Moments when the sun is shining in Eugene are rare and have been particularly scarce this summer. The warm weather may have shown up late this year, but the sunny days seem like they’re here to stay — at least for the next couple of months. Take advantage of what is left of summer with these 10 outdoor destinations in the Eugene area.
A 36-mile drive down Highway 36 right past Triangle Lake brings you to Lake Creek Falls. It may not seem like much from the parking lot, but just a five-minute walk along the highway reveals an explorer’s paradise. Lake Creek Falls is like a natural water park, featuring a natural rock slide into a small swimming hole, a larger swimming hole above the slide, and a tiny waterfall visitors can squeeze under. It’s easy to lose track of time having fun at Lake Creek Falls.
2. Visit a lake
Sitting out in the sun by water is a classic summer pastime. In Eugene, there aren’t many pools to lounge by, but there are plenty of lakes in the area. Here are three of the closest.
Dexter Lake: Only 20 minutes away from campus, spend the day at Dexter tanning on the dock or floating on an innertube.
Fern Ridge Lake: A wetland area perfect for kayaking or viewing wildlife while having a picnic. It’s also the largest lake in Lane County.
Clear Lake: Drive an hour and a half from campus and you’ll find a hike that circumnavigates this mountain lake. It’s the perfect spot to freshwater dive and explore the crystal clear blue water or to go fishing. You can even rent a rowboat there for $30.
Relax for the day, experience a natural phenomenon and drive out to McCredie Hot Springs. There are several hot springs at the location, all fluctuating in temperature, size and depth. Admission is totally free and it’s only an hour away from campus. Parking and space in the hot springs may fill up, so get there early and give it a toe-test before hopping in the steaming waters.
4. Pre’s Trail
Take a run on the historic trail commissioned by legendary University of Oregon athlete, Steve Prefontaine. According toHikingProject.com, after visiting Scandinavia, Prefontaine was inspired by their soft-surface running trails, and he knew Eugene needed one. The 4.4-mile bark chip-covered loop was finished four months after his death and was rightfully dedicated to him. The trail runs through Alton Baker’s Park, right across the footbridge towards Autzen, making it a great spot for UO students to run.
5.Tamolitch Falls (Blue Pool)
Tamolitch Falls, better known as Blue Pool, is a must-see attraction for everyone in the area. It can be seen all over Instagram, but its beauty is best when seen in person. The popular hike runs 3.3 miles through a dense forest of Douglas firs right along the roaring rapids of the McKenzie River. The wind blowing through the trees, the wildlife and the sound of the river draws many visitors to the trail. The summer is often the busiest season, so get there early to beat the crowd.
Not far past Blue Pool is a 2.6- mile hike that loops around the McKenzie River and features two waterfalls, Koosah and Sahalie fFalls. The viewpoint for Sahalie Falls is right outside of the parking lot and offers a view from below the waterfall. About halfway around the loop, hikers can approach the top of Sahalie and look directly down on the breathtaking 100-foot drop. Koosah Falls, a 70-foot waterfall that drops into a deeply vibrant aquamarine pool, is no more than 15 minutes down the trail from Sahalie. Don’t let the nearby Tamolitch Falls distract from this location; it is just as stunning.
Hiking Spencer’s Butte is certainly one of the most popular hikes for UO students, and it’s worth the hype. The Butte can easily be seen scaling across the skyline south of campus and is like a divider between the city and the backcountry. The 1.7-mile hike has an elevation gain of 741 feet and is only five miles away from campus. At the top is a panoramic view of the Willamette Valley, where landmarks such as Autzen Stadium and some of Oregon’s last- standing covered bridges can be seen.
Mount Pisgah is just a quick 12-minute drive away from campus. Although it’s just outside of the city, the hike is secluded and surrounded by wildlife. With a 360-degree view of Lane County at the top, Mount Pisgah is one of the best places to watch the sun rise over the fields of Lane County. It may seem like a pain waking up that early, but watching the auburn light cascade over the valley is well worth it.
Smith Rock State Park is a great place for students to get away for the weekend and get into the outdoors. Smith Rock is best known for its rock -climbing, but if rock climbing isn’t the goal, there is still plenty more to do. The park has 650 acres of hiking, biking, slacklining, horse riding and climbing trails, and all are paired with incredible views of the desert-scaped topography. The park is a three-hour excursion into central Oregon in Terrebonne. For a little escape of the typical scenery around Eugene, take a visit to Smith Rock.
Whether it be hiking, running or mountain biking, Thurston Hills Natural Area has it all. There are 4.2 miles of trails that are surrounded by wildflowers and views of Eugene and Springfield. The park is relatively new, so take advantage of some fresh and lightly used trails. The park is in Springfield, so this is a great place for students who want to get off campus and immerse themselves into nature quickly.