Autumn is hands down one of the most beautiful times of the year in the Pacific Northwest. Although Washington and Oregon are stereotyped as gray and rainy, they actually contain some of the most breathtaking fall color in the country. I set out this year to capture as many locations as I could to showcase the beauty of these two states. Here are my top 8 locations to see and photograph fall color in the Pacific Northwest.
Portland Japanese Garden, OR
Designed in 1963, the Portland Japanese Garden is the most authentic garden outside of Japan. Nestled on the West side of Portland, this garden is well worth the trip. The garden features beautiful pathways, streams, ponds, Koi fish, and Japanese maple trees. These Japanese maple trees, or Acer Palmatum/Palmate maple trees, are the main attraction here, and are the reason so many photographers flock to the garden each year. There is a narrow window of time when all the leaves suddenly turn a red, orange, and yellow color, painting the entire garden with vibrant hues of color. It is here where you will find the world famous Japanese maple tree, which was popularized by photographers Peter Lik and Aaron Reed. My image, “Fire Breather” showcases this tree at its peak fall color just after a rainstorm saturated the entire scene.
2. Leavenworth, WA
Leavenworth is one of the most unique cities in the whole state of Washington. This quaint city (population 1,965) is modeled after a Bavarian village in Germany. It is a bucket list destination for people looking to experience the Octoberfest and Christmas Lighting Festival. During the month of October, the entire landscape around the city transforms. Bursts of yellow begin to flood the mountains, presenting beauty that rivals that of Colorado. Driving on U.S. Highway 2 will provide stunning views along the Wenatchee River. The yellow and red colors from the Maple and Aspen trees complement the stunning blue water that flows through the city. My image, “Flow of Fall” was taken during a breathtaking morning. I simply could not believe the colors that my eyes were seeing.
3. Snoqualmie, WA
During fall, Snoqulamie is a great weekend getaway from Seattle. There are so many beautiful sights to take in here. Three of my favorites are the Rockwood Farm, Borst Lake, and Soqualmie Falls. Rockwood Farm features a long gated road with vibrant red trees that create a wonderful canopy. This is a classic fall color photograph to capture. After photographing the road, it’s easy to drive over to Borst Lake where you can catch a spectacular sunset with reflections of Mount Si. That is exactly what I did to capture, “Road Less Traveled” and “Reflecting on Fall.” Soqualmie Falls is also a spectacle to see year round and will not disappoint during fall.
4. Washington Park Arboretum & Japanese Garden in Seattle, WA
The Washington Park Arboretum is a beautiful, and free, park nestled in the heart of Seattle. The park features many varieties of plants, which you can enjoy along its many trails. This is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of Seattle. Within the Arboretum is the Seattle Japanese Garden, which although requires a small entrance fee, is worth it as you immerse yourself in the tranquil and zen atmosphere. It has similar features to that of the Portland Japanese Garden and is a must see for anyone looking for trees of all shapes and colors. The garden was filled with fog when I visited. The atmosphere simplified the scene, allowing me to capture, “Zen Lake.”
5. Multnomah Falls, OR
When most people think of the Pacific Northwest, they usually think of huge waterfalls and Evergreen trees, accompanied by lots and lots of rain. Well, my image, “Majestic Multnomah” included all of those characteristics. Here you can see the falls raging due to the heavy rainfall that weekend. Up until this year, I had yet to capture a compelling photograph from Oregon’s tallest and most famous waterfall. Multnomah Falls is a towering waterfall at 620ft tall, which feels like the gateway to the Columbia River Gorge. Although there are hundreds of other spectacular waterfalls in the area, sadly I could not hike to any due to the destruction of the recent fire. My fingers are crossed that the Gorge will be resilient and bounce back to life after the rainy season.
6. Kerry Park in Seattle, WA
Kerry Park is a popular location in Seattle due to its unobstructed view of the city skyline. You can experience unbelievable views of the city with the massive Mt. Rainier looming in the backdrop. Although this view is unbeatable all year round, fall is a spectacular time to go. The trees in the foreground exhibit wonderful colors that complement the intense colors of a Seattle sunset. My image, “Falling for Seattle” captures the essence the city at its best and is a play on words about how this view made me fall in LOVE with my home city of Seattle.
7. Boardman, OR
The Boardman tree farm, popular on Instagram, is even more beautiful in person. Unfortunately, this might have been the last year to ever photograph the farm, as they have been gradually cutting down all the trees. It is sad to see such beauty go, and I feel grateful to have experienced it myself. The trees are somewhat scattered in large clusters on the side of the road when you drive into town. When you step foot into one of these groves it feels like you are in a different world. The whole forest feels enchanted and glows with golden fall color. The infinite yellow in the forest is sure to brighten anyone’s day. I spent hours here photographing images like, “Stand Out” as well as taking a long nap in my hammock; not a bad way to spend an autumn day. For more information on the Boardman tree farm please see this reference.
8. Cedar Creek Grist Mill in Woodland, WA
This location is a historical grist mill that was built in 1876. The mill is still operational and also serves as a museum. This is a great place to learn how a historical mill produces its corn meal, flour, and apple cider - which you can get samples of! The grist mill is a place I have known about for years, but was never able to make the drive. When I finally made the trip this year, I couldn’t have anticipated just how magical it would look. My image, “Fall at the Grist” shows the whole entire scene engulfed in stunning yellow foliage. It was so calming to watch the leaves fall slowly into the stream and be carried along past me. This unforgettable place is only a short 45 minute drive from Portland.
Thank you for reading about my 2018 fall adventures. I hope you enjoyed the photographs I captured! Please let me know your thoughts and questions in the comment section. Cheers!