Cottage Grove, Oregon, is just 23 miles south of Eugene, but it feels like a world away. History is remembered in the buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s that line Main Street, in the aviation and gold mining museums, the covered bridges, and neighborhoods of vintage homes and picket fences.
Established in 1855 and incorporated in 1887, the town flourished as a commercial hub for local farmers. When gold was discovered on nearby Bohemia Mountain in 1858, it served gold miners, too. The Chambers Railroad Bridge — one of five covered railroad bridges remaining in the country — is a relic from when sawmills dominated the local economy. Cottage Grove’s Main Street and environs also have provided the backdrop for scenes from several movies, including Buster Keaton’s The General (1926), Stand By Me (1986), and Animal House (1977).
Today, small-town ambiance lends its charm to brewpubs, unique restaurants, boutiques, and community festivals and events. Just outside town, outdoor recreation awaits.
Things To Do In Cottage Grove
With a charming old-fashioned Main Street, six historic covered bridges, and ample opportunities for hiking and biking, Cottage Grove enchants visitors with its small-town ambiance and outdoor adventure.
Cottage Grove Covered Bridge Tour Route
Known as the Covered Bridge Capital of the West, Cottage Grove boasts no less than six covered bridges. The approximately 30-mile self-guided Cottage Grove Covered Bridge Tour Route starts on Main Street at the pedestrian covered bridge celebrating Cottage Grove’s 100th birthday. The tour route swings past the last remaining covered railroad bridge west of the Mississippi River, then plunges into the countryside and the forested foothills of the Cascade mountains. Along the way, you’ll see Dorena Lake, cross the oldest bridge in Lane County, and enjoy spectacular scenery. Restrooms are available at Mosby Creek Bridge and Doreen Bridge.
Pro Tip: To see the Chambers Railroad Bridge up close, follow the tour route, but turn left off Highway 99 at Harrison Avenue. Then turn left on First Street and go right at the next corner, on Tyler Avenue. You can park where the street ends at the entrance to the park.
Bohemia Gold Mining Museum
Don’t be fooled by the square dancers on the big red barn. This vintage structure houses the Bohemia Gold Mining Museum, which displays a fascinating collection of gold mining tools and relics collected from the mines on nearby Bohemia Mountain. Gold was discovered there in 1836. The museum’s collection includes mining equipment, antique housewares, rocks and minerals, blacksmithing tools, a wood-burning cookstove, mine and claim maps, working models, and a collection of articles and other information about the local mines. You can also try your hand at panning for gold. The museum features a gift shop with books, videos, clothing, and more.
Historic Downtown Cottage Grove
Main Street has been the heart of Cottage Grove for more than 100 years. Lined with buildings from the 1880s and early 1900s, Main Street was once the center of the farming, mining, and wood products industry in the area. Today, downtown Cottage Grove is a National Historic District filled with boutiques, restaurants, bookstores, and antique shops.
A few favorites: the Bookmine (for books and more), the Crafty Mercantile (for art supplies, chocolate, and so much more), and 5 Flying Monkeys (for vintage treasures). Free parking is available on the street or in marked parking lots.
Pro Tip: The parade in the movie Animal House was filmed on Main Street in 1977.
Row River Trail
The family-friendly, paved multi-use Row River Trail follows what was once the railroad tracks of the Oregon Pacific & Eastern Railroad line. Now a National Recreation Trail, the 16-mile Row River Trail (“Row” rhymes with cow) is open to walking, biking, and horseback riding. No motorized vehicles are allowed. The car-free trail starts in town, then heads into the countryside and the Cascade Mountains foothills. Along the way, the path passes covered bridges, cruises through forests, and hugs the shoreline of Dorena Lake. Elevation gains are gradual, and the scenery is stunning. Trailheads offer access and restrooms every 2 or 3 miles. There’s no food or water available on the trail. Don’t have your bicycle handy? Rent one from Rainy Peak Bicycles on Main Street in Cottage Grove.
Pro Tip: Skip the first 3 miles, which tend to lack shade and are exposed to noise from passing vehicles. Start instead at the Mosby Creek Trailhead for a shaded, quiet ride. This is also where you’ll find the train trestle bridge made famous in the movie Stand By Me.
