Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway

The Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway is a 500-mile journey from volcano to volcano that passes through some of the most amazing natural wonders in Siskiyou. Along the route, you will find opportunities for adventure, exploration, communion with nature and an appreciation for the culture and history of the region. One of only 42 routes designated as All American Roads, the byway is a nationally significant destination unto itself that offers one-of-a-kind sites found nowhere else on Earth.

To help you get the most exploring the journey, we put together this local’s guide to the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway.


To get the most out of your journey we recommend the byway pass. Part visitor’s guide, part prize package and 100% adventure, the free Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway Pass is your ticket to an unforgettable journey across the “crown jewel” of the American Highway System. You can earn points along your trek and enter to win a two-night stay in every participating county. Sign up for the pass you’ll instantly get a full list of every breathtaking sight along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway.

View of Mount Shasta along Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway

Overview of Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway

The Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway travels north–south along the Cascade Mountain Range past numerous volcanoes in California and Oregon. Along the byway you will see fantastic sites, including the crowned king – Mount Shasta – sitting at 14,179 feet and visible from the hills of Redding, California all the way to Crater Lake in Oregon.

The southern end of the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway begins at California’s Lake Almanor, just miles from the active geothermal features at Lassen Volcanic National Park. The northern end of the byway is capped by a loop around America’s deepest lake at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.

In between, the byway takes you through Siskiyou County, which is full of fantastic sites from volcanoes, caves, waterfalls and a unique landscape riddled with explorable lava tubes. Eons of eruptions and lava flows have created this fiery heritage of spatter cones, lava tubes and caves, bubbling mud pots, pumice plains, soaring peaks, and the unforgettable Crater Lake.

Highlights on the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway

A road-trip along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway promises the adventure of a lifetime. There’s definitely a lot to see, so we put together a list of the highlights you don’t want to miss on the journey. We start at the byway’s southern end and work our way north, but you can easily reverse these recommendations to take the trip from the opposite route.


Whether your drive along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway begins or ends here, plan for plenty of time at the awe-inspiring Lassen Volcanic National Park because you’ll definitely want it. You’re free to explore steaming fumaroles (vents or openings emitting volcanic gases and vapors), wildflower-strewn meadows, clear mountain lakes and several volcanoes — the non-erupting kind. The diversity in the landscape here really is uniquely amazing and there are150 miles of trails here to explore.

Things to Do:


Our tour starts at Lake Alamanor along route 36 through the town of Chester. From here you can loop around the national park (designated as the Lassen Scenic Byway) following 44 and 89. Travel west on route 89 toward McCloud and the city of Mount Shasta to continue traveling on the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway.

Mount Shasta

One of the most fantastic sites along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway is the crowned king, better known as Mount Shasta. Sitting at 14,179 feet as the second tallest volcano in the United States, Mount Shasta is visible from the hills of Redding, California all the way to Crater Lake in Oregon and is a must-stop highlight while driving the byway.

Things to Do:


Route 89 connects to Interstate 5. Travel north along I5 to pass through the city of Mount Shasta, and continues onto route 97 to circle around the mountain.


Pluto’s Cave has been described as a “classic” lava tube, meaning that it was formed by molten lava passing through tubes in older, hardened lava. A short trail leads to the cave’s entrance. Portions of the roof have collapsed, exposing the cave and providing an eerie and unique light for exploring. A big draw of these caves is that anyone can hike to about 1200 feet into the cave, without a permit. A flashlight and very sturdy shoes are recommended for safety when exploring Pluto’s Cave.


Take route 97 north to the city of Weeds, just of which lies Pluto’s Cave, accessible via the 99-97 cutoff. Keep an eye out for the signs.


Not your typical “volcano,” Medicine Lake Volcano is  a shield volcano. This means the underlying rock has collapsed under the center of the volcano, leaving its old caldera exposed as Medicine Lake. Rising 3,900 feet above the Modoc Plateau with 140 cubic miles of lava flows, it is the largest volcano by volume in the Cascade Range. Also known as the Medicine Lake Highlands, Medicine Lake Volcano is a unique stop along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, having many small magma chambers to explore, rather than one large one.


Continue north on route 97. Keep an eye out for the Mt. Shasta view point just before Glass Lake. To get to Medicine Lake you can either detour off the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway at Macdoel onto Red Rock Road and follow it to the lake. Alternatively, you can continue along the designated Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway on route 97 towards Dorris to route 161, driving east along the California-Oregon border. Take either the right onto Hill Road down towards Tule Lake, or continue until you hit route 139 south to the city of Tulelake where you’ll see signs to lake a right towards Tule Lake.  Keeps south until you pass the Lava Beds National Monument and circle around Glass Mountain to reach Medicine Lake.


Lava tubes, petroglyphs, historic battlefields, a high desert wilderness  and 700+ caves await at the Lava Beds National Monument. Formed over the last half-million years by flows of smooth lava from the Medicine Lake Volcano, this rugged landscape is dotted with diverse volcanic features and is definitely one of the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway’s crown jewels.

Things to Do:


See the route for Medicine Lake. Lava Beds National Monument lies between Medicine Lake and Glass Mountain (to the south) and Tule Lake (to the north). Keep an eye out for the Lava Beds National Monument sign.


When Mt. Mazama violently erupted about 7,700 years ago it left a six-mile-wide caldera that formed Crater Lake. At 1,943 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in North America as well as the clearest lake in the world with an average clarity of 143 feet. Known not just for its namesake, Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon boasts several other noteworthy sites including Wizard Island and the Rim Drive, a looping section of the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway that surrounds the lake and offers 30 overlooks of the park’s volcanic formations.

Things to Do:

  • Drive the 33 miles around Rim Drive
  • Enjoy a boat tour on Crater Lake
  • Stay at the historic Crater Lake Lodge
  • Camp at Mazama Village
  • Hike the trails offering a range of difficulties and lengths


Return to route 97 and take it over the border into Oregon and all the way up to Castle Lake National Park.

Journey Through Time on the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway

Siskiyou is among the reigning royalty of California’s road-trip destinations and the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway is one of the major reasons why. You’ll find several moments of awe along the way, as well meet residents eager to share the beauty and mystery of this land dotted with evidence of an eruptive past.

You can learn more about the entire byway and get planning tips by visiting the official Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway site. And don’t forget to follow @SeeSiskiyou on social media to get future insider travel trips and epic photos of the byway.