Top 12 Places for Fall Color in Central Oregon

Sep 10, 2014
We name our top twelve spots to get your fall fix in Central Oregon. Get outside and savor the season.


It’s easy to fall in love with Central Oregon in any season, but there’s something particularly enchanting about autumn. As summer turns to fall and the leaves transform into bright orange, gold, and reds, it’s the perfect time to get outside and enjoy nature. Here are a few of our favorite spots to revel in fall color in Central Oregon.

 Take a Hike

1. Metolius Preserve South Fork: 
Land Trust protected Metolius Preserve has lots of hiking options with short and longer loops. The South Fork entrance has easy trails where you can find fall foliage along Lake Creek. 

2. Metolius Preserve North Fork: 
Coniferous forests don’t always seem like the best choice to catch fall color, but come autumn the Western Larch put on a color display. Breaking all the rules we learned in school about conifers, the feathery needles of the Larch turn golden in the fall. You can find these fall beauties near the North Fork entrance of the Metolius Preserve. The North Fork entrance also offers access to longer trails, including a trail that links the Preserve with Suttle Lake. If the vine maples are turning, this area is a stunning contrast of scarlet leaves against evergreen forests.

3. Shevlin Park
Shevlin Park, right outside of Bend, offers fall color hikes for those who don’t want to drive too far out of town. Access all your favorite fall hues with just a short walk along Tumalo Creek.

4. Tumalo Falls
If you catch it just right, vibrant bursts of color against rock cliffs and evergreens make a Tumalo Falls hike a good option to take in some fall color. Regardless, it’s a nice hike that doesn’t require too much driving.

5. Upper Deschutes River Trail
Head to the Upper Deschutes River Trail near the Slough Day Use Area for stands of brilliant aspen groves. The Benham Falls area offers some spots of fall color as well. 

6. Whychus Canyon Preserve
Head down into the canyon at Whychus Canyon Preserve to spot fall color along Whychus Creek. The Preserve has great longer hikes with mountain vistas and canyon overlooks.

Short Stroll or Picnic

7. Indian Ford Meadow Preserve
This little gem is one of the best places to take in bright yellow aspen against gorgeous meadow and mountain views and it’s minutes away from Sisters. Enjoy a picnic at Indian Ford Meadow Preserve and take a short walk out to a viewing platform and watch the sunset from the benches. Take your camera to record fleeting fall scenes. 

8. Drake Park
A walk through Drake Park is a convenient way to take in the season. Orange and gold colors along the banks of the Deschutes River are reflected in sparkling Mirror Pond. It’s definitely worth a short stroll after a date downtown for dinner.

9. Camp Polk Meadow Preserve
Take in the beautiful meadow, colorful cottonwoods, and bright aspen for a picnic at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve. If you’re there in October, get some inspiration for Halloween in nearby Camp Polk Meadow Cemetery, the quirky resting place of area pioneers and more.

Scenic Drive or Bike Ride

10. McKenzie Pass
Not all glimpses of fall color have to be found on foot. Take a scenic drive or ride on McKenzie Pass. Beautiful year-round with fields of lava and gorgeous waterfalls, autumn is particularly spectacular when the vine maple turn rich red.

11. Mount Washington Drive
Take a trip down winding Mount Washington Drive in Bend’s westside. Pedal or drive and enjoy the tree-lined road, for a splendor of reds, oranges and yellows right in town. 

Fishing

12. Lower Deschutes River
If you’re planning an autumn fishing trip, get your fall fix at the Lower Deschutes. Fisherman and executive director Brad Chalfant named the lower Deschutes River as his favorite place for fall. “Standing waist deep in the river steelheading, before the first rays peek over the canyon rim, the canyon walls and water start to glow. Add to that the changing foliage—turning yellow, rust and scarlet—and there is not better place to be in the fall. 

 

What are your favorite places for fall? Tell us in the comments below!