Plan Your Fall Foliage Trip!

Happy summer from the Oregon Fall Foliage team! Believe it or not, now is the time to start planning fall foliage trips. There are so many ways and places to see beautiful colors across Oregon!

Cyclists on the Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway in Cottage Grove

Cyclists on the Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway in Cottage Grove

We don’t always know WHEN the leaves will be at their brightest. Mother Nature keeps that insider info to herself. However, we’ve been following leaf patterns for 10 years now, so we have a good idea of where they start and when they go.

Drake Park and Mirror Pond (courtesy: Manasi Seth)

Drake Park and Mirror Pond (courtesy: Manasi Seth)

But that’s not the only reason we’re here. We also have awesome ideas of the best ways to experience the entire fall season. We’ll tell you the best fall drives, the best fall hikes, where to find the best fall flavors at Oregon restaurants and new trip ideas that you’ve likely never heard of. Plus, we’ll post amazing deals on lodging, adventures and dining.

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Share your pictures with us by tagging them #ORFallFoliage. We’ll pick the best to use (with credit, of course) for our Fall Photos of the Day. Send us your favorite leaf pics from past years to get excited for Oregon Fall Foliage 2013.

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Hunting for Eastern Oregon’s Fall Colors

Eastern Oregon University library

Eastern Oregon University library, La Grande

Oregon’s east side is a landscape of diversity. Often pictured as “high desert,” this expansive region actually is home to five mountain ranges, the deepest river gorge in North America, two National Scenic Byways, three Oregon byways, and yes, a sagebrush or two. Fall golden colors are found in cottonwoods and quaking aspen along the rivers and trickling down gullies on the rolling hills like warm yellow honey. The bright red sumac bushes are stunning in the fall and often provide a nice respite for deer, elk, and even an occasional black bear. Lining the quiet streets of Eastern Oregon’s historic little towns, you’ll find maple, birch, and horse-chestnut showing off their colors. Not to be up-staged by the foliage, the geology also offers an amazing pallet in the rock and sediment formations of the John Day River Territory.

Painted Hills

Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Traveling to the eastern portion of Oregon does take a bit of planning for your fall color hunting trip. The tank needs to be full; the evenings will be chilly, so throw on a jacket and a pair of good shoes. There are plenty of options for accommodations and many great places to fill up the ‘tummy’ tank too. After a day of hiking or driving the scenic byways hunting for colors, a hand-crafted beer is definitely in order. Eastern Oregon’s six micro-breweries are becoming known worldwide. Pick up a ‘Beer Tag’ (yes, hunting is BIG in this region, even when hunting beers!) in Pendleton, Baker City, Joseph, Enterprise, La Grande, or Ontario and participate in this ‘Controlled Hunt’ to sample some great beers.

Union House
Union House

The best time to visit Eastern Oregon for colors is late September into November. Find more at: VisitEasternOregon.com

Weekly Update 10/07/2010

Katsura treeThe heart-shaped leaves of this Katsura tree at Mount Pisgah Arboretum begin to turn bright yellow at the top and slowly spread downward.
Image courtesy Katura Reynolds, Mount Pisgah Arboretum

Eugene, Cascades & Coast
The leaves are approaching peak color change in the upper Cascades, and just starting in the Willamette Valley and at the coast at Florence. The McKenzie River Trail (MRT) is covered in leaves this week, and more red than yellow is visible along the upper trail. Arrange a shuttle with the experts at the McKenzie River Mountain Resort to ride the entire MRT before soaking in the colors along the McKenzie River from the hot springs at Belknap Hot Springs Resort. Around Eugene, the ash trees are approaching peak color change, but most other species are just starting to change color. Leaves are beginning to line Highway 126 to Florence, and a few pockets of yellow and orange break up the mostly green backdrop.

Coast
The colors are just starting to change along the coast and in the coast range. Leaf watchers predict peak color change in two weeks. Highway 26 from Seaside to Portland is a beautiful drive, with yellow leaves falling along the roadside. The Coos Highway, OR Route 241 east of Coos Bay, looks great this week as you head to Golden and Silver Falls. The Umpqua River Scenic Byway is a gorgeous drive that will only get better into November. Maples are turning yellow along North Ridge Trail on Mary’s Peak. Start this hike from the Woods Creek Trailhead on Woods Creek Road off of Highway 20.

Willamette Valley
The color change is approaching peak in the higher elevations of the Cascades, and is just beginning to pop in the valley. Leaves show red, gold and yellow throughout the mountains and in the city parks. Highway 22 east into the Cascades and Highway 33 west into the coast range offers the most spectacular color show this week. This is a good time for an urban hike in Salem at Minto-Brown Island Park, Riverfront Park or Bush’s Pasture Park. Stay in Cottage Grove for a ride along the Row River Trail or a cycling tour of wineries. For great views in Oregon City, head to the top of the hill at Mountain View Cemetery.

Greater Portland
The colors are just starting to change in the Portland area. There is still a lot of green, and the tips of trees are showing just a dusting of gold and red. The roses in the International Rose Test Garden are on their third bloom of the season, and should show colors through the end of October. Peak color change for the leaves is still several weeks away. While the weather is dry and crisp, take a bike ride down the Springwater Corridor from downtown Portland to Sellwood, which runs through Oak Bottom Wildlife Refuge. Take advantage of one of the clear days this month and ride the OHSU Arial Tram for views of up to five different mountains, the Willamette River, and the city of Portland.

Mt. Hood/ Columbia River Gorge
The leaves are at or approaching peak color change on Mt Hood above 2000 feet, and are approaching peak at lower elevations along Highway 26 and Highway 35. Leaf watchers predict colors around peak change for the next four weeks. The colors are approaching peak east of Hood River in the Columbia River Gorge, and are just starting west of Hood River. There is some color change at Multnomah Falls, although it is still at least two weeks away from its peak. For great photos, drive Road 39 or hike Mirror Lake Trail, Paradise Park Trail or Pioneer Bridle Trial. Don’t forget to pack a snack – the apples and pears in this region are in season and out of this world!

Southern Oregon
The leaves are just starting to turn in Southern Oregon. It will be more than two weeks before the leaves reach their peak. Leaves are tipped with oranges and yellows, with some trees changing more than others. Take a self-guided audio tour of historic Jacksonville before catching early fall colors along OR Route 238. Outside of Roseburg, stop for a photo at Watson Falls on the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway, a year-round beauty and a fall classic, expected to show peak color change in three weeks.

Bend fall colorMt. Washington Road in Bend
Image courtesy Central Oregon Visitors Association

Central Oregon
The color change is approaching peak in the higher elevations of central Oregon. Although many of the trees are still holding onto their summer green, bright oranges and yellows, rich golds and hazy browns mark trails and roads throughout the region. Check out the colors on Mt. Washington Road before catching BendFilm. The ferns are alive with color on the Metolious River in Camp Sherman. While you are there, you can fly-fish along the Metolius, one of Central Oregon’s best-kept secrets for trophy-size trout and Kokanee. Stop at the fish hatchery, then visit the headwaters of the Metolius River, where a crystal-clear spring bubbles to the surface to create the majestic river.

Eastern Oregon
The color change is at or approaching peak in the higher elevations of eastern Oregon, and is just beginning to change in the lower elevations. In southeastern Oregon, Frenchglen saw peak color change that is predicted to last for the next two weeks. This is the week to head into the Steens Mountains, where the aspen are turning yellow. Drive the Steens Loop Rd to Big Indian Gorge Trail, where great views await for the enthusiastic hiker. In northeastern Oregon, gorgeous aspen are yellow along the Elkhorn Scenic Byway, which passes through colorful Sumpter.