It’s funny how you can live in an area for many years and get into a bit of a rut as far as local excursions go. I love to explore and to hike, but most of my planning energy is usually focused on getting away from my home base rather than appreciating everything within a close proximity. For example, we’ve popped up and down the same trail at Spencer’s Butte and Mt. Pisgah so many times I’ve lost count, but we never really bothered to explore different routes to the summit. In the beginning of COVID-19, most wilderness trails were closed and long car trips off the table, and that caused me to take a closer look at what is available to us locally. 

These are just a few ideas.

Mt. Baldy (Eugene, OR)

Mt. Baldy, located close to the urban center in the South Eugene Hills, is a pleasant short hike for beginners or small children. It is listed as a 2.8-mile round trip hike on the AllTrails site, but from the upper parking lot it is a short 1.1-mile jaunt. The trail was a bit narrow and is a shared use trail with both hikers and mountain bikers, but it features lovely views in all directions. For me personally, it was a bit too easy for my fitness level, but my son was thrilled that it was much shorter than the other hikes we normally take him on. I would suggest it for someone with very small children or for folks who don’t seek a more vigorous workout.

Mt. Pisgah (backside) (Eugene, OR)

I have traversed the main (3+ mile) route up and down Mt. Pisgah, a heavily trafficked popular trail with a spectacular view at the top, more times than I can count. Yet, what I didn’t grasp is that there are more than 30 miles of trails to explore including the (arguably) more beautiful and less popular East Trailhead. At 5.25 miles and 1,161 feet of elevation gain, this is not an easy hike and is best for older children and the physically fit. The East Trailhead is located off Ridgeway Road off Highway 58 near Pleasant Hill. It starts on a gravel road, meanders through farmland, and climbs up to the same breathtaking summit you reach from the main route. Although the kids grumbled a bit about the length, the view at the top is always worth it, and we loved watching the tadpoles and appreciating the wildflowers.

Dorris Ranch (Springfield, OR)

I had been to Dorris Ranch once before for a special event being held in one of their historic buildings, but I had never explored the sprawling walking paths. One nice Sunday, I packed up the family and we went back to wander the trails. Dorris Ranch is the nation’s oldest hazelnut (filbert) farm, and a national historic site. Explore the more than four miles of walking paths and you will wander through orchards, forest land, and along the Willamette River. The trails are great for bike riding too!

Dorena Lake (Cottage Grove, OR)

Lovely Dorena Lake, just about a 30-minute drive from Eugene, is located near the scenic byway and popular Row River biking and hiking trail. The lake offers boating, sailing, swimming, fishing, and camping, and it also has a small playground and plenty of picnic spots. To keep up with social distancing, we wandered a bit farther down the trail from the main entrance and found plenty of picnic tables and secluded spots all along the lake.

Willamette River Bike Trail (Eugene, OR – Springfield, OR)

The Willamette River Bike Trail is a popular and heavily trafficked multi-use trail running along both sides of the Willamette River, and it is great for a family bike ride or stroll. We followed the route crossing south on Ferry Street Bridge, past Skinner Butte Park and the Rose Garden, and back over the bridge (near Valley River Center mall) and circling back. At times, this path can be quite crowded with bikers and joggers, so keep this in mind when planning a social distancing outing. After our ride, we discovered that Euphoria Chocolate at Oakway Center is offering curbside hand-dipped chocolate ice cream bars, so this is a great option for a post-ride treat.

Has COVID-19 encouraged your family to discover new excursions within close range?

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