Finding a trail for a day hike near Eugene, Oregon, is easy. In fact, you don’t even need to leave town. But if you do want to explore farther afield, more trails — hundreds of them — reveal the natural beauty of the Cascade Mountains and the Coast Range. The 10 hikes featured here are all less than 2 hours from Eugene. Some explore the Cascades, others the Coast Range. Each offers Oregon’s photo-worthy scenery, plus a bonus: waterfalls, swimming holes, wildflowers, or panoramic views.
1. Spencer Butte
Spencer Butte, just 15 minutes south of downtown Eugene, is arguably the most popular hike in town, and with good reason — the summit offers 360-degree views of Eugene and the surrounding fields and forest. The trail gradually climbs 1.1 miles through a Douglas fir and big leaf maple forest before climbing steeply as it emerges from the trees. The last portion of the hike to the summit is on a rocky, uneven trail, and stairs roughly cut into the bedrock. Wildflowers abound, including starry Solomon’s seal in the forest and Oregon sunshine at the top. For a longer hike, connect with other trails in the Ridgeline Trail system. No pass needed.
Pro Tip: Watch out for stinging nettles in the forest and poison oak in the open areas.
2. Mt. Pisgah
When the locals need a nature break or a quick hike (almost) without leaving town, they head to Mt. Pisgah, just 20 minutes from downtown Eugene. Encompassing both an arboretum and the Howard Buford Recreation Area, Mt. Pisgah delivers mountaintop views, riverside strolls, and 17 miles of trails crisscrossing the hillsides in-between. The 3-mile round trip trail to the 1,1518-foot summit is a perennial favorite among those looking for views of snowy peaks and a workout; families and wildflower aficionados prefer to walk near the Coast Fork of the Willamette River. Trail maps are available on-site and online. Dogs are permitted on a leash. A Lane County Park Pass or day-use pass (available on-site) is required.
Pro Tip: Looking for solitude? The East Trailhead attracts few hikers. Driving directions can be found at the Mt. Pisgah Arboretum website.
3. Cape Perpetua Scenic Area
Twelve trails highlight the best features of the 2,700-acre Cape Perpetua Scenic Area on the Oregon coast, an hour and 45 minutes from Eugene. The 26 miles of trail lead to tidepools, Thor’s Well, old-growth coastal forest, and a clifftop stone shelter (built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps) with 180-degree views 800 feet above the ocean. To reach the stone shelter from the Visitor Center, take the 1.4-mile Saint Perpetua trail, which climbs 750 feet on switchbacks before joining the Whispering Spruce Trail loop at the top. Or you can skip the hike and drive to the Cape Perpetua Day Use Area. Some trails are paved. The “America the Beautiful” Interagency Annual Pass or the Annual Northwest Forest Pass or Day Use Pass (available on-site or online) is required.
Pro Tips: The Day Use Pass can be purchased online and printed at home. It’s good for multiple sites visited on the same day. Save hiking Cape Perpetua for a sunny day, when the views can stretch for miles.
4. Proxy Falls
In 1.5 miles, the easy Proxy Falls loop trail offers big payoffs: two photogenic waterfalls, plus pink wild rhododendron blooms in early summer and fiery red vine maples for color in the fall. Highway 242, also known as the Old McKenzie Highway, provides access to the trailhead and is closed from November to mid-June. The trail crosses lava beds and winds through Douglas fir and cedar forests, with spur trails to the waterfalls. The trail is smoother on the eastern half of the loop (go left at the trailhead). Dogs are welcome on a leash. Beyond the Proxy Falls trailhead, Highway 242 is narrow with hairpin turns and not recommended for RVs or trailers. An “America the Beautiful” Interagency Annual Pass or the Annual Northwest Forest Pass or Day Use Pass (available on-site or online) is required.
Pro Tip: Upper Proxy Falls is one of the most-photographed waterfalls in Oregon, but the photos never show its unique feature: no outlet creek drains the pool beneath the falls. Instead, the water drains into the porous lava rock below.
5. Sahalie And Koosah Falls
The cold, clear, ice blue McKenzie River thunders over Sahalie Falls just steps from the parking lot. For a 2.2-mile loop through the Willamette National Forest with stunning views of two waterfalls and the river, head north from the fully accessible Sahalie Falls viewpoint on the Waterfalls Loop Trail, crossing the river above the waterfall. The trail hugs the west bank, crosses the river on a gravel road at Carmen Reservoir, and follows the east bank north past Koosah Falls before returning to Sahalie Falls. Expect muddy, uneven terrain beyond the paved viewpoint. The falls are about an hour and 15 minutes east of Eugene on Highway 126. No parking pass needed.
