The story of the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway can’t be told without a nod to its volcanic past. Mount Mazama erupted nearly 8,000 years ago, which led to the formation of Crater Lake—and, farther south, lava flows dating back almost 70,000 years formed the landscape at the heart of the modern-day Lava Beds National Monument. In between and beyond, centuries of lava flows and eruptions left the region pockmarked with pumice plains, cinder cone crags and other explosive landscapes.
Today, it’s easy to see the last effects of all that activity along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway. This byway is just one of 42 All-American Roads. As one of the country’s most beautiful drives, the route takes motorists more than 500 miles from Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, into California to Lassen Volcanic National Park. Roughly 140 miles of the byway wind through Klamath County, which makes for an ideal one- to four-day trip.
The Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway is divided into ten sections that progress from Northern California to Southern Oregon that can be explored year-round and can be traveled in either direction. The nature of this region was sculpted by the byway’s namesake—volcanoes—which influenced the geology, flora, fauna and human history of the area. The Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway is a great way to see those changes and explore the incredibly scenic legacy of such explosions.
Along the Byway you will see fantastic sites—active geothermal features at Lassen Volcanic National Park, curtains of water showering over basalt cliffs at McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, the slopes of Mount Shasta jutting above the valley floor to the summit at 14,162 feet, lands riddled with remains of underground magma conduits at Lava Beds National Monument, and the deepest and clearest lake in the United States at Crater Lake National Park.
This All-American Road focuses on more than eruption points too. It’s an asphalt ribbon that wanders past lakes, wildlife refuges, wetlands and history, all against a backdrop of volcanoes. Along this 500-mile journey volcano to volcano you will find opportunities for adventure, exploration, communion with nature and an appreciation for the culture and history of the region. Whether you travel all or some of the byway, you’re sure to be in for a great road trip, and even better photos.
To plan your trip, go to Discover Klamath.