It’s Sunday evening, or Saturday morning, or hell, even Wednesday afternoon, and you need a break. You’re not in the mood for a bar and yet another hike at Spencer or Skinner Butte just sounds awful. You’re in the mood for an adventure! These four nearby gems are both easily accessible and far enough away that you’ll feel like you’re getting a legitimate day trip. So pack a picnic lunch, throw a kayak in the back of the car and head out on some of Eugene’s best burned-out adventures.
Dexter Reservoir — This gorgeous reservoir, just 25 minutes southeast of campus, is a bit more of a secret among students than other nearby ones, such as Fern Ridge Lake. Nestled between the hills alongside Oregon 58, the reservoir is the perfect place for sailing, boating, swimming or barbecuing. The nearby Dexter Lake Club, site of the infamous “road trip” scenes in the frat classic “Animal House”, offers great cocktails, diner food and, five or six nights a week, live music. In recent weeks, Dexter Lake has had a little problem with potentially toxic blue-green algae, with the state encouraging people to avoid activities in which they might swallow or even touch the water, so make sure you check the lake’s status before you head out for a day of swimming.
Fern Ridge Reservoir — Located just 12 miles from downtown Eugene (about a 20-minute drive on a good day) Fern Ridge Reservoir, sometimes referred to as Fern Ridge Lake, is the perfect place to relax after a long week of studying. Six official park sites offer everything from fishing, swimming, picnicking and grilling. It’s a popular destination for students and families alike, so if you’re hoping for some peace and quiet, plan on heading out there during the week. You will be charged for access to public recreation areas, but if you can find a place to park along the rim of the lake, you can easily walk down to the beach for free.
King Estate Winery — The 20-year-old King Estate Winery, located about 40 minutes southwest of campus, is a great day getaway for the overworked law student. This 1,000-plus acre winery, which includes a restaurant and tasting room, is an ideal spot to take visiting parents or a special date. The restaurant, though definitely steep for a student’s budget, offers such delicacies as filet mignon with foie gras, grilled wild salmon, and something called a “Lamb Ham Sandwich”. Besides the obligatory wine tastings, the winery also features tours of the wine production facilities (wheelchair accessible) that lasts 45 minutes.
Ridgeline Trail — Everyone and their mother knows about Spencer Butte, the tallest point in Eugene, popular hiking spot and most prominent feature of the Ridgeline Trail. But there’s a lot more to do on the trail than just hike the Butte. Stretching for 14 miles through south Eugene, this urban trail/bike path is readily accessible through many of the residential neighborhoods at the base of the Butte and offers an active, outdoorsy option for a day off. City officials hope to eventually connect Fern Ridge Reservoir in the east to Mt. Pisgah in the west, but the realization of that dream is still a little far off.
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