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Here’s every Oregon outdoor activity within 2 hours you should cross off your bucket list

Please consider these responsible hiking guidelines when in nature.

  • Stay on the paths: Native plants and living soils grow by the inch and die by your foot.
  • Respect other visitors: Yield on the trail and keep noise down.
  • Keep your distance from wildlife: Leave plants, rocks and logs be.
  • Pick up your trash and the trash you find: It harms the ecosystem and no one wants to see it.
  • Control your dogs: They can harass animals and destroy plant life. Pick up after them.

Anyone who spends time in Oregon is gifted with immense geographic diversity unseen in many parts of the country. Within a two-hour drive of Eugene, you can stroll along the shores of the Pacific Ocean, taste the locally grown Pinot Noir that rivals the vintages of France, row across a lake so clear you can see down to the bottom or watch as the sun sets over a trio of snowcapped volcanoes that reach over 9,000 feet into the sky.

You could spend years here and only scratch the surface of what’s available for outdoor recreation.

The Emerald has put together a video series to help you navigate the Pacific wonderland we call home. This series, Day Trip!, features some of the best outdoor recreation in our area, connecting you with everything from riverside hikes and whale watching hotspots to hop farms and rock hounding. The map to the right shows the location of each video, which can be found on our website or the Emerald Media YouTube Channel (look for the “Day Trip!” playlist). Below the map is a description for each region with a recommended travel checklist for that area. See if you can complete them all!

Remember your presence in nature has an impact. Please respect it and follow the responsible hiking guidelines we’ve provided. It’s up to us to keep these places in good condition.


Much of the coast formed through the interactions of lava and seawater. The sand you’ll see here originates inland as the remains of eroded mountains and hills flow downstream to the ocean. Our section of the coast features extensive sand dunes, sea cliffs of basalt rock that reach hundreds of feet above the waves and resident grey whales.

Ride horseback along the beach with C&M Stables.
Spot five whales.
Find and visit the tallest lighthouse on the Oregon Coast.
Go fly a kite on a beach.
Trek through a dune field to the ocean.
Snap a photo from the view at Cape Foulweather near Depoe Bay.
Warm up to a bonfire on the beach.
Spot a spouting horn at Cape Perpetua.
Search through ride pools for a Gumboot Chiton.


Home sweet home, Eugene and the Willamette Valley were once located beneath the ocean waves — on the continental shelf — until the slow collision of North America and the oceanic plate pushed it to the surface. Our fertile valley features buttes with a view, farms, wineries, breweries and prime wildlife viewing along the Willamette River.

Bike the whole riverbank path system.
Visit five wineries.
Make a dinner from all locally grown produce.
Hike three buttes in one weekend.
Float the Willamette River.
Find your favorite farm-to-table restaurant.
Visit three farms in one weekend.
Snap a photo while kayaking across Fern Ridge.
Complete the Eugene Ale Trail.

McKenzie River

The mystic McKenzie River flows through the drenched, moss-covered forest of the west cascades. Along its course are hot springs, old-growth groves, lakes, hiking and mountain biking trails and spots for fishing. Although relatively intact, this river (like many in Oregon) is threatened by riverbank development, increased tourism and infrastructure projects like hydroelectric dams.

Find your favorite hot springs.
Mountain bike along the McKenzie.
Hike to three waterfalls in one weekend.
Camp on the banks of the river.
Snap a photo with a sturgeon.
Hike up to a view of the Cascades.
Go fly fishing.
Find your new favorite hike at the McKenzie Ranger Station.
Come back for a tour of the autumn foliage.


The Cascade mountain range is comprised of an arc of volcanoes stretching from southern British Columbia, Canada to Northern California. The tallest point in the county, South Sister at 10,360 feet, is the eroded remains of one of these volcanoes. Hikes in the Cascades are great for viewing mountain meadow wildflowers, waterfalls and the snowcapped mountains themselves.

Hike along a mountain stream.
See the peaks from Dee Wright Observatory.
Circuit a mountain lake.
Summit South Sister.
Go mini-golfing at the Willamette Fish hatchery.
Snap a photo of a Cascade peak at sunset.
Race through some of the Pacific Northwest’s best mountain bike trails in Oakridge.
Stroll through a mountain meadow in bloom.
Find — and befriend — Sasquatch.

High Desert

When you think of Oregon weather, rain usually comes to mind, but two-thirds of the state is actually much drier than the valley. The High Desert region of Oregon is an alien landscape of sparse junipers, dense ponderosa and sage brush. With little vegetation, recent volcanic deposits and low soil formation, this region is perfect for any geology buff.

Go rockhounding.
Hike Misery Ridge at Smith Rock.
Check for rocks, and then cannonball into Steelhead Falls.
Enjoy a Black Butte Porter on top of Black Butte.
Walk around the rim of a volcanic crater.
Summit a cinder cone volcano.
Take in the smell of the pines on a riverside hike.
Hike across a lava flow made entirely of obsidian.
Snap a photo with Chimney Rock.

Follow Connor Henzel on Twitter @CONNHENZ


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Connor Henzel

Connor Henzel

Connor is an environmental science major with an interest in digital art and videography. He joined the Emerald's video desk in October 2015 and is focused on his outdoor travel and recreation series, "Day Trip!"