Eugene Hiking Oregon Willamette Valley

Mount Pisgah – 10/05/2019

We were going to be in Eugene for a joint celebration birthday celebration for our Son and Heather’s Dad at 1pm so if we were going to sneak a hike in it needed to be one close enough to Eugene to make it to the restaurant in time. It seemed like the perfect time to hike at Mt. Pisgah which is located SE of Eugene and just minutes from its downtown. The area is home to Buford Park and the Mount Pisgah Arboretum and offers many miles of trails.

We had been on some of these trails in December 2013 when we were participating in the Frozen Trail Fest 15k. That day had lived up to the race’s name, but now we were heading back to officially check off another of Sullivan’s Featured Hikes.
02 The Trail BeginsNorth Trailhead in 2013.

Unlike the Frozen Trail Fest the forecast for our hike was for patchy fog but otherwise sunny conditions with a high in the mid 60’s. During our drive we passed through several of the foggy patches but at the Mount Pisgah Arboretum parking lot the conditions were good.

There is a $4/day parking fee which can be paid online or at a kiosk at the trailhead.

We didn’t have a set route planned out. Sullivan suggests a 3 mile round trip to the 1529′ summit of Mount Pisgah and/or a 1.7 mile loop in the arboretum. We were looking for something closer to 10 miles. With reportedly over 30 miles of trail in the area, getting in 10 miles wouldn’t be a problem, it was just a matter of coming up with a route that included both the summit and the arboretum. We formulated a plan at the large map on the trailhead signboard.

The trails in Buford Park are number with the main trails being 1-7 and with connector trails being a combination of the numbers of the main trails on either end of the connector. For instance we started our hike on Trail 17 which connects trails 1 & 7.
IMG_0182Trail 17 to the left with Trail 1 straight ahead.

The route we decided on included trails 17, 7, 3(with an out and back on 30), 4, 14, 1, 2, 24, 4 again, back to 2, 6(briefly), 3, and 5 which would bring us back to the arboretum where we would then decided which trails to take there among the various possible loops. The trails were all well marked so following the route was no problem.

Trail 17 climbed uphill for approximately half a mile to Trail 7. Like much of the park it passed through sections of forest and open oak woodlands.




At the junction we turned left opting for a longer trek to the summit.IMG_0192

We now headed back downhill on Trail 7 to the North Trailhead where we had started the Frozen Trail Fest race.


IMG_0196Some of the patchy fog in the valley over Eugene.

IMG_0195Swing Hill

IMG_0205Deer high up on the side of Swing Hill.

IMG_0208Geese flying in front of the fog.

At the North Trailhead we followed a pointer for Trail 3.

Trail 3 wrapped around the base of Swing Hill to its northern side where it started to climb in earnest up to a saddle.
IMG_0214There were a lot of wet spider webs shining in the brush.





IMG_0224The north side of Swing Hill was very forested.

IMG_0228Saddle below Swing Hill

At the saddle we turned right on the .1 mile Trail 30 which ended at a bench and swing atop Swing Hill.


IMG_0232View from Swing Hill

We returned to the Saddle and continued on Trail 3 until we came to the junction with Trail 4.

We could get to the summit going either way but chose the slightly longer (1.3 vs 1.0 mile) Trail 4 which traversed around a forested hillside to a junction with Trail 14.



Trail 14 was only a few hundred feet long, ending at a junction with Trail 1 at a saddle with a bench where we turned left.

We ignored Trail 2 when we came to it in order to visit Mount Pisgah’s summit which was just another tenth of a mile up Trail 1.


It was a beautiful day to be at the summit although being so early in the day the position of the Sun limited the ability to get a good look to the east at the snowy Diamond Peak and the tops of the Middle and South Sister. It’s the one consistent issue with hiking early in the morning on the west side of the Cascades.
IMG_0258Diamond Peak on the horizon.

IMG_0260Diamond Peak

IMG_0281Diamond Peak

IMG_0264Middle and South Sister.

IMG_0280Middle Sister

IMG_0278South Sister photobomb by swallows

IMG_0279South Sister without swallows.

IMG_0283Spencer Butte to the west.

IMG_0284Eugene and the Coast and Middle Fork Willamette Rivers.

