Fall Drive: Aufderheide Scenic Drive

Office Bridge in Westfir

Office Bridge in Westfir

This is the week to drive the Aufderheide Scenic Drive, a 60-mile segment of the West Cascades National Scenic Byway. The paved forest service road, also referred to as USFS Road 19, connects Highway 126 along the McKenzie River to Highway 58 near Oakridge. It traverses stunning old growth forests, meadows and wild and scenic rivers.

While there isn’t much of a variety of color, the honey yellow big leaf maples glow surrounded by the mostly deciduous forest, turquoise blue fork of the Willamette River and cardinal red covered bridge.

Aufderheide Scenic Drive

Aufderheide Scenic Drive

Start at the north end at Highway 126 in Rainbow and head south. Before you leave, pick up a free audio tour on CD at the McKenzie River Ranger Station, which is closed on the weekends. If you are going south to north, the Middle Fork Ranger Station on Highway 58 also has them. Head out with a full tank of gas and a picnic because there aren’t any options along the route.

The best colors are in the higher elevations from milepost 31 – 14, between Erma Bell Lakes Trail and Huckleberry Flats. Other highlights include Terwilliger Hot Springs, Cougar Reservoir between mileposts 50 and 51 and the historic Box Canyon Guard Station, which makes a perfect midpoint stop.

Cougar Reservoir from the Aufderheide Scenic Drive

Cougar Reservoir from the Aufderheide Scenic Drive

The Aufderheide comes to a dramatic end in Westfir, taking you right past Oregon’s longest existing covered bridge. The pomegranate red Office Bridge spans a fork of the Willamette River and once connected the Westfir Lumber Company to the main office.

Your journey shouldn’t end here. Before you head home, grab some fish and chips and a pint of freshly brewed English cask ale at the Brewers Union Local 180 in nearby Oakridge. While you’re there, pick up a Eugene Ale Trail passport and ask for a stamp.

The Aufderheide is a seasonal road that becomes unpassable in the winter.

Oregon Fall Foliage Update 10/17/2014

Clear Lake by Ilhoward via Instagram

Clear Lake by Ilhoward via Instagram

Eugene, Cascades & Coast
While the leaves are a week out from peak in the lower elevations, the fall colors are still playing a bit of hide and seek in the mountains. Sounds like the perfect excuse to get in the car and explore doesn’t it? We suggest a journey that leads you to one of the 7 Waterfall Wonders. With a bit of moisture on the horizon, we want to play in the rain. What could be better than tiptoeing down a forested path, tear drops of water sneaking quietly through the canopy of trees, and one spectacular reward of a waterfall at your journey’s end?

There’s plenty to keep you and the whole family outdoors this weekend. Join Ducks and Huskies alike in downtown Eugene and Springfield Friday night for Duck Downtown. Start the evening with a run with five-time 800 meter U.S. Champion and two-time Olympian Nick Symmonds at the 3rd Annual Nick Symmonds Springfield 800. Runners and walkers of all levels are invited to run down 5tth Street in the Historic Washburne District.

Oregon Coast
Light rains and cooler temperatures on the Oregon Coast are breaking in the fall season. With weather like this, it may be a good weekend to share a cabin with family or close friends. Try Fort Stevens State Park on the North Coast. This uniquely diversified state park offers views of wildlife, hiking trails that wind through forests of spruce and pine, and its own brand of fall foliage; needle dropping. Located just 10 miles outside of Astoria, Fort Stevens is the sight of a historic shipwreck, and houses remnants of an old military base. In Coos Bay, the South Coast Striders will be leading a group hike through Silver and Golden Falls. Choose the short or long route, and bring a sack lunch, raingear, and sturdy waterproof boots. Make friends, catch the last of the wildflowers, and get outside!

Willamette Valley
The leaves are at their peak along the McKenzie River. With colors ablaze and the rain setting in, this is a great week to take the Aufderheide Scenic Drive. Though Bracken ferns are fading to brown, big leaf maples are orange, yellow and gold, and other broad leaf varieties are showing off their fall splendor. Colors tend to be better closer to Westfir.

Washington Park by mikephotog7 via Instagram

Washington Park by mikephotog7 via Instagram

Greater Portland
It has been a crazy summery autumn this year – while some trees seem to have forgotten to change, others are morphing and quickly dropping their bits of wonderful color. The season has peaked, but whether or not you have gotten your fill of reds, yellows, and golds, you can be sure to get a good dose of orange this weekend. A must-see is the annual West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta in the Tualatin Commons. After the pumpkin parade and weigh-off, witness these 1,000-pound pumpkin boats bob and weave on the waters as racers try to get to the finish line first. Not ready to call it a night after the races? For all you brave souls out there make sure you take a stroll through the Haunted MAiZE  at the Pumpkin Patch on Sauvie Island. 

