As the leaves turn and Halloween decorations pop up around town, people can’t help but gaze at the vibrant Fall foliage. In the Pacific Northwest (PNW), it’s pretty impossible to miss. From golden vineyards to fiery maples, orange hues splash across the evergreens to steal the show. Still, some places seem more meant for this time of year than others, so here is the low-down on stunning autumn views in the PNW. If you’re not satisfied with our list, you can always call the U.S. Forest Service Fall Colors Hotline at +800 354 4595 for expert tips.
If any place were suited for scenic viewing without being intentionally designed as such, it would probably be somewhere with limited human development, like, oh, I don’t know, a national park. Mt. Rainier National Park has got it, and flaunts it. The best areas on the mountain for the brilliant colors include Paradise, Reflection Lakes, Bench and Snow Lakes, and the Grove of the Patriarchs. Driving along Chinook Pass on State Route 410 or the White Pass Scenic Byway on US Highway 12 will also provide astonishing vistas.
Another jackpot spot for Fall foliage, Mt. Hood National Forest has beautiful options in its National Scenic Byway, Salmon River, Multnomah, Wahkeena Falls, Oneonta Gorge, and Horsetail Falls. Guided tours are also available through Mt. Hood Adventure and The Resort at The Mountain. Otherwise, consider wandering the forest to see what you can see!
Hatley Castle on Vancouver Island was completed in 1908. Once serving as part of the Royal Roads Military College, the building now serves as the administrative offices for Royal Roads University. The castle’s museum is located in the basement and offers free tours, though donations are appreciated. The castle grounds include Italian gardens, rose gardens, and Japanese gardens. Parts of the castle itself are covered in ivy, like a green blanket that burns red in autumn. When the grounds catch up to the colors of the ivy, the already spectacular castle becomes truly enchanting.
The largest state park in Oregon and one of the state’s most popular parks, Silver Falls State Park is located in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. Complemented by waterfalls and canyon bridges, autumn is one of the best times to visit. Golden leaves brighten the already eye-opening area known especially for its waterfalls. The Trail of Ten Falls will lead you by, and sometimes behind, the best ones.
Okay, so choosing a trail that spans a quarter of the PNW as a single Fall foliage spot might be cheating a little, but it’s all so pretty! Surrounding the Selkirk Mountain Range, the trail loops through Canada, Idaho, and Washington State. Golden Western Larch leaves put on a show along with plenty of options for side-trails. A highly recommended detour is the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge where you can add gorgeous creatures to the scenery.
Columbia River Gorge
First things first, the technical designation for this gorgeous (#puns) area is the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The U.S. government has already recognized how beautiful it is and spends money to protect it – how’s that for an endorsement! When it comes to Fall colors, Beacon State Park, Route 20 (Maple Pass and Lake Ann), the Historic Columbia River Highway, and the Lewis and Clark Trail Scenic Byway all come highly recommended.
You know you’ve found a good Fall foliage spot in a town that hosts its own Autumn Leaf Festival! The charming Leavenworth is a great starting point for autumn vistas since it is nestled in the Cascade Mountains. Nearby trails and routes for admiring the Fall colors include The Enchantments, Cascade Loop Scenic Highway, Tumwater Canyon, Apple Capital Loop Trail, and Blackbird Island. Otherwise, stay in town at Waterfront Park for something just as stunning.
The Fremont-Winema National Forest is a particularly interesting location due to the rare Aspens that dot the area. Trails such as Mount McLoughlin Trail, Gearhart Mountain Trail, and Billie Creek Nature Trail will get you your autumn hue fix. Alternatively, find a more panoramic view on Crane Mountain. By car or canoe, you can also explore Rocky Point for photographic views.
The third and final national forest on the list, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie is best viewed from either the Mt. Baker Byway on State Route 542 or the North Cascades Highway on State Route 20. Of course, if you get bored of stunning shades of red, yellow, and orange, there are plenty of nearby outdoor activities to get you moving. In fact, this is true of most places on the list. Either way, happy Fall!