Where-To:
See Aspen in Eastern Oregon

Author: Jess Beauchemin  |  Published: September 12, 2022  |  Category: Where-To

Four amazing hikes with fall colors on Steens Mountain and Hart Mountain

I grew up in New England, where the vibrant autumn leaves draw visitors from all over the world. You can also find fall colors that are worth traveling for in eastern Oregon. Quaking aspen, known for their delicate leaves that “quake” or tremble in the breeze, turn a striking golden yellow in the fall. Aspens grow in dense colonies, which is great for leaf-peepers; you’ll never find just one.

When planning a fall foliage hike, you can think of the old real estate adage, with a twist. For fall color, it’s: location, location, timing. Fall colors typically peak mid-October, but depending on weather and temperature patterns, you may find colorful aspen leaves from late September through early November.

If you’d like to walk among the aspen this fall, take a trip out to one of these incredible trails.

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Wildflower Poetry Reading

Wildflower Poetry Reading

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Sage-grouse Mating Dance

Sage-grouse Mating Dance

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Volunteer Accomplishment in Hart-Sheldon

Volunteer Accomplishment in Hart-Sheldon

Steens Mountain

Big Indian Gorge

Big Indian Creek cuts a wide U-shaped gorge into the west side of Steens Mountain. This 8-mile trail goes all the way to the headwall of the gorge, but you can opt for a shorter journey if planning a day trip. Plan on hiking at least a few miles up the trail to get to the aspen groves and wear appropriate footwear for water crossings. The trailhead is located at the South Steens campground, so you can roll right out of your tent on to the trail for a full-day of leaf peeping.

Photo: James Parsons

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Pike Creek

The Pike Creek trail is the only developed route up the east side of Steens Mountain.

Along this trail, you’ll see remnants of Oregon’s mining history as well as incredible geologic formations. Cottonwood, aspen and juniper provide shade and color. Note the red tape and fees required before heading out for this beautiful hike.

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Warner Peak

Climbing towards Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge’s highpoint takes you through stunning aspen groves. You don’t even have to complete the entire route to bask in their autumnal glory. From the hot springs campground, begin exploring up Barnhardy road and choose your own adventure from there. Be aware that autumn is also a popular time for hunters to use the refuge, so wear orange and keep your dogs on leash.

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Degarmo Canyon

DeGarmo Canyon

If you’d like to pair your aspen with waterfalls, try this hike up DeGarmo Canyon.

You’ll find fall colors almost immediately, with options for longer and more rugged adventures from there. Camp Hart Mountain, a free public campground just 5 miles away, can serve as a base for this adventure. Explore the colorful trees by day and relax under a sky filled with stars at night.

Photo: Barb Rumer

Hike Info

About the Author

Jess Beauchemin is an outdoor explorer who loves hiking, climbing, poring over maps and poking wildflowers. She has hiked on every calendar day of the year, across the Pacific Northwest and beyond. On any weekend, you'll likely find her wandering towards an obscure highpoint with a watercolor set in her backpack. She is a personal trainer living in Bend, Oregon. Her first book is called Hike366: A Woman’s Tales of Hiking Adventures All Year Round.

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