Unidentified mushrooms growing on the end of a log on North Umpqua Trail. Foraging is an enriching way to spend time in nature during fall. Image courtesy of Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington via Flickr.

Hanging around in forested areas is not only for warm summer days! Some of the best fall foliage is in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), and living in Portland gives you the opportunity to choose your own adventure. There’s something for everyone: coastal, high mountain, and deep forest experiences surround those who live in and around the Portland metro area. 

I spent much of my childhood exploring places like the ones in this article, and something about the fall season in the woods just makes me feel brand new. The PNW is already known for having some of the best forests and hiking trails in the nation, and fall is arguably the best season. Sweater weather and colorful leaves combined with famous nature are a winner in my book.

I put out a request for students and community members to submit their favorite places to visit around this type of year, and selected three very different spots to feature the versatility of our PNW nature. I have also included a mini-interview from a member of the Franklin High School Foraging Club, so look forward to that. These three spots prove that the PNW has the best autumns; if you need convincing you should visit them. 

Forest Park 

This first place is right here in Multnomah County, our beloved Forest Park. There are more than 40 access points and connecting trails in the park’s 5,200 acres, according to the City of Portland’s “Find a Park” page. Depending on which direction you enter the park, there are different experiences to be had. For many people who grew up in and around Portland, Forest Park is a place we visited with friends and family. Paying it a visit always brings nostalgia for me, and maybe it will for you as well. Even if it’s your first time ever visiting the park, there’s something for everyone! You are bound to find something you’ll enjoy. 

The Wildwood/Pittock Mansion trailhead is one of the more famous Forest Park attractions, where you can visit the Witch’s Castle and Portland’s tallest tree. With so many different trails and access points, it is easy to design your hike to be a certain mileage, allowing you to spend exactly how much time you would like there. The park is also accessible by public transportation and/or biking, meaning no car is needed to enjoy this lovely spot!

Beacon Rock State Park

Firstly, this spot is in Washington but it’s only 30 miles northeast of Portland, and still a part of our gorgeous PNW. It takes about an hour to drive to this breathtaking landmark. You will also have to pay a small day pass fee upon arrival, but it is as much worth it as the drive is. There’s a very cool history of Beacon Rock itself (I won’t spoil it) on plaques around the access points to the trails, and an incredible hike to be had. What better place to observe the fall leaves than from above? The mile-long ascent up the rock will take you almost 850 feet above the ground, allowing for a different perspective and an incredible view of the Columbia River. Speaking of the river, there is a trail in the park to a beautiful dock where you can see the rock from below. If you squint hard enough, you can even see the teeny-tiny little people making their way up it. 

I once was able to drive to the park, hike all the way up the rock (and back down again), and drive back to Portland in a single morning. The trip doesn’t need to take the whole day. Even when the leaves aren’t fun colors, the viewpoints throughout the hike and at the top of the rock are absolutely stunning.

Tillamook State Forest

In the fall, many exciting things are happening: the leaves are changing colors and falling off of the trees, fall fruits are ripening, and mushrooms are growing pretty much everywhere. This last spot is a longer haul, but The Tillamook State Forest is absolutely massive—364,000 acres to be exact—and filled with edible mushrooms according to Adrian Wilkinson, senior at Franklin and member of the Franklin High School Foraging Club. If you take “any of the trails off [H]ighway 6 [….] heading towards the coast” you are pretty much guaranteed to find some fungi you can eat,” according to Wilkinson. They continue on to say that “mushrooms grow there like weeds and you can literally go into any forested area along the coast in fall and be sure to find something.” Does that not just make you want to put on some warm clothes and boots and hunt around in a rich forest for your very own mushroom bounty?

As exciting as it all is, I must do my due diligence and request that anyone who chooses to forage take only what they need and make sure that the mushrooms they are harvesting are actually edible. Please do your research beforehand or consult a friend or family member who knows what will make a delicious mushroom omelet and what will make your nose turn green and fall off (I obviously don’t know how this works, so don’t ask me!). 

In closing, happy hiking, sight-seeing, and foraging! This fall I will be bundling up and heading into some woods probably around where Wilkinson mentioned on Highway 6. There’s nothing quite like soggy forest time and good friends to spend it with. Rain is no excuse to stay indoors this fall; you should go out and enjoy every moment of it while you can before the cold winter comes.

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