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Drive time? Area offers great roads

Photo Credit: TRIBUNE PHOTO JOHN M. VINCENT - A Corvette Stingray cruises the Old McKenzie Pass Highway through vibrant forests before crossing lava fields on its way to Sisters.For some, driving is just a necessary way to get from point A to point B.

For others, the pleasure is in the journey. It’s where you can find the rhythm of the road, hitting each curve perfectly, and listening to the melody of the motor.

Our region touts some of the most beautiful and challenging roads in the country to explore. It’s why car manufacturers including Dodge, Mercedes and Ford have brought national vehicle press introduction events to the area in recent years. We’re not talking about high speed or driving at your limits — that’s best reserved for track days or driving school at Portland International Raceway.

So whether you’re dropping the top on your Miata or taking the family sedan out for a ride, here are some favorite roads within a couple of hours of Portland:

Photo Credit: TRIBUNE PHOTO JOHN M. VINCENT - For some, driving is a way to get from point A to point B, for others, it's the drive itself that is the adventure.
Once you get well north of Northwest Portland’s Forest Heights neighborhood, Northwest Skyline Boulevard snakes its way along the crest of the West Hills on this route that’s also popular with cyclists and motorcycle riders. Head north to Rocky Point Road, which will lead you East down to Highway 30.

The Columbia River Gorge offers several great roads with some great scenery as a bonus. Take the Corbett Hill Road exit off of I-84 to connect to the Old Columbia Gorge Highway at the top of the hill. Take a left and head east to pass Crown Point and a series of spectacular waterfalls including Multnomah Falls. With its proximity to Portland, this route can get busy on weekends.

For a less traveled segment of the Old Gorge Highway, head out past Hood River to the town of Mosier. From there, the old route covers some of its most spectacular miles, including the sweeping Rowena Curves, before rejoining the interstate just west of The Dalles.

Cross over the bridge at The Dalles and head back to Portland on Washington Highway 14 for a different view of the Gorge on a much more interesting road than I-84.

A great drive for the whole family is Washington Highway 504. The route travels into the Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument, ending at the Johnston Ridge Observatory. This route can be busy on weekends, but weekdays are generally less traveled.

Most of the routes to the Oregon Coast are heavily traveled and not terribly exciting. An exception is Oregon Highway 53, which connects Highway 26 to the town of Wheeler on the coast. It’s not the route to follow if your spouse succumbs to car sickness, but it’s a technical, twisty, and less trafficked way to the coast.

Looking for a different way across the Cascades? Follow Highway 224 past Estacada. Pass the Ripplebbrook Ranger Station and the road turns into Forest Service Road 46 and continues to the town of Detroit on the Santiam Pass (Highway 22).

The Old McKenzie Pass Highway (Highway 242) crosses the Cascade on a windy route through beautiful forests before crossing lava fields on its way to Sisters. It’s open seasonally, so check with ODOT’s TripCheck.com before you go.

A favorite route in central Oregon takes you up a windy valley road from Antelope to Shaniko on Highway 218. Grab an ice cream from one of the ghost town shops, then head west for a short distance, before turning right onto Bakeoven Road and traveling across to Maupin. A twisty descent takes you down to the Deschutes River. Leaving Maupin, head north on the BLM access road that parallels the river, then turning left on the Sheras Bridge Highway (216) that will lead you back to Highway 197.