Spots of color, like a wild red leaf nested in an otherwise green tree, mark the early stages of fall in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a peek-a-boo of changes to discover, delicately peering out of the under-carriage of our native evergreen forests. Here are some great recommendations for scenic rides across the state to help you on your way to finding these sneaky stretches of newly vibrant shades.
Eugene, Cascades, Coast
The hullabaloo of crowds gathering around Cottage Grove’s self-guided covered bridge
tour has died down, making this the best time to take the trip.
Loop Dorena Lake as you discover the six bridges highlighted on this hour long scenic byway and notice the gentle ways in which autumn is sweeping over the surrounding landscapes. Follow along the road with Row River at your side and peek the soon-to-be robust yellows and golds of the season. Bring cameras and binoculars for birding!
There are only a few weeks left to
explore the old McKenzie Highway before it closes for the season. Soak up the hot sun reflecting off the lava fields of which Dee Wright Observatory overlooks and drive back to town via Highway 242.
Vine maples are begging for attention with their flashy salmon hues and yellow ferns dot the shoulders of the road. Contrasted with the green of natural pines, a spectrum of color is well-represented.
Color is just beginning to change on the Oregon Coast, starting with big leaf and vine maples, and varieties of birch. Look for the first signs of change along highways and rivers. Hop in the car and travel on Blaine Road from Beaver, Oregon to the high coastal hills just west of Carlton for a lengthy back road adventure.
Parallel the Nestucca River and encounter weeping lichens, rolling waterfalls and towering maples on this 11 mile span of BLM Lands. Stop for a picnic lunch at Dovre Campground and admire the canopy of leaves above. Experience the Oregon Coast from the inside, it’s more than just the ocean and shore!
Silverton sure is a pretty place to pass through. Journey across this shimmering vixen of a city as you embark on the Silver Falls Tour Route which traipses from the historic Gallon House Covered Bridge to the Oregon Garden, where the Salem Fuchsia Society will be hosting an informational event complete with door prizes, flower displays and specialty plants for sale. This scenic byway continues to Silver Falls State Park, best known for its namesake waterfall.
After an hour in the car, stretching your legs may sound like a welcome respite. Charge forth on dog-friendly, 9-mile loop hike and spy all ten waterfalls that this state park has to offer. Finish your day at Silver Falls Alpacas, a hands-on alpaca farm situated on three sprawling Silverton acres. The Silver Falls Tour Route is a wonderful experience in animals and agriculture!
Washington County’s Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route, a 60-mile driving route through Washington County’s bucolic rural areas, showcases spectacular views of fall foliage. Vistas range from vineyards that are just beginning to turn from lush green to brilliant yellow, farms full of fall flowers in their prime, and trees along the route that are teasing the vibrant autumn ahead with hints of green, yellow, orange and red.
Along the scenic tour route, the fall colors of the Oregon Coast Range also are within view.
The journey along the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway begins from East Portland and travels all the way to The Dalles.
The smoke has cleared and the views are breathtaking. Cruise Highway 30, the Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway, from Troutdale to Cascade Locks for leafy maples that blow freely in the damp September winds. Behold the Bridge of the Gods, and then turn back to experience any of the highways surrounding waterfall hikes. The shady groves of Multnomah Falls offer world travelers spectacular sights and comfortable temperatures. For more adventure, try the trek from Eagle Creek Campground to Tunnel Falls. This 12-mile hike crosses the Pacific Crest Trail and is sure to have you simultaneously taking pictures, and holding your breath!
In Hood River, fruit is abundant. The uniform trees in orchards along Highway 35 are reminiscent of a Japanese postcard, with Mt. Hood shining brightly with the first of an August snow. If you’re hungry, stop along the fruit loop at Packer Orchard (http://www.packerorchardsandbakery.com/) for organic produce, freshly baked goods and an unlimited generosity of jam and cookie samples. Go easy on the Wheat Thins as you taste the bounty of fall.
Central Oregon is on the brink of high desert country, but beautiful seasonal stretches can still be found. Manicured streets welcome visitors from Redmond to Terrebonne into Sisters with flashes of red and purple. Vine maples are showing off in the mountains, contrasting nicely with the snow that has dusted the lower elevation of Mt. Bachelor. Try a trip down Highway 26 through the Warm Springs Indian Reservation to see how quickly the landscape evolves.
This weekend, beer lovers rejoice in the town of Sisters as the Fresh Hop Festival gets underway (), featuring brews from around the state of Oregon with a focus on unique Fresh Hop flavors, beers made with hops taken straight off the vine. It’s all part of the harvest, so fill your cup with the spirit of the season.
Eastern Oregon’s East Steens Tour route offers a more rugged take on a Fall drive. Sage brush, gravel road and massive landscapes await on this dramatic drive. Tough to beat the view of Mt. Steens
The Rogue River is a crown jewel of Southern Oregon’s recreational amenities. Take a drive down Crater Lake Highway and bask in its fluid greatness as you pass through Shady Cove where riparian aspens are now yellow an
d green. Continue further to see the 11 miles of road between the towns Prospect and Union Creek as they are believed to be particularly beautiful this time of year.
In Jacksonville, it’s Oktoberfest – the biggest one Southern Oregon’s got to offer. Celebrate with great music, food and beer of all kinds at the historic schoolhouse on Bigham Knoll and wonder at the scenic beauty of Mt. McLoughlin, located just across the way.