Oregon Fall Foliage
Summer wanes, the temperatures drop and Oregon’s forests move into fall party mode. From mountain forests to river valleys around the state, a riot of color celebrates the changing of the seasons. Get out and join the festivities by bike, by car, by train or on foot. Make sure to check the statewide fall foliage blog, OregonFallFoliage.com, before your trip. Beginning September 5, weekly updates will point you to where you can find the best fall color around the state. You can also follow fall foliage updates on Twitter and share your own fall photos by tagging them #ORFallFoliage and #traveloregon on Instagram.
Take in views of autumn fields and vineyards along the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway. The 134-mile route starts in Champoeg State Park north of Salem and ends in Armitage County Park in Coburg, and can be ridden in its entirety or in sections. Look for the fiery reds and oranges of maturing grapevines and golden leaves of walnut trees in towns along the route. The 37-mile Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway starts and ends in Cottage Grove. Riders pass over six covered bridges (three on the historic register) and through a bright yellow tunnel of cottonwoods. You’ll see colorful oaks along the hillsides.
Follow the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway from Gold Hill east of Grants Pass north toward Crater Lake (an easy side trip) then west through Glide to Roseburg. The route takes you past several volcanic peaks, rushing rivers and fall splendor in the Umpqua National Forest. The Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway follows the river from Troutdale to Cascade Locks and Mosier to The Dalles, passing dozens of waterfalls, overlooks and forests bright with seasonal color.
The Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad, departing out of Wheeler, offers the Nehalem River Fall Splendor Excursion Train with gorgeous views of Nehalem Bay and the red and orange palette of maple and poplar trees among the evergreens. Eagle Cap Excursion Train winds out of Elgin and into lovely roadless forests along the Grande Ronde River to meet up with the Wild and Scenic Wallowa River near the mountains. Check out the Fall Foliage Photography Train, Autumn Train Robbery and Fall Foliage Train. You’ll see golden larches (aka tamaracks) and bright yellow leaves of cottonwood and willow trees. Hop aboard the Sumpter Valley Railroad, a vintage 1915 steam locomotive near Baker City, as it travels through old mining country. October sees Fall Color Trains and two special weekends for photography.
Just off the highway near Terrebone, hike Gray Butte for backdoor access to Smith Rock State Park. The 5-mile, easy, out-and-back can be hiked all year. The end point overlook offers scenic views of snowcapped peaks, majestic Smith Rock, the Crooked River and sagebrush-covered hillsides. The Strawberry Mountain Wilderness lights up with golden larches, dogwoods and cottonwoods in the autumn. An easy 5.8-mile route along the East Fork Canyon Creek hike (with a trailhead south of Canyon City) is a good bet for fall color and solitude.
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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