pisgah

(Kelly Kondo/Emerald)

As warmth and sunshine return to Eugene after months of cold and rain, Mount Pisgah starts to transform. Fresh green grass covers meadows, oak trees grow bright new leaves and wildflowers bring splashes of color to the hillsides.

Spring term is the perfect time to visit Mount Pisgah, a 4,700-acre natural area only 15 minutes from the University of Oregon by car. The mountain is still green and untouched by the dry heat of summer, and there are enough sunny days in Eugene to enjoy the park’s many hikes.

Many people are familiar with Mount Pisgah’s main hike to the 1,531-foot summit, but the area has over 30 miles of trails — many of which are much less travelled. These trails cross diverse habitats of fir forests, wetlands, prairies and oak savannas, which are all full of fresh life every spring.

Although wildflowers can be found all over Mount Pisgah now, the Water Garden Trails and Pond Trail are especially bountiful with blossoms. These trails are in a riparian zone close to the river and are easy walks that can be done in a half hour.

To see both trails, follow the Riverbank Trail from the main parking lot for around a quarter mile, then take a left onto the Lily Pond Trail when the road forks. After another quarter mile, there will be a bridge to the right that you can cross to access the Water Garden Trails. Take a right at the end of the bridge for a loop that brings you back to the Riverbank Trail, which you can follow back to the parking lot.

Another hike that highlights Mount Pisgah’s spring beauty is the Trail Three to Trail Seven loop, with a detour up a small hill. The loop crosses a white oak savanna, which will soon be green with new leaves, and a fir forest already full of fresh ferns. It takes 30 to 45 minutes to hike. There is a bench and a swing at the top of the hill — a perfect spot to watch the sun set over Eugene and Springfield.

This hike starts at the North Trailhead, which you can find by turning left on Frank Parrish Road from Seavey Way when you reach the base of the mountain. Walk uphill from the trailhead and turn onto either Trail Three or Trail Seven to start the loop. Hike the short trail off of Trail Three to summit the hill, then turn around and take either Trail Three or Seven back down.

A longer trail that is rarely hiked by people in Eugene is Trail Two. This trail winds through more oak savanna and fir forests and ends at the summit. It takes around two hours to walk. This a good option if you want a satisfying hike to the top, but don’t want the crowds on the main trail.

This hike starts at the little-known East Trailhead of Mount Pisgah, which is accessible from Ridgeway Road off of Highway 58 near Pleasant Hill. From the parking lot, walk toward the mountain on the single gravel road, then turn right onto Trail 2 and hike to the summit and back.

These three hikes are a great start to exploring Mount Pisgah this spring, but there are many other beautiful trails in the area. Mount Pisgah has a hike for everybody, so take advantage of the next sunny afternoon and get walking.