Five Ideas for an Active Weekend in Eugene and the West Cascades

By Matt Wastradowski

The newly renovated Hayward Field is welcoming fans to historic events this spring and summer—including the Pac-12 Track & Field Championships, the NCAA Track & Field Championships, and (of course) World Athletics Championships Oregon22.

With so much going on this season, you might be wondering what all there is to do between sessions at Hayward Field—here are five ideas for enjoying an active weekend around Eugene, OR. Track fans can dive into the city’s history with track and field and the integral role Eugene played in growing the sport, while those curious about the region on a broader level can easily check out some of the city’s sights and nearby natural beauty in the West Cascades.

So as you plan your trip to Eugene this summer, enjoy the history and natural beauty of Eugene and the West Cascades. 

Sign on Oregon22 Heritage Trail

See What Makes Eugene TrackTown USA

Eugene is home to Hayward Field at the University of Oregon, one of the most important venues in track and field history; it’s where Steve Prefontaine won the hearts of fans the world over as a distance runner in the early 1970s; and it’s where a small athletic sportswear company launched in 1964—one that would rebrand as Nike soon after and go on to change the world. So is it any wonder why Eugene is known as TrackTown USA?

Naturally, there are plenty of places around Eugene to learn about the city’s history and close connection with track and field. Hayward Hall, one of the newest track and field attractions in Eugene, is a great place to start; it sits at the base of the tower at Hayward Field and tells the story of the University of Oregon’s historic track and field program—with exhibits on head coaches, notable athletes, impactful innovators, and more. We’d also encourage a run or walk on Pre’s Trail, a scenic, bark-covered path near Alton Baker Park that was named for legendary runner Steve Prefontaine.

Want to know more about the trails and historic track sites around Eugene? Learn more with this runner’s guide to Eugene.

Check Out the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Path System

InSee some of the best of what Eugene and neighboring Springfield have to offer with a jaunt along the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Path System. In all, the 12-mile system is a collection of interconnected multi-use paths that largely hug the Willamette River, with several scenic bridges to expand or trim your travels as you see fit.

At various points, the trail system passes (or heads through) local landmