8 Great Places to Capture Stunning Photos This Fall Around Salem and the Mid-Willamette Valley
Photo-worthy locations throughout the region
Fall has arrived in Salem and the Mid-Willamette Valley: Leaves are changing color, harvest festivals are welcoming families with hayrides and pumpkin patches, and the crisp autumn air inspires outdoor enthusiasts to throw on a light jacket and hit the trail.
Throughout the region, there’s no shortage of scenery—natural and otherwise—to photograph along the way. So we’ve rounded up some of our favorite garden sights, hiking trails, farms, and more that offer plentiful opportunities to capture stunning photos this fall around Salem and the Mid-Willamette Valley.
And if you’re looking for gear or photography services, you’ll find a few independent camera shops around the area. Focal Point Photography is based in Dallas and boasts a wide-ranging selection of cameras, lenses, lighting equipment, and other accessories. And The Shutterbug in Salem, Oregon-owned and operated for more than 50 years, offers a suite of products and services such as gear and accessories for sale, camera and lens rentals, and even one-on-one sessions to help sharpen your skills.
Deepwood Museum & Gardens (Salem)
The history of the Deepwood Museum & Gardens dates back to 1894, when the elegant Queen Anne Victorian home was built just south of downtown Salem. Today, the museum showcases historic artifacts from former residents and from the broader Salem community—and offers several adorable photo ops within the museum and on the surrounding grounds.
Inside, you’ll find 15 stained-glass windows—each designed by a trio of brothers who earned fame in the late 1800s and early 1900s for their intricate work—throughout the museum. Even if the sun isn’t shining, the colorful pieces shimmer, shine, and dazzle museum visitors.
And just outside, you’ll find a colorful garden designed by Elizabeth Lord and Edith Schryver—who in 1929 formed the first women-led landscape architecture firm in the Pacific Northwest. Even in autumn, the last of the season’s blooms add a pop of color—and the maple trees lording over it all turn brilliant shades of red, yellow, and orange.
Straub Nature Park (Salem)
Sitting in a quiet neighborhood at the edge of West Salem, Straub Nature Park isn't the city's flashiest or best-known park. But what it lacks in notoriety, Straub Nature Park makes up for with stunning scenery that just begs to be photographed.
Some of the many photo-worthy highlights include a variety of otherworldly mushrooms, knotted tree trunks that appear to come straight from a scary movie, and a lush forest canopy that can look resplendent in the mid-afternoon sun—or downright spooky when the fog rolls in.
Stahlman Point Trail (Detroit)
Just south of Detroit Lake in the West Cascades, the scenic Stahlman Point Trail recently reopened after more than two years of being closed due to wildfire damage. Opportunities for gorgeous photographs abound on this less-traveled trail that was an under-the-radar gem even before the summer of 2020.
Boasting a steady ascent, the scenic trail offers plenty of reasons to stop, catch your breath, and take a few photos. The hike showcases a regrowing forest of Douglas fir, passes under several osprey nests, offers occasional vistas of Detroit Lake below, and—where the path ends at the site of a former fire lookout—provides scenic views of Mount Jefferson.
The hike measures about 4.2 miles round-trip, with 1,345 feet of elevation gain—and remains open all winter long, except when the occasional snow shower blankets the forest in a coat of white. Learn more about the Stahlman Point Trail.
The Oregon Garden (Silverton)
No matter the season, there’s always plenty to love at the Oregon Garden, made up of 20 smaller themed gardens that show off the flora of the Willamette Valley and the Pacific Northwest. But in fall, the colorful Bosque Garden takes center stage.
The Bosque Garden centers around a plaza that’s home to four reflecting ponds and 40 planter boxes, each containing a lone Pacific Sunset maple tree. It’s an Instagram-worthy sight all year long, but never more so than in fall, when the leaves of the maple trees turn electric shades of red, yellow, and orange; their reflections in the ponds below only add to the scenic nature of the quiet garden.
As an added bonus nearby: Fuel up for your trip with a stop at Gear-Up, Silverton, a coffee shop that bills itself as “Silverton’s Living Room.” Grab a drink from the exhaustive tea and coffee menu, indulge in a few house-made mini doughnuts, and take a photo under a glowing neon sign that reads, “It’s worth a shot”.
E.Z. Orchards Farm Market HarvestFest (Salem)
E.Z. Orchards Farm Market is a Salem-area institution, known for selling locally sourced products and a seasonal shortcake stand featuring fresh-cut strawberries.
But every October, E.Z. Orchards hosts HarvestFest, which celebrates the bounty of the season while offering plenty of fantastic photo ops. Take a family photo while enjoying an old-school hayride, pose among the pumpkins in the massive E.Z. Orchards pumpkin patch, photograph the adorable piglets and goats in the petting zoo, or snap a selfie after getting your face painted. Other fun activities include a corn maze and live music on weekends; the festival runs daily Oct. 1-30, 2022.
