Eugene To Salem
Explore this dynamic travel corridor for world class wines, trails that wind through lush forests and a college football scene that rivals anything else in the United States. Situated in the vast Willamette Valley, the region encapsulates everything that makes Oregon great, from superb cities to excellent outdoor adventure.
Western Oregon Essentials
Located about 60 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, this stretch of Western Oregon is bounded by the Coast Range in the west, Cascades in the east and Calapooya Mountains in the south. The Willamette Valley is characterized by its agricultural fields, rolling lowlands, hilly belts and the Willamette River, which runs through the entire region. The best season to visit is summer, as temperatures hit a toasty 80 degrees. Early fall also is an excellent time to come, as crisp country air makes for great hiking.
Ducks Against Beavers
About 100 miles south of Portland lies the college town of Eugene. Home to the University of Oregon, Eugene draws sports fans with year-round intercollegiate competition — including NCAA football with the Oregon Ducks home team. The excitement reaches a fever pitch when the Ducks take on the Oregon State Beavers, who hail from Corvallis to the north. Eugene also entices culture vultures with the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural and Cultural History.
Runners and Raptors
Surprisingly, this corner of the world is the place to go to see the nation’s best track and field competitors. Hayward Field, located in Eugene, has a storied history. Currently undergoing a major renovation, it is scheduled to reopen in 2020 and begin making new records. After seeing impressive athletes, you’ll be ready to be impressed by wildlife. Get an up close view of the raptors of the Pacific Northwest with a visit to the Cascades Raptor Center. You’ll find as many as 50 beautiful birds on display; however, these birds weren’t brought here just for show. Instead, the Raptor Center specializes in rehabilitating injured wildlife and provides a home for those that cannot be rereleased to the wild.
Eat, Drink, and Play Like a Local
Oregonians take their brews seriously and microbreweries flourish across the region. Stop by one to see what’s on tap and to learn about the craft behind the beer. When you’re not enjoying suds, head to the Eugene Saturday Market to enjoy a taste of the region. Artisans display their colorful wares and baskets overflow with the locally grown produce this region is known for. Food trucks tempt with an array of treats. With views of the Willamette River and open green spaces, Eugene’s Riverfront Park is a popular gathering spot. Especially beloved is the carousel with an intricately handcrafted parade of animals.
Waterways of the Willamette Valley
Not only did the Willamette River carve this landscape, it also provides a scenic spot for fishing, boating, and paddling. Trout and steelhead flourish in these cool waters. Head to the hills to find one of Oregon’s best trout streams, just east of Eugene. The McKenzie River attracts more than anglers, as paddlers also enjoy the scenery around these rippling waters. The largest lake in the Willamette Valley is Fern Ridge, with 9,000 acres of surface area. The warm coves and inlets are the prime spots for bass, bluegill, crappie, and catfish.
Fun on Land Trails Galore!
Oregon is known for showing love to its bicyclists, which is why biking is a thriving sport here. The Willamette River Trail runs 29 miles between Eugene and Springfield, with views of parks and rivers along the way. To enjoy splendid scenery on foot, head to the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail. This trail takes you over hardened lava flows, past cascading waterfalls, and through stands of old-growth conifers. The sapphire Tamolich Blue Pool is a shocking shade of azure, amidst the verdant forests.
Willamette Valley Uncorked
The Willamette Valley is Oregon’s most popular wine region, with over 500 wineries at your fingertips. The unique maritime climate here has transformed the valley into one of the top pinot noir-producing regions in the world. Other varieties made here include pinot gris, pinot blanc, chardonnay, Riesling, Syrah, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Chock-full of luxury inns, quaint bed-and-breakfasts, tasting rooms and fine dining restaurants, Willamette Valley wine country is the answer if you’re yearning for a weekend getaway or weeklong escape. Honeywood Winery, Cubanisimo Vineyards and Orchard Heights Winery are all within the Salem vicinity, while King Estate Winery and Sweet Cheeks Winery are within easy reach from Eugene. Coming from Portland? Stop by popular Northern Willamette Valley wineries in places like Forest Grove, Hillsboro, Gaston and Yamhill. In the Willamette National Forest, to the east of Eugene, the Koosah Falls on the McKenzie River dazzles visitors.