After taking the views from the summit (and watching the swallows) we backtracked the .1 miles to Trail 2 and turned downhill.

After a short stint in the trees Trail 2 entered an open hillside with additional views of Diamond Peak.
IMG_0297Looking back uphill.

IMG_0298Sun still causing problems with the view.

After .4 miles on Trail 2 we turned left at a pointer for Trail 24.

Trail 24 was a narrower track that headed steeply downhill through the forest. We had to be a little more careful to avoid the occasional poison oak that is present throughout the area.
IMG_0301Some red leaves of poison oak along Trail 24.


The trail was only about a quarter mile long ending at Trail 4 where we turned right.

This stretch of Trail 4 followed an old road bed to some power lines where the road bed gave way to single track.



IMG_0314More poison oak


We went straight on Trail 2 when we arrived at that junction.

Trail 2 reentered the oak grassland before arriving at a junction with Trail 6 near the East Trailhead.

IMG_0321Bright red tree at a nearby farm from Trail 2.



We turned right on Trail 6 near a signboard and followed it a few hundred feet before veering left onto Trail 3.


Trail 3 passed through more grassland and crossed a couple of stream beds, one with flowing water.



In between the stream beds we heard a ruckus as a few scrub jays sounded very agitated. We quickly spotted the reason, a hawk was in the area. It looked like it might have caught brunch but we couldn’t tell for sure until later; when looking at the pictures it became apparent that it had snagged a jay.


Just beyond the flowing stream crossing we left Trail 3 (which headed uphill) and turned left onto Trail 5.

Trail 5 was posted for hikers only as it headed to the South Meadow and Mount Pisgah Arboretum.


Trail 5 followed the stream downhill then turned right as it approached the Coast Fork Willamette River. A very short unmarked path led down to the river bank here.


After visiting the river we returned to Trail 5 and continued toward the arboretum. Before reaching the arboretum we passed a blank signboard at the South Meadow.

We opted not to explore any of the trails in that area this time and stayed on Trail 5. There were a number of birds along this stretch (there had been quite a few all over but most weren’t interested in having their pictures taken).




IMG_0370A few late bloomers.

A post announced the boundary of the arboretum.

We decided that prior to taking any other trail we needed to make a pit stop at the restrooms so we stuck to Trail 5 aka Quarry Road on the arboretum map until we passed an old barn.

We veered left onto the Riverbank Trail here and followed it to the restrooms.



After the pit stop we headed back following Meadow Road past a pavilion back to the barn.

Near the barn we stayed on Meadow Road following a pointer for the Wetlands Exhibit.

We continued to follow pointers for the Wetlands Exhibit which led us to the unique exhibit.





There was quite a bit of information present in interactive displays. There was also a wolf spider with a sense of irony hanging out on one of the signs.




After checking out the exhibit we returned to the Water Garden Trails and followed them to the Vern Adkinson Bridge.




We crossed the bridge then promptly cross Quarry Road and headed uphill on the Jette Trail.

The Jette Trail climbed uphill passing the Cedar Trail (We decided to save the Incense Cedar Exhibit for another visit.) and some memorials.

IMG_0419Cedar Trail to the left.



We detoured left 100′ on the Buford Trail to check out the interactive Oak Woodlands Exhibit.






This was a really neat exhibit and would be great for kids. After playing around with the exhibit we continued on the Lower Plateau Trail.

We paused briefly to locate the source of the sound of knocking on a nearby tree. It was a partially visible pileated woodpecker.

IMG_0437Mount Pisgah from the Lower Plateau Trail.

We turned left when we reached a post for the Zig Zag Trail which did just that as it headed downhill.


This trail brought us down near the pavillion. They were setting up for a wedding there so we stayed right on the Creek Trails which led through a picnic area to the arboretum entrance near our car.

The route had worked out well coming in at 10.5 miles and taking just over 4 hours and 45 minutes leaving us nearly an hour to change and drive the 15 minutes to the restaurant in Eugene. The route also managed to incorporate at least part of each trail numbered 1-7 albeit only very briefly on Trail 6. (We ran walked up this trail during the Frozen Trail Fest so we’d seen enough of that one.)

