: Turrell Group/ Eugene, Cascades & Coast

Summer Fun in the South Willamette Valley

Mountain biking, farm-fresh food and jam bands anchor a trip to Eugene and beyond.
June 17, 2019 (Updated May 16, 2024)

As a longtime Eugene-area resident, I love experiencing all the charms of one of Oregon’s largest cities. There’s excellent live music and fresh produce brought from local farms to the farmers markets, and plenty of museums on the University of Oregon campus. A wander through Eugene’s Saturday Market always yields one-of-a-kind handmade gifts. The region surrounding Eugene has vibrant towns to experience by foot or bicycle, urban tasting rooms and food carts. Here are some of my favorite things to do on a beautiful day in the valley.

Food shot of coffee, pastries, and sandwiches from Creswell Bakery.
Fuel up for the day at Creswell Bakery.

Taste the Valley From Farm to Fork

Pack a picnic basket with bread, meats, cheeses and beverages from the farmers markets dotting towns across the valley, then enjoy your snacks along the bike paths or riverside. Sample the ciders made from local orchard fruit at WildCraft Cider Works in Eugene, or taste some lavender lemonade at McKenzie River Lavender, just 20 miles east in Springfield. Blooms start in late May, and there’s an annual bloom festival in early June. Creswell Bakery, 16 miles south of Eugene, is known for its scratch-made baked goods, like the cardamom buns representing owner Heidi Meloling’s Swedish heritage. Step through the doors of the cozy Three Legged Crane pub in Oakridge, 42 miles southeast of Eugene, and you’ll be instantly transported across the pond by its traditional English ales, served straight from the cask. The self-guided South Willamette Valley Food Trail includes these and more bakeries, wineries and farm stands.

Large crowd of people meandering through a fair. Several brightly colored shop tents and banners read "Graceland" and "El Burrito Shop"
The Oregon Country Fair is a summer staple event. (Courtesy of Willamette Valley Visitors Association)

Art and Culture Take Center Stage

Eugene is one of the centers of Oregon’s music scene. It’s where the legendary swing band Cherry Poppin’ Daddies and alternative-rock star Tracy Bonham got their start. Each summer in Eugene, the Oregon Bach Festival revives the works of the Baroque-era composer and those inspired by his music across various venues. Each summer and winter, the city hosts the Oregon Festival of American Music, immersing listeners in the uniquely American canon from Copland to Gershwin. 

The valley’s counterculture roots come alive each summer at the Oregon Country Fair, formed from early connections to the Grateful Dead in the 1970s. Held on a 500-acre parcel of wooded land in Veneta, 14 miles west of Eugene, the annual fair is an immersive spectacle with daily parades, interactive art, music and exhibits. Browse the goods of more than 300 artisans, many of which sell only at the fair. 

In Eugene, Springfield and Cottage Grove, take self-guided mural tours to explore whimsical paintings and imaginative street art. A few years ago, Eugene commissioned exciting new murals through its 20×21 public art project, including those by renowned global street artists like Blek le Rat. The city is now up to 64 mural locations including painted utility boxes. Cottage Grove has 21 outdoor works of art on its mural tour, including 10 in its historic district. Springfield’s mural walking tour includes odes to the fictional town of Springfield on “The Simpsons.”

Two people enjoying the view of a forested valley and (far in the distance, Autzen Stadium) from the peak of Spencer's Butte.
The views atop Spencer's Butte. (Courtesy of Brandon Fralic/ Eugene, Cascades & Coast)

From Summit to Stream, the Outdoors Beckon

Pedal power and foot power rule the roads and trails in Eugene. This is a city that embraces a two-wheeled and two-footed lifestyle — it is known as TrackTown USA, after all, since it hosts many track events, including the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in June 2024 at Hayward Field. Within city limits, cyclists can escape onto paved paths meandering alongside the Willamette and McKenzie rivers. The Ruth Bascom Riverbank Path System winds along the Willamette River through Eugene’s 400-acre Alton Baker Park, perfect for picnics.

Explore the area’s rich wetlands and wildlife on the trails surrounding Fern Ridge Reservoir, 12 miles west of Eugene. Park at the highest trailhead for Spencer Butte on Willamette Street in the south hills of Eugene, and you are less than a mile from the summit. On a clear day, you can see iconic mountains including the Three Sisters and Diamond Peak. Or head to Eugene’s other rocky landmark, Skinner Butte, where you can drive up to the top for a sweeping city vista.

Oakridge is a premier mountain biking destination. With hundreds of miles of trails crisscrossing the Cascade mountain foothills terrain, riders of all skill levels can enjoy a perfect ride. Bikers from all over the world descend on the area for the Mountain Bike Oregon festival, held yearly over three days in June.  

The McKenzie River corridor beckons with activities including hiking to waterfalls and rafting or drift boating. The McKenzie River Trail is just over 26 miles from its start at the river’s headwaters. At Oregon River Experiences, professional guides can take large or small groups out for half-day, full-day or two-day McKenzie River rafting trips. One popular and easy hiking opportunity along the McKenzie River Trail is the Waterfalls Loop Trail. This hike passes through old-growth forests on the way to Sahalie Falls, then continues to Koosah Falls — both drop about 75 feet. The Sahalie Falls viewpoint is fully accessible, with easy access along a paved trail leading from the parking area.

About The

Vanessa Salvia
Vanessa Salvia is a writer and editor based in Western Oregon. She lives on a farm with sheep, goats, and orchards, where she enjoys life with her family, two cats, two puggles, and an abundance of wildlife. She grew up in Florida, graduated from high school in Pennsylvania, and has lived in Oregon ever since. There's nowhere else she would rather be.

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