Nick Symmonds grew up fishing, hiking, camping and exploring the Pacific Northwest. Today, the Eugene-based athlete, a biochemistry graduate from Willamette University, has become an Oregon celebrity of sorts — a two-time U.S. Olympian (Beijing 2008 and London 2012), former college track superstar, former Nike athlete and entrepreneur.
In late April 2018, Symmonds ran the Eugene Marathon, calling it the final race of his running career. Shortly afterward he announced his next venture: He’s training to climb Mount Everest, considered the pinnacle of climbing achievements — the world’s highest mountain above sea level, at 29,029 feet.
“I give Oregon credit for giving me this passion for mountaineering,” he says. “I remember driving Interstate-84 as I came to Salem [for college] every year. I passed Mt. Hood, and it tortured me that I didn’t know what the view was like on top.”
Symmonds made it to Mt. Hood’s summit on his third attempt, and it just fueled his fire. Next he plans to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the first of his mission to summit all the highest peaks of each of the seven continents.
Between his global climbing ascents and training, Symmonds says he’ll always come back to Eugene — the fishing on the McKenzie River and proximity to all of his favorite spots is just too ideal.
He loves to fly-fish, as an exhilarating but slower paced counterpoint to his more vigorous pursuits. “I’m only an hour away from 25 different species [such as steelhead, salmon, lingcod, lamprey and more]; there’s very few places in the world where you can say that,” Symmonds says. “For me, a lot of fishing is meditative. Everything around me fades away as I slowly and purposefully pick apart a section of water.”
From his home base in Eugene, Symmonds will also still run the company he co-founded in 2014 called Run Gum, which makes caffeine energy gum (as an energy drink alternative) that’s sold online and in retail stores across the world. He promotes it to his social media followers with images showcasing life in Oregon — climbing, fishing, surfing, hiking and running.
Want to adventure like an Olympian? Here are some of Symmonds’ favorite places across Oregon, where you may find inspiration too.
Hiking at Mt. Pisgah Arboretum just outside of Eugene, a botanical wonderland with 300 native species of wildflowers that bloom February through July.
Hiking at the 1.7-mile loop trail at Spencer Butte in Eugene, which leads to a rocky summit with panoramic views.
Running at Pre’s Trail at Alton Baker Park, the 4-mile soft-surface trail installed as a tribute to Oregon track legend Steve Prefontaine.
Running on the Amazon Trail in South Eugene, with a figure-eight shape for longer as well as shorter loops, and lights for nighttime running.
Fishing at the Willamette River’s “town run” in Eugene, where summer steelhead is typically best around June and July.
Fishing at the Upper Sandy River in Troutdale, known for its wild steelhead, well guarded by catch-and-release regulations.
Running at Forest Park, where 80 miles of trails, fire lanes and forest roads await — much more than just the famous Wildwood Trail.
Fishing at North Umpqua Wild and Scenic River, just north of Roseburg, where there’s 31 miles of fly-fishing-only territory, considered one of the most beautiful and challenging places to catch steelhead in the world.
Climbing at Mount Thielsen, the dramatic horn-shaped spire north of Crater Lake, with expansive views of Mount Shasta, the Three Sisters and Crater Lake.
Climbing at Mount McLoughlin, east of Medford, where the five miles of rocky terrain to the summit are recommended for experienced climbers only.