Outdoor Adventures

Top NW Destinations for Spotting Fall Colors

Editor’s note: We encourage you to practice good physical distancing on the trail. Before you head out, confirm trails are open. Wildfire activity and COVID-19 are causing closures. Be welcoming of all people on the trail.

Forget the Fourth of July. In this corner of the country, Mother Nature puts on an awesome fall fireworks display. Evergreens take the back seat as aspen leaves and blazing larches explode into bursts of brilliant color that complement crisp autumn skies.

To celebrate the colors of the fall season, it’s the perfect time to plan a hiking or biking adventure. There are a ton of local resources you can use to plan a fun autumn trip. For instance, online resources like seasonal trip reports on the Washington Trails Association site and TrailLink by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy are great places to start.

Something to keep in mind: When hitting the trail at this time of year, the days are shorter, nights are chillier and weather patterns are unpredictable. To stay safe, read some fall safety tips before you head out.

Top Trails and Parks in Washington

Chasing Fall ColorsIn the greater Seattle area, check out the Washington Park Arboretum, Discovery Park (where 534 acres on Magnolia Bluff include colorful wooded areas and 11 miles of trails), or Kubota Garden, a tranquil urban oasis in the Rainer Beach neighborhood where you’ll find a waterfall, fish pond and stunning Japanese maples.

To witness the region’s larch trees transitioning to gold, consider hiking the Alpine Lakes region’s Teanaway district or the North Cascades near Washington Pass. For hiking ideas, try Blue Lake, a great family-friendly option that’s just over 4 miles long. Before you go, make sure to check for snow.

Around Leavenworth and Wenatchee, an abundance of trails welcome hikers, mountain bikers and even those on horseback. Those chasing seasonal color should check out spots like Twin Lakes, a moderate 8-mile hike to pristine mountain lakes.

If you drive south from Seattle to Mount St. Helen’s, there’s a good trek on the east side of the Loowit Trail that offers glimpses of bright huckleberry bushes and a range of vibrant autumn grasses.

Save the South Fork Tieton River hike in the South Cascades until mid-October or November. Here you’ll be wowed by trees like cottonwoods, quaking aspens, Garry oaks and shrubby willows. As we head into November, Old Sauk River Trail on Mountain Loop Highway is a great place to see multi-hued mushrooms. At a lower elevation, this hike stays snow-free almost all winter long.

Top Trails and Parks in Oregon

Chasing Fall ColorsIn the Cascades, try the family-friendly Proxy Falls Loop Trail (which traverses open lava fields) or the Waldo Shoreline Trail, which offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountain peaks.

In Central Oregon, hiking options abound. Try Tumalo Falls, located just 20 minutes from downtown Bend, where you’ll find a trail populated with yellow aspens.

Enjoy the color show!