It is that time of year again. Time to find the warm layers packed away last spring, listen to the crickets chirp a little slower, and to find your favorite place in Central Oregon to enjoy the brilliant displays of color nature provides throughout the fall season.
This year's show of fall foliage is beginning earlier than usual due to the dry, hot summer and drought conditions in Central Oregon. The peak of this year's leaf-peeping season is predicted for early October and offers a great opportunity to enjoy the show while the weather is still mild and comfortable. Break out your sweaters and your hiking boots for two of our top choices to get out there and enjoy the hues.
The mixed conifer forests of the Metolius Preserve near Camp Sherman offers a unique blend of species that provide superb color in the fall. The 1,240-acre Preserve receives more than twice the amount of annual rainfall than nearby communities of Redmond and Bend. Situated between the Cascade crest and high desert, the Preserve's geography allows for a unique blend of plant life that includes species from both sides of the Cascades.
Take a hike on the northern trails of the Metolius Preserve to experience the deep reds of the vine maple, the gold of the grasses at your feet, and the palette provided by plants that call the banks of Lake Creek home. Don't forget to look up while you are walking, you'll want to keep an eye out for one tree in particular that is a rebel among the standard conifers at the Preserve.
Towering above the vine maples and standing among the traditional green backdrop of fir trees, ponderosa pines and cedars is the Western larch. Unlike it's neighboring cone-bearing cohort, the Western larch is one of the only cone-bearing trees to drop it's needles every year. Before shedding it's summer coat and gearing up for next year's growth, the Western larch puts on a blazing display of gold and orange. Typically found in more northern latitudes, the elusive Western larch is truly a special find in Central Oregon which is at the southern end of the tree's range.
Still want to see more color but not necessarily lace up your hiking boots? Try Indian Ford Meadow Preserve near Sisters to catch a glimpse of one of the West's most iconic autumn players, the quaking aspen. The Preserve offers beautiful views of a sagebrush meadow with the Three Sisters and Mt. Jefferson as a mountainous backdrop. Enjoy the view with a cup of coffee and a camera on a bluebird day and capture Central Oregon in all of it's golden glory!