If you love crisp nights, bright yellow, orange and red leaves and stunning views, pack your bags and head to the Pacific Northwest this fall. Washington and Oregon are home to breathtaking scenery, like majestic waterfalls, snow-capped mountains and piercing blue lakes, and are filled with the autumn sights, smells and sounds you crave.
Head west for the perfect fall getaway.
It’s been said that the Pacific Northwest is one of the most beautiful parts of the country, and it’s pretty hard to disagree with that, especially in fall. The trees are filled with cascading colored leaves in yellows, reds, greens and oranges, the mountain peaks are capped with snow and the air is crisp and chilled. Everywhere you look you’re met with views of lakes, mountains and lush landscape. If you’re heading out west to see the foliage, here are our picks on where to go for the best fall experience!
Washington: Where to go for sightseeing
San Juan Islands
For postcard-worthy water, mountain and tree views, as well as a cozy small-town look and feel, head out to the San Juan Islands. Located about an hour’s seaplane ride away from Seattle, these beautiful islands are the perfect place to go for a quiet getaway. Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor, located on the largest island, both have gorgeous views of the San Juan channel where you can go on whale watching tours. For other beautiful sights of the mountains and water, visit the American and British camps located on the Northwest and Southeast points of the island. For stunning views of the harbor (and some of the best and most innovative food on the island) stay the night at the Friday Harbor House. Be sure to get a harbor-view room for sweeping views of the bustling harbor and mountains.
Situated about 30 minutes outside Seattle lies the Snoqualmie Falls. The 270-foot-tall falls are one of the most popular tourist attractions in Washington, getting almost 2 million visitors a year. There are two free observation decks to view the falls as well as a two-acre park. You can also hike up to the falls from April to October. In autumn, the trees surrounding the falls turn bright red, orange and yellow, which makes for a beautiful view. We recommend a stay at the world-renowned Salish Lodge and Spa right next door for your own private viewing of the falls and one of the best four-course country breakfasts in the country.
You can’t make a trip to Washington without visiting the stunning Mount Rainier National Park, home to one of the largest old-growth forests. This forest is one of the last remaining virgin lowland forests in Washington and has some Douglas-fir trees that are more than 200 years old. Because there is such a diverse range in ages, sizes and varieties of trees in the forest, you experience pockets of light throughout, giving the forest an almost enchanting glow. In addition to trees, there are hundreds of varieties of mosses, ferns, and fungi as well as the Northern spotted owl, the flying squirrel and the marbled murrelet. You also have a stunning view of the snowcapped Mount Rainier from the park.
Oregon: Where to go for sightseeing
Columbia River Gorge
Oregon’s fall foliage season starts in mid-September and peaks around the end of October. For some of the most remarkable views in the state, visit the Columbia River Gorge. For a sweeping view of the entire valley and river, take a scenic cruise on the Historic Columbia Valley Highway, which was opened in 1921. On a drive down the historic highway in fall, you can expect to see dozens of waterfalls, historically restored bridges and structures as well as lush red, green, yellow and orange landscape and moss-lined canyons, and intermittent river views.
Another place you must visit in the fall is the Multnomah Falls, which is located just 30 minutes outside Portland. The icy waterfall is 611 feet tall and is decorated with hundreds of brightly colored trees and plants during the stunning fall season. Native Americans believe the waterfalls were created to win the heart of a young princess who wanted a hidden place to bathe. For one of the best views of the falls, visit the paved trail that takes you to the Benson Bridge, which gives you a perfect view of the fall’s 524 foot drop from the top tier. Photo by Maria of Two Peas and their Pod.
Crater Lake National Park
Lastly, a trip to Oregon is not complete without a stop at the majestic Crater Lake National Park. The lake is 1,943 feet deep, making it the deepest lake in the U.S. What you’ll notice first is its vibrant royal blue color, which is due to the lake’s freshness, depth and ability to absorb and reflect light. During fall, the lake mirrors the bright colors of some of the trees and 2,000-foot-high cliffs and mountains, creating a stunning view. The park sees heavy snowfall (on average 44 feet a year), so be sure to plan your fall trip there at the end of September and very early October. Photo by Daniel Martinek.