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Jared Kennedy | 10.02.2014

A few weeks ago, our friends at Base Camp Brewing asked me to put together a presentation on why fall is a great time to go outside. The premise was that, of the four seasons, fall is the least exciting for outdoor recreation. As the rain settles in, hiking, camping, and other popular summer activities can get shelved for the occasional breaks in otherwise dreary weather. But to me, that's looking at the season in the wrong way.

I love fall as much as any other season. Seasonal transitions are a time of change, and that means getting to see familiar places with a whole new perspective. There are things you can see and do in fall that you can't in the summer, or in any other month for that matter. I wanted to highlight seven reasons why the fall season on the West Coast is awesome. It is somewhat geared toward the Pacific Northwest since the presentation happened in Portland, Oregon, but we've added some California recommendations here as well.

The following is the first of a seven part series. Part one is focused on what generally comes to mind first, a chance to see fall colors. The remaining articles will be published, two per week, throughout October.

Part 1: Fall Colors
Part 2: Migratory Species
Part 3: High Water
Part 4: Mushrooms
Part 5: Desert Visits
Part 6: Hot Springs
Part 7: Off-Season Lodge Rates

Fall is the season to watch colors change in the outdoors. Nature adds orange, red, yellow, and purple to the greens, blues and browns of the summer months. The best places to watch colors change are anywhere you find deciduous trees. Aspen, bigleaf maple, and western larch are my favorites. The following adventures are admittedly a small sampling of the places you can go to enjoy the changing colors of fall, but they're some of the places I enjoy visiting time and again.

Deschutes River Trail

This trail runs along the Deschutes River outside of Bend, Oregon. It leads past numerous waterfalls and has offshoot trails to explore. The riparian area includes aspen and many tall ponderosa pine trees that add some permanent green to the fall colors.

Metolius River Trail

Hike along a Wild and Scenic River. Much like the Deschutes River Trail, this Central Oregon gem combines pine trees with aspen groves and a lush riparian understory that comes alive in the fall. It stays drier here later in the year, so although the temperature drops, camping along the Metolius is still an option in fall.

Cape Horn Loop Trail

The Cape Horn Loop is one of the closest sections of the Columbia River Gorge to Portland on the Washington side of the river. Bigleaf maples abound, and leaves crunch underfoot for the majority of the hike. Even in the rain, this trail is a joy to hike on.

Pike Creek Mine Hike

Aspen, aspen, aspen. Steens Mountain's many gorges are full of aspen trees, and the Pike Creek Mine Hike is the perfect way to enjoy them. If you want to have a corner of Oregon to yourself in the fall and get some iconic fall color photos in the process, this hike is worth the long car journey to get there.

Green Ridge Lookout

If you're lucky enough to get reservations at the Green Rige Lookout, which is rentable until November 17, you're in for a treat. The tower stands 2,000 feet above the Metolius River and is surrounded by a forest of ponderosa pine, cedar, larch and Douglas fir. From the deck you can enjoy the colors of fall in the valley below.

Eightmile Lake in The Enchantments

Once peak season concludes on October 15, you no longer need a permit to access The Enchantments. If you're lucky, you can beat the snow and get a brief window of time to explore this incredible area. During the fall, the western larch trees change color, giving The Enchantments a whole new perspective. Regardless of the season you visit, this should be on a bucket list, but if you have a chance, fall is a great time.

Hoh Rain Forest

You can visit the Hoh Rain Forest in the Olympic Peninsula year-round, and it's almost always guaranteed to be soggy and wet, meaning fall is as good of a season as any other. Adding to its majesty, the bigleaf maples get a new dose of fall color to the green, moss-covered trees.

Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

This California State Park was once the world's largest hydraulic mining pit, and today it offers visitors a glimpse into California's once-bustling gold mining history. The operation exposed sedimentary walls reminiscent of a miniature Bryce Canyon. In the fall, a hike on the Diggins Loop Trail is a beautiful way to experience the change of seasons.

South Yuba River State Park + Point Defiance Loop Trail

In the summer months, South Yuba River State Park can get scorching hot, but it cools down in the fall. Even better, the fall foliage along the river puts on a scenic display throughout the river canyon. Grey pine, black oak and interior live oak are prevalent in the area. The 3-mile Point Defiance Loop Trail is in the westernmost portion of the park.

Yosemite Valley Bicycle Loop

In the fall, the crowds thin out in Yosemite Valley, and one of the best ways to explore the area is by bicycle. Amidst the ponderosa pine trees that stay green, the deciduous trees change colors and begin to lose their leaves. Don't forget to bring a bike lock to take side excursions along the way.

Grover Hot Springs State Park

To the south of Lake Tahoe, Grover Hot Springs State Park combines thermal baths with great trails and camping that is open year-round. Visitors can explore the surrounding forests, meadows and 10,000-foot granite peaks. Autumn brings a spectacular quaking aspen display.


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