Oregon fall foliage features brilliant hues and spectacular scenery. The changing colors of leaves in autumn is one of nature’s most beloved rites of passage -- and makes for one of the most popular and inexpensive getaways for families. As part of LeafQuest -- a MapQuest series helping leaf peepers across North America find easy and rewarding destinations -- here are three recommended spots for viewing Oregon fall foliage. — Nick Romano
McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass
West Central Oregon's McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway loops through two national forests -- Willamette and Deschutes -- snow-covered peaks and lava flows for one of the most unique leaf-peeping excursions imaginable. Much of the forests comprise pine trees, such as fir, red cedar and lodgepole pines, but the changing color is provided by maples, oaks, beech, and birch. Visitors can revel in the dramatic convergence of lava and snow on one of this area's many naturally occurring snow-capped volcanoes -- in fact, the byway boasts "the highest concentration of snowcapped volcanoes (and associated glaciers) in the lower 48 states." Start your quest at the byway's East Portal Interpretive Center in the small town of Sisters, brimming with Western ambience -- and the only place to get gas on the 82-mile loop!
East Portal Interpretive Center, Sisters, OR | Get Directions
Aufderheide National Forest Scenic Byway
How reliably delightful is the fall foliage along Oregon's Aufderheide National Forest Scenic Byway? Well, the forest was named after a former Willamette National Forest supervisor -- Robert Aufderheide -- so that's a promising start. The Oregon Fall Foliage blog cites the French Pete Trail just off the byway as one of the best fall hikes in the state. In addition, visitors should check out Constitution Grove, an area along the route filled with trees more than 200 years -- trees that were seedlings when the U.S. Constitution was signed (each tree has a plaque named after a signer of the Constitution). Also keep an eye out for elk, bears, bobcats and cougars.
Aufderheide Drive, Blue River, OR | Get Directions
The Columbia River Gorge
Within the Cascade Mountain Range sits the Columbia River Gorge, the nation's first national scenic area. The 80-mile river canyon is home to numerous oak, ash, cottonwood and maple trees. But the biggest attraction here is Multnomah Falls, the "grandaddy" of the 77 Oregon falls in the gorge. As traveloregon.com says, "At 620 feet, only three falls in the nation are higher, and none are more beautiful."
Multnomah Falls Visitor Center, 5000 Historic Columbia River Highway, Bridal Veil, OR 97010 | Get Directions
Footage from a fall motorcycle trip through the McKenzie Pass.
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Want other great fall-foliage destinations? Check out more LeafQuest.