The Steepest Highway in Oregon Is a Terrifyingly Treacherous Path

By Oak Simmons

Key Points

  • Oregon is a mountainous state with steep roads
  • The steepest highway in Oregon runs through the Blue Mountains
  • One steep stretch of this treacherous highway gains 2000 feet in just 6 miles

Oregon is a beautiful mountainous state in the Pacific Northwest. It is home to at least 50 mountain ranges and some seriously steep roads that traverse them. This article explores the steepest highway in Oregon including its route, how it compares to the steepest highway in the United States, and the exciting animals that live near it.

How to Measure Road Steepness

Before exploring the steepest road in Oregon, it is important to note how steepness is measured. Road steepness is measured by its percentage of slope. According to the United States Geological Survey , the slope is the relationship between the length of a road and its elevation change. For example, if a road is 2000 feet long and gains 500 feet in elevation, it has a 25% slope. A road’s slope is often called its grade.

What Is the Steepest Highway in Oregon?

The steepest highway in Oregon is Interstate 84, which has a maximum grade of 6% on a notorious stretch named Emigrant Hill. Interstate 84 runs from Portland to the Idaho state line in Oregon. Once it crosses into Idaho, Interstate 84 runs through Boise, Idaho before ultimately ending in Ogden, Utah .

The most treacherous stretch of Interstate 84 is in the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon, near Idaho. This stretch is officially named Emigrant Hill, but it is also commonly called “Cabbage Hill”. At Cabbage Hill, Interstate 84 gains 2000 feet of elevation in just 6 miles. The section features a 6% grade and sharp turns. In addition to the road itself, severe weather conditions such as heavy snow can make Cabbage Hill even more dangerous. In fact, it is such a dangerous section of the highway that the Oregon Department of Transportation created the Cabbage Hill Awareness Project .

What Is the Steepest Highway in the United States?

The steepest highway in the United States is California’s State Route 108 , which runs through the Sierra Nevada . State Route 108 runs for around 120 miles and has a maximum grade of 26%. The steepest part of State Route 108 in California is Sonora Pass. California is also home to the second-steepest highway in the United States, which is California State Route 4.

Wildlife Near the Steepest Highway in Oregon

The Blue Mountains are home to many interesting animals. Let’s explore a few species that live in the Blue Mountains, along the route of Interstate 84.

Bighorn Sheep ( Ovis canadensis )
Bighorn sheep live in high-elevation regions.© Gray

The bighorn sheep is a species of sheep that lives in mountain regions of western North America. Male bighorn sheep have large horns that can weigh up to 30 pounds and be over 3 feet long. Females have smaller horns with less curvature. Bighorn sheep live on steep ridges that provide protection from less agile predators. They are adapted for both chilly mountainous regions as well as dry deserts, though they typically avoid deep snow by moving to lower elevations in the winter. Their curved outer hooves and soft inner pads allow them to navigate steep terrain. Bighorn sheep once lived across a large range of North America from Canada to Mexico. However, their population has since decreased.

American Pika ( Ochotona princeps )
American pikas live in alpine regions of western North America.© Kaye

The American pika is a small mammal in the order Lagomorpha, which also includes rabbits and hares. These small herbivores only live in cold, wet climates, and therefore are rarely seen at lower elevations. Most live in high alpine terrain, above the treeline. In fact, the migration patterns of the American pika are used as a measure of climate change, as the creatures are very sensitive to temperature increases and will move to higher elevations to seek out cooler temperatures. To survive the lean winters, pikas will “hay” their food, drying out grasses in the summer to store in their dens for later.

Wolf ( Canis Lupus )
Wolves are carnivores that prey on elk, deer, and smaller mammals.©Nagel Photography/

The wolf is a large species of canine that lives in North America, Europe, and Asia. Wolves live in a variety of habitats including forests, deserts, and mountains. While they were once widespread across the United States, their range today is limited to smaller pockets. Wolves typically live in remote areas, where they can avoid contact with humans. According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife , Oregon is home to around 178 wolves.

Where Is Interstate 84 Located On a Map?

Interstate 84 runs through Oregon from Portland to the Idaho border. Its most steep and treacherous stretch is Cabbage Hill, which is between Pendleton and Meacham. The Deadman Pass Lookout Area is a pull-out along the Cabbage Hill section of the steepest highway in Oregon.

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