Located in the Willamette River Valley, with mountains all around, Eugene is surrounded by natural beauty. If you enjoy spending time outdoors, you'll find many opportunities right within the city. Eugene offers many outdoor spaces set aside as parks and gardens, perfect for both vigorous and relaxing activities. Designated recreation trails network the area, providing lengthy improved routes for runners and bikers as well as paths for walkers and strollers.
Here are my recommendations for places where you can enjoy outdoor activities and recreation in Eugene, OR:
Parks in Eugene
The city of Eugene maintains a long list of community parks, pools, and natural areas. Each offers its own combination of sport fields, playground equipment, picnic shelters, restrooms, dog areas, and walking paths. Some are located along the river or on a butte, providing additional scenic views. Many of these parks are connected by recreation trails. Here are some of the best parks in Eugene:
Spencer Butte & Spencer Butte Park
This city park provides access to the butte itself, where you can hike the trails through the Douglas-fir forest up to the rocky summit to enjoy grand territorial views.
Skinner Butte Park & RiverPlay Discovery Village Playground
This city park is located on a strip of land between Skinner Butte and the river. The Discovery Village part of this park provides things that kids can play in and on while learning about Eugene's human and natural history. There is a pioneer village, a stagecoach, and a ferry along with areas for water play or rock climbing.
Alton Baker Park
This extensive park, located across the Willamette River from downtown Eugene, offers numerous facilities and outdoor experiences. You'll find an outdoor amphitheater, sports fields, trails and walking paths, and a BMX track. In addition to the river, the waterways and ponds within the park provide opportunity for boating, fishing, and birding.
Public Gardens in Eugene
While the land in and around Eugene includes many natural areas, you can also enjoy several tamed outdoor spaces.
Mount Pisgah Arboretum
Spend time wandering through several native ecosystems among wonderful trees and plants, from green ferns and mosses to stately oaks and cedars. Trails wind throughout the 209-acre Mount Pisgah Arboretum's meadows, wetlands, and woodlands. During your visit you might see some of the resident wildlife, perhaps an American Goldfinch or a Great Blue Heron. Workshops and programs on everything from nature photography to interpretive walks are available. Mount Pisgah Arboretum is located within Eugene's Howard Buford County Park, which offers over 16 miles of walking trails. Popular annual events held at the arboretum include the Mushroom Festival in October and the Wildflower & Music Festival in May.
Hendricks Park Rhododendron Garden and Native Plant Garden
Within the large, forested Hendricks Park you'll find the 15-acre Rhododendron Garden and the 5-acre Native Plant Garden. Hendricks Park Rhododendron Garden shines in spring, when the native shrubs bloom in delicate pastels and rich jewel tones. The rhody garden also includes azaleas and other flowering plants native to Oregon. Throughout the year you can enjoy spending time along the miles of trails that wind through Hendricks Park.
Owen Rose Garden
Located near the Washington-Jefferson Street bridge, this small community park has grown to include thousands of rose bushes in hundreds of varieties. As you walk through the fragrant and colorful garden you can also check out the State Heritage Owen Cherry Tree and several lovely garden structures. The Owen Rose Garden is one of the many parks along the Willamette River that are connected by the Riverbank Trail system.
Recreation Trails in Eugene
Eugene is blessed with wonderful trails for walkers, runners, and bikers that run along the river and around town.
Ruth Bascom Riverbank Trail (PDF map)
Based around former rail routes, this system of improved trails runs through Eugene along both sides of the Willamette River. The Riverbank Trail passes through several parks and by many attractions, past sports fields and through wildlife habitat.
The 3.4-mile Steve Prefontaine Memorial Jogging Trail is within Alton Baker Park. The trail was originally built on Steve Prefontaine's suggestion, shortly before his untimely death.