Oct 082015
Aspen trees on Steens Mountain

Aspen trees in fall color at Jackman Park on Steens Mountain, southeastern Oregon.

If you’re looking for a good place to photograph Fall Color, Steens Mountain in southeast Oregon is looking good right now.

Overall, I’d say this is not a great year for fall color in the Pacific Northwest, due to the lack of rain and unusually warm temperatures we’ve had going back to early spring, but on a visit to the Steens earlier this week I found plenty of colorful trees to work with.

Driving the Steens Mountain Loop starting at Page Springs Campground just east of Frenchglen I found multiple groves of aspen, and those from Fish Lake up to Jackman Park are at the peak of color.

This being a somewhat odd year for the leaves, some trees are still green, while others are bright yellow. In a few places, especially near Jackman Park, you’ll see groves where the leaves have turned orange.

My guess is that the color will be good for at least another week, and there are currently no storms in the weather forecast that will blow the leaves away. In fact, the weather is predicted to continue to be unseasonably warm, so a roadtrip to southeastern Oregon will be a delight.

Somewhat surprisingly, the cottonwood trees around Frenchglen have not started to turn color yet, and the aspens over in Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge are just beginning to turn.

Keep in mind that this is hunting season, so be sure to wear bright colors when you’re out in the woods or the sage. On another note, the Steens Mountain Loop Road is in very good condition now; yes there are many places with minor washboarding, but there are no deep ruts and a regular passenger car can make the whole loop.

For more information about photographing Steens Mountain, and the surrounding area, see Chapter 12 in my book Photographing Oregon and the BLM page for Steens.

Roadtrip anyone? If you go, let me know what you find.


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  7 Responses to “Fall Color on Steens Mountain”

  1. Nice Greg. It reminds me of a view I saw toward Mt. Sneffels while driving West on route 62 in Colorado.

  2. Does look like good color there on Steens. And yes, the weather this year in the Pac NW really messed up the “normal” seasons for wildflowers, fall color, etc. Next year looks like more of the same based on the long-range forecasts.

    My wife is attending a conference in Portland next week and I’m coming along for the ride. I won’t be able to make it over to Steens, but was thinking of going to Silver Falls St Park. Any idea about the fall colors there, Greg? Or if you have any other recommendations, I’d appreciate it.

    • I was thinking of going to Silver Falls next week also, Joe. Haven’t heard anything about it yet, but in the past I’ve called the visitor center/store at the park and gotten good information on the conditions. When I came over Willamette Pass the other day there was some nice, if not great, fall color at mid-elevation and a few bright vine maples higher up.

      You might also want to spend some time at the Japanese Garden in Portland if you haven’t covered that extensively before. There are also some good trees in the adjacent Forest Park and Hoyt Arboretum.

    • Joe: I just saw a photo of South Falls, taken 10/10/15, on a Facebook forum and there is hardly any water coming over the falls. Silver Falls is always a great place to visit and go for a hike, but any photos of the waterfalls made right now will be pretty atypical.

      • Thanks for the info Greg. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised with the lack of water at Silver Falls with the weather we’ve had this year. Atypical photos are not always such a bad thing – different from the typical iconic shots. I’ll have to think on whether to go down there or not. And I haven’t been to the Japanese Garden in Portland, I’ve seen a lot of great images from there; I may have to check it out.

  3. […] read more at  Fall Color on Steens Mountain – Wanders & Wonders […]

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