Over the years, we’ve traversed the popular scenic hikes near Eugene, Oregon with our kids many times, and recently we’ve also branched out to explore some lesser-trafficked trails slightly further afield with equally spectacular views.
If you haven’t yet been to Eugene, add it to your list, because it has so much to offer families year-round. Eugene is a thriving college town and Oregon’s second (or third – depending on your source) largest city in Oregon and is located less than two hours south of Portland along the Willamette River. At its core, it’s an outdoorsy city, so bring your hiking boots and trekking poles and read on for four of my favorite family-friendly hikes in and around the urban core.
Spencer Butte Trail
Website | Directions | Eugene | Free!
Length: 1.7 miles
Elevation: 741 feet
Skill level: Moderate
Family-friendly: Yes (we’ve hiked this trail when our kids were babies, toddlers, and beyond).
Dog-friendly: Yes, although best for well-mannered leashed dogs, as the trail can get quite congested.
Ask any local or do a quick search, and Spencer Butte will always pop up as a “must-do” hike in the Eugene-Springfield area. The nice thing about the Butte is that it is close to town and relatively short, so you can fit it in whether you are just visiting for the day or for a longer visit. When you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with wonderful panoramic views of Eugene and surrounding farmland, all the way to the Three Sisters mountains.
When to go: We have hiked Spencer Butte in all kinds of conditions, but if it’s a view you are after make sure to keep an eye on the weather. Because Spencer Butte is a local landmark, you can see whether it is “socked in” or not and whether you might want to wait for clearer conditions.
Local tip: After hiking this trail countless times with my kids at different stages, I would highly recommend a baby or toddler pack, as the last leg of the trail can be strenuous. They’ve improved it since we moved to Oregon, but it’s always sad to see a parent trying to figure out what to do with the stroller that they somehow got the rest of the way up the trail. REI has a great selection, and baby packs are usually quickly snapped up at a good resale price.
Also, be sure to be on the lookout for poison oak, we had a run-in with it on one of our hikes.
Nearby eateries: Afterward, for lunch or a treat, stop off at the shopping center off Willamette and 29th, where you’ll find a Laughing Planet (global cuisine and kid-pleasing meals) or 16 Tons Café (coffee, crepes, beer/wine/cider, and more).
Mt. Pisgah Trail | Mt. Pisgah Arboretum
Website | Directions | Eugene | $5-day parking fee or Annual Pass for Lane County Parks
Length: 3.3 miles
Elevation: 1,053 feet
Skill level: Moderate to challenging
Family-friendly: Yes, but depends on the kids and the fitness level of the parents. As far as the climb, you’ll likely need to pack your little ones, and the older kids, they need to be willing and able to climb. If that doesn’t fit your family, there are plenty of lovely short trails along the river, including places to cool off in the river.
Dog-friendly: Yes! Dogs love it.
Come for the wildflowers, and stay for the spectacular views. Mt. Pisgah Trail is another local favorite in the greater-Eugene area because it also boasts panoramic views of the Willamette Valley as well as so much more. This is the main and most popular climb, but there are more than 30 miles of trails to explore in this beautiful arboretum. The area is considered one of the best local destinations for wildflowers (with April – June being the best months), and even hosts a Wildflower Festival in the spring.
Recently, after traversing the main Mt. Pisgah Trail over and over again, we branched out to try the longer but arguably more beautiful Mt. Pisgah East Loop Trail. Our older kids grumbled a bit about the length (5.6 miles) and elevation (990 feet) but were distracted by tadpoles, wildflowers, and a little stream along the way. It helped to meet up with friends on one of the hikes. I’ve noticed we experience a lot less complaining if the kids have friends to talk to!
Make sure to visit the Mount Pisgah Arboretum website regularly to plan your visit because they have great family-friendly guided walks for the general public year-round with themes such as “pond scooping,” bird watching, native bees, and more!
When to go: Similar to the Butte, we have hiked this area year-round, but have most enjoyed our visits from about April to June when wildflowers are the most spectacular and tadpoles are abundant.
Local tip: Depending on the time of year that you visit, there are some pretty farms to visit on your drive along Seavey Loop Road out to the arboretum, including Charles Little and Company farmstand and U-pick flowers (reopening for the season on April 28), Adkins Blueberry Farm (will reopen during the blueberry season), and ME and Moore Farm and Evanfall (conventional produce and farm-to-bottle hard cider – check website for seasonal availability).
Patterson Mountain Trail
Website | Directions | Lowell
Length: 4.8 miles
Elevation: 866 feet elevation
Skill level: Moderate
Family-friendly: Yes, the trail is fairly level, and there is a forest service shelter along the way that kids enjoy exploring.
This trail is a slight trek from the Eugene area, about a one-hour drive, but well worth it as you are exploring the southern Willamette. I’m marking my calendar to return to the Patterson Mountain Trail during the summer months because the wildflowers were stunning when we visited for the first time two summers ago.
It can be a bit tricky to find down the long winding forest service road, so make sure you are clear on directions ahead of time if you don’t have GPS. We spotted native rhododendrons, likely to be blooming very soon (if not already), and trilliums along the forest floor within the old-growth. The trail ends in a beautiful scenic vista just perfect for a picnic.
If you don’t already own one of William L. Sullivan’s books, make sure to add one (or more!) to your library, he’s a fifth-generation Oregonian and author of 22 books about Oregon. A friend recommended his books and they have given me loads of new ideas of trails to try, and I sure wish I had known about them sooner.
When to go: This trail can be inaccessible during the winter months and we learned that the hard way one year when we tried to pack a visit in too late in the season and didn’t have proper winter wear or snow tires. Our visit on the first of July was during peak wildflower time and beautiful weather.
Local tip: If you like Oregon’s covered bridges, you’re in luck, because there are many beautiful things to see on the drive along Highway 58 including the Lowell Covered Bridge at Dexter Reservoir and the Westfir Office Covered Bridge.
Eagle’s Rest Trail
Website | Directions | Lowell
Length: 4.9 miles
Elevation: 1,328 feet elevation
Skill level: Moderate
Family-friendly: Yes, although as with all of these hikes, best for older children or parents able to pack little ones.
A Eugene-area friend recently invited me to hike this trail with her, and although we did not bring our children I noticed other families on the trail and remarked that it seemed like a good one to bring our older children back to. This trail is close to the Patterson Mountain Trail, and it features similarly beautiful views.
Local tip: This trailhead has a very small parking lot and is popular with mountain bikers, so plan accordingly.
Overall, I will happily visit all four of these trails in and around Eugene again and again, and I hope you enjoy them. If you have any other trails you’ve loved in the Southern Willamette Valley, I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them in the comments below.
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