It’s one of Oregon’s best-kept secrets: fall just might be the best time to take a road trip. The summertime crowds have gone, the weather is blissful and many towns host all sorts of enticing shoulder season events to draw visitors out.
Here are 5 easy, fresh fall outdoor adventure trips from Portland — all within a two-hour drive north, south, east or west — that are just too tempting to pass up.
Walk and hike on the North Coast
Oregon’s North Coast is divine in the fall. Head up to Astoria on Oct. 15 for the Great Columbia Crossing, the only chance all year to cross the 50-year-old Astoria-Megler Bridge on foot, without vehicle traffic. It’s the longest continuous truss bridge in North America, and there’s nothing like experiencing it up close, the salty air and wind whipping at your face. Then drive a short way down the Coast, about 15 miles east of Seaside, off Highway 26, where a hike up Saddle Mountain — the highest point in northwest Oregon — will make you feel like your head’s in the clouds. The climb to the top is challenging but worth the unparalleled view of the ocean, from the mouth of the Columbia River to the Cascades.
Take a hayride in the Gorge
Check off your autumn bucket list here. There are pumpkin patches, hayrides, pumpkin slingshots and all sorts of treats at Renken Farms in The Dalles, open every weekend through October and hosting their annual Harvest Fest on Oct. 15. Double up on hayrides and visit the Liepold Farms Harvest Festival in Boring near Mt. Hood, opening Sept. 23. Youngsters will especially love Liepold’s apple-pult and 5-acre corn maze.
Run a trail in Eugene
Lace up your running shoes and train on the trail that honors Oregon track legend Steve Prefontaine. Pre’s Trail, the 4.07-mile running and walking trail in Eugene’s Alton Baker Park, was built after the Olympian’s untimely death in 1975. Pre was inspired by the trails in Scandinavia and wanted to give all runners a place to safely train and improve their health. For a more punishing workout, head up to the 12-mile Ridgeline Trail, where Spencer Butte is the highest point in the city at 2,065 feet. Pick one of seven glorious trailheads to explore as you breathe in the meadow air and vista views.
Go fishing in Maupin
World famous for its trout and steelhead, Maupin — known as the gateway to the Deschutes River — is all action in the fall. Take a guided fishing or fly fishing class from a friendly pro at an outfitter like Deschutes Angler or Deschutes Canyon Fly Shop, or rent your own gear. Don’t miss the Historical Maupin GeoTour — a good excuse to explore, in search of a dozen identified geocaches. And have a picnic at White River Falls State Park, where the 90-foot White River waterfall makes for a spectacular sight.
Go biking in Vernonia
Pack up the family bikes for a quick drive out west from the city to the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, where 21 miles of paved tree-lined trails await. Starting at any of the eight trailheads, pedal through the countryside over easy grades, with one switchback area that younger riders can walk and more experienced riders will find to be a fun challenge. Pack a picnic and stop at any of the 13 old bridges and wooden trestles along the way. A few miles away at L.L. Stub Stewart Park, find another six miles of cross-country and free-ride mountain bike trails as well as an 18-hole disc golf course and welcome center with visitor info.
Where to stay: Coastal Mountain Sport Haus