Local hiker Dan Henry’s guide to the best trails near Eugene
If you’re craving an afternoon away from the stress of finals, it may be time to take a hike. According to a 2012 study by Plos.org, hiking can boost your creativity and ability to focus on a task. This is good news for students seeking a pre-finals outdoor adventure.
For those who are unsure of where to go, lifelong hiker and native Oregonian Dan Henry has some advice on the best spots to visit within a 90-minute drive of the University of Oregon.
Henry, now 61, discovered his love for hiking at a young age while backpacking with his family. His father worked in the lookout tower at Trout Creek Butte in Deschutes County, leading Henry to spend extensive time adventuring in the forest.
After graduating from Beaverton High School, he hiked 200 miles on the Oregon stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail. He later attended UO where he studied rhetoric and communication.
At 26, Henry moved to the remote area of Haines, Alaska, where he fit right in. The town of Haines’ website describes the town as “the adventure capital of Alaska.” He spent 30 years exploring the area and everything it had to offer before returning to Eugene. He now teaches full time in the Language, Literature and Communication department at Lane Community College.
Henry’s love of hiking has persisted and he now spends countless weekends discovering trails with his wife, Robin, who is also a passionate explorer. They are happy to share their discoveries with the next generation of outdoor adventurers.
“Everybody takes the trails that are on the top lists, but most of the great trails in Oregon are not hiked very often,” Henry said. “You can really find some solitude.”
Here are Henry’s recommendations on the best off-the-beaten-path hiking spots for students to visit:
While many of the trails surrounding Mount Pisgah are known to students, Henry suggests moving away from the most obvious paths for a more serene experience. He recommends the “trail head that is low and follows the river,” as opposed to those which are more widely used. “It’s hardly ever used so It’s really quiet back there with a lot of flowers,” he said.
Just a 25-minute drive from Eugene, the Fall Creek National Recreation Trail boasts gorgeous scenery, colorful wildflowers and summertime swimming spots. Henry advises students to head to the upper part of the park, rather than the more popular lower parking lot. “The trail is 25 miles long, so you can go way up and get away from all of the crowds,” Henry said. Students should keep in mind that this is a National Forest area, meaning that passes are required for an afternoon of hiking bliss.
He also recommends the Gold Point Trailhead, though it will be closed for the season until Aug. 1. When open, the route is about 3.5 miles to reach the point, which he says goes through the woods and has a great viewpoint.
“It’s a great trip,” Henry said. “Really beautiful and a great place to hang.”
Located in the Willamette Pass, Salt Creek Falls Trail will lead you to Oregon’s second highest waterfall, topped only by Multnomah Falls. “It’s a huge falls,” Henry said. “You’ve got to see it.” He recommends then taking the Diamond Creek Loop Trail, a 3.2 mile hike that weaves back to Too Much Bear Lake. From there it’s a short jaunt to the Upper Diamond Creek Falls with stunning views of the falls. Keep in mind that parking at Salt Creek Falls requires a $5 vehicle pass for the day.
“I know people like to stop at the hot springs, but before you go to the hot springs, I say take the day and go hiking,” Henry said.
His top recommendation is to continue onward to Rebel Creek. The trail can be hiked as a loop and is about 12 miles long. “There’s an old lookout tower up there and incredible views,” he said. “It’s a perfect loop. I’ve never seen a soul up there.” As you head back toward Eugene and take a dip in the hot springs, remember that there is a $6 per person fee to use the pools.
This secluded area is on the north side of the Umpqua River and serves as a preservation area for Columbian white-tailed deer, which were once listed as an endangered species. The hike is a 7.1 mile loop surrounded by spectacular views and bright wildflowers. “It’s like an oak savannah,” Henry said. “It’s a very cool area.”
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