A Recount of a Fall Day in Oregon’s Willamette Valley

Follow along with Fall Foliage expert Gabrielle Lent explores a Fall day in the Eugene, Cascades & Coast.

Colors in nature are looking great. Something about the rain and bleakness of knowing that winter is coming really makes their lingering visual truly potent. The multifaceted gradients of maples in this town are defying the rain and bleakness and in a dying effort, demand your eyes! They got me and they got mine. I found myself with a surprise day off and a friend with a car, looking for adventure. We decided to seize the day by embarking on a hunt for fall color.

Driving out of Eugene, we took River Road past the suburbs and into farm land. It is now late morning, nearly 10:30 a.m. after coffee at Noisette, and the clouds are still rising off the earth. As they elevate, they float past sheep and cows grazing peacefully together at home in their field. The beautiful green and golden fields are neatly bordered by trees. Most have lost their leaves for the season though a spectacular few still peek through red, dulled slightly by the fog. We take a right on Love Lake Road, and continue on to Noraton.

The sun begins to rise behind the trees. Sure enough, a rainbow is beginning to form in the mist. Vibrant barns appear poetic in the fields they live. It is hard to believe its mid November though that’s exactly how it feels. To the right in a field with a purple sky geese flock by the seemingly hundreds. I’m reminded of the movie Take Shelter with Michael Shannon, when it starts to rain. We pass under low-clearance graffiti-crowned bridges that mark where roads occasionally flood in the winter. In the mist, the rainbow is still there and everything is so pretty from the passenger seat.

We follow country switchbacks to Old River Road, where every sheep in the field looks to have its own bird on its back. It’s cute. Soon we reach

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William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge

William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge. We are welcomed by gravel
road, light rain and a nice stand of yellow, beyond which horizons remain a dangerous shade of periwinkle.  Twisted, dark wood tree trunks lay as elegantly in swamp land as a chaise lounge. We pass signs for Turtle Flats and Homer Campbell Trail, each offering a unique viewpoint.

We continue along this stunning road to Woodpecker Loop Trail where there’s a porta-potty the same electric blue as my raincoat. Its backdrop is dew dripped and alive for the season.

This is an oak savanna, and though many leaves now cover the path, many left on trees pop in enthusiastic fits amidst the lush and thriving greenery of a forest in late fall. We reach a lookout point and even through the last waning haze of a frosty morning, everything about the landscape seems in color. Not in a flashy way, but in the unassuming, muted sense of a beauty wisely aged. Birds chirp and we try to match them by color to the trail’s interpretive signs.

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Start of Woodpecker Loop

We step over newts that strut forward and hear rain hit leaves before splashing to the ground. We reach a crossroads drawn like a page from a whimsical story and pick up the trail for Mill Hill. Here, we are walking through the kind of forest that makes you feel you’re the first to discover it. Everything is so fresh, yet so mature; a perfect harmony of lifespan within the season.

We pass Gray Creek, a beaver pond but spot none. As the sun shines its afternoon light on the butterscotch of maples, we make our way back to the car. The rain has stopped. Over two hours have passed, and we’ve trekked a thoughtful six miles.

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A newt underfoot along the hike

We stop for lunch in Corvallis at an Asian Fusion and Italian Gelato restaurant called Koriander. It came recommended was quite good. Afterwards we head along the river path on 1st Street, a scenic footpath being utilized today by bicyclists, joggers and some who stop just to gaze upon the Willamette. I spy a statue of sea otters before we turn the corner. We drink hot chocolates with whipped cream and caramel at Allan Brothers and say goodbye to Corvallis.

For a change of scene, we take Peoria Road back to Eugene. We pass orchards and hundreds of blueberry bushes blazing in red chartreuse. I see five scarecrows in a field, staggered in their placement, each wearing a helmet and cape with arms outspread.

They look like superheroes taking on the wind. We roll through Harrisburg and down Coburg Road, gently easing back into the traffic of downtown’s rush hour.

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A Fork in the Path

The day has come full circle. I’m left feeling so happy to have had this time outdoors, this pleasant country drive and this wonderful company. I had a surprise day off and I spent I hunting for fall color. This has been a perfect autumn day in Eugene, Cascades & Coast.

Explore Lasting Impressions and Fall Events

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Fall on one of Eugene’s bike paths on the Willamette River, from Instagrammer Oregonnguyen

Being outside is a wonderful privilege. There is something about experiencing the metamorphosis of elements that lends a feeling of peace to the soul, with the crisp fall air helping to rejuvenate a weary spirit and elevate demeanor as the days become darker and the sun goes down. Feel the wind on your skin as you bike across the I5 footbridge.

Be taken away with visions of a season at the end of its ripest hour. Tree tops pop so brilliantly from this height that one is reminded of the mythical truffula groves in Dr. Suess’ The Lorax. With everything so painted, it’s hard to remember when these were green. Leaves have thinned out and skies have begun to storm, their tonal slate blue adding refreshing, wintry ambiance to the bounty of color that remains throughout the surrounding streets of our town.


This week might be the last chance to catch red colors like these in Bend as temperatures dip into the 20’s at night. Photo from Visit Bend

As far as events go, this is a pretty big weekend for Eugene, Cascades & Coast. Catch the last games of the Cascade Collegiate Conference soccer championships for men and women at Willamalane Recreation Center and take in the scenic views of hillsides and railcars as they roll slowly by. Stay for the McKenzie Cider and Craft Beer Festival featuring food selections and a vendor marketplace. Enjoy over 150 of the finest cider and craft brews from Oregon, Washington and California accompanied by live entertainment.

