Favorite Fall Trips: Scenic Drives

Proxy Falls Trail

The stunning contrast of red vine maple, lava rock and old-growth forest make the McKenzie-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway a favorite drive for leaf peepers.

Are you looking for some delightful autumn drive ideas? October is the best month to take glorious photos of changing leaves in Oregon.

Travel along the McKenzie-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway to see vibrant color in old-growth forests, pastoral river areas, and historic lava rock formations.

Take a leisurely drive on the Historic Columbia River Highway to experience brilliant colors next to a wide variety of waterfalls and breathtaking views of the Columbia Gorge.

Avid photographers will appreciate the Cottage Grove Covered Bridge Tour Route. Some of the most picturesque fall shots can be found on this scenic route, which showcases the largest collection of covered bridges west of the Mississippi.

Choose the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway to take in views of Tokatee Falls, White Horse Falls, the Rogue River, Diamond Lake and world-famous Crater Lake.

These are just a few of the scenic drives, highways and byways to be found in Oregon. Find more Oregon Scenic Byways and tour routes.

Whichever trip you choose, take your time and enjoy the ride.

-Megan Harris, guest contributor

Autumn Colors in Oregon’s Washington County

The beginning of autumn in Washington County, Oregon

The beginning of autumn in Washington County, Oregon

On a cool, autumn day, the rural, agricultural and forested scenery of Oregon’s Washington County comes alive with bright red, orange and yellow leaves — a stark contrast to the deep, dark green of the fir trees that share these landscapes.

Located west of Portland, Washington County has miles and miles of open space, farms and vineyards that magically change colors as autumn takes hold.  The golden tones of recently harvested vineyards and apple, pear and peach orchards and deciduous trees and plants are accentuated by the smell of fall, a mix of cool rains and fallen leaves.

David Hill Vineyard and Winery

David Hill Vineyard and Winery

Whether traveling by car, bike, foot or canoe, there is no shortage of fantastic places to view the gorgeous foliage of fall in Oregon’s Washington County.

  • Cooper Mountain Nature Park offers unparalleled views of the Chehalem Mountains and the Tualatin Valley, which glows as leaves turn to brilliant yellow. Within the park, 3½ miles of trails takes walkers through distinct habitats, including woodlands featuring the native Oregon White Oak.
  • The Banks-Vernonia State Trail takes cyclists, hikers and equestrians along a 21-mile of paved trail through wooded areas and along trestles and bridges with spectacular views. Scope out the changing leaves of Oregon ash and maple trees, which Sunset magazine calls “some of the best fall colors this side of Vermont.”
  • The Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Routeis a 50-mile driving tour through tree-lined rural and agricultural regions of Oregon’s Washington County, providing awe-inspiring views of the Coast Range the Tualatin Valley.

    A vineyard along the Vineyard and Valley Tour Route

    Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route

  • The Tualatin River, which flows through the heart of Washington County, provides spectacular views of Oregon ash and its bright yellow foliage. Paddle down this tranquil river for an up-close-and-personal experience.

No tour of fall colors in Washington County is complete without picking up a freshly picked apple. Several farms offer various varieties of apples grown right here.

The fall colors hit their peak in Washington County between late-October and early-November. Learn more at VisitWashingtonCountyOregon.com.

-Sylke Neal-Finnegan, guest contributor
Washington County Visitors Association

Fall Colors Abound in the High Desert

With the activities of summer at rest and the anticipation building for snow flying on the mountains, fall is finally at its peak in the High Desert.

Central Oregon offers Leaf Watchers a place to view splashes of golden yellows, burning reds and oranges and even beautiful shades of purples set among snow-capped mountains and crisp, sunny skies. 

Enjoy a leisurely day in Bend starting off with a stroll downtown. A personal favorite spot of mine is on Wall Street, between the Des Chutes Historical Museum and Amity Creek Elementary School, where the variety of vibrant maple trees tower over the street and engulf you in color. Next head to beautiful Drake Park, nestled along the Deschutes River with a peek-a-boo view of South Sister Mountain and autumn trees lining Mirror Pond. Hop on a bike or in your car for a short ride to Mt. Washington Drive to enjoy golden aspens and maples in a spectrum of colors. From there, head down to the Old Mill District and catch the vibrant fuchsia of the burning bush and other deciduous foliage throughout this historic part of Bend. For a more secluded experience awash in fall color, hike or mountain bike along the Upper Deschutes River Trail or Shevlin Park.

Take the opportunity to travel on Highway 242 before November 1st when it closes for the winter. The loop tour taking Hwy 20/Hwy 126/Hwy 242 offers views of powerful waterfalls and brilliant fall colors contrasting against a volcanic landscape and can be enjoyed along this Scenic Byway when traveling in or out of Central Oregon.

Please come to enjoy autumn in Central Oregon.  For more ideas visit Central Oregon Visitors Association or call at 800.800.8334.

Kristine McConnell, Guest Contributor
Central Oregon Visitors Association