Photo: Partners in crime, Breanna Grover and Andrea Hartman

Partners in crime, Breanna Grover and Andrea Hartman

After sitting in the office all week listening to my co-worker (also known as the human behind our Fall Foliage Hotline) describe the seasonal beauty currently surrounding our nearby scenic byways, I decided it was time to see some of it for myself.

I talked my best friend into taking a Saturday afternoon drive, and as luck would have it, the weather was on our side! We headed due East on highway 126, snaking along the McKenzie River with the tunes on, sunroof open and the sun beating down on our heads. Our destination: milepost 45, the turn off for Aufderheide Drive National Scenic Byway, and all the fall foliage we could spy.

Photo by Andrea Hartman

Photo by Andrea Hartman

We drove through tunnels of red, orange, yellow and green nearly the entire way up. When we spotted our turn-off we ascended up Aufderheide Drive, crossing the McKenzie on a small bridge. We wound our way through spectacular splashes of color, “oooing” and “ahhing” as the trees were illuminated by the bright afternoon sun. But surprisingly enough, the site that eventually took our breath away wasn’t red or yellow, it was the brilliant blue Cougar Reservoir.

We promptly parked the car, took in the view from the scenic overlook, and then strolled across the dam. The view was so gorgeous I couldn’t stop taking pictures. I later learned Cougar Reservoir has the tallest rock-filled dam in Oregon, and is a popular spot for water sports, fishing and camping.

Photo: Cougar Reservoir; Photo by Andrea Hartman

Cougar Reservoir; Photo by Andrea Hartman

Judging by the less-than-dressed people we encountered in the area we figured out that Terwilliger Hot Springs (also known as Cougar Hot Springs) was nearby. But, we’ll save that adventure for another time and another place (with fewer cameras).

To make your own fall adventure, just follow Highway 126 out of Springfield, until you see the turn-off for Aufderheide Drive (MP 45), also known as Forest Road 19. There are hours of gorgeous fall driving to be had. If you plan to visit the Hot Springs, anticipate a $5 fee.

Interested in harvest and Halloween events? Check out Andrea’s blog on Detering Orchards.

For more information on gorgeous drives in Oregon, please visit our Trip Ideas section.

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