Where to Find Fall Color in Oregon
Autumn in Oregon is right around the corner, & as we’re enjoying these final days of summer in Bend ~ it got me thinking about where to find the best fall color in Oregon. When I lived in Portland, this was always a magical time of year: in the “Park Blocks” downtown, the leaves would start changing color, & Washington Park turned into a magical wonderland of autumnal colors: red, yellow, burnt orange, majenta…truly a majestic show. But Portland isn’t the only spot in Oregon to find gorgeous fall colors. In this article, we’ll hop-scotch around the state from Hood River out to Central Oregon, & all the way down to Ashland, in search of the most show-stopping fall color!
I took this shot with a coffee in my hand (from next-door Looney Bean Coffee)! Mirror Pond, right in the heart of downtown Bend, is one of the best places to spot fall color in Central Oregon.
Map of Fall Color Spots in Oregon
Below are six of the best spots in Oregon to catch the changing fall colors; beneath each place listed is my favorite hotel in the area.
Mt. Hood Scenic Byway
Lithia Park in Ashland
Silver Falls State Park
1. Downtown Portland
Because you’ve got such a massive quantity of trees in Portland, many of which are deciduous, you’ve got a recipe for a spellbinding fall color show. Nothing’s better than delighting in a delicious Portland brunch, grabbing coffee to-go, & strolling the streets to admire the scene.
Best Spots for Fall Color in Portland, Oregon
- Washington Park
- Japanese Gardens (pictured below)
- Hoyt Arboretum & surrounding trails (the Maple-Wildwood Loop is particularly spectacular in fall)
- Pittock Mansion is surrounded by deciduous trees that are gorgeous in fall, & the views of the city are also worth the price of admission.
- Laurelhurst Park
- Forest Park
- Luscher Farm area in Lake Oswego (there’s also a great off-leash dog park here)
2. Mount Hood Scenic Loop
The Mount Hood Scenic Loop officially starts in Gresham, & takes you up the mountain on Highway 26, getting you about as close as you can get to Mt. Hood & the iconic Timberline Lodge (made famous by Stephen King’s “The Shining”). If you want, break up your journey & spend the night up on the mountain, take a hike to sensational Paradise Park, & check out the cute outpost of Government Camp. From there, the Scenic Loop continues north on Hwy 35 to Hood River, which is an adorable town set right on the Columbia River.
From Hood River, it’s a straight-shot due west, back towards Portland on I-84: which is set right along the Columbia River; in any season, this is a gorgeous drive. This whole corridor is known as the Columbia River Gorge, & this is where you’ll find some of the state’s most iconic hikes & waterfalls. SPEND TIME hiking or camping here!!! You won’t be disappointed.
Best Hikes in the Columbia Gorge for Fall Color:
- Multnomah Falls ~ You don’t have to hike here, you can simply witness the breathtaking falls (Oregon’s highest) practically from the parking lot.
- Angel’s Rest Hike ~ One of the most popular hikes in the Gorge, & accessible for kids, dogs, & nearly all ability levels.
- Dog Mountain ~ This is my favorite Columbia Gorge hike: it’s difficult, but the views are SO WORTH it!!!! It’s on the Washington side of the Gorge, across from Hood River.
For a complete list of my favorite hikes in the Gorge, click here.
3. Silver Falls State Park
About 90 minutes south of Portland is Silver Falls State Park, the largest state park in Oregon, which features a series of incredible waterfalls, 25 miles of walking/hiking trails, 15 miles of horse trails, & a 4-mile bike path. If you choose to stay overnight here, the Oregon Garden Resort is the cutest hotel around, located in nearby Silverton. They’ve got beautiful sprawling grounds & are pet-friendly, while their Moonstone Spa is a great place to unwind after hiking!
Bend is the largest town in Central Oregon, & as you can see from the photo below: there are trees everywhere. While many are evergreen, you’ve got plenty of aspens, dogwoods, maples, & oaks to provide spectacular fall color. Bend is such an outdoorsy town, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to leaf-view, whether you’re hiking, biking, or simply tipping back a beer downtown.
And which Bend hotel gives you the best view of all this color? Undoubtedly, Tetherow Resort, which sits atop a hill & offers unobstructed views of the Cascade Mountain Range.
Best Places in Bend to Find Fall Color:
- Along the Deschutes River Trail ~ A walking/hiking/mountain bike trail that runs from Farewell Bend Park all the way down to Sunriver.
- Drake Park & Mirror Pond ~ Walkable from downtown Bend, this is an easy spot to catch the color.
- Drive up the Cascade Lakes Highway & stop at one of the many awesome lakes along the highway to witness russet leaves surrounding pristine mountain lakes.
- Head up to the Metolius River by Sisters to get that “in-the-woods,” fall feeling.
- The Old Mill District in Bend ~ I remember driving to Naked Winery last fall, & the trees heading down to the Old Mill shopping area were ALL bright yellow; it was spectacular.
5. McKenzie River
The McKenzie River runs right along Highway 126, east-to-west; if you follow the highway all the way west, you’ll land in Eugene ~ & if you take it all the way east then head up to Highway 20, you’ll end up in Bend. The McKenzie River is popular with photographers, fishermen, & those seeking hot springs, as both Belknap & Terwilliger Hot Springs are nearby. A central town & great base for exploring the river is Finn Rock, & Eagle Rock Lodge is my top pick for hotel stays in this area.
Both Ashland & the Rogue River Highway area are great spots to witness fall color in Oregon. Ashland is a cute town with an old-fashioned, vintage vibe ~ & they’re known for hosting a popular Shakespeare Festival every summer. As far as fall color goes, the epicenter in Ashland for leaf-peeping is leafy Lithia Park, which borders Ashland Creek & features walking trails, duck ponds, & a rose garden. My favorite hotel in Ashland is the historic (& some say, haunted) Ashland Springs Hotel, which is elegant & within walking distance to downtown.
Where to Find the Best Fall Color in Oregon
These aren’t the only places to view fall colors in Oregon, but they’re definitely some of the best! And if you’re in the market for a great fall blanket: nothing says “Oregon cozy” like our very own Pendleton blankets: they’re high-quality & SO warm ~ & I love their Southwestern vibe….it somehow still works in my (mainly) French country decor’ed home! : )
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