Shoulder season family travel along the Cascades’ Mckenzie Highway 126

Family travel a world away yet close to the city

Just east of the Eugene/Springfield area, Highway 126 provides an amazing escape for shoulder season family travel. Winding between Oregon’s tall, thick forests, and the pure, rolling McKenzie River, the highway winds into the Cascade foothills. Before you know it, you’ll feel like you’re in a different world, yet only about an hours’ drive from the city.

This trip was sponsored by Travel Lane County and Belknap Hot Springs, but our opinions are our own.

Check out our Eugene, Cascades & Oregon Coast blog post about our Highway 126 shoulder season McKenzie River Trip

Who else needs some Oregon gray months family travel magic?

36 hours on Oregon’s magical Highway 126

During a 36-hour getaway in January 2022, our family of four drove Highway 126 out to Belknap Hot Springs, deep inside the Cascade foothills. Along the way, we explored a fish hatchery, one of Oregon’s most photographed spots, excellent casual dining spots, beautiful gardens, a lake so clear you can see the bottom, and a restorative hot spring pool.

While some parts of this area endured devastation from wildfires in 2020, the forest is healing, restoration work is underway, and communities are rebuilding.

Our trip culminated in an overnight stay at the historic Belknap Hot Springs. A favorite for us? Throughout the two stories of the resort, old black and white photos show some of the history of this place. And the soaking pool outside was perfect after outdoor romps on a chilly day.

Hot springs pro tip: A robe and some sandals come in handy, especially during a chilly weather visit. The air and the concrete pool deck get pretty cold!

Oregon family travel: SAVE THIS POST for your McKenzie River adventure

From Belknap, you can continue along Highway 126 toward the Cascade passes that cross from western to central Oregon. Along the way, though, there are some beautiful stops, including two cascading waterfalls, a snow park, and one of our favorite anytime-of-year spots, Clear Lake.

Part of what we love about this area is that when we want or need a wee escape from Eugene and breathe in some solid forest time, Highway 126 is a beautiful scenic drive. Even as we get deep into the forest and the hills, the river is always rolling toward town, and yet we’re only about an hour or two from home.

Whether for a day trip, an overnight jaunt, a weekend getaway, or a full-on family vacation, Highway 126 east of Eugene is a perfect place to enjoy the best of Oregon with your family. To find out more about our adventures out this way, check out:

Winter and shoulder season travel along Highway 126

36 Hours Along the Cascades’ McKenzie Highway: McKenzie River Trip | Eugene, Cascades & Oregon Coast

Summer travel along Highway 126

A perfect paddle: Boating on Clear Lake, Oregon – Learners and Makers 

Family vacations and adventures await in the Cascade foothills

From the river to the forests, the hills to the waterfalls, lakes, and hot springs, the Cascade foothills area along Highway 126 is a place we can’t get enough of.

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About the author
Learners and Makers
We are the St. Clair Family: Anthony, Jodie, Connor, and Aster. As Learners and Makers, our family of four slows down, connects, and enjoys the world and each other's company. We have been traveling full time since 2022.