The days are shorter and chillier, and cabin fever is settling in. Sometimes the best remedy is to unplug and take a long walk in the woods. If you’re in the Eugene area this winter — one of the greenest, loveliest, woodsy-est parts of the state — consider these five top hikes:
For waterfall lovers
There are only a few places in Oregon where you can see 11 waterfalls along one trail. The 2.2-mile Sweet Creek Trail is one of them. An hour west of Eugene in Mapleton — about 25 miles inland from Florence — this family-friendly hike includes four trail segments through a forest of Douglas fir, alder and bigleaf maple trees. Breathe in the sweet scent of mossy rocks and ferns and marvel at the lacy tiered cascades, up to 70 feet high.
For urban trekkers
Stay in the city and see some of Eugene’s best parks while you walk or bike the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Trail. This route lets you take in the sights and sounds of Eugene by hopscotching across the Willamette River — from the Owosso Pedestrian/Bike Bridge at the north to Inland Park in Springfield to the south. Cross five pedestrian/bike bridges, cruise past duck ponds, rose gardens, wildlife viewing areas, off-leash dog areas and playgrounds.
For panoramic views
The ever-changing scenery along the Ridgeline Trail — 12 miles of interconnected trails in south Eugene — leads through meadows, prairies, woodlands and old-growth forests. Trails vary in distance and difficulty, but serious hikers shouldn’t miss the crown jewel, the Spencer Butte Trailhead and summit. This 0.6-mile trek beyond the 1.1-mile main trail involves a steep scramble to the 2,054-foot rocky summit. The terrain can be wet at times, so use caution. The views of Eugene and the southern Willamette Valley are breathtaking.
For dog walkers
Bring your pup for a tranquil walk around part of the 14-mile Dorena Lake loop, where the bright blue reservoir sparkles amidst rolling green hills. About 30 miles south of the city, the lakeside trail is busy with water sports in the summer but in the winter, it’s a secret spot for hikers and mountain bikers.
For ecology lovers
Just outside downtown Eugene, the eight miles of all-weather trails at Mount Pisgah Arboretum make for a lovely place to take a winter hike. The 209-acre nature preserve includes a full lineup of year-round events, including a “life among the mosses” walk (Feb. 22, 2020), Nature’s Slimy Creatures Walk (March 7, 2020), flies and flowers walk (Mar. 14, 2020), various bird walks and more.