April 2018 Cross-Country Road Trip: Oregon’s High Desert Discovery Scenic Byway

Oregon’s High Desert

If the words “Scenic Byway” appear on a map or a highway, I try to take that road! And this is what I did on my return trip from Washington in mid April 2018.

After driving south from Port Orchard, WA on US 101, I skirted past Portland, OR and headed towards Bend, where I spent a night in a cozy, nice motel. My next day of travel was going to be rather long as I intended to make it all the way to Salt Lake City, which I ultimately did.

The High Desert Route through east-central Oregon

But I did not want to take the roads thru southern Idaho and come south on the interstate from Idaho into Salt Lake. Rather, I wanted to drive through the high desert and see the wildlife,  the high desert scenery and enjoy a long straight road or two!

A stretch of the Highway from Bend to Nevada

Thus, I discovered both the High Desert Discovery Scenic Byway And, as part of that by the way, the Frenchglen Highway.

US 20 East of Bend, Oregon in the morning
Sunrise on US 20 as I neared Brothers, OR
Brothers, Oregon

I drove first from Bend southeast towards Brothers, OR on US 20 and then onto a cutoff south of Burns to get on to Oregon Highway 205, which would ultimately get me to the Nevada border at Denio.  By the way, Oregon is interesting in that it has towns named Brothers and Sisters.  I have actually been to both towns now.  Brothers is the home of the Brothers Stage Stop,  which was built in 1912 and was originally a stagecoach stop between Burns and Prineville. Today it’s a restaurant, gas station and post office.   I just got a photo of the place.

Brothers Stage Stop

Continuing southeast on US 20 towards Burns I saw some of that wildlife I was looking for.

Yellow-headed Blackbird
Red-tailed Hawk
A stretch of Oregon Highway 205 south of Burns, OR

As I neared Burns, I made my way to Oregon Highway 205 which is a straight shot south almost all the way to Frenchglen. This is where the High Desert Discovery Scenic Byway begins.

Highway 205 then makes its way into the Malheur Basin Which offers some wonderful views of the lakes down in the valley. Ultimately, Highway 205 runs through the Narrows and over a bridge between the two lakes (Malheur Lake and Harney Lake) and, just past the bridge, fortunately, was a nice little rest area.

Oregon 205 just near Princeton, OR

The one thing I discovered on this long road and other long roads on the trip is that there are very few rest areas or places to stop for restrooms. So, if you take this road, you might want to keep that in mind.

A view of the Frenchglen Highway
Entrance to Diamond Loop Trail

The highway eventually leads back up the hill into the high desert where I deviated off for both a restroom break and a short little drive on the Buena Vista Overlook route. This gravel road took me up to a view point to overlook the valley in the high desert. I saw hawks and other wildlife along the way.

Landscape scene on Buena Vista Loop
Another view of the scenery
A view of the Steens Mountain range
Small store in Frenchglen

Back on Hwy 205 where the road continued south at the base of Steens Mountain and ultimately into the small little community of Frenchglen, Which is about 60 miles south of Burns.

Frenchglen is the home of the historic Frenchglen Hotel which is in the US National Register of Historic places. What I learned in later research was that this is a place for birdwatchers to stay. The nearby Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is supposedly a very well-known birding area. The hotel has eight rooms and also has an outdoor out house for visitors to stop and take a break.

The Famous Frenchglen Hotel
There is a “Public Restroom” outside of the Frenchglen Hotel. Gotta love the planter too!
Found a shoe tree just outside of Frenchglen. Funny
Oregon Hwy 205 south of Frenchglen, OR

Unfortunately, I was not able to take the time to go into the hotel as I had hoped I could do because I had such a long extensive trip to make. But I did take some time to get a photograph of the hotel.

The Catlow Valley south of Frenchglen

From Frenchglen, the highway continued south into Fields, OR where I stopped at Fields Station to get some cold drinks, use the restroom and stretch.  They apparently make a good breakfast, but had a quite a crowd.  I didn’t want to wait 30 minutes, so back on the road. and then on to Denio, Nevada.

Steens Mountain as seen from OR 205 near Fields, OR
Fields Station in Fields, OR
Welcome to Nevada — Denio, NV

Beautiful scenes, long straight roads and a wonderful drive.

ENJOY THE RIDE!  CHOOSE HAPPY!

If you like what you see, you may want to check out my book: Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names, available on Amazon.  My second book, Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions, is currently being worked on and I hope to make it available in late  June 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.

Books 1 & 2

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