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Hiking around Eugene

Rain and snow have assaulted Eugene this winter, but now — finally — spring approaches, promising clear skies and sunny days. In anticipation of this return of the sun comes the promised use of the best hiking spots around Eugene. From the superb vista of Spencer Butte to the gorgeous gardens of Hendricks Park,@@[email protected]@ there are some terrific trails to wander up or down this spring. Text your friends, fill your water bottle and get in touch with your wild side.

Michelle Miller hikes along the rocky section just below the summit on Spencer's Butte. Spencer's Butte is easily accessible and great fun on a Saturday afternoon. (Tess Freeman/Oregon Daily Emerald)

Spencer Butte

Eugene’s most famous trail and local landmark, Spencer Butte is easy to reach, great fun and the perfect place to spend a Saturday afternoon.

”It’s indescribable,” University freshman and architecture major Vincent Mai said. “Being under the canopy of the forest, you are pretty much overwhelmed by the trees. It’s very bumpy, very uninhabited, very natural — but once you get up on the top, the view is spectacular.”

The peak of the butte is above the tree line, and the summit offers a stupendous view of Eugene and the Willamette Valley. Looking west on a clear day, you can see all the way to the edge of the Oregon coast.@@[email protected]@

Spencer has several trail heads leading to the summit. The most direct and easiest path is from the Spencer Butte parking lot. You can also take the trail starting at 52nd Avenue and Willamette Street or from the parking lot at Fox Hollow and Christensen Roads in South Eugene, both of which offer more difficulty.

Though the summit is the prime attraction, Spencer is part of the expansive Ridgeline Trail system, which offers additional hikes and outdoor attractions.

Mt. Pisgah

One of Lane County’s most pristine parks, Mt. Pisgah teems with a complex array of plants and animals. The 209-acre Arboretum at Pisgah’s base is home to 339 individual plant species and offers seven miles of peaceful trekking along riverside habitat.@@  At Pisgah’s peak, there is a bronze sighting pedestal, which is a memorial to Jed, the son of the famous author and University alumni Ken Kesey.

“It’s great,” said David Hepfer, 19, who hiked to Mt. Pisgah’s summit over spring break. “It has a gorgeous view because you could see all this farmland out to the west, but the trails are super steep and prone to erosion.  It wouldn’t be my first choice to go hiking — Spencer is a good first choice — but I’d definitely recommend Pisgah to people because it’s worth seeing.”

Mt. Pisgah is farther out than other Eugene trails and having access to a car is the easiest way to get to the area. To reach the main trailhead from the University, go east on Franklin Boulevard, and once in Glenwood follow the boulevard a mile, at which point it heads south and parallels I-5. Follow Franklin Boulevard as it turns left before the Shell gas station until Seavey Loop Road is on the right. Follow Seavey a couple miles and cross the bridge to a parking lot entrance to the Pisgah trails and the Arboretum.

Hendricks Park

The oldest city park in Eugene, Hendricks Park is barely a mile from campus and renowned for its natural beauty and historic gardens, which are home to over six thousand varieties of rhododendron.@@ The park has an abundance of trails making it a haven for every kind of hiker, bicyclist, runner and birder.

“It’s not the longest trail, but it’s a good trail,” said University senior and biology major Molly O’Connor.@@*O*[email protected]@ “I went to Hendricks Park a couple weeks ago, and the adolescent rhododendrons were beginning to bloom, and the queen bumblebees were out, working to collect enough pollen to start their new colonies.  It was really pretty.”

As the weather brightens up, so will Hendricks Park.

“The pear trees are starting to bud now, and by May a lot of Oregon grape, cherry trees, all the rhododendrons and everything else will be in full bloom,” O’Connor said. “I love flowers,@@what girl doesn’[email protected]@ so it’s fun going there during the spring to see everything.”

A biker enjoys the Ruth Bascom Riverside Path System which includes 14 miles of paths alongside the Willamette River. (Michael Ciaglo/Oregon Daily Emerald)

Ruth Bascom Riverside Path System@@[email protected]@

The official name for the 14 miles of paths hugging the Willamette River as it flows through Eugene, the Ruth Bascom Riverside Path System is a mouthful, but everyone knows what they look like. These paths are better known to lead through Alton Baker Park, the Pre running trails, Skinner Butte, Maurie Jacobs and Rasor Parks. The path will also take hikers by the Owen Rose Gardens and Delta Ponds.


Sheltered by cottonwood trees for most of its length, paved throughout and extremely close to civilization, this is the easiest track of those listed and a fun route for bikes.

The best place to begin is in Alton Baker Park, where you can take a run on Pre’s bark-covered trail or turn left onto the South Bank Trail to visit the Maurie Jacobs and Skinner Butte Parks.

Whether you’re looking for a fine walk or a weekend adventure, just pick a direction, keep the Willamette in sight and start walking

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Rebecca Sedlak

Rebecca Sedlak