With the numerous trails and loop options available the Mount Pisgah area offers a lot of options and the exhibits in the arboretum make it a good place to bring the kiddos. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mount Pisgah

Hiking Oregon Portland Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Tualatin HIlls Nature Park, Tualatin River NWR, and Willamette Mission State Park

For our March outing we decided to stick relatively close to home and visit three nearby hikeable areas. Our first stop, and furthest from Salem at just under an hour away, was at the Tualatin Hills Nature Park in Beaverton.

We started from the large parking lot at the Tualatin Hills Nature Center on SW Millikan Way.
Tualatin Hills Nature Center

The Nature Center is currently open from 8:30am-5pm M-F and 9am-5pm Sat. & Sun. while the park itself is open everyday from dawn to dusk. We arrived at dawn and set off on the paved Vine Maple Trail between the Nature Center and restrooms.
Vine Maple Trail

We quickly turned right onto the signed Oak Trail which was also paved.
Oak Trail

In a third of a mile we detoured briefly at a sign for the Tadpole Ponds.
Tadpole Pond

Although we didn’t see any tadpoles, or other wildlife here, the sounds of birds had not stopped all morning so we knew there were plenty of animals around. We returned to the Oak Trail which passed by Cattail Marsh on the second of three boardwalks.
Oak Trail

Cattail Marsh

Beyond the marsh we soon came to the third boardwalk which crossed over Cedar Mill Creek.
Boardwalk and viewing platforms along the Oak Trail

Cedar Mill Creek

One of the many birds that we’d been listening to was kind enough to pose for a moment as we stood on the boardwalk.

On the far side of the boardwalk was a trail junction where the Oak Trail veered right to the Merlo Rd/158th Ave Max light rail station. To the left was the Old Wagon Trail, a dirt path closed to bikes.
Old Wagon Trail

We followed this trail through a forest that was starting to show signs of Spring for a third of a mile to a junction with the Mink Path.
Old Wagon Trail

Blossoms along the Old Wagon Trail

Old Wagon Trail

Old Wagon Trail junction with the Mink PathTrail pointer at the Mink Path junction. We appreciated the fact that all of the junctions were signed and those signs were easy to read but placed in such a way that they were unobtrusive.

The Mink Path is a .1 mile connector between the Old Wagon Trail and Vine Maple Trail allowing for a shorter loop back to the Nature Center. We opted to stay on the Old Wagon Trail though and continued to the start of another boardwalk where we stopped so I could try and take a photo of a robin that was hopping around on the trail. As I was working on getting a picture Heather spotted a deer just a bit off the trail.
Deer along the Old Wagon Trail (there really is one out ther)Can you see the deer?

I thought she was seeing things but then I noticed it move.
Doe along the Old Wagon Trail (again it is there)How about now?

She turned and watched us as I attempted to get the camera to focus on her and not the branches in the foreground.
Doe in the Tualatin Hills Nature Park

Not far from the deer we spotted a squirrel trying to become one with a limb.

At a “Y” in the boardwalk we veered left keeping on the Old Wagon Trail until we reached a junction with the Vine Maple Trail a total of .4 miles beyond the Mink Path junction. We turned left onto the Vine Maple Trail and then took a right at a pointer for the Lily Pond.

A short path led down to the pond but before we had reached it a pair of wood ducks took flight and landed in a nearby tree.
Wood Ducks

As we were admiring the wood ducks a pileated woodpecker was busy with its breakfast.
Pileated woodpecker

We eventually made it down to the pond where a few ducks remained in the water including what appeared to be a pair of gadwalls.
Interpretive sign at the Lily Pond

Lily Pond


There were also signs of beaver activity but we’ve yet to actually see one in the wild.
Beaver work

After visiting the pond we returned to the Vine Maple Trail which was now paved and followed it past its junction with the Mink Path and across Cedar Mill Creek.
Vine Maple Trail

Vine Maple Trail crossing Cedar Mill Creek

Shortly after crossing the creek we faced another choice. The Nature Center lay a third of a mile away via the Vine Maple Trail but more loop options were available by taking the Elliot Path.
Trail sign in the Tualatin Hills Nature Park

