.

  31. Went last weekend (May 16-17), and the ride was everything I had hoped for. We only did the east side of the route, up from Sisters after camping the night before at Smith Rock and then back down, but it’s a great route even if you’re only going up to the top and back down. I was surprised by the fairly gentle grade most of the way up from the east side — not that it was easy, but it also was never really punishing or intolerable. It does get a bit cold at the top, though there was no snow up there when we went. The gate that keeps cars out is 8 miles from Sisters, so if you’re expecting car free the whole time, just know that it’s not quite. The road is not very traffic heavy, and we saw way more bikes than cars anyway. Enjoy!

  32. ODOT expects to open the road to motor vehicles on June 15th, 2015.

  33. McKenzie Pass opened to motor vehicles June 14th for the summer season. When riding it you will encounter motor vehicles.

  34. When is this Road Going to be closing for the off season?? also is there any closures due to Fire Fire damage or Construction?? thank you

  35. McKenzie Pass (hwy 242) is closed due to snow! The gates will reopen for motorized traffic on the third Monday in June at the earliest. For the most updated conditions check Trip Check at

  36. Can anyone comment on the closest drinking water to the west side terminus? Belknap Springs? Thanks.

  37. Probably Belknap, yep.

  38. Not sure I’ll do the ride, but I might if I (we) have the time!

  39. could you please put me on a list of when hwy 242 will close in 2017 and re open in 2018 thank you

  40. Please let me know when the pass is open for bicycles. Thanks!

  41. Eurosports (shop in Sisters) is posting frequent updates on plowing on McKenzie Pass: as of yesterday 5/18, plows have made it to within 1/4 mile of the Summit (from the East). Frequent updates and pictures at:

  42. rode from both sides on May 27. Sisters side is clear almost all the way through, easily made the pass on foot.
    From the west, it is plowed maybe to a mile of the pass.


  43. Is the first snow gate open on the west side ?

  44. Heard the pass open on June 1. Has anyone done a round trip? East to west does not look too back but heading back…?

  45. Thank you!

  46. I would like to be notified when the hue is open for motor vehicle.

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