Pro Tip: Stop at the historic Vida Café in the town of Vida along Highway 126 for homemade pie and juicy burgers on your way back.
6. Brice Creek
The ice-cold swimming hole at Brice Creek Falls is a popular spot on hot summer days, but Brice Creek Trail is a scenic hike year-round. Located east of Cottage Grove and an hour from Eugene, the 5.7-mile (one way) trail hugs the creek from the Brice Creek Trailhead to Champion Creek Trailhead. To hike the middle segments, access the trail from Lund Campground or Cedar Creek Campground. The latter is just 0.3 miles from the 8-foot falls and swimming hole. If you’re feeling adventurous, on summer days you can hike in the creekbed back to the car. No parking pass is needed.
Pro Tip: More waterfall hikes are nearby. Visit the Umpqua National Forest website or ranger station for maps and information about Trestle Falls, Pinard Falls, Spirit Falls, and Wildwood Falls.
7. Horse Rock Ridge
Located an hour from Eugene, the Horse Rock Ridge Research Natural Area hike starts in a forest and then meanders along a ridge through wildflower-filled meadows. Calypso orchids bloom under the firs, while Oregon iris, Oregon sunshine, and other wildflowers flourish on the sunny slopes. The rough, sometimes muddy 3.7-mile roundtrip trail climbs gradually and offers views of snow-capped mountains to the east. The steep portion at the end of the trail leads to a small cave and patches of poison oak. No parking pass is required, and dogs are welcome on a leash. The trailhead has limited parking and no restrooms.
Pro Tip: Wildflowers are most plentiful in June and July.
8. Sweet Creek
Sweet Creek in the Siuslaw National Forest tumbles along an easy trail beloved by families and photographers. Shaded by big leaf maples and firs, the creek features 11 small waterfalls and one 20-foot waterfall. The trail has four trailheads, which allows for hiking the entire 2.9 miles (one way) in segments. The most popular is the 2.2-mile roundtrip hike from Homestead Trailhead (and the only restroom) to Sweet Creek Falls and back. The Homestead Trailhead is an hour and 15 minutes west of Eugene, near the town of Mapleton. No parking pass is required, and dogs are welcome on a leash.
Pro Tip: Head into Florence for a bite to eat after your hike.
9. Tamolitch Falls/Blue Pool
For three miles, the McKenzie River vanishes, flowing underground through porous lava rock and re-emerging from springs at the stunningly clear Blue Pool. High water flows in the winter and spring occasionally force the river above ground, where it roars over Tamolitch Falls into Blue Pool. From Carmen Reservoir, the hike along the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail is 6.6 miles roundtrip; from Trailbridge Reservoir, it’s 4.2 miles roundtrip. Expect to share the rocky, rough trail with mountain bikers. For water and restrooms, visit nearby campgrounds or the McKenzie River Ranger Station (open on weekdays). The trailhead is almost an hour and a half from Eugene.
Pro Tip: Blue Pool is a popular destination from June through August. To avoid the crowds, start your hike early in the day or go in the spring and fall.
10. Marys Peak
At 4,097 feet, Marys Peak is the highest point in the Coast Range and, on a clear day, boasts panoramic views from the Pacific Ocean to the Cascade Mountains. Phlox and other wildflowers bloom at the top in early summer. The mountain is in the Siuslaw National Forest west of Corvallis, an hour and a half from Eugene. Four trails climb the peak, but the most popular is the 1.2-mile roundtrip Summit Trail, which starts at the Marys Peak Day Use Area. The hike climbs steadily along a closed dirt and gravel access road. For a longer hike, look for the Meadowedge Trail at the western edge of the forest (it’s not well signed), where the summit road ends at the top. This trail adds a 2.6-mile loop. The road to the Day Use Area isn’t plowed in the winter, so the best time to visit is April through October. An “America the Beautiful” Interagency Annual Pass or the Annual Northwest Forest Pass or Day Use Pass (available on-site or online) is required.
Pro Tip: Check the weather forecast before you go. On a sunny spring day in the Willamette Valley, we found it was snowing at Marys Peak.