Oregon Fall Foliage Update 10/10/2014

Seal Rock by doublemdesignandphotography

Seal Rock by doublemdesignandphotography

Oregon Coast
Fall color is in full swing! Take a trip to Sweet Creek Falls, one of Eugene, Cascades & Coast’s 7 Wonderful Waterfalls, located outside of Mapleton on Highway 126. This wonderful family-friendly trail is canopied by Douglas firs, aspen trees and big leaf maples, and is a great way to stretch your legs and breathe in that crisp fall air. Try a drive along the Umpqua River Scenic Byway (Highway 38) from Elkton to Loon Lake in Reedsport. There are several wineries along this route, all of which are flanked by vibrant, manicured yards. Enjoy a crisp glass of riesling from Brandborg Winery, or pull up to River’s Edge Winery, which overlooks the Umpqua River. While on the coast, be sure to catch Harvest at the Harbor in Brookings for a splendid autumn day full of pumpkin carving and cobbler cook-offs. Costumes are encouraged!

Near Buena Vista Ferry near Salem (pic by Debbie Lusk)

Near Buena Vista Ferry near Salem (pic by Debbie Lusk)

Willamette Valley
Peak is upon us in the Willamette Valley, so seize the season in every direction! From Salem, take a westward drive along Highway 22 toward Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge to see beautiful fall hues, as well as a wide variety of animals in their natural habitat. To the east, take Highway 126 from Eugene to Clear Lake. Plan to immerse in elegant visions of riparian foliage. Spend an afternoon walking the five mile trail that loops around the Lake. See the golds, oranges and reds of the native big leaf and vine maples. The weather is cooling down, so dress in layers for your excursion. Afterwards, reheat with a dip in one of the area’s many natural hot springs. Try Belknap, or cruise Highway 58 to enjoy Cougar or McCredie for a relaxing outdoor soak.

Vineyard & Valley Scenic Tour Route, Beaverton (Photo: Oregon's Washington County)

Vineyard & Valley Scenic Tour Route, Beaverton (Photo: Oregon’s Washington County)

Greater Portland
Climbers have the advantage this time of year, as the best views of fall foliage are usually from a bird’s eye. Visit Lewis and Clark State Park, just east of Troutdale, for some excellent climbing opportunities. Survey the landscape from up high on Broughton Bluff, or pack a picnic and hang out by the Columbia River. If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, stroll through Elk Rock Garden. This immaculately maintained yard is full of colorful oaks, maples, and ash trees, and provides hours of visual stimulus.

Mt. Hood/ The Gorge
Fall color is cloaking valleys and mountains near Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge. Cold weather is setting in, and the lifts at Palmer Snowfield will soon be opening. Foliage seekers will no longer have to hike for beautiful views of the great outdoors. On a clear day, you can see the rolling hills of the Cascade Mountains, as well as any color popping up around the Alpine Lakes. If you’re looking to get your blood pumping, try a mountain bike ride from Timberline to the scenic town of Rhododendron. Feel the wind on this fifteen mile ride as you appreciate your seasonal surroundings.

Central Oregon
The weather is gorgeous and fall foliage is at its peak. Though some trees have already shed their leaves for the season, aspens are just beginning to turn their golden yellow. Take a drive from Mt. Washington to Bend’s NorthWest Crossing neighborhood to see these aspens in full effect. Enjoy an afternoon in Drake Park while overlooking Mirror Pond, and stay to watch the sunset. Right now, the Deschutes River is roaring through Benham Falls. Crowds are low this time of year, so bring the family and experience fall in Central Oregon.

Eastern Oregon
We are one week into October, and lots of colors are showing up on the banks of the Powder and Snake Rivers, which border the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway. Copperfield Park, located just below the Oxbow Dam, and Cornucopia Lodge are great stops for sightseeing along this route. Rock climbers may want to make the trip to Burnt River Canyon, which boasts a pretty spectacular aerial scene between the towns of Durkee and Bridgeport. The Elkhorn Scenic Byway is another excellent route for fall foliage. The 106-mile loop will take you through the Elkhorn Mountains, and also through the town of Haines, Oregon. This weekend, be a part of the Haines Harvest Festival, a daylong celebration of all things fall and harvest.

