When it comes to beautiful fall foliage, you don’t want to miss the brilliant colors throughout the state of Oregon.
There is no denying the natural beauty throughout Oregon. The fall is one of the most breathtaking times to explore the state. As summer fades into fall, deciduous trees begin shedding their leaves and the landscape goes from green to shades of yellow, orange and red.
If you’re looking to get out and explore this season, I’ve gathered a list of the best scenic drives for fall colors in Oregon.
In 2023, the Farmers Almanac leaf color prediction provides the probable dates for peak fall color in Oregon to be between October 12-28. Keep in mind some trees start showing color earlier and others remain vibrant late into the season.
The trees that offer the best fall foliage in Oregon include maple, oak, alder, aspen, larch, ash, cottonwood and birch. Most personal favorite is the bigleaf maple, which produces massive leaves that change from yellow to red throughout the fall.
All of these scenic drives have great outdoor opportunities. Stretch your legs while hiking, biking, boating or doing other activities at the many recreation areas along these routes. I’ve included a few recommendations below. Access to some of these areas require a permit or day-use fee.
If you want to find the best spots right in the city, here’s a list of the best places to see fall color in Portland.
The Best Scenic Drives for Fall Colors in Oregon
Columbia River Gorge
There are multiple ways you can experience the beauty of fall foliage along the Columbia River Gorge. You can take I-84 or cross over into Washington and travel along Highway 14. The best way to take in the sights is along the Historic Columbia River Highway, which takes you through the waterfall corridor and has several viewpoints, including Multnomah Falls and Vista House. Permits to visit the waterfall corridor and Multnomah Falls are not required in the fall.
From Troutdale to Hood River, this route is about 80 miles long.
Mt. Hood Scenic Byway
Get up close to Mt. Hood and see lots of fall color along this scenic byway. The route stretches through Mt. Hood National Forest from Sandy to Hood River. The the Mt. Hood Scenic Loop is a great extension to your Columbia River Gorge adventure or can be its own day-long adventure.
There are lots of great activities you can do along the way, such as a drive up to Timberline Lodge or Trillium Lake. If you like hiking, consider Mirror Lake or Tamanawas Falls. As you make your way through the Fruit Loop outside of Hood River, stop by one of the farms and enjoy the bounty of the fall harvest. This route is about 70 miles.
Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway
In Central Oregon, you can take this 66-mile scenic drive from Bend and see several lakes mirroring the towering Cascade Mountains. The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway lets you marvel at the creations of ancient glaciers and volcanoes that carved out the incredible landscapes along this drive. Travel through the Deschutes National Forest taking in the changing leaves and consider a stroll around one of the lakes. You’ll see some incredible views of Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top and South Sister along this route.
Silver Falls Tour Route
If you’re traveling along I-5, this is a great route to get a break from the stagnant freeway and see the beauty of small towns and one must-see state park. Silver Falls Tour Route is a 55-mile route from Woodburn to Turner, Oregon. You’ll travel through the Bavarian-themed town of Mt Angel, past the Oregon Garden in Silverton and south toward the crown jewel of the route, Silver Falls State Park. The park has stunning waterfalls with trails ranging in length along with a big loop trail called the Trail of Ten Falls. This is also a great place to stop, have a picnic and enjoy all the fall colors.
Covered Bridges of Lane County
Did you know Lane County has the most covered bridges west of the Mississippi? On this scenic route you can choose your own adventure to see as many of the 20 covered bridges as you want. The Covered Bridges of Lane County lets you take a step back to a simpler time as you roll through the rural areas of the county. The architecture of each bridge over water offers a great landscape with the changing leaves. Use this map to learn about each bridge as you see it.
Steens Mountain Back Country Byway
See gold in Southeastern Oregon along this scenic byway. The Steens Mountain Back Country Byway is home to yellow hues from aspens and cottonwoods. The route has many places to take photos of these vibrant trees. If you want to get out and stretch your legs, stop at the arborglyph aspens at Fish Lake. This is the site of tree carvings made by Spanish sheepherders in the 20th century. Other great viewing spots include Honeymoon Lake and Jackson Park.
This is a great drive to see wildlife. You may also spot one of the famous Kiger mustangs that call Steens Mountain home. This route is about 52 miles.
Rogue-Umpqua National Scenic Byway
Travel off of I-5 and follow rushing North Umpqua and Rogue rivers through the forested, winding roads in Southern Oregon. While taking in all the fall colors, you’ll have access to fifteen waterfalls along the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway. Toketee Falls is an iconic Oregon waterfall just a short walk right off the highway. A short drive up the road is Watson Falls, the third highest waterfall in Oregon.
This route is 172 miles from Roseburg to Gold Hill. If you want to extend the trip by a few miles, add in a drive around Crater Lake.
Coastal Fall Foliage Train Ride
While this isn’t a drive through the fall colors, it is a fun road trip that takes you to the beautiful northern Oregon coast. The Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad in Wheeler offers special fall splendor excursions. Take an hour and a half round-trip journey to see the fall colors on board a historic diesel locomotive.
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