Bird Watching Along the Oregon Cascades Birding Trail

Along the designated Scenic Highways and Byways that make up the Oregon Cascades Birding Trail, there are 184 designated stops for birdwatchers to enjoy.

Birding trails are a popular way to combine bird watching with spectacular scenery. In Oregon, self-guided auto routes have designated stops that highlight birds of that area. Sites vary from scenic viewpoints to areas with hiking trails. There are seven birding trails that divide the state, each one offering excellent and unique opportunities to view birds.

From the Columbia River Gorge to the marshlands of Klamath Falls, the Oregon Cascades Birding Trail covers the central portion of Oregon on both sides of the Cascade Mountains. Divided into five individual loops, each section traverses across scenic mountain streams, past vast juniper woodlands, through towering old growth forests, across ancient lava flows, and up alpine slopes of ancient volcanoes. The downloadable guide has maps, written descriptions of the stops, amenity information and a species checklist.

Mount Hood Loop

Following the Columbia, Clackamas, Sandy and Hood rivers, this loop goes from the lowlands along the Columbia River Gorge to the alpine slopes of Mt. Hood. Located along the loop are 30 premier birding sites such as Larch Mountain, Tollbridge County Park, Bonney Butte and Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood (#18). Nicknamed the “Fruit Loop,” a portion of this loop passes by orchards and farms in the Hood River Valley.

Mt. Jefferson Loop

The snow-capped peak of Mt. Jefferson, second highest in Oregon, forms a beacon for this loop which stretches from the Warm Springs Indian Reservation to the Metolius River Basin,over mountain passes, and down both the North and South forks of the Santiam River. Some of the high wet meadows provide nesting habitat for a variety of passerines and waterfowl, and the mixed coniferous forests provide habitat for spotted owls, northern goshawks and other forest dwelling species (#56 Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery).

Three Sisters Loop

The high volcanic peaks of the Three Sisters, Mt. Bachelor and Mt. Washington form the scenic backdrop for this high mountain loop. Most sites are accessible only in summer, but provide habitat for over 10 woodpecker species, numerous forest inhabiting species, waterfowl and migratory passerines. Calliope Crossing (#77) is named for the calliope hummingbird which nests in the area.

Crater Lake Loop

Anchored by Crater Lake National Park to the south, this loop includes areas along the Umpqua and Rogue rivers, coniferous forests on both sides of the Cascades, and the unique high elevation marshland of Big Marsh (#129) that supports a diversity of colorful nesting species including black terns, yellow rails and yellow-headed blackbirds.

Mt. McLoughlin Loop

The shortest of the Oregon Cascades Birding trail loops, the streamside and mixed coniferous woodlands offer some excellent birding opportunities in such historic locations as Fort Klamath and Collier State Park (#183). The rivers, marshes and wet meadows surrounded by forests provide habitat for nesting species such as great gray owls, bald eagles, Vaux’s swifts, Williamson’s sapsuckers and many other species.

Travel Tips

Some of the sites on the Oregon Cascades Birding Trail are inaccessible in winter, but abound with birds from spring through fall. Prior to traveling on any of the birding trail loops,check with the Oregon Department of Transportation for road closures or weather conditions. State Parks and National Forests may require an entrance fee or parking permit, as well. Gas, food and lodging information is provided for each stop along the trail; however, always be prepared with a full gas tank, extra food and water, and clothing for changing conditions. Most importantly, don’t forget those binoculars and birdbooks for identifying birds observed along this scenic birding trail!