Crooked River

Fall is here, and on the east side of the Cascades, that means brisk air, brilliant fall color and a secret cache of sunshine. Take advantage of Oregon’s sunny side and hike a new trail this season.

Just north of Bend, you can explore a new addition to Oregon’s hiking list with the Otter Bench Trail System along the lovely Crooked River Gorge. The Otter Bench Trail takes you deep into a hidden river canyon and onto the Opal Canyon Loop for a seven-mile trek. The green water contrasts with a palette of late season sage grass, sedges and shrubs. The shorter, harder Scout Camp Loop can be accessed nearby. Download maps and trail description here, or contact the Prineville District BLM office.

In eastern Oregon, ponder 55 million years of plant and animal history at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument — a terrific autumn destination. This time of year you’ll dodge the heat and crowds of summer while witnessing the dramatic hues of red, yellow, pink and black volcanic ash against the eastern blue skies. Try the easy 1.5-mile, out-and-back Carroll Rim Trail for spectacular views at the Painted Hills Unit, or the three-mile Blue Basin Overlook hike at the Sheep Rock Unit for sweeping views of the valley. Stop at the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center for a lesson in fossils.

The rain shadow of western Oregon slips off the shoulders of the Columbia River Gorge somewhere near The Dalles. Look for the rich yellow foliage of oak trees and golden grasslands against the rising backdrop of basalt rock walls. Southeast of The Dalles, check out the School Canyon Trail in the Badger Creek Wilderness Area. The moderate, 7.2-mile trail meanders through meadows, gullies and open forests. Look for wild turkeys, woodpeckers and other fall migrators. For maps and information, contact the Barlow Ranger District.

about author Eileen Garvin

Eileen Garvin is the editor of Travel Oregon’s Seasonal Features, enewsletters and annual visitor guide. When she’s not cooking up trip ideas, Oregon Dreamer profiles and outdoor adventures to write about, she’s out exploring Oregon.

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These maps and directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, or other events may cause road conditions to differ from the map results. For travel options, weather and road conditions, visit, call 511 (in Oregon only), 800.977.6368 or 503.588.2941.

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