6 parks, hikes, and drives to see fall colors in Central Oregon

It is almost time to pull out the knit blankets, pumpkin decor, and apple cider – fall is on its way! Come October, magnificent colors will blanket Central Oregon. And with cooler temperatures, it is a great time to explore the area’s beautiful parks, hiking trails, and scenic drives. Here are seven of the best locations in Central Oregon to see stunning fall foliage.

Shevlin ParkIf you want to take a fall foliage walk, stop by Shevlin Park on the west side of Bend. The whole trail is 10 miles, but you can shorten your route by hiking the Shevlin Park Loop. This easy trail is 4.8 miles and follows Tumalo Creek through vibrant fall hues.

McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic BywayFor a half day or full day of meandering through colorful trees of the Willamette National Forest, head to Sisters to start this scenic loop. Along the 82-mile winding drive, you’ll find vibrant hues in every direction. Allow three to five hours or more if you want to stop at the overlooks, relax at one of the lakes, or hike to a waterfall.

Upper Deschutes River TrailThis 8.5-mile trail runs from Meadow Camp to Benham Falls. Along the path, you can stop at Lava Island, Aspen Camp, and Dillion Falls. Pops of color surround the river and the falls. Visit during peak fall foliage time and you won’t be disappointed.

Drake ParkIf you haven’t visited Drake Park in the fall, you’re missing out. Located in downtown Bend, this is a favorite spot for families to enjoy the cooler weather, jump in leaf piles, and take family photos. You’ll find blazing red from the maples, burnt orange from the oaks, and golden yellow from the willows – all surrounding the peaceful Mirror Pond.

Cove Palisades State ParkLocated in Culver, this state park is home to the Deschutes and Crooked River canyons. If you like fall camping, this is a great weekend location for the whole family. While the hiking paths are amazing all year, certain ones are extra special in autumn. Take the easy 4.6-mile West Metolius River Trail to hike through an abundance of colorful deciduous trees.

Peter Skene Odgen TrailFor a longer hike (up to 22.3 miles), head to La Pine. The trail can be joined in several spots, but McKay Falls is a popular starting place. The path runs adjacent to Paulina Creek through vibrant autumn colors of Deschutes National Forest. Take your time and enjoy the beauty of the season.


Mt. Hood Scenic BywayThis scenic loop is not in Central Oregon, but it is the quintessential fall road trip if you’re willing to travel north to Mt. Hood National Forest to get started. The loop is 146 miles and takes you past an array of hiking opportunities, campsites, waterfalls, overlooks, and other activities, not to mention Mt. Hood itself. Add in an abundance of fall colors and you have the ultimate Oregon road trip.

By Hannah Drewieck, TDS Communications Intern

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