Old Parkdale Inn Bed and Breakfast near Mt. Hood by opinnkeeper via Instagram

Old Parkdale Inn Bed and Breakfast near Mt. Hood by opinnkeeper via Instagram

Mt. Hood/ The Gorge
We’re seeing bits of gorgeous gold in the Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge areas. Conditions are a bit chilly (Mount Hood saw the first snow fall of the season!), but we think that we can come up with activities to keep you warm. Friends of the Columbia Gorge offer 35 Autumn Hikes throughout the Columbia Gorge while Rasmussen Farms continues the fun for the whole family at their Pumpkin Funland. For one weekend only, the Gorge Fruit and Craft Show is going on at the Hood River Co. Fairgrounds. Also, catch the 32nd Annual Hood River Valley Harvest Festival.

Deschutes River near Bend by Michael Burkhardt

Deschutes River near Bend by Michael Burkhardt

Central Oregon
Fall weather is here with its breezy days and light showers. Though season is at its peak, the beautiful fall foliage still pops against this newly muted backdrop. Aspens are in their full golden glory, and Bend’s Shevlin Park is positively aglow with these trees. Explore neighborhood streets, like Mt. Washington Drive or Colorado Avenue for brilliant displays of color. Venture further, and hoof it on a section of the Deschutes River Trail. The mile stretch between Aspen and Big Eddy is a brief holiday among willow flats and the sound of roaring rapids. Get there before the snow sets in.

Sumpter Valley Railroad by Base Camp Baker

Sumpter Valley Railroad by Base Camp Baker

Eastern Oregon
Color is looking great in Baker City. The urban forest has turned, and peak is expected within the next week. Geiser Pollman Park is an excellent destination for foliage seekers in the area. Located off of the Leo Alder Memorial Parkway, bordering the Powder River, this park has more than 100 trees of varying species and age. In Haines, sensational color can be found along Main Street, in Dick Camp Memorial Park. For those seeking adventure, tackle some gravel back roads and explore Burnt River Canyon, between Durkee and Unity. Exit the canyon, and continue to roll through the vast, open country between Unity and Herford. The drive provides great splashes of color set amidst rolling hills, and big, Eastern Oregon skies. This is also the weekend for the Sumpter Valley Railroad’s Fall Color Trains, a unique opportunity for those that want a steam-powered trip through beautiful fall foliage without making it an all-day event.

Lithia Park in Ashland by Graham Lewis

Lithia Park in Ashland by Graham Lewis

Southern Oregon
After weeks of waiting, seasonal colors have reached their peak in Southern Oregon. The valleys of the Rogue and Umpqua rivers are ruggedly scenic, and though the forecast calls for rain and snow over the next several days, it’s not too late to have a great fall experience. Visit the Fremont-Winema National Forest, and embark on the Billie Creek Nature Trail. Take Highway 140 from Klamath Falls toward Lake of the Woods. The trail is located off a dirt road that can be accessed just after the Lake of the Woods turn off, but before mile marker 36. This two mile loop trip is well forested, open through November, and begins on Rye Spur Trail. Dress appropriately, pack snacks, and keep an extra set of clothes handy for when the adventure is over.

Fall Colors in the Tualatin Valley

Cooper Mountain Nature Park taken 10/13/2014

Cooper Mountain Nature Park taken 10/13/2014

Oregon relishes nature’s colorful transitions, with autumn in the Tualatin Valley serving as a prime example. The Tualatin Valley is just minutes from downtown Portland and is home to some of the area’s best farms, wineries and nature parks. Unsurprisingly, this rich landscape is abundant with the earthy golds, oranges, reds and browns of the changing season. If your heart tugs for a weekend escape—something that feels totally different than the city life—then head to Oregon’s Washington County in the Tualatin Valley for a burst of color and fall fun.

For a joy ride through spectacular fall foliage, take a drive down the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route, a 60-mile driving route through Washington County’s bucolic rural areas. While on the route, you’ll see the bright fruits of summer being outgrown by the jewel-toned crops of fall, with hues of barn red apples to earthy orange pumpkins to deep amethyst eggplants. The trees along the route boldly display colors of green, yellow, orange and bright red, which softly rustle against the wind that blows from the Oregon coast range air (making for optimal scarf-wearing weather). Continue reading