We asked some of the state’s best guide companies where to hike for excellent fall fun. Here’s what they had to say about hiking in the Wallowa Mountains, Newberry National Volcanic Monument and along the Wild and Scenic Rogue River.
Eagle Creek Trail by Hank Christensen
Raz Rasmussen, co-owner of Wallowa Llamas in Halfway at the foot of the Wallowa Mountains, has been exploring the Eagle Cap Wilderness for more than 30 years. He takes visitors on supported hikes with his sure-footed and friendly team of llamas. They do all the heavy lifting so you can enjoy the stunning views of Oregon’s “Little Switzerland.”
Best fall backpacking trips: Eagle Creek Meadows, on the main Eagle Creek Trail, can be found just 4.4 miles out of the Boulder Park Trailhead. Rasmussen recommends camping in the meadow and taking day hikes to nearby Eagle, Culver and Looking Glass lakes. On the northeast side of the Eagle Cap Wilderness, Bonny Lakes is another great seasonal hike, with trips of varying lengths out of the Tenderfoot Trailhead and beautiful mountain vistas. Look for the bright gold hues of changing tamarack trees along these trails.
Why go: Both trails are good trips for families because they are at relatively low altitudes with shorter miles. While they don’t offer guided trips in the fall, Wallowa Llamas rents its llamas and will deliver them to the trailhead. “They are so curious about everything that is going on. They are very easy to work with and incredibly good at packing.”
Good for: Mountain views, golden tamarack and family camping
James Jaggard is general manager of Wanderlust Tours in Bend, which has been leading naturalist interpretive tours in Central Oregon since 1993, including Cascade lakes canoe and kayak tours, underground lava tube and cave tours, hikes, snow shoe tours and tours of breweries, wineries, cideries and distilleries of Bend.
Obsidian Trail by Wanderlust Tours
Best fall hikes and backpacking trips: Jaggard says visitors will find Wanderlust’s volcano tour one of the most unique and interesting. “It is mostly driving and sight seeing with a short hike into the Big Obsidian Flow, a very unique lava flow at Newberry National Volcanic Monument.” The 1-mile trail is accessible to all ages and ability levels. For a more rugged adventure, Jaggard suggests the 21-mile backpacking trail around the rim of Newberry Caldera. His own personal favorite is the Obsidian Trail off the McKenzie River Scenic Byway in Willamette National Forest. “When I am off of work, I like to backpack that as an overnight trip.” On this 11.6-mile route, a waterfall pours over an obsidian cliff side. “The colors are amazing and you’re at the base of North and Middle sisters.”
Why go: Lava flows, views of the Three Sisters peaks, black obsidian waterfall
Good for: All ages, learning opportunities, unique volcanic terrain
Rogue River Trail by Rogue Wilderness Adventures
Brad Niva is owner of Rogue Wilderness Adventures in Merlin, which has offered guided rafting trips down the Wild and Scenic Rogue River since 1973. The company also provides supported fishing trips, hiking trips and wine and beer-themed excursions.
Best fall hikes: Niva recommends the 4-mile roundtrip Rainie Falls Trail from Grave Creek on the Rogue River. The gradual, flat trail is well traveled and includes a view over a Class V rapid on the Rogue River. “You’ll see salmon jumping up the falls and great fall color. It’s very comfortable hiking weather too.”
For a more challenging hike, Niva suggests the classic 40-mile, 4-day hike down the Rogue River Wild and Scenic Trail. Hikers can book overnight stays with lodges. Rogue Wilderness Adventures also offers this trip as a supported hike with lodging and meals arranged.
Why go: “The weather is great, the fishing boats float by you and it’s a quiet time in the canyon because rafting season is over,” Niva says.
Good for: Views of the Wild and Scenic Rogue River, solitude and beauty