Oregon Aviation Historical Society & Museum
If you’ve ever had the urge to build an airplane in your garage, you won’t want to miss the Oregon Aviation Historical Society & Museum. The museum showcases the history of aviation in Oregon with displays about aviation pioneers and their homebuilt planes (which were illegal to fly until 1952). It also houses a collection of restored vintage airplanes. Celebrity pilot Dorthy Hester’s 1931 Great Lakes 2T-1A airplane, a 1928 Stearman C3B mail plane, and a handful of homebuilt airplanes are stuffed into the display hangar (plans are underway to construct a larger display hangar for the other airplanes in the museum’s collection). The museum also houses the Oregon Aviation Hall of Fame and the Hedberg Research Library and archives. Visitors are welcome to watch (and maybe assist) the restoration work underway on several airplanes a nearby hanger; call ahead for restoration hours. Check the museum’s website for fly-ins and other special events. Admission is free, and donations are gladly accepted.
Cottage Grove Restaurants
Covered Bridge Brewing Group
Covered Bridge Brewing Group is more than just a brewery — it’s also a coffee house, music venue, and food court. The brewpub features indoor seating, as well as a front patio and a back beer garden. Three food trucks offer a variety of flavors, from Texas barbecue to tacos and chicken wings. Grab an espresso and pastry to start your day and return later for a bite to eat, a craft beverage, and live music.
Buster’s Main Street Cafe
The venerable Buster’s Main Street Cafe dishes up classic American fare in the historic Cottage Grove Hotel. You’ll find omelets, eggs Benedict (try the blue crab eggs Benedict), and pancakes among the tasty breakfast offerings. Traditional sandwiches, salads, and burgers round out the lunch menu. After your meal, visit the adjacent Buster’s Bottle Shoppe with more than 250 flavors of soda, including some you’ve likely never heard of, such as Zombie Brain Juice.
Pro Tip: Buster’s Main Street Cafe is named after Buster Keaton, whose larger-than-life face stares intensely from a mural on the corner of Highway 99 and Main Street. Keaton filmed The General in Cottage Grove in 1926.
“Comfort food for all” is the motto at Jack Sprats restaurant on Main Street. The menu lives up to its aspirations with familiar favorites and surprising main dishes, such as Thai coconut curry and cauliflower macaroni and cheese with bacon. Burgers, sandwiches, and salads round out the menu. Dishes friendly to vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and keto diets are clearly marked. Eat inside or at the street-side deck.
Axe And Fiddle Public House
For more than a decade, the Axe and Fiddle Public House has polished its reputation as the nightlife hub in Cottage Grove. Live music, dinner theatre, and events take the stage most nights of the week. A community hub, the Axe and Fiddle serves up locally sourced ingredients for the burgers, sandwiches, salads, and entrees as much as possible. Craft beer, wine, cider, and spirits fill the drinks menu. Check the website for a full calendar of events.
Coast Fork Brewing And Feed
Besides selling its own brews — from ales to stouts — Coast Fork Brewing and Feed also stocks home brewing supplies (and pet food, garden supplies, gifts, and more) at the feed store next door. If you’d rather just enjoy a drink and a meal on the patio or in the dining room, you’ll have a wide choice of beverages. The brewpub also serves wine, meads, whiskey, bourbon, and rye. The whiskey library offers more than 25 selections. In addition to an extensive sandwich menu, the brewpub also bakes a variety of meat pies, such as chicken pot pie, shepherd’s pie, and cottage pie. A vegan root vegetable pie is available, too. Wrap up your meal with a slice of pie of a different sort: chocolate bourbon pecan.
Pro Tip: In 1893 Cottage Grove’s residents east of the Coast Fork of the Willamette River seceded and later named their town Lemati, leading to a tug of war over the post office (on one occasion, the building was dragged to the east side of the river in the dead of night). The town reunited in 1899 and today celebrates with two events worth planning your trip around: Bohemia Mining Days in July (parades, food, music, vendors, madcap competitions, and more) and thousands of Lights at the Village Green and Christmas Market during the holiday season.