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October 24, 2011 / Greg Vaughn

Where in Washington for Fall Color Photos

Vine maple and huckleberry

Vine maple and huckleberry, Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Interested in where to find the best autumn foliage for landscape and scenic photography in Washington State?  I did a quick circuit around the Cascades last week and found quite a range of fall color. In most locations, the color was just starting to get good, so this week and the next should be optimal for making photographs, or just viewing for the pleasure of it.

In the southern Cascades, around Trout Lake and Mount Adams, there were places with great color, and some where the color was just starting. I found a few areas around Indian Heaven Wilderness with brilliantly color vine maple and huckleberry. By now trees around Trout Lake and Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge should be good.

The color was very good on the east side of Stevens Pass in the Washington Cascades, and likely will just get better in the next week or two. Vine maple are vibrant red and yellow, with aspen and cottonwood coming on strong. The area around Tumwater Canyon and the road to Lake Wenatchee is very good. On the west side of the pass, color was muted, and most of the bigleaf maple were a mottled brown and yellow. Let’s hope it gets better on the western side of the passes.

Red-osier dogwood leaves and aspen tree trunks

Red-osier dogwood and aspen trees, Tumwater Canyon.

On Mountain Loop Highway and Sauk River Valley between Granite Falls and Rockport, the color was just so-so last week, but what a beautiful drive. If the bigleaf and vine maple brighten up a bit, this is a great option for fall color forest photos.

In the North Cascades, the alpine larch were great at higher elevations (~3,000-5,000’) but not much elsewhere. The amount of snow covering the trail at Maple Pass – Heather Pass Loop caught me by surprise, but what an incredibly scenic hike! Shorter, easier trails at Blue Lake and Cutthroat Lake lead to beautiful little lakes surrounded by snow-capped peaks and hillsides dotted with bright yellow larch.

At Snoqualmie Pass, there was very little color along I-90, but good color was visible on the mountainsides above. Traffic however, was miserable going eastbound due to construction projects; maybe it’s better on the weekend, but check WSDOT reports.

maple tree at Kubota Gardens in Seattle

Kubota Japanese Gardens in Seattle

The huckleberry should be getting very good at several places in Mount Rainier National Park, but if you’re planning on traveling to The Mountain, be aware that Stevens Canyon Road between Paradise and the Ohanapecosh entrance is closed this fall.

In general, it seemed like the bigleaf maple on the west side of the Cascades was more or less a mottled brown & yellow, while at the higher elevations and on the east side, the color may be very good in the coming week or two – delayed beyond the usual timing just like the wildflower bloom was earlier this summer.

Fall color should be very good in the eastern part of the state in the next week or two. Methow Valley was looking good, with lots of aspen and cottonwood about to light up the landscape with their sunshiny yellow foliage.

Methow River with cottonwood trees in fall color

Methow River, cottonwood trees and Mount Gardner.

I didn’t make it out to the Kettle Range and Selkirk Mountains in the far northeast Washington, or to the rainforests at Quinault and Hoh in Olympic National Park, but I’ll bet those places are looking pretty good right now, too.

Click on the link for more of my photos of fall color in Washington.

Where are your favorite places for fall color photography in Washington? I hope to get out again soon, and would love to hear what everyone else has found recently.

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One Comment

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  1. Emily Gooch / Oct 24 2011 8:18 am

    Thank you for sharing. Now I know where to go for my road trip this weekend… that is if we get a sunny day like the one in your beautiful pictures. Wonderful capture. 🙂

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