If you want to see it for yourself, they just finished paving a new road...to a galaxy far, far away!

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This Oregon Mountain Pass Could be a Star Wars Movie Set

Imagine an alien landscape where black and jagged lava fields stretch as far as the eye can see bordered by snow-capped peaks that pierce the sky in the background. This isn't a scene from a distant planet in a Star Wars film, it's the McKenzie Pass/Santiam Pass Scenic Byway in central Oregon. If Lucasfilm was looking for another alien planet to shoot scenes on, this mountain pass would be the perfect place.

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The area spans 82 miles around the Cascade Mountain passes and offers a journey through a land of stark contrasts and breathtaking beauty. Whether you're an angler, hiker, skier, or simply a lover of beautiful and unique landscapes, a trip through this Byway promises opportunities for both adventure and awe.

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Visit the Dee Wright Observatory

One of the Byway's most iconic stops is McKenzie Pass, where visitors are enveloped by a 65-square-mile lava flow at an elevation of 5,325 feet. Here, the Dee Wright Observatory is located. No, it is not a Jedi temple, but a structure crafted from lava rock by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935, that offers panoramic views of six Cascade peaks on clear days. The nearby Lava River Interpretive Trail winds through lava gutters and crevasses, providing a close-up look at this geological wonderland.

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On the western slopes of the Cascades, lush forests of Douglas fir and red cedar dominate, while the eastern side reveals a drier landscape dotted with lodgepole pines. But what truly sets this route apart is where lava fields meet snow fields, creating a striking scene that rivals any CGI-enhanced movie set. The Oregon Department of Transportation just finished repaving the highway through McKenzie Pass, and if I take a road trip there this summer I am for sure bringing my lightsaber for pictures!

LOOK: Powerful Photos from Mount St. Helens' 1980 Eruption

One of the most impactful days in modern Washington state history was the eruption of Mount St. Helens, a volcano located in the Cascades range, on May 18, 1980. As time has passed, fewer people are alive that remember the images from that day - but they are important to remember the signs, and impact, of such a massive volcanic eruption in the Pacific Northwest. The area is still constantly monitored for signs of volcanic activity to minimize losses the next time an eruption occurs in the Cascades.

Gallery Credit: Jaime Skelton