Hike Here, Drink There: Fall Foliage Hikes and Post-Adventure Stops in the Willamette Valley

By Matt Wastradowski

The Willamette Valley’s mild summer has officially given way to a chilly (and rainy) start to autumn—and that means the countdown to fall foliage is officially on.

Yet with so many forests throughout the valley, It can be daunting to know where to go and what to expect—so we’ve put together a list of five fun hikes to explore some of the region’s most dazzling fall colors. And, this being the Willamette Valley, it only makes sense to pair your hike with beer, cider, or wine afterward.

William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge

Hike Here
The William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1964 to provide a winter habitat for dusky Canadian geese, boasts 12 miles of hiking trails for exploring wetlands, marshes, an oak savannah, and old-growth forests. And while its claim to fame revolves around wintertime habitats for migrating birds, the wildlife refuge is no slouch when it comes to autumn attractions: It hosts forests of Oregon with leaves that turn orange, gold, and yellow.

Drink Here
It’d be a shame to hike around the heart of the Willamette Valley without enjoying the region’s most famous export; its wine. So after your hike, stop at the nearby Tyee Wine Cellars, a family-owned winery that produces 2,000 cases each year. Merrilee Buchanan Benson, Tyee’s winemaker, is a fifth-generation Willamette Valley farmer who produces a variety of regional favorites, including pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot gris.

More from the Corvallis Area
Surrounded by locally owned, nationally known wineries and six craft breweries with a decidedly local bent, you are sure to stay hydrated. Looking for a day-trip? Hike or bike up Marys Peak, the highest point in the Oregon Coast Range, or venture out on the various hiking and biking trails in and around town.

For more inspiration, check out the Heart of the Valley Outdoor Recreation Map, which showcases some of the best outdoor opportunities around Corvallis and Benton County—including paddling, hiking, and more.

Clackamas River and Pup Creek Falls 

Hike Here
Stretch your legs on the 7.8-mile round-trip hike to Pup Creek Falls. The trail gains about 1,700 feet and largely follows the Clackamas River along the way, passing through a forest of Douglas fir and cedar. The two-tiered waterfall itself is surrounded by big-leaf maple trees, which turn vibrant shades of yellow and orange as October unfolds.

Drink Here
Just a quick, 20-minute drive from the Fish Creek trailhead, Stone Circle Cider prides itself on crafting traditional English ciders with a blend of English bittersweet apples and American heirloom apples. Stone Circle’s cozy taproom pours a selection of house-made farmhouse ciders, with dry, semi-dry, and sweet styles on tap as well as rotating seasonal selections.

More from Mt. Hood Territory
Any time of the year, everywhere you look — Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory never ceases to amaze. Take a day trip or weekend outing along the South Clackamas Farm Loop, where you can enjoy locally sourced wines, sample fresh fare, grab provisions from local markets, tour a working creamery, and more.

Silver Falls State Park     

Hike Here
We can’t write about fall foliage in the Willamette Valley without acknowledging Silver Falls State Park. Famous for the Trail of Ten Falls — a hiking path that passes by (and behind) 10 waterfall — the park also lays claim to dazzling leafy displays every autumn. Maple and alder line the trail, especially near the south day-use area, in mid- to late October. The secret is out on the park’s foliage displays, so arrive early to beat the biggest crowds.

We’ve even put together the ultimate guide to Silver Falls State Park—which includes history, lodging options, suggested activities, and more.

Drink Here
You’ve hiked at Silver Falls State Park, so pair your hike with a visit to the brewery named for the so-called “jewel” of the Oregon State Parks system. Silver Falls Brewery offers a palate-pleasing mix of traditional ales and lagers — think strong ales, red ales, IPAs, and the like — with most of its 24 taps dedicated to house-brewed beers.

More from the Salem Area
Salem boasts a dynamic food and beverage scene. Dozens of boutique wineries abound in the area, along with a growing craft beer and hard cider scene. Enjoy delicious, locally sourced cuisine at an area restaurant, pick up fresh produce at a farmers market, or grab gourmet products from one of the community’s many artisan food producers.

Pre’s Trail

Named for University of Oregon track legend Steve Prefontaine, Pre’s Trail boasts several mostly flat loops through Alton Baker Park near Autzen Stadium. The wood chip doubletrack trail winds through scenic forests, passes several small ponds, and—every October and November—cuts through colorful forests of black cottonwood, Oregon ash, alder, and big-leaf maple.

Refuel with a slice and a pint at the nearby Falling Sky Pizzeria on the University of Oregon campus. Falling Sky brews a variety of classic European and Northwest styles—Berliner Weisse, rauchbier, brown ale, and pale ale are among the many styles—to pair with its lineup of pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, and wraps.

More from the Eugene Cascades & Coast
The Eugene, Cascades & Coast region is a foodie paradise, so don’t miss a self-guided tour of the South Willamette Valley Food Trail—which showcases dozens of local farms, restaurants, markets, wineries, and other stops that celebrate the bounty of the region.

Alsea Falls and Green Peak Falls

Hike Here
The Alsea Falls Recreation Site is a popular year-round destination, and for good reason: Hikers and mountain bikers love traversing the network of trails through old-growth forests, not to mention easy proximity to a pair of raging waterfalls. But the hikes are especially alluring every autumn, when forests of aspen, birch, and vine and big-leaf maple dazzle with leaves of orange and yellow. Alsea Falls is a quick jaunt from the parking lot, while reaching the 45-foot Green Peak Falls requires a 3-mile round-trip trek along Peak Creek.

For more outdoor adventure, check out our guide to the waterfalls of the Willamette Valley—featuring roughly 30 cascades in all.

Drink Here
On your way out of the woods, stop in at one of the Willamette Valley’s newest breweries. Monroe’s Long Timber Brewing Company sits roughly halfway between Corvallis and Eugene and brews a variety of classic American styles — like an amber ale, pale ale, IPA, and wheat ale — in a wood-adorned setting that pays tribute to the region’s logging history.

Still Not Sure Where To Go?

We’re here to make that process a bit easier. Travel Lane County has partnered with forest rangers, biologists, and “leaf peepers”, as they’re known, to share the most up-to-date information on where to find fall foliage—and when. Call 800-547-5445 (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday), or visit http://oregonfallfoliage.com for the latest information.