Autumn just may be the very best time of year for landscape and nature photography in Oregon. Every region of the state boasts locations with vivid fall color. As a bonus, the season for prime color is spread over a period of a couple of months, depending on elevation and region. Vine maples kick in with brilliant reds, oranges and yellows as early as late August in the high Cascade Mountains, while in the Columbia River Gorge the colorful foliage can last into early November. Bigleaf maple, with their large, golden- to lemony-yellow leaves are the predominant species for colorful foliage west of the Cascade crest, and pockets of aspen and cottonwood light up canyons and river sides east of the Cascades. Here are some suggestions for where to go to photograph the season’s wonders:
The Columbia River Gorge is a perennial favorite for fall color. Bigleaf maple line the Historic Columbia River Highway and brighten the forest at almost all waterfall sites. Peak color is generally late October through the first week of November.
Just minutes from busy downtown, the Portland Japanese Garden is an oasis of serenity – well, except maybe on fall weekends, when throngs of visitors flock the garden in Washington Park. Nearby Hoyt Arboretum and Forest Park are also great places to find colorful foliage.
How about combining fall foliage photography with a little wine tasting? In late October the rows of grape vines turn yellow, and majestic oak and maple trees line the roads in Willamette Valley Wine Country .
The West Cascades Scenic Byway offers a route through the Cascade Mountains traversing north-south between Estacada and Oakridge. The southernmost leg of the route follows Forest Road 19 between the McKenzie River and Westfir. This section is also known as Aufderheide Memorial Drive, after a former USFS Willamette National Forest supervisor. The road passes through a forest of towering old-growth Douglas-fir trees, interspersed with plenty of bigleaf maple and vine maple.
Silver Falls State Park is a favorite of Oregon photographers in both spring and fall. Ten beautiful waterfalls are easily accessed from a loop trail. South Falls is perhaps the most photogenic, with several viewpoints for varied photo compositions. Get there mid- to late-October for the best color.
Over in eastern Oregon, quaking aspen and cottonwood trees line meadows, canyons and river banks, and high up in the Blue Mountains the needles of the western larch (tamarack) trees, a deciduous conifer, turn yellow and orange. Fall color is best on this side of the state from mid-September to mid-October, depending on elevation.
Looking for places to photograph the season’s splendor a little further north? See my blog post from last year Top 10 Places for Fall Color Photography in Washington.
For more detailed information about locations for shooting fall color in the Pacific Northwest, see my books Photographing Oregon and Photographing Washington.
Where are your favorite places for making photos of the autumn hues?