As the smell of pumpkin spice lingers in the cool, crisp air, leaves around the Pacific Northwest erupt into beautiful colors. Enticed to go out and explore, we bundle up in our favorite fall clothes and search for the ultimate way to experience autumn. While there are many amazing places to enjoy the joys of fall around the region, one swath of land in the middle the Columbia River has become the go-to spot for the very best of the season. Full of pumpkins and migratory wildlife, biking, hiking, corn mazes and fall colors, Portland’s Sauvie Island is the can’t-miss destination for autumn family fun. Just 20 miles from downtown Vancouver, this island adventure is sure to become a family favorite year after year. Our recommendations are just the tip of the pumpkin for incredible fun on Sauvie Island.
The Drive and the Island
The drive to and around Sauvie Island is like traveling back in time. At over 32 square miles – roughly the size of Manhattan – the land is predominantly farmland and a wildlife refuge, giving it a rustic, timeless feeling. After crossing the Columbia and battling through Portland traffic, traveling west on Highway 30, you’ll pass over the Sauvie Island Bridge and arrive on one of the largest river islands in America. Just a few miles from the hustle and bustle of downtown Portland, the island is quiet, quaint and wide open. All roads are worth driving, especially at the height of the fall color display. Just watch out for bicyclists, as this is a popular biking area. While the entire island is huge, the few roads that cross the island will encourage you to stop and explore everywhere you can.
Hiking and Biking
Suave Island is an amazing place to ride your bike, thanks to the flat terrain and limited usage roads. The most popular bike route, which will show off the fall colors of the island, starts at the parking area near the Sauvie Island Bridge and weaves around the island for 12 miles. The ride is a loop, starting on Gillihan Road, taking a left on Reeder Road and then following the Multnomah Channel on Sauvie Island Road back to the parking lot. For those more interested in hiking, we highly recommend the trail leading to Warrior Rock Lighthouse. At seven miles round-trip, this flat, easy-to-follow trail gets you to the western point of the island where a gorgeous, small lighthouse awaits. The trail is lined with cottonwoods turning colors in the fall, and, once you arrive at the end, you’ll be able to take in views of Mount Saint Helens on clear days. This trek is a perfect way to spend your morning before exploring the agricultural attractions of the island.
Exploring Pumpkin Patches, Wandering Corn Mazes and Visiting Farm Stands
Sauvie Island is a rural community, embracing its incredible historical, agricultural lineage. Offering a handful of farms to visit, pumpkin patches to wander, and corn mazes to explore, an entire day can be spent embracing the farm life of the island. Our favorite stops in the fall months are the aptly named “The Pumpkin Patch” and “Kruger’s Farm.”
The Pumpkin Patch is probably the best bet for families, as the amenities and the experience are each extremely family-friendly and it’s simple to explore. Free for everyone, The Pumpkin Patch, open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily, has hayrides, an animal barn, a hay maze and a pumpkin patch to wander. This has been a family destination for 50 years and is sure to be the highlight of your autumn adventures.
Not to be outdone, Kruger’s Farm has incredible family fun. What makes this place awesome is that during the nights of the weekend, the corn maze transforms into a haunted corn maze, with frights found around every corner. The best way to explore Kruger’s Farm is to purchase the Pumpkin Perfect package. For just $26, you’ll get two maze tickets, two pumpkins (up to 25 pounds), two ears of roasted corn and two caramel apples. Kruger’s Farm is open Sunday through Thursday, from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; and Friday to Saturday, from 9:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m.
Amazing Bird Watching
Finally, Sauvie Island is a great place to visit if you are hoping to see migratory birds passing through the area. Each fall, hundreds of thousands of waterfowl descend upon the region, making the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area an excellent place to see numerous species. While hundreds of Canada geese visit the region in the fall, the highlights for many birders are seeing large numbers of swans, bald eagles and Sandhill cranes. This is one of the best places in the region to see the migrations of these birds and, with over 200,000 migratory birds in the region, you’ll be sure to see something incredible. Keep in mind that the area is popular with hunters during the fall months, so some regions are closed for public safety. Even with hunters in the region, the birding here is spectacular during the autumn months and should not be missed.