The 5 Best Places to Catch the Fall Color in Central Oregon

Chris Smith | 08.06.20

Fall in Central Oregon is a sightseer’s dream. Thick groves of towering trees awash in bright hues of yellow, red, and gold, crisp rivers gurgling under a vibrant autumn sunset, and distant mountain peaks glinting snow-capped in the distance make the entire area a perfect snapshot of this remarkable season.


Thanks to its abundance of natural beauty, you need only walk outside of your Sisters Vacation rental to experience stunning fall views. But if you’re looking for a real taste of fall foliage in the area, you’ll need to stray a little off the beaten path and immerse yourself in the Central Oregon wilderness. 


To help you on your journey, here are the 5 best places to catch the fall color in Central Oregon. 


Camp Polk Meadow Reserve


151 acres of dense wetlands, vibrant meadows, lush aspen groves, and ponderosa pine stands makes the perfect recipe for stunning fall foliage. Marked, paved trails through the reserve provide an easy way to explore its diverse terrain while taking in the glorious autumn leaves and foraging wildlife. 


On October 3, join the Deschutes Land Trust and Martha Lussenhop for the annual Climate Change and Fall Colors Hike through the reserve. Along this 2-mile trek, you’ll experience the ancient meadows in full fall glory as you learn about the impact of climate change on this timeless natural landscape. Registration begins one month before the event. 


Just steps from the reserve on the banks of Indian Ford Creek, our Meadow View Cabin offers sweeping views of its surrounding 10 acres of wild juniper, sage, and towering pines. 


Upper Deschutes River Trail


The Deschutes River Trail is a winding hike that immerses you in some of Central Oregon’s best riverside wilderness. It has two main parts – Upper Deschutes and Lower Deschutes – that can be fully explored for a full day of fun, but the Upper Deschutes River Trail is by far the best stretch for stunning fall color. 


The upper trail from Meadow Picnic Area to Benham Falls is a long 17 miles to complete there and back, but you can hike as long or as short as you’d like from any of the trail’s many access points. As you make your way along the banks of the Deschutes River, you’ll pass ancient lava fields, stretches of cascading white rapids interspersed with gentle flows, and all the lush riverside vegetation you could want. During the fall, thick groves of aspen, cedar, and willow turn to dizzying shades of red and gold against the crystal blue river and vibrant evergreen trees.  


The West Metolius River Trail


Just north of Sisters near Camp Sherman and Black Butte Ranch, the Metolius River Trail takes you on a magical journey alongside one of Oregon’s most picturesque rivers. The water’s gushing white rapids flow through an old-growth forest of ponderosa pine and douglas fir trees, creating a stunning contrast in the fall as the leaves come alive with color. As you make your way downstream from the Canyon Creek Campground, you’ll pass gurgling streams that feed the river from the mossy hillsides, inlet islands full of lush wildflowers, and branches full of curious birdlife that serenade you on your trek.


At the turnback for the 5.6-mile trail, you’ll get the chance to visit the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery. Stop in to feed the fish, view a small but scenic waterfall, and catch a glimpse of the hatchery’s famous two-headed fish tank.


If the Metolius River puts you in a fall frenzy, book your stay at one of our Metolius River properties! Cozy cabins like our Metolius Cabin 1 will keep you close to the river and surrounded by rustic appeal and comfortable amenities. 


Tumalo Falls


A short hour south of Sisters in the Deschutes National Forest, Tumalo Falls is a 97-foot waterfall that’s impressively beautiful year-round. During the fall, the Tumalo Falls Trail is lined with soaring aspen trees that drop yellow and gold leaves to scatter on the ground, float in the air, and hang breathtakingly from their delicate branches. It’s like being surrounded by a shimmering fall snowglobe! 


Drive The Scenic McKenzie Pass – Santiam Pass Byway


Not all experiences of fall foliage need to be done on foot. The McKenzie Pass – Santiam Pass Byway takes you on a breathtaking 82-mile loop along Highways 242, 126, and 20, starting and ending in downtown Sisters.


Along the journey, you’ll pass through several contrasting scenes that provide a startling backdrop to the area’s autumn ambiance. Black-bed lava fields, vibrant green meadows, and snow-topped Cascade Mountain peaks are just some of the landscapes you’ll traverse as you make a winding, scenic loop of the best Central Oregon has to offer. Through it all, coniferous trees, Douglas Fir forests, and golden grasslands will treat you to a dizzying array of golds, reds, and yellows as fall spreads across the area. 


If you have time, be sure to stop by one of the many trails accessible from the highway for an even closer look at the fall wilderness. The McKenzie River National Recreational Trail, Tamolitch Pool, and Proxy Falls are favorites on this fall foliage fiesta!

No matter which Central Oregon location you choose to seek out fall color, your Sisters Vacation Rentals property is the perfect place to start. Browse our available rentals and book your fall foliage journey today!

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