The Top 5 Fall Foliage Destinations in Washington and Oregon
It’s the first day of fall and already the vibrant colors of the season are bursting in the higher elevations. Soon, the entire state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest will transform into a bright sea of colors. Top that with pumpkin spice, apple cider, and crisp cool temperatures and it’s the perfect time to hit the road, take a hike, and enjoy the scenery. The Northwest offers literally hundreds of areas with seasonal colors - here are the top 5.
The Bavarian-style village in the Cascade Mountains transforms into a fall wonderland with streets lined with colorful trees. Also, the Wenatchee River Valley around the area will surely present some breathtaking views. The Autumn Leaf Festival is this weekend (9/22-24) and offers up food, a market, and a parade. If you miss the Autumn Festival, no worries, Leavenworth’s Oktoberfest celebration is another incredible fall experience and it begins the last weekend of September.
Mount Rainier National Park
It’s hard to miss this iconic landmark and active volcano. Mount Rainier offers fall color enthusiasts an eye-full of brilliant orange, yellow, and reds. The deep-rich forests are peppered with various types of trees that literally change color overnight. So grab the kids, the dog, a sack lunch, and head to Mount Rainier. The Stevens Canyon Road entrance is popular with various hikes and trails – be sure to check if roads are open – conditions change daily.
Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge has a full menu of trees that change color this time of year – Cottonwood, Oregon Ash, and Big Leaf Maples pepper both sides of the western part of the Gorge. Take a long hike or bike ride on the historic Columbia River Trail or if it’s not too busy, stop at Multnomah Falls for a snack and watch the falls in the fall.
North Cascades National Park
Also known as the “American Alps,” the North Cascades are full of evergreen pine trees sprinkled with golden larches and reddish orange maples, making it one of the most scenic fall destinations in the Northwest. Although challenging, Maple Pass Loop is a favorite for photographers and experienced hikers – be sure to check that the area is open before you hit the road.
Olympic National Park
Vampires aren’t the only ones who enjoy deep red colors and lush rainforests. Olympic National Park is vast and you’ll likely need a weekend or two to fully enjoy the experience. And, during the fall season, the mossy trees mixed with the vibrant colors will overwhelm you with awe. Make sure to take a rain jacket and footwear that can handle mud.
Wherever you choose to take in the fall colors - timing is important - we only have 4 to 6 weeks of this magical season. Get to the high elevations first before roads are closed and the peaks are covered with snow. Then, finish off with the lower elevations on the eastern slopes of the Cascades.