Fall is a time in Sunriver that is especially close to the locals’ hearts, and for good reason: The weather cools, the crowds disperse, and the mosquitos disappear.
Most visitors this time of year don’t come for the fall colors. Locals say not to expect a sea of reds, oranges, and yellows like the scenes featured on postcards from New England.
“This is a tricky subject in a lodgepole forest,” said David Walker, director of grounds and maintenance for the Sunriver Nature Center and Observatory.
Walker said that Sunriver’s altitude, lack of moisture, and soil quality contribute to its lack of fall color. That said, he does know a few places where you can see a few trees with red-orange tops.
You can check out these places this autumn when you stay at one of Cascara Vacation Rentals’ properties in Sunriver.
Where to find fall foliage in Sunriver
While Sunriver is too high and dry for some of the most common deciduous trees — oaks, maples, elms, etc. — to take root and form a forest stand big enough to create a blanket of color in the fall, there are two types of trees — the quaking aspen and the western larch — that yield a flash of color against the evergreen backdrop of firs and pines. Two of these require a quick drive. But you can get to the third one on your bike!
- Shevlin Park (22.1 miles from The Village at Sunriver) — Everybody knows that the leaves along the banks of Tumalo Creek in Shevlin Park are beautiful because everybody talks about how the leaves along the banks of Tumalo Creek in Shevlin Park are beautiful. In fact, you’re probably going there for a wedding at Aspen Hall. Just check out this photo by Mike Putnam, who sells his work at Patagonia on First Fridays.
- Whychus Canyon Preserve (40.0 miles from The Village at Sunriver) — Healthy stream banks give black cottonwoods access to water. The roots of the trees provide the banks with a foundation that keeps their topsoil from washing away. Tip this balance in one way or another, and the whole thing falls apart. That’s exactly what happened along the banks of Whychus Creek. Fortunately, conservation groups like the Deschutes Land Trust and the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council are working to fix this mess by planting stands of cottonwoods and aspens along the banks of Whychus Creek, which you can now gaze at in their full fall splendor.
- Benham Falls (5.3 miles from The Village at Sunriver) — People who don’t want to venture too far from town should check out the color along the Benham Falls Trail, a 1.5-mile hike you can do with a stroller. It leads to a pretty waterfall that’s a decent 8.8-mile hike from another pretty waterfall. Here’s another Mike Putnam photo as a teaser. Don’t forget to pack your fleece and a bottle of water!
Walker said that visitors to town might also want to look for fall foliage in Sunriver along the banks of the Deschutes River as it flows past the nature center. That’s also a good place to learn more about why leaves change color.
Other ways to enjoy autumn in Sunriver
Here are a few other ways to enjoy autumn in Sunriver:
- Play sports — It may not seem this way, but only 17% of Central Oregon’s yearly rainfall hits us in autumn. This makes it the perfect season — a time when it isn’t too hot or too muddy — to go mountain biking or play a quick round of golf.
- Drink beer — Autumn is also when Oregon’s hops are picked. That means it’s time to try fresh hopped beers, like Sunriver Brewing’s Green Initiative Fresh Hop IPA, a fresh hopped version of its Vicious Mosquito IPA, and a fresh hopped version of the brewery’s Holy Schimdt! Festbier. These people basically threw a whole bunch of fresh off-the-vine hop blossoms into a light Oktoberfest lager. Give it a try!
- Eat some fungi — Hops aren’t the only Central Oregon crop getting picked right now. Thousands of mushrooms — including matsutakes and morels — are starting to poke their cute little heads out of the leaf litter so they can be picked up and eaten. Chef Zachary Mazi will give a cooking demonstration at the nature center’s FungiFest and Mushroom Show on Oct. 9.
- Watch the stars — Last summer, the International Dark Sky Association named Sunriver its first Dark Sky Development of Distinction in Oregon. What does this mean? The nighttime skies are so dark above Sunriver, you should have no problems saying hello to all the autumn constellations — Andromeda, Aries, Cassiopea, Perseus, Pisces, and Taurus — as they cross over the northern hemisphere and continue their journey across the night sky,
Finally, you can always enjoy autumn in Sunriver the way that the locals enjoy it. Just zip up your favorite puffy coat, stand around a firepit, and breathe in the fresh fall air.
Many of the homes in our inventory at Cascara Vacation Rentals also have a fireplace where you can do this under a warm blanket, on a cozy couch, in your favorite slippers.