Fall Getaways: Oregon

October 15, 2010
by Sarah Amandolare
Fall is made for festivals, hikes in the woods and scenic road trips, with stops along the way for crisp red apples and stunning photo opportunities. Two of the best areas for these distinctly autumnal activities are Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge and Hood River Valley.

The Mount Hood Railroad

Oregon’s Mount Hood Railroad reopened in 2008 after a two-year repair project that cost $1 million to complete. Massive flooding had washed out a portion of the track, which runs from Hood River to the base of monstrous Mount Hood. The railroad transports nearly 70,000 awestruck passengers per year, according to USA Today.

The Web site of the Mount Hood Railroad details various train tours through the scenic Hood River Valley, including narrated historic excursion trains, train rides for families and romantic dinner trains for couples. Also learn about the new Dome Car, where you can enjoy dinner or brunch on board.

According to Travel Oregon, the Mount Hood Railroad also has fall foliage train rides during Autumn Fest, October 20-21, giving train riders full access to the season’s vivid leaves from the comfort of a rumbling locomotive. You’ll depart from Mt. Hood Railroad Depot in Hood River and head in the direction of Parkdale, where the train stops for a layover of “live music, fresh produce, fine art” and the foliage of surrounding orchards and hills.

Driving the Columbia River Highway

If you’d prefer to be behind the wheel, coasting freely along the historic Columbia River Highway, consult the National Scenic Byways Program for information. The photogenic road was “the first scenic highway in the U.S. to gain the distinction of National Historic Landmark,” and offers ample stopping opportunities at waterfalls, hiking trails and scenic overlooks. Get route ideas, including one that explores both sides of the Columbia River, maps and directions before you go.

Gorge Sports

Sherman’s Travel named the Columbia River Gorge one of its Top Ten Foliage Destinations for its abundance of outdoor activities, including hiking through fir forests to “dazzling waterfalls,” white-water rafting and kayaking. The Columbia River Gorge winds through Oregon’s Cascade Mountain range, and maple trees burst with colorful foliage between mid-September and mid-October.

Oregon has some of the best hiking trails in the Pacific Northwest, boasting mountain backdrops, clean air and a distinct pine smell.  GORP details hiking trails in the Mount Hood National Forest, as well as the Columbia Gorge and Hood River ranger districts. Each trail has a different level of difficulty and distance, and GORP provides driving and walking directions to trails, as well as camping information.

Browse a list of waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge from Each waterfall is briefly described, along with the accompanying hikes’ level of difficulty, and you’ll learn the proximity of other waterfalls, driving directions and the best time of year to visit.

Fall Fun

The USDA Forest Service has information on each national forest area in Oregon. Click “Pacific Northwest National Forests” for corresponding pages of information listing upcoming events in each area.

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