I know I said September is the best time of year in Oregon, but October is just as perfect in its own way. The weather is cooler, the leaves begin to drop, the rains return. Almost anywhere you go is lovely, and most of the fires are out by now, so you can count on cleaner air. Here are my five suggestions for travel in the month of October. No matter where you go, get your sunny days in before it rains so much you forget what sunshine feels like on your skin.

The Oregon Coast

Hands down, this is the best time of year to visit the beach. The skies are often clear and sunny in the early part of fall. A great time for a chill coastie hike, like Saddle Mountain, Neahkanhie, Cape Falcon, or the Drift Creek Wilderness.

I also love driving my car out on to the beach and having a picnic on the tailgate north of Cape Kiwanda, heading inland and upriver to explore the canyons (on literally any coastal river, they are all stunning, just pick one), or exploring the spits that curl out into any of the bays lining the north coast. Nestucca, Netarts, Bayocean…

Crater Lake National Park

Don’t get me started on Oregon only having one National Park. I mean, maybe it’s for the best, after all, the National parks are always crawling with tourist fuckery all summer long. Once school is back in session, the cold weather hits, and the crowds abate, there is plenty of solitude to be found in the park. I like to play on the eastern side of the lake, which always feels less populated to me, and obviously, if you take any detours provided off the main park loop and you’ll find more solitude, too. This is a super unique landscape; when I’m here I find myself making comparisons to Mount Saint Helens, and Spirit Lake. Which brings me to me next suggestion….

Mount Saint Helens National Monument

Technically, I prefer to focus on Oregon destinations, because that’s what I know best, but Loowit is and will always be my favorite mountain. Fall is a beautiful time to visit the Mount Margaret backcountry, where the huckleberry bushes are turning scarlet, or wind your way up Ape Canyon to the Plains of Abraham, one of the most eerie and otherworldly parts of the blast zone.

Old Salmon River Trail

That old salmon river trail never gets old. No matter how many years I watch the giant maples drop their leaves on the deeply pockmarked Salmon River Road, the magic never wears off. The Salmon River is musical and mellow as it winds its way through the forest here, there are plenty of opportunities to visit side trails that lead to mossy, rocky beaches, wind through ancient stands of trees, and visit the beautiful, mossy slopes of the canyon hillside.

Some of us might be hungry for more than a rather flat, five mile hike, in which case you can just keep going up the salmon river trail to the overlook, make your way up green canyon way, or (my personal favorite) trek up river a few miles to the blissfully forgotten and less travelled Salmon Butte.

Painted Hills, John Day National Monument

An Oregon road trip classic, you just have to go to the painted hills. Even though it’s really far from most major population centers, even though it’s not the coolest part of the three-piece monument, even though the best examples of the Painted Hills features are actually located on private land interspersed around the local area, you should definitely go see it. What better excuse could you have to spend some time in the Ochocos while you’re out there, or travel through one of my favorite parts of Oregon, Wasco county. Pack a cooler, fill up on gas, grab a buddy or two, a camera, and a good map. There’s a lot to see out yonder in the eastern part of the state, and I wouldn’t want you to miss out on all the fun the rest of us are having.

The author on the summit of Mount Saint Helens, 2017.

Published by Norther

Norther Emily, Wild Solitude Guiding. I teach foraging classes, lead guided private hikes, host retreats to remote places in Oregon, give excellent travel advice #NortherKnowsBest , and I’m here to teach people how to reconnect with nature.

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