In Eugene this weekend, children are hoping with rain boots pulled high and umbrellas erect for the ultimate downpour! Mt. Pisgah will host their annual Play in the Rain Day where kids and families are invited to learn about the outdoors and get inspired to play year-round. Climb trees, make crafts and expect a visit from a forest favorite, Smokey the Bear!

For those trying to avoid this expected rain, visit EUCON, the Eugene Comic Con. Celebrate the best in comics and pop culture at the Lane Events Center with special guests, gaming, and more! Participate in cosplay and get as funky and realistic as you want with your costumes, because this event is entirely indoors.

Rainy days also provided an excellent excuse to curl up and watch a movie. The Eugene International Film Festival begins today and continues through Sunday. Sit back and enjoy screenings of international original films and state-side gems as filmmakers come together, host lectures and receive awards.

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Explore Sweet Creek Falls near Florence on the Oregon Coast, shot by Instagrammer Shopgirl703

Enough about events, let’s get out and explore! Snow has set in the small towns of Eastern Oregon and is lightly dusting higher elevations in Central Oregon, as well. Coastal storms have shaken leaves from trees that border the ocean, and people are starting to bundle up and stay indoors.

You still can’t go wrong with a visit to the Gorge, though paths are slicker with recent rainfall. Maybe it’s time to check in on Latourel Falls, or make a day trip to Portland via the Willamette Valley, as both regions continue to wow. This week, however, we’d like highlight some colors of Southern Oregon.


See more Fall colors in Medford this time of year! Photo from leaf hunter Erica Agesen

Leaf hunters report that autumn is in full swing, with trees from Medford all the way to the Lake of the Woods standing out i
n dark orange and elegant brown. Mornings are very cold and the air stays biting as winters embrace takes hold. Vivid colors are still nestled where adventurers seek to find them.

For an interesting portrait of life, visit the Jacksonville Cemetery. Aging marble gravesites live harmoniously among fresh plant life, rustically manicured lawns mowed by the grazing of deer that roam. Hints of fall reflect in the landscape of trees and shrubbery.

Another beautiful natural site is Table Rock. This 7.2 mile hike has an elevation gain of 1570 feet and though it truly shines in the spring when covered with wildflowers, its tallness privies access to sweeping views of the land below.

Fall in Oregon’s Eugene, Cascades and Coast Region – Continuously Enchanting


Some Fall leaves cover Eugene’s Downtown Sidewalks from Instagrammer stevisayler

A cold crisp is biting in the wind, nipping at noses and fingertips, flushing them with red. Days are shorter as the sun now retires in early evening and dark creeps into the atmosphere as it tucks in for the night. There are days when bright yellow rays gorgeously illuminate the vivid fall color that still line streets and natural areas. Set against the purple haze of gray mornings and icy blue afternoon skies, the majesty of autumn remains strong in Eugene, Cascades and Coast.

Some great examples of this lasting vibrancy are the sidewalks that border the Leo Harris Memorial Parkway. Ducks fans take note as you pull up for the home game this weekend! Those fiery avenues are on our side.


The route to Trestle and Brice Creek Falls from the Turell Group

It’s time to choose a direction, set out and explore. Take a trip to Cottage Grove and amble down Brice Creek Road. Three waterfalls wait on this rustic, wooded drive, including Wildwood Falls, Brice Creek Falls, and lastly, the magnificent Trestle Falls. Each falls provides a short and pleasant hike to its visitor, asking for only a bit of physical exertion before the payoff of a view.

Make a day of it, bring your Eugene Ale Trail passport and stop off at Hard Knocks Brewing Company, situated closely to Bohemia Park. Also in the area is Saginaw Vineyard where the yellow leaves of grapevines flood the landscape and live music can be heard every Friday night. Relax in this fall scene with a glass of wine and an acoustic variety show.


Sweet Creek Falls in Fall from James Parsons and Extreme Oregon

Head southeast on Highway 58 to reach Salt Creek and Diamond Falls. These wild, rushing fa
lls are surrounded by a mossy rock face, evergreen trees and the gentle skeletons of vine maples changed for the season.

Bring your Northwest Forest pass and take the three mile loop hike which allows sight of both water features.

Salt Creek Falls can be clearly viewed from a standpoint in the parking lot, so less adventurous folks can peak their curiosity with very little effort. A trip to these falls allows another great opportunity to earn a Eugene Ale Trail stamp, as Brewer’s Union Local 180 is located just off the main road.


Find Autumn scenes like this around Eugene and Veneta – by Instagrammer eyegoo

In the small, rural town of Lorane the humble flow of Siuslaw Falls invites you to gaze upon it.

Enjoy the winding drive through Veneta and turn down the winery-lined Territorial Highway before reaching this dainty but fierce little falls.

Have an autumn photo shoot, bring your fishing pole and bask in the quiet glory of the falls as it cascades in wide, elegant stair-steps across the creek.

Storms are coming, and the graceful well-design of the fall season will soon be memories that have come to pass. Take time to reflect on the beautiful places in which you’ve touched down and have been touched by.

Whether you contributed to the season by participating in a hops harvest, gathered apples for cider, perused a pumpkin patch or simply got out and did something, recognize the ways in which a changed scene, the inevitable transformation of life, has in some way played a part in making your days more beautiful. Oregon foliage continues to be enchanting. Find your place in the forest.