Although Central Oregon is probably best known for all of its winter and summer fun, we think it might actually be at its best during autumn. Between the months of September and October, the Central Oregon towns of Bend, Sisters, Camp Sherman, and Sunriver are blessed with reliably sunny days, cool clear nights, and absolutely spectacular fall color. If you haven’t experienced autumn in Central Oregon, you’re really missing out on a special time. To help get you get started on planning next year’s vacation, the Pacific Crest Stock Photography team has pasted some suggestions below with photos from some of our favorite fall-time trails and activities.
Ten Things to Do During Central Oregon’s Autumn Months
1. Go hiking in the lava flows around the Three Sister Wilderness Area. There are many different lava flows to choose from within a short drive of Bend, Sunriver, or Sisters. Most of the lava flows are interspersed with vine maples and other vegetation, which turn beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow during the autumn months.
2. Go biking through a grove of aspen trees. Some of the best groves of aspen trees are found along the Deschutes River or Tumalo Creek Basin near Bend, the Ochoco National Forest outside of Prineville, the High Desert Museum between Bend and Sunriver, or near Black Butte Ranch along the outskirts of Sisters.
3. Go hiking or biking on the Deschutes River Trail. The Deschutes River Trail is a real gem of a trail that runs through the Deschutes National Forest and connects the towns of Bend and Sunriver. It contains several beautiful waterfalls and large groves of Ponderosa pine, larch trees, and aspen trees. This is a perfect place to hike or bike with small children.
4. Go explore the forest service roads bordering the Mount Washington Wilderness Area. There is a wonderful network of roads that runs between highways 126 and 242 just outside of Sisters, Oregon. The roads provide access to the Mount Washington Wilderness Area and also provide great wide-open views of Black Butte, Three Fingered Jack, and Three Sisters Mountains. In September and October, the roads explode with fall color. For more information and photos from the Mount Washington Wilderness Area, see our previous entry.
5. Go biking or rock climbing at Smith Rock State Park. Smith Rock State Park is always a magical place to visit, but it is especially nice in autumn when the banks of the Crooked River are alive with color. Because of its desert location, Smith Rock also tends to stay a few degrees warmer than the surrounding mountain towns of Bend, Sunriver and Sisters. This makes it an especially nice road trip on cooler October days. For more information and photos from Smith Rock State Park, see our previous entry.
6. Go visit the Camp Sherman Store and the Wizard Falls trout hatchery on the Metolius River. The world-famous Metolius River and the locally-loved Camp Sherman Store are two of the most special places in Central Oregon. The Metolius River puts on one of the most colorful autumn displays in the region, and between the fly fishing and hiking opportunities along the banks of the river, the trout-viewing at the Wizard Falls hatchery, and the awesomely huge sandwiches and well-stocked selection of local microbrews at the Camp Sherman Store, this stop belongs on your list of “must-do” activities. This is also a perfect place to hike with small children, and if your little ones need a little extra motivation, it might be nice to know that the Camp Sherman Store offers a large selection of penny candy (yes, a penny!). For more information and photos from the Metolius River, see our previous entry.
7. Go for a drive over McKenzie Pass. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the drive up and over McKenzie Pass is one of the most scenic drives in North America. It offers a fascinating tour through the middle of a huge lava flow that is surrounded on both sides by touring Cascade Mountain peaks. There are tons of short hikes and explorations that can be accessed from the road over McKenzie Pass. After the highway closes in late autumn, the McKenzie Pass area also becomes one of region’s premier biking destinations. For more information and photos, see our previous entries about McKenzie Pass or the McKenzie River.
8. Go hiking or biking on the North Fork Trail above Tumalo Falls. Although many visitors know about Tumalo Falls, few people venture beyond the top of the first waterfall. The real secret about this area is that there are at least another half-dozen impressive waterfalls hiding just a short ways up the trail. Hikers usually make the trip as an out-and-back adventure. Bikers are allowed only on the uphill section of the trail, so if you’re on a bike, continue past the last waterfall at the 3.5 mile mark, ride through the wide open Happy Valley and then cross over the stream to your right. After crossing the stream, the path continues along a section of the Metolius-Windigo Trail before dropping back down to the parking lot on the opposite side of Tumalo Falls via the Farewell Bend Trail. The entire loop is about 11 miles. For more information and photos from the Tumalo Falls area, see our previous entry.
9. Go fly fishing at one of Central Oregon’s many high alpine lakes or spring-fed streams. Central Oregon is blessed with a huge collection of high alpine lakes and spring-fed trout streams, which makes it a fisherman’s paradise. You could spend years visiting all of the lakes and streams hidden in the woods along the Cascade Lakes Highway, Santiam Pass, or McKenzie Pass, and never have to fish the same place twice. Grab your fly rod and go exploring. You know there’s a lunker waiting for you in the ripple.
10. Go for a drive over Santiam Pass. In autumn, the drive over Santiam Pass looks like something from a fairy tale. The windy, two-lane highway hugs the shoulder of the Santiam Rivers’ North Fork for many miles, and there is a splendid display of bright red vine maples nearly the entire way between summit of the pass (4,800 feet) and Detroit Lake (1,400 feet). This is definitely the route of choice if you’re coming to Central Oregon from Salem or Portland.
NOTE: Many of the activities above involve hiking or biking through our region’s National Forest areas. In autumn, it is important to remember that hikers and bikers are often sharing these areas with big-game hunters. As always, appropriate precautions and good common sense are highly recommended when venturing into the forest during hunting season.
To license these or any of our other stunning Central Oregon images, please visit our Oregon stock photos site, Pacific Crest Stock
Posted by Troy McMullin