We took the .1 mile Elliot Path to a “T” shaped junction with the Big Fir Trail. Here again was a choice. Left headed back toward the Nature Center while right would take us to the Chickadee and Ash Loops and a short spur to Big Pond. We headed right and then turned left onto the spur to Big Pond.
Big Pond

Big Pond

There were plenty of ducks here as well. It appeared that most were mallards and green-winged teals.
Mallard and Green-winged teals

We returned to the Big Fir Trail and continued on crossing Beaverton Creek before arriving at a four way junction.
Beaverton CreekBeaverton Creek

More choices! The Big Fir Trail kept straight while the Chickadee Loop was to the right and the Ash Loop to the left. We began by heading right on the quarter mile Chickadee Loop which had a nice long section of boardwalk.
Chickadee Loop

After the quarter mile we were back at the Big Fir Trail where we turned right briefly before making a left onto the Ash Loop. The Ash Loop passed some wetlands where a pair of Canada Geese were enjoying the morning.
Wetlands along the Ash Loop

Canada geese

After .3 miles on the Ash Loop we found ourselves back at the four way junction where we turned right and recrossed Beaverton Creek and returned to the junction with the Elliot Path. Staying straight on the Big Fir Trail for just .05 miles we then turned right onto the .2 mile Trillium Loop. Oddly we didn’t see many of signs of trilliums along this short loop but we had seen several beginning to bloom along other trails. After completing the Trillium Loop we turned right again onto the Big Fir Trail for another .1 miles to the start of the half mile Ponderosa Loop.

We took the Ponderosa Loop where we spotted more trillium and our first wood violets of the year.

Wood violet

At the end of the Ponderosa Loop we were once again turning right onto the Big Fir Trail. This time it was for less than a tenth of mile and then we were back at the Vine Maple Trail. Several spotted towhees and a couple of chickadees were foraging near this junction. The chickadees wouldn’t sit still but the towhees were a little more cooperative.
Spotted towhee

Spotted towhee

A right turn onto the Vine Maple Trail followed by another .2 miles of hiking brought us back to the parking lot at the Nature Center. The total distance for our hike with all the extra loops was still just 4.2 miles. When we had arrived we were only the second car but the lot was now full as it was just a bit after 9am. We had passed the first volunteer led tour as we were finishing up the along the Ponderosa Trail and another group was preparing to set off shortly.

One of the reasons we had chosen to start our day with this hike was that we knew the park would get busy as the morning progressed which isn’t a bad thing but we always prefer to avoid the crowds when possible. It really was a first rate park though so the popularity is warranted.

We left the nature park and headed for our next stop, the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. I’d found this hike in the Oregon Hikers Field Guide and decided to give it a try.

We parked at the Visitor Center along Highway 99W. The majority of hikeable paths in the refuge are closed from October 1st trough April 30th but the one mile River Trail and the very short Ridge Trail are open year round so we made those the target of this visit.
Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge Trailhead

We set off on the River Trail and immediately spotted a hummingbird perched atop a tree.
River Trail


The trail led downhill between a pair of small ponds.
Tualatin River Natioal Wildlife Refuge

The trail passes through a restored oak savannah before arriving at an observation deck above the Tualatin River a half mile from the parking lot.
River Trail

Viewing Deck along the River Trail

Tualatin River

Beyond the deck the trail continues briefly though the restored savannah before entering a forest.
River Trail

The trail splits in the trees with the Ridge Trail leading left to a viewpoint and the River Trail continuing right to the Wetlands Observation Deck.
River Trail junction with the Ridgetop Trail

We stayed right visiting the observation deck first.
Wetlands observation deck

View from the Wetlands Observation Deck

There were a few geese and ducks visible in the distance and a few robins closer by.
Canada geese in the wetlands


We returned to the junction with the Ridge Trail and turned right onto it to climb to the viewpoint. The Visitor Center was visible across the refuge and a number of ducks and other birds could be seen in the water below. At least some of the ducks looked to be northern shovelers.
RIdgetop Trail

View from the Ridgetop Overlook

Northern Shovelers

We returned to the parking lot after an easy 2.1 mile hike. We plan on returning in the future when the other trails are open to explore more of the refuge and check out the Visitor Center.

