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.

5 thoughts on “Fall Drive: Aufderheide Scenic Drive

  1. Pingback: Fishing for fall drive? Try the Aufderheide Scenic Drive | Eugene, Cascades & Coast Blog

  2. We did this drive when we first moved to Oregon, fall 2009. It is a stunning drive and contrary to what the author states, there is a remarkable variety of colors, oranges, reds and yellow in all various shades! Highly recommended drive, do it before they shut the road down in November.
    For a more interesting twist drive the opposite direction from West fir to Cougar dam and the 126 junction. Along the way for old growth admirers like us, stop at Constitution Grove for an easy hike through 200 plus year old Douglas Firs, Western Red Cedar, and even Alaskan cedar.
    Make sure you stop to walk thru the Delta Grove as well, at the end of the road with spectacular old growth, some trees are 500 plus years old! It is sad to realize how little old growth is left in our lovely state.

  3. Hi Mary,

    Thanks for the note. You are right. There is usually a huge variety of shades along the Aufderheide this time of year. However, we could only see yellows when we drove it last weekend. Great tips for Constitution Grove! That’s one of our favorite spots as well.

    Have a great fall!

    Molly & the Oregon Fall Foliage team

  4. Dear Molly & the Oregon Fall Foliage team, thank you for this wonderful blog, I look forward to seeing the beautiful land of Oregon, especially the Fall colors, plan to revisit Oregon next year and will try to plan it during October. I live in Tucson and driving through Oregon takes me into another realm of colors and landscapes. Sincerely, James Maxey

  5. Hi James,

    Thank you for the nice note. Let us know when you have the dates and we will happily help you plan your trip to our beautiful state.

    Have a great fall!

    Molly & the Oregon Fall Foliage team

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