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.

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Oregon Fall Foliage Weekly Update 9/14/2013

Eugene Cascades & Coast
Fall colors just beginning in the Eugene, Cascades & Coast region. Big leaf and vine maple are starting to turn and a few leaves are falling along the McKenzie River. The warm weather and clear skies make this the perfect time to drive the Old McKenzie Highway, Hwy 242, a scenic 38 mile (61.16 km) route with great views of lava flows and cinder cones, as well as, the Three Sisters and Mt. Washington mountain ranges.

Hints of fall foliage at Tokatee Golf Club along the McKenzie River

Hints of fall foliage at Tokatee Golf Club along the McKenzie River

Along Highway 58, hike the Diamond Creek Falls Trail to scout early signs of fall foliage.  Read more about this 2.5 mile (4 km) loop that features three waterfalls.

Get into the fall spirit at Veneta Harvest Festival on Saturday, September 14, 2013.

Oregon Coast
In addition to the yellows and oranges that were spotted last week in Coos Bay, there are now some deep reds joining the mix. It is scattered in the area, but some of the trees are half way through color change.

While in the area, stop by the 10th Annual Mill Luck Salmon Celebration. Enjoy the art, food, and other schedule entertainment.

Early fall colors at Silver Falls State Park near Salem by mrssteph06 via Instagram

Early fall colors at Silver Falls State Park near Salem by mrssteph06 via Instagram

Willamette Valley
Not much has changed along the Clackamas River, but spots around the Willamette River are starting to see some hints of gold foliage. If you are in the Salem area, make sure to stop by Minto-Brown Island Park. The park is almost 900 acres with plenty of paths for running, cycling, and fall sightseeing.

Greater Portland
Change throughout Portland is still very minor, but you can find some hints of yellow and orange in places like Washington Park. Expect to see some real fall colors towards the end of September. If you are looking for something to do in the area you should stop by the Oregon Renaissance Festival in Hillsboro. Immerse yourself in a scene straight out of the 16th century.

Mt. Hood/The Gorge
The Mt. Hood/Gorge area is still waiting for colors to start changing. If the heat continues, expect change to come in the next few weeks.

Central Oregon
Color is just beginning to show in Central Oregon. A few maples and aspens are exhibiting some initial color changes with a small portion of their leaves transitioning from shades of green to varying hues of orange and red.

Early fall colors at Portland's Washington Park by Oregonbliss via Instagram

Early fall colors at Portland’s Washington Park by Oregonbliss via Instagram

While the change is just beginning for the trees, scattered all around town the wildflowers are blooming, especially in Bend’s Old Mill District. One of the best places to see early signs of fall is in the historic neighborhood around downtown Bend.

If you are planning on hiking to see some fall foliage, the Sisters, as well as any higher elevations, would be ideal.

Eastern Oregon
The leaves are starting to turn in the La Grande area. While there are no solid yellows or reds, it shouldn’t be much longer until you can see some of the great fall colors that everyone loves in this part of Oregon.

This weekend is the Great Circle Music Festival, which features three days of song and dance, great local food and beer, morning yoga, history and lore of the sacred land.

Southern Oregon
There are some hints of yellow coming out along the Rogue River. Make your way over to Shady Cove to experience the fall foliage and check out the 9th Annual River Art Walk Saturday, September 14, 2013. The park along the river offers great paths with plenty of trees to see the start of fall color.