We left the refuge and headed south toward our last stop of the day at Willamette Mission State Park.

The site of the former Willamette Mission the 1600 acre park offers a number of activities besides hiking. The mission was established in 1834 by Rev. Jason Lee and marked the first organized religious enterprise in Oregon.

We had originally intended on a 2.7 mile hike here as described by William L. Sullivan in his “100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington” 3rd edition guidebook. Heather had put the book in her pack for the Tualatin Hills Nature Park hike as it was also featured in the guidebook. We hadn’t taken it back out of her pack so we weren’t exactly sure where we were supposed to park for the described hike so after paying the $5 day use fee at the entrance booth we immediately turned right into a parking area with a hiker symbol.

The lot serves as a trailhead for the Willamette Vision Education Trail, which was not where our book called for us to start but we were already parked so we decided to improvise.
Willamette Mission State Park Trailhead

We followed a bark path .1 miles to the start of a loop where we turned right.
Willamette Vision Educational Trail

Interpretive sign along the Willamette Vision Educational Trail

The trail followed a road bed for half a mile around a field before arriving at Mission Lake. Along the way we spotted a coyote that quickly disappeared back into the vegetation.
Mission Lake

A little over a mile from the trailhead we arrived at the nations largest black cottonwood.
Willamette Mission Cottonwood

Interpretive sign for the Willamette Mission Cottonwood

While we were admiring the tree an osprey landed in it and while we were watching the osprey we noticed a squirrel in the upper branches as well.
Osprey in the Willamette Mission Cottonwood

Squirrel in the Willamette Mission Cottonwood

Osprey and a squirrel sharing the Willamette Mission CottonwoodThe osprey and the squirrel (upper right hand corner).

A short distance from the cottonwood the loop crossed the park entrance road. In order to do the hike that we had originally intended to do we turned right and walked along the shoulder of the road for a quarter of a mile to a boat launch and pet exercise area where we picked up the Mission Trail.
Mission Trail

The Mission Trail followed the bank of Mission Lake for .6 miles to the Mission View Site, an observation deck looking across the lake to the site of the former mission.
Mission Trail

Mission Site viewing platform

Marker for the Willamette Mission

The former Mission Site across Mission Lake

We continued on past the Mission Site for another quarter mile before arriving at a the end of the Mission Trail at a paved bike path. We turned right detouring a quarter mile off the loop to visit the Wheatland Ferry crossing on the Willamette River.
Wheatland Ferry

After watching the ferry cross once we headed back along the bike path and followed it along the Willamette River for almost a mile and a half before veering right onto an equestrian trail. Although the bike path paralleled the river there were no real views to speak of due to a strip of trees and vegetation between the path and the water.
Bike path in Willamette Mission State Park

Bike path in Willamette Mission State Park

We opted to follow the multi-use dirt path instead of the paved bike path since pavement seems to be a lot harder on the feet. Despite being a bit muddy in spots the equestrian trail did finally provide a nice view up and down the Willamette.
Equestrian trail in Willamette Mission State Park

Willamette River

Willamette River

Just prior to reaching the high water channel the equestrian trail came near to the bike path. Staying on the equestrian trail would have taken us to the start of a three mile loop with no opportunity to get back to our car so we hopped back onto the bike path here.
Equestrian trail and the bike path in Willamette Mission State Park

We then followed the bike path back to the park entrance road.
Willamette Mission State Park

On our way back to the car we did complete the Willamette Vision Education Trail loop but that final 1.4 mile segment was fairly uneventful. The trail loops around a field with views back toward the center of the park. By that time we were passing the 13 mile mark for the day (we had planned on doing 9.2) and I was more focused on my feet than taking pictures. Not only had we started at the wrong spot but the guidebook would have had us cut out some of the bike path and all of the equestrian trail. Instead of 2.7 miles for this stop we had flipped the numbers and done 7.2.

We enjoyed all three stops but the Tualatin Hills Nature Park was definitely our favorite. With that being said they all would be suitable for hikers of all ages and abilities and each offers something unique. We’re lucky to have so many options within an hour of Salem and there are many more that we have yet to visit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Tualatin Hills NP, Tualatin River NWR, Willamette Mission SP