Oregon’s Finest Hiking Trails 2014

After Wednesday’s freakishly warm weather, it appears as though pleasant temperatures are finally here to stay for the foreseeable future. That means, among other things, that hiking season is upon us. Huzzah!

There are countless hiking trails in our beautiful state, so it can be hard to choose which one to hit on any given day. Luckily, the season lasts quite a while, giving hikers the chance to enjoy a number of trails over the course of spring, summer, and fall. Below are some of our favorites, in no particular order.

Eugene Standard’s Top 5

#1: McKenzie River Trail: At 26 miles, this one is not for the faint of heart (and, of course, you don’t have to hike the entire trail at once). Even with its length, it’s a fairly easy hike, with plenty of gorgeous Douglas firs to see and some amazing waterfalls and pools along the way. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can even take a dip in Tamolitch Pool (a.k.a. the Blue Pool)—but be prepared for a very, very cold swim!

#2: South Sister Trail: The Cascade Range is one of Oregon’s most beautiful sights, so why not get out in it and take a hike along the state’s third highest mountain? You won’t need any special climbing gear, as an actual trail goes pretty much right to the top, but this is still a very challenging hike, so don’t attempt it if you don’t have a good deal of prior experience. Plan on at least 8 hours for a round trip to the summit and back. You’ll definitely need a walking stick or hiking poles, and be sure to bring supplies (food, bottled water, etc.). It’s not easy, but you’ll enjoy one heck of a view when you reach the top!

#3: Eagle Creek Trail: A much easier hike than #2, the Eagle Creek Trail gives hikers an up-close look at some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state. The trail even takes you directly behind a 120-footer! You can definitely get a little soggy on this one, so be sure to bring a raincoat or poncho to help stay dry. If you don’t like heights, this is, unfortunately, not the trail for you.

Photo credit: VinothChandar / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Photo credit: VinothChandar / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

#4: Sweet Creek Falls Trail: Just off the Oregon Coast Scenic Highway, the Sweet Creek Falls Trail is a short hike over mostly flat ground. It offers incredible scenery around every corner, as it takes you through deep forest with waterfalls seemingly everywhere. If you’re looking for an easy, immensely enjoyable hike, this is the one!

#5: Clear Lake Trail: Sparkling, sky-blue waters and lava fields in the same hike? On this trail, yes! You’ll loop around Clear Lake, the headwaters of the McKenzie River (see #1). Wildlife is plentiful, and you’ll likely see eagles, ospreys, and—if you do take to the lake via canoe—fish, fish, fish. The lake great for fishing, but the water is usually waaay too cold for swimming. You can also see a huge sunken forest beneath the lake’s surface.

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