Waterfalls and Fall Colors

Welcome to the beginning of peak color change! Fall is the perfect time to get outside and explore waterfalls. As the rain begins to slowly come back and the leaves dive into change, standing in awe of a large waterfall compares to no other feeling.

Here in Oregon, we are lucky enough to have plenty of waterfalls to hike to across the state. This time of year, the rivers have begun to flow faster and the waterfalls have returned to their full force. Below you will a quick update on fall foliage in each region of Oregon, and find some of our favorite waterfalls to visit this time of year.

Fall Foliage in Each Region

Portland Metro Area: Portland is in peak fall foliage and is predicted to be past peak within the next week.

Columbia River Gorge: Columbia River Gorge is currently in peak fall foliage season. There are a lot of yellow maples as well as some oranges.

Willamette Valley: The Willamette Valley is getting close to peak fall foliage with lots of oranges and reds. The peak leaf change is predicted to be within this week.

Central Oregon: Central Oregon is almost at peak fall foliage this season. There are a lot of yellows and peak is predicted to be next week (October 21st to 25th).

Southern Oregon: Southern Oregon is just beginning to get some fall foliage change with some yellows and oranges. It is predicted to be peak season during the last week of October.

Eastern Oregon: Eastern Oregon is almost at peak fall foliage this season. There are a lot of yellows and peak is predicted to be next week (October 21st to 25th).

Multnomah Falls

Falling 620 feet (192 m), Multnomah Falls is considered the crowned gem of the Columbia River Gorge. Located close to the Portland metro area, this waterfall is one of the most photographed and visited in the whole state of Oregon. In autumn the scenic gold maples frame the surrounding cliffs and make the cascading falls stand out. The changing seasons tend to bring crowds to Multnomah Falls, so a tip for visiting this location is to stop by during the week. The path to the base of the falls is entirely paved although there is an incline past the visitor center and restaurant.

Salt Creek Falls

Tucked in the Willamette National Forest is the second-largest accessible waterfall in Oregon, Salt Creek Falls. Plunging over volcanic rock at a height of 286 feet (87 m), this waterfall can be viewed from a viewing platform near the parking area. It is considered one of Oregon’s most powerful waterfalls, with an average yearly flow of 50,000 gallons per minute surging over the rocks. In the autumn, the leaves change all around the falls making the free-falling waterfall stand out above the rest.

Silver Falls State Park

Considered the most popular state park in Oregon, Silver Falls offers a phenomenal waterfall experience. Taking the trail of ten falls, visitors can walk through a lush canyon while seeing beautiful, large waterfalls. In the autumn when all the maple leaves hue yellow and orange, the waterfalls become alive. For visitors looking for waterfalls and fall foliage, few places in Oregon compare.

Koosah Falls

Rushing along the McKenzie River Trail, Koosah Falls may not be the tallest of the three major waterfalls along the McKenzie River, but it has a lot to offer. Dropping 74 feet (22.6 m) directly over an abrupt lava cap, Koosah Falls has a unique appearance of its own. There is a viewing platform where visitors can see the falls as well as watch the rushing water flow further along the McKenzie River. In the autumn, the McKenzie River has a turquoise tinted blue color that contrasts brilliantly with the yellows and oranges of the changing maples.

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October in Oregon

Fall foliage is finally starting to bloom in the Willamette Valley right now! Areas around Eugene and the Southern Willamette Valley are colorful, filled with lots of red maples, yellow larches and dark purple plum trees. This September we experienced a heavy rain in Western Oregon — more than 4 inches fell last month, though the average is .2 inches! We are estimating this has delayed some of the leaf-turning so far, though we are still expecting a mid-October peak season (roughly 1.5 – 2 weeks out).

Vine maples and aspens are showing their colors at higher altitudes. Again, mild temperatures through the state continue to make us guess that peak season will be closer to mid-October, possibly slightly later than originally thought.

This time of the year is ideal for outdoor adventures! Check out a fun guide on fall hikes here, and find a few scenic drive suggestions to plan your routes below:

– Columbia River Gorge: Hwy 84 from Portland east to Hood River—waterfalls, orchards, scenic small towns and river views.

– Willamette Valley: South of Portland along Hwy 99 (west of I-5), through Newburg and down to Eugene or Cottage Grove–lovely winding route through farmland, rolling hills, wineries and college towns.

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Color popping in Eugene

– Southern Oregon: Medford to Jacksonville and Ashland – historic sights, world-class theater and mountain views.

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Beautiful shot of Lithia Park by @stevendavisphoto

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As September heralds in fall, the very early beginnings of color change are showing themselves in Oregon. Though most of the state is still green, grey days are setting the fall mood around here and we are looking forward to watching the colors change. We expect the colors to start showing in the next two-three weeks. We anticipate being at or near peak earlier this year than in years past, likely the first or second week of October.

Check out this cool fall heat map to see predictions of color change across the country and use it to time your trip to see Oregon’s Fall Foliage!

In anticipation of fall, here are a few of our favorite spots and shots from last year:

Peek through the fall foliage and discover waterfalls in Oregon! Pictured here is Koosah Falls, located near Sahalie Falls, on the McKenzie Highway between Eugene and Bend. We recommend starting at Sahalie, which features a large parking lot and accessible trails. From there, the hike down to Koosah is 2.6 miles.

Despite being an urban city, the Portland area is a great place to see fall colors. This picture was taken last year, just as fall colors began popping up on trees all over the city. If you’re looking for something less urban in the area, head out to the Columbia River Gorge for stunning views and tons of color!

Central Oregon is typically early to fall due it’s higher elevation. The aspens develop vivid colors every year. The city of Sisters is a great place to see fall foliage while shopping, or head to Pilot Butte for a 360 view of forest, city, and the Cascades.

Oregon is full of scenic byways and beautiful roads. Keep an eye out for changing leaves as you wind through the trees on your way to your destination – after all, the journey is half the fun!