Eola Hills Legacy Estate Vineyard (Salem)
There’s a lot of competition for the title of “most scenic tasting room and vineyard around Salem”, and Eola Hills Wine Cellars’ Legacy Estate Vineyard is routinely in that conversation—and for good reason.
Just a 10-minute drive west of Salem, the Legacy Estate Vineyard hosts a spacious (partially covered) patio and creates a memorable experience that incorporates the natural beauty of the close-by landscapes; you can sip estate-grown pinot noir and chardonnay, for instance, on a sweeping lawn that affords views of the surrounding Willamette Valley.
Elsewhere around the vineyard, Eola Hills offers what it calls a "Wiking Trail Experience” that blends (you guessed it) wine and hiking. For a small fee (waived with a post-hike bottle purchase), you can grab a trail map from the Eola Hills tasting room and enjoy a self-guided hike through the winery's vineyards and rolling hillsides. It’s an excellent opportunity to enjoy a bit more of the surrounding scenery while also taking photos from some under-the-radar viewpoints.
Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge (Dallas) and Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge (Jefferson)
A pair of national wildlife refuges sit within a 20-minute drive of Salem, both offering opportunities for photographing wildlife in its element and capturing epic landscape shots.
Just west of Salem, Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge sits on open farmland, seasonal wetlands, forests, and grasslands at the edge of the Oregon Coast Range. There you can hike the Rich Guadagno Memorial Loop Trail to the summit of Baskett Butte—where wide-open views of the surrounding Willamette Valley await. And if you're looking to capture wildlife, you're in luck: More than 230 species of bird have been recorded at the refuge—including bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, and western sandpipers.
And directly south of Salem, Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge sits on the site of a former dairy farm and boasts a wide range of photogenic habitats—including prairies, riparian forests, and sweeping fields. Some of the species that call the refuge home include the Western pond turtle, black-tailed deer, beaver, and long-eared owl.
Covered Bridges in Marion and Polk County
If you’re looking for fall foliage, there’s no shortage of impressive scenery around the many covered bridges in some of the smaller communities in our region. Drive or bike through these covered bridges to seek out seasonal colors that capture delightfully on film.
Combine fall photos with history as you visit the Stayton-Jordan Covered Bridge. After being burned in 1994, the bridge has been beautifully rebuilt and offers gorgeous outdoor scenery for sightseeing, picnicking, and weddings.
Near Monmouth, you’ll find the Ritner Creek Covered Bridge. The Bridge has gothic windows and a cedar shake roof – perfect for photographing. Ritner Creek Bridge was the last covered bridge on an Oregon state highway but in 1976 was relocated just downstream of its original site. It is the only remaining structure of its type in Polk County.
Then venture to Silverton to visit Oregon’s oldest covered bridge – the Gallon House Covered Bridge - named for the days when liquor was sold by the gallon or quart in a nearby house. The Bridge was rebuilt in 1990 and is an absolute gem during the autumn months as the fall foliage turns bright orange, red and yellow.
BAUMAN’S FARM & GARDEN
12989 Howell Prairie Rd. NE,
Gervais, Oregon 97026 (503) 792-3524
BAUMAN'S FARM & GARDEN12989 Howell Prairie Rd. NE,
Gervais, Oregon 97026
GALLON HOUSE COVERED BRIDGE
GALLON HOUSE COVERED BRIDGE
RITNER CYCLING LOOP
Start & End at:, 50 C Street
Independence, Oregon 97351
RITNER CYCLING LOOPStart & End at:, 50 C Street
Independence, Oregon 97351
STAYTON-JORDAN COVERED BRIDGE
450 N 7th Ave.,
Stayton, Oregon 97383
STAYTON-JORDAN COVERED BRIDGE450 N 7th Ave.,
Stayton, Oregon 97383
BASKETT SLOUGH NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
10995 HWY 22,
Dallas, Oregon 97338 (503) 623-2749
BASKETT SLOUGH NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE10995 HWY 22,
Dallas, Oregon 97338
ANKENY NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
2301 Wintel Rd.,
Jefferson, Oregon 97352 (503) 588-2701
ANKENY NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE2301 Wintel Rd.,
Jefferson, Oregon 97352
EOLA HILLS WINE CELLARS
501 S Pacific HWY 99W,
Rickreall, Oregon 97371 (503) 623-2405
EOLA HILLS WINE CELLARS501 S Pacific HWY 99W,
Rickreall, Oregon 97371
E.Z. ORCHARDS FARM MARKET
5504 Hazelgreen Rd.,
Salem, Oregon 97305 (503) 393-1506
E.Z. ORCHARDS FARM MARKET5504 Hazelgreen Rd.,
Salem, Oregon 97305
DEEPWOOD MUSEUM AND GARDENS
1116 Mission St. SE,
Salem, Oregon 97302 (503) 363-1825
DEEPWOOD MUSEUM AND GARDENS1116 Mission St. SE,
Salem, Oregon 97302