Salem is only an hour away from Portland, but you’ll find the two cities are worlds apart. Boasting an easygoing culture and teeming with gorgeous green spaces, museums and historic sites, Salem provides a welcome break from busy city life and invites you to take things at your own pace. Start your visit with a free tour of the Oregon State Capitol and climb up 121 stairs to meet the Oregon Pioneer, an 8.5-ton bronze statue coated in gold leaf.
From Tiny Truffles to Worldly Performances
From their earthy aroma to their subtle crunch, truffles help to elevate any meal to gourmet status. The lure of the truffle is so large that Eugene spends 10 days celebrating it. Each January, the Oregon Truffle Festival invites visitors to go on organized truffle hunts, sample savory dishes, and learn about this magnificent fungi. Each June, Salem bursts into bloom with the World Beat Festival, which includes over 125 music, dance and theatrical performances, representing 70 countries from around the world. Watch dragon boats whizz by, stroll the vendor area to find handcrafted wares from around the world, or sample an international buffet of foods.
Silver Falls Beckons
Less than an hour east of Salem is Oregon’s largest state park: Silver Falls State Park. Outdoor enthusiasts have so much to do here — hike the 7.2-mile Trail of Ten Falls, a nationally recognized path that takes you through lush forest and majestic waterfalls. Or walk behind South Falls to see a 177-foot curtain of waterfall in front of you. Other popular activities include mountain biking, horseback riding, swimming and wildlife viewing.
Watersport in Albany
The laid-back town of Albany treats visitors to a host of recreation activities. The array of water sports choices alone could keep visitors occupied for days. Indeed, the town is nestled where the Calapooia and Willamette rivers meet, and is surrounded by small ponds, large reservoirs, and multiple rivers and streams. Check out the Foster Reservoir, located just east of Sweet Home, with boating, swimming, sailing and fishing on tap. At Sunnyside Park, located three miles east of Sweet Home, visitors can indulge in a boat ramp, moorage, swimming, water skiing, fishing, picnic areas, volleyball courts and access to Foster Lake.
Rafting and Kayaking
The North Santiam River has Class II rapids, making it a great trip for beginners. Spencer’s hole is the big water on this trip. Take outs are at Mehema or Mill City in the northern end of the Willamette Valley.
Pioneering in Brownsville
Eager to know what it was like to live in a small pioneering town in the 1800s? The town of Brownsville preserves this spirit with vigor, with lovingly maintained architecture from the 19th century as well as a spirit that seems to belong to an age long gone by. The town was founded by settlers from the Oregon trail in 1846 and it stayed happy keeping things small (the population is 1,686). The quaintness of the town has made it the perfect setting for period movies, and in 1986 it served as the location for the film, “Stand by Me.” The community celebrates Stand by Me Day every July with blueberry pancake breakfast, tours of filming sites and interviews with the original cast and crew. Time your visit to enjoy the celebration of this ’80s celluloid classic.
Get away from paved streets and big buildings with a trip to Green Peter Lake, a 3,700-acre oasis of waterskiing and boating east of the Interstate 5 corridor. Anglers can cast lines for rainbow trout and smallmouth bass. Fed by the Middle Santiam River, Quartzville Creek and other tributaries, it has the well-deserved reputation of being a kokanee factory. If you prefer to explore the area on foot, lots of hiking trails snake around the surrounding hills. You’ll find lots of pleasant places for picnicking.
The Place to Be
The auspiciously named town of Sweet Home is ideally situated for adventure seekers. With easy access to the Willamette National Forest, the South Santiam River and a system of crystalline lakes, visitors will have lots of reasons to extend their stays. Hike the many scenic trails to out-of-the-way waterfalls and follow scenic byways that cross covered bridges and pass abundant farms. Spend some time in the cute downtown, where a vintage cinema, pretty Sankey Park and Weddle Covered Bridge engage eager visitors.
For More Information
Oregon Wine Board
Oregon Tourism Commission