One of the best and cheapest ways to celebrate the beginning of fall is with a scenic hike or drive. If you’ll be in the Oregon or Washington area this autumn, be sure to check out one of the following trails to create lasting memories surrounded by splashes of color.
Columbia River Gorge
Nestled between both Oregon and Washington, the Columbia River Gorge is filled with excellent areas to watch the leaves change. This stretch of natural wonder is located alongside Interstate 84 in Oregon, or Highway 14 in Washington, so you can drive in either direction of the 1200-mile road and expect stunning views. In fact, these roads were specifically designed to attract tourists.
The best time to visit for fall foliage is from the middle of September to October. However, any time of the year you can stop at local spots like the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum.
Salmon River Trail in Mt. Hood
The Salmon River Trail in Mount Hood, Oregon, features the iconic beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Here you’ll find forests that resemble something out of a fairytale, with fir trees reaching toward the sky and grounds filled with thick moss.
The 14-mile hiking trail runs straight alongside the Salmon River. You’ll easily be able to immerse yourself in leaves of all shades of yellow, orange, red, and brown from September to October. You might even be able to catch a glimpse of the salmon in the river when you walk by.
Highway 2 to Leavenworth
On Highway 2 between both Monroe and Leavenworth, you’ll find some of the most stunning views autumn has to offer. This scenic drive features large deciduous trees that range in vibrant hues.
Make sure to check out Leavenworth along the way, a charming Bavarian-themed village in the Cascade Mountains. They even host an Autumn Leaf Festival each October, where you can join in on autumn-themed activities and enjoy the surrounding views of mountainous landscapes draped in leaves of gold and deep red.
The Bloedel Reserve, located in the west of Washington, is a beautiful stretch of 150 acres that makes a perfect place to watch the leaves change. Here you’ll find a wide range of colors on both the trees and surrounding grounds. They are at their most vibrant in mid-to-late October, so if you’ve missed peak season at the other sites, this is a great choice.
All the Bloedel Reserve is cultivated into elegant stretches of curated gardens and artistic structures, but you especially won’t want to miss the Japanese Garden filled with vivid colored Japanese maples that truly pop during fall.
Skyline Trail in Mt. Rainier
The skyline trail in Mount Rainier is one of the most popular hiking trails in Washington year-round. However, in mid-to-late October, you’ll find the best time to see the entire landscape change from lush green to shimmering gold and orange. Even the nearby shrubs and bushes turn to remarkable bright red hues.
Make sure to bring your camera, because the waterfalls hidden among the trail and the majestic mountains in the background are an unforgettable sight in contrast to the brilliant colors below it.