A walk in the woods in Eugene, Oregon is unlike any other. The home of the University of Oregon campus, Eugene is one of the more picturesque cities in Oregon and frequently rated one of the best places to live in the United States. This is definitely thanks in part to its vibrant outdoor attractions. Parks like Skinner Butte and Alton Baker Park are storied and rooted in history, while places like Pre’s Trail — designed by an Olympic runner — offer runners of all levels an expert’s training experience. To be surrounded by beauty, look no further than the Delta Ponds or the Owen Rose Garden, and make sure to stop by Oakmont Park for that neighborhood-park feel. However you’re looking to enjoy the great outdoors today, you’re bound to find your fit in Eugene.
Hendricks Park is Eugene’s oldest city park, including 80 acres of winding trails, native plants, and a world-renowned rhododendron garden. The prime time for rhododendron blooms is mid-spring, around the beginning of May, and they stay in bloom through the beginning of summer. The garden is perfect for an afternoon relaxing or enjoying lunch in the park. Also in the park is the Francis M. Wilkins Shelter, a historic shelter complete with a fireplace and the Moon Terrace Deck that is available for rent from April 1 through October 31.
This 4-mile-long running trail is a favorite for joggers and walkers around town. Pre’s Trail is actually inspired by Olympic runner Steve Prefontaine, who styled the trail like ones found in Scandinavia. He hoped the trail would help him safely train in Eugene and inspire others to hit the ground running, as well. Anyone who runs as a hobby or seriously needs to make a visit here a must on their bucket list.
Known around town as the birthplace of Eugene, Skinner Butte Park is a historical gem and active place to spend the afternoon. Year-round hiking is available on any of the numerous official (and unofficial) trails, which pass many of the park’s major landmarks, like the columns on the west side and the summit overlooking the city. You’ll also find opportunities for rock climbing! When the university gym proves too easy, head here to really test your climbing skills. The park consists of about 100 acres and is found between the Fifth Street Public Market and the Whitaker District.
Dozens of ponds, channels, and wetlands make up what is known as the Delta Ponds, a serene getaway of hiking and nature trails in Eugene. It’s also a prized place for fishing and wildlife-spotting, and loved for its quiet atmosphere. Over 100 species of birds have been spotted here, and it’s also a sanctuary for the nearly endangered Western Pond Turtle. You’ll find the pond on the Willamette River in north Eugene, near the Valley River Center.
Owen Rose Garden
The Owen Memorial Rose Garden can be found near Skinner Butte and is impossible to miss. The garden has over 4,500 rose blooms and other flowers, including a cherry tree and numerous rosebud tunnels. In fact, the Black Tartarian cherry tree is believed to be the largest and oldest, planted there in 1847. Go here for a romantic picnic or a short but beautiful two-mile run.
Alton Baker Park
Alton Baker Park is the largest developed park in Eugene and has been a part of the city since 1959. It’s a massive 400 acres of woods, fields, and trails, good for walking or running, organizing sports games, or lounging in the shade on a sunny day. You’ll find an 18-hole disc golf course and a BMX race course alongside sleepy duck ponds and the quiet Hays Tree Garden. Keep an eye out for events held at the Cuthbert Amphitheater, where musicians perform concerts regularly. The park is located just steps away from the University of Oregon campus.
For the most family-friendly, neighborhood feel in town, head to Oakmont Park. It comes complete with playgrounds, plenty of fields to run or start a ball game in, basketball courts, and splash fountains. You’ll find it in south Eugene’s Willakenzie neighborhood, right across from the Oakway Center. Grab a latte at Starbucks before you head over for an afternoon spent on the lawn.