Crater Lake Lodge

Crater Lake Lodge

Southern Oregon
Brilliant colors are coming forth throughout Southern Oregon. Beautiful fall foliage can be seen in the Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, located just off of Highway 140, from Rocky Point Junction. Stunning hues also dwell in lower elevations, in areas such as Clover Creek, and along Dead Indian Memorial Road. Visit Crater Lake Lodge, where color has almost peaked. The landscape here is awash in red, yellow, and light green.

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Favorite Fall Hikes

Last week I was asked to recommend some great hikes for fall foliage viewing for another project. Since we were already debating our favorites, I thought why not share them with you!

Our expertise is western Oregon, so we need your help rounding out the list. Share your favorite hikes throughout the state in the comments. And for more ideas, check with the visitor associations listed as “Oregon Tourism Links” on the right side of this blog.

WILLAMETTE VALLEY HIKES:
Fall Creek National Recreation Trail
The trail follows Fall Creek for 14 miles through second-growth and old-growth Douglas fir and an understory of vine maple, big leaf maple dogwood, and red alder. Choose your distance on this out-and-back near Eugene in the Cascade foothills.
Resources: Willamette National Forest, Travel Lane County

Silver Falls State Park
Follow the “Trail of Ten Falls” for 8.7 miles along the banks of the north and south forks of Silver Creek past 10 waterfalls ranging in height from 177 to 27 feet.
Resources: Oregon State Parks, Travel Salem

Mount Pisgah Arboretum at Buford Park
At this 209-acre living tree museum, discover riverside trails, quiet paths through evergreen forests, a water garden teeming with life, bright wildflower meadows, and open views across oak savannas.
Resources: Mount Pisgah Arboretum, Travel Lane County

CASCADES HIKES:
Proxy Falls Loop Trail

Patches of red and orange vine maples already brighten the lava fields along this trail. This easy 1.25-mile loop travels through dense forest and open lava fields to views of two distinct waterfalls. This short hike is rewarding for both families and the most experienced hikers. Explored as recently as Monday, this hike comes highly recommended by Travel Lane County staffers.
Resources: Willamette National Forest, Travel Lane County

Waldo Shoreline Trail
The easy 5-mile Waldo Shoreline Trail offers the best views of Waldo Lake, Oregon’s second largest lake and one of the cleanest lakes in the world, and Diamond Peak to the south. For stunning views of the lake, start your hike at North Waldo Campground. The truly adventurous can connect to the difficult 19.6-mile Jim Weaver Loop National Recreation Trail, which rewards hikers with views of Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, and Middle and South Sister. After a day of hiking, jump in the lake at North Waldo Campground – my favorite swimming spot on Waldo Lake!
Resources: Willamette National Forest, Travel Lane County

OREGON COAST HIKES:
Cape Perpetua Scenic Area
Less than 30 minutes north of Florence, the highest lookout point on the Oregon Coast looms beautifully over the crashing surf and jagged coastline at Cape Perpetua. Twenty-six miles of interconnected hiking trails take you from old-growth forests to the Pacific Ocean.
Resources: Siuslaw National Forest, Travel Lane County

Sweet Creek Falls
This is one of my favorite hikes in the Coast Range. Located east of Florence and near Mapleton, this trail follows Sweet Creek on an easy, mostly flat hike past several small waterfalls. In the summer, it’s a great place to swim, but in the fall, the lush forest comes alive with yellow birch, orange maples, and red dogwoods.
Resources: Siuslaw National Forest, Travel Lane County

We’ve barely scratched the surface of great hikes in the Willamette Valley, the Cascades and on the Oregon Coast, let alone in Oregon. So share your favorites and get out on the trail!

While you’re out, take note on how the color is developing and report back. You can reach us in the comments section below, on Twitter @ORFallFoliage, or via e-mail at Adventures@TravelLaneCounty.org.