On Fall's Trail in Oregon
Drive the Historic Columbia River Highway
Get someone else to steer so you don't have to worry about going off the road as you enjoy the world-class views along the Historic Columbia River Highway. This photogenic byway offers the most spectacular views of the Columbia River Gorge, especially when framed by the yellow maples and orange alders of autumn. But the resplendent foliage faces tough competition from the snow-capped peaks of the Cascades, the sheer cliffs jutting straight out of the river and no less than 77 waterfalls along the way. Toss your boots in the trunk if you're feeling energetic, since the hiking possibilities are boundless.
Route: Interstate 84 to Troutdale, then Highway 30
Peak color: Late September and early October
Hike Mt. Hood National Forest
Lost Lake and Mount Hood Mount Hood National Forest boast more than 1,000 miles of hiking trails scattered throughout seven wilderness areas in northern Oregon's Cascade Mountains. But this outdoor enthusiasts' playground also offers ample opportunities for technical climbers, mountain bikers, paddlers and anglers. For those content to just zone out on the foliage, the golden cottonwoods, crimson vine maples and red-orange huckleberry bushes won't disappoint.
Access: Various trailheads along highway 35, Highway 26 and Highway 224
Peak color: Late September to early October
Hike Fall Creek National Recreational Trail
What better way to pass a crisp fall day than sauntering along a forested creek as you admire the leafy light show of maples, dogwoods, alders, hemlocks and cedars? Nestled 1,000 feet up in the Willamette National Forest, some 30 miles southeast of Eugene, the Fall Creek National Recreational Trail follows the stream for 14 miles. Lots of opportunities for side trips, and if you're an angler, pack your fly rod and try to coax some of Fall Creek's colorful rainbow and cutthroat trout onto the end of your line.
Access: Highway 58 to Lowell, then two miles north to Unity Junction, then road 18 (Fall Creek Road) 11 miles to Dolly Varden Campground. Other trailhead access points are located on Road 1821, at Bedrock Campground, and on Road 1828
Peak color: Early to mid-October
Bike the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest
The biggest mountain biking challenge in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest is deciding where to start. With some 2.4 million acres straddling the border between northeast Oregon and western Idaho, dozens of dirt roads and single-track trails beckon the backwoods cyclist. Elevations in the forest vary from 875 feet to 9,845 feet above sea level, and encompass the Blue and Wallowa Mountains as well as and the spectacular Snake River, which slices through Hells Canyon. Don't forget to watch for groves of cottonwoods in all their golden glory.
Access: Various points of departure along Interstate 84, including Highway 86, Highway 203, Highway 237 and Highway 82
Peak color: Mid-October
Paddling in Portland
Portage isn't a problem for boaters in Portland, who can find plenty of water to keep them occupied within the city limits. One of the best kept secrets for flatwater paddlers is Bybee and Smith Lakes, in north Portland, offering some of the most isolated settings within the city. The Willamette River attracts all manner of craft, and floats run alongside a park. As you drift towards the Columbia River, beach your canoe on Sauvie Island, a farming community with rustic roads, sandy shores and enough different types of trees to put on a leafy rainbow display.
Access: Route 30 in downtown Portland
Peak color: Late October
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication