Eugene Weekly : Summer Guide : 6.4.09


Staff Picks
A few of our favorite outdoor activities


A Butte-iful Summer Hike

I grew up in Colorado, so for me, the summer months have always been closely associated with hikes through the mountains. However, living in the southern suburbs of Denver, a massive sprawl of cookie cutter houses and strip malls, also meant that if I wanted to get into any nature I had at least 30 to 45 minutes of highway driving ahead of me.

Luckily we don’t have this problem in Eugene. After four years living in this city, I am still amazed that I can take a 10-minute drive down Willamette Street from my downtown apartment and be at the foot of Spencer Butte in the middle of the forest.

With an elevation of only 2,062 feet, Spencer may not be as tall as the mountains west of Denver, but the short hike to its summit is just as enjoyable. The trees are just as tall and, since Oregon actually has some moisture, the undergrowth is much more impressive. It’s a great place to take the dogs for a walk, a great way to get the kids away from the TV or even a great place for a picnic with family and friends.

Sometimes I think that Eugeneans take for granted their incredible access to the outdoors. This summer when you’re looking for something to do and a way to get out of the house, remember that you don’t have go to the coast or Cascades. The butte in our own backyard is a picturesque slice of nature that a good chunk of this country never gets the chance to experience.

The Spencer Butte trail is part of the larger Ridgeline Trail system that winds its way through southern Eugene. The loop to the summit of Spencer’s Butte sits at roughly the halfway point of the 14 mile Ridgeline Trail, and those who want to hike a bit of that trail before going up the butte can start at the trailhead on 52nd Avenue and Willamette. However, those who just want to hike the butte can start at the official Spencer Butte trailhead just a few minutes farther down Willamette. — Topher Vollmer



The coolest route to the top of Mt. Pisgah is what we call “the backside”. Pisgah regulars know the trail well, but most hikers still park in the main parking area and slog in the sun up the westside route. To find the trailhead on the east side of Pisgah, drive out highway 58 nearly to Pleasant Hill. Just before the shopping center, turn left and wind with the main road toward the parking area at the base of our popular little mountain.

More shaded and winding, this trail is longer. You’re also more likely to see horses and riders on this side. Warning: Poison oak thrives. Stay on the trails. — Anita Johnson


Slip ’n’ Slide

For a bit of adventurous (if slightly treacherous) swimming fun, journey northeast to Lake Creek Falls, known to locals as Slide Rock, a summer cool-off destination just south of Triangle Lake featuring a 100 foot natural rock water slide. Water courses over a large angled rock shelf, allowing brave swimmers to slide down with the current into a large pool below. 

Felled trees abound, serving as walking bridges for those looking to explore, and large flat-topped rocks allow sunbathers to take in the ultraviolet rays. Smaller swimming holes allow for the weaker-hearted to take a cool dip. 

Slide Rock is hardly a secret to locals and swimmers from Junction City — the hotter the day, the larger the crowd. Keep in mind that everything is pretty wet and slippery, and of course there is no lifeguard, so walk, cross and swim at your own risk. 

From Eugene, take Hwy 99 north towards Junction City, turning left on Hwy 36. Head west 25 miles. Slide Rock is a half a mile south of Triangle Lake and the parking lot is on the left side of the road. On foot, cross the road and follow the path down the wooden stairs. — Katie Kalk


Pot Luck on the Docks

Toss a small crab pot or snare off the public docks at Waldport or a boat in one of the coastal bays and you’re bound to catch something that will make little kids scream in horror and delight. Bait it with a raw chicken leg or other piece of meat. Small, castable crab catchers such as the CrabHawk are available at local hardware stores. You will need a shellfish permit and life jackets for kids on the docks. — Ted Taylor


Hike the Charred Forest

Fall Creek out past Dexter and Lowell is famous for forest activism, college partying and skinny dipping (not necessarily in that order), but it’s also a great place to experience a lush old-growth forest, and the contrasting charred landscape of the 2003 Clark Fire — nicely recovering without salvage logging. The dramatic burned area is about an hour’s drive from Eugene, but gorgeous swimming holes, campgrounds and trails can be found along the way. — Ted Taylor

Hang in Eugene’s Tiny Parks

Most local folks know and love Eugene’s big parks: Alton Baker, Hendricks, Amazon, Skinner Butte and the Own Rose Garden. But check out a city map and explore some of the charming little neighborhood parks scattered on both sides of the river — about two dozen of them, last time we counted. Most can be reached on foot or by bicycle and make great picnic destinations. Springfield has gems as well, some well-manicured and others a bit on the wild side. — Ted Taylor


Artistic Reflections

Cool. Calm. Peaceful place with water, and even fish. It’s the reflecting pool in the middle of the Schnitz in the middle of the UO campus. Nice to sit by the side and forget about the chaos outside. Years ago, visitors lined the bottom of the pool with pennies hopefully paying for wishes. Fish fortunately replaced the dirty coins. Officially, it’s the Prince Lucien Campbell Memorial courtyard in the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. You can drop in there for free 11 am to 5 pm Tuesdays, 11 am to 8 pm Wednesdays and 11 am to 5 pm Thursdays through Sundays. 


Assault a Volcano

South Sister is a popular climb in summer and early fall, and even adolescents and seniors can make it to the top of this 10,385-ft. Cascades volcano if they are in good condition. Go prepared with snacks, water, sunscreen, windbreakers, sturdy boots and duct tape to avoid heel blisters. Most climbers snooze in cars at the trailhead and stumble up the wooded trail with flashlights at 4 am. Can’t hack the long, hard scramble to the top? Kick back and cool your toes at scenic Moraine Lake halfway up, or camp on the windswept ridge above the lake and enjoy both sunrises and sunsets. Check for wildfires in the area before you go. Smoky air makes climbing harder and diminishes the views. — Ted Taylor