Between our schedules and the Pacific Northwest weather, sometimes our adventures are limited. That’s when I fall back on my five favorite short hikes in the Eugene area. For these quick hikes, I consider both the distance to drive there, around an hour at most, and the length of the trail, usually no more than 4 miles roundtrip. Most important, though, are the views, which we’re lucky to have plenty of in Central Oregon. Starting with the closest hike and working our way up the McKenzie River:
- Hendricks Rhododendron Park– This is just less than a mile from the University of Oregon. I like to get a nice tea from The Oolong Bar and take a leisurely stroll through my neighborhood, the Fairmount. The first portion is a beautiful walk among vintage homes, then up a gravel path that leads to the Rhododendron Garden. If you’re short on time, there’s also a parking lot at the top of the hill. To the left of the parking area is a viewpoint overlooking the University of Oregon and downtown Eugene. The rhododendrons usually bloom from April to May, but the park is beautiful and serene all year long with lots of benches to stop and enjoy. Unfortunately on this manicured side, dogs aren’t allowed, but they are on the wilder trails of the 80 acre park.
2. Spencer Butte– Located on the South edge of Eugene, this trail has breathtaking views for such a short hike, only 2.2 miles roundtrip. It’s a pretty popular hike with pets allowed, so expect to see lots of people and dogs on the path. I’ve even seen a miniature dachshund on this trail. It raises about 730 feet in elevation with gentle climbs and some stairs cut into the the rock. Once you get to the top, the views are 360 degrees. This hike is best on a clear day, and you’ll want to sit at the top and enjoy the view for a while.
3. Mount Pisgah Arboretum– Located just outside of Eugene, this 3.4 mile trail leads you to a summit with 360 views of the Willamette Valley and the Three Sisters of the Cascade Range to the southeast. A bronze sculpture sits at the top to help you identify the surrounding geographic features. There are several different trails to choose from depending on the terrain you’d like to cover: wetlands, evergreens, or oaks. This is a beautiful trail anytime of year, but definitely on the warmer side in the summer. If that’s when you’re heading up, start early.
4. Tamolitch Blue Pool– Definitely one of my very favorite hikes. From Eugene, it takes just a little over an hour to get there. This hike is like a hidden gem on the McKenzie River Trail system. It’s 3.7 miles out and back along the McKenzie River bank, which makes for a great summer hike. Once you get to the pool, you’ll be on the cliff side and you’ll need to take what feels like a mountain goat trail along the far side of the pool to get down to the water’s edge. The water in this pool flows up from below the ground and through the rocks, where it picks up minerals which give it its unreal, clear blue color. After the hike you may be tempted to take a dip, be forewarned it’s freezing cold even in the middle of summer. I love to pack a picnic lunch and eat in the cool shade of the trees, taking in the beauty.
5. Sahalie and Koosah Falls– This is another hike along the McKenzie River with two big, beautiful waterfalls. It’s a fairly short 2.6 mile loop that I have only been to once, on accident. This is how I learned not to rely on my cell phone for directions in the mountains, there’s no service. In the summer, the hike through the trees to Sahalie and Koosah is much more pleasant than trekking over hot volcanic rock to get to the Proxy Falls. If water falls are your thing, check these out.