7 Places for Discovering the Northwest’s Most Spectacular Fall Foliage
Experience the Vibrant Rich Hues of Fall in the Northwest by Experiencing One of These Fabulous Destinations
It may be hard to fathom with the sizzling temperatures the Northwest region of the country is experiencing this summer, but autumn really is just around the corner. And, with this wonderful season brings colorful fall foliage that includes deep, rich golds, fiery reds and golden yellows.
If you’d like to experience the Best of the Northwest’s autumn foliage, these leaf-peeping destinations are ideal.
Leavenworth is internationally famous as a Bavarian-style town set along the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountain Range in Washington. Often ranked among the top spots in the western U.S. for autumn color and fall festivals, one of the best ways to experience it is to attend the Autumn Leaf Festival during the last weekend in September, or the world-renowned Oktoberfest in October. Either way, be sure to include a scenic drive on one of the multiple fall foliage routes that start here, like the especially scenic section of Highway 2 that stretches from the Greater Seattle area to Leavenworth. Take a slight detour to Lake Wenatchee to see the bright golden trees reflected in the water, and by traveling south on Highway 97, you can soak up the beauty of the dense forests around Blewett Pass, filled with beautiful aspens, cottonwoods and vibrant huckleberry bushes.
Mount Baker Scenic Byway
Starting just west of Bellingham and winding up to jaw-dropping Artist Point, the Mount Baker Scenic Byway is the only road to Mount Baker, and one of the region’s top fall foliage drives. It travels through the stunning Nooksack River Valley, where you’ll not only be able to view gorgeous colors, but breathtaking falls like Nooksack Falls.
Mount Rainier is an active stratovolcano and the most prominent peak in the Cascades, looming over the entire Puget Sound region at over 14,400 feet. If you’ve never been, or it’s been awhile since your last visit, early fall is arguably the very best time to go, with the crowds thinned out, the weather often ideal and brilliant colors throughout the landscape. Be sure to take the scenic drive to Lake Tipsoo, which mirrors the mountain and offers more awe-inspiring views from an easy loop trail, one of the best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park.
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
The Columbia Gorge, which slices through the Cascades, forming a natural border between Washington and Oregon, is a spectacular sight all year round, but in the autumn, when cottonwoods, Oregon ash, firs and big-leaf maples begin to showcase their array of colors, it’s particularly stunning. Take a scenic drive along the Columbia River for glimpses of bronze and golden hues, along with countless waterfalls, stopping occasionally to hike one of the trails, or get out onto the water in a kayak, canoe or boat.
Mount Hood Scenic Loop, Oregon
Combine a drive along the Mount Hood Scenic Byway with the Historic Columbia River Highway, for a trip along the Mount Hood Scenic Loop. This unforgettable drive delivers particularly striking autumn colors in the Gorge, as well as within the orchards of Hood River and Mount Hood itself. If you want to stick around awhile, consider a stay at one of Oregon’s most iconic mountaintop destinations, Timberland Lodge. This National Historic Landmark is situated at the midway point of the mountain at nearly 6,000 feet in elevation for fantastic close-up vistas of the famous peak.
Silver Falls State Park, Oregon
Vine maples and red alders are common sights at Silver Falls State Park, allowing visitors to view a wealth of mesmerizing waterfalls surrounded by brilliant splashes of color, particularly along the Trail of Ten Falls.
Sun Valley, Idaho
Autumn is a wonderful time to be in the nearly always sunny Sun Valley, Idaho. There are few tourists this time of year, the days are warm, the nights are pleasant cool, and the beautiful colors of fall can be enjoyed too. The sun soaked aspen and cottonwood leaves leave behind nature's own yellow brick road, with the kaleidoscope of colors delivering an incredibly enchanting hiking experience.
For other great trip ideas, including the region’s very best waterfalls to visit, check out BestoftheNorthwest.com.
About K.C. Dermody
K.C. Dermody is the author of hundreds of travel articles both online and in print as well as the author of the Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland and the communications director for Best of the Northwest, which features locally-owned businesses, travel ideas and more focused around the Pacific Northwest. K.C. has traveled throughout the world and has a passion for imparting what she has learned from her experiences to others, but always appreciates coming home to, and sharing, the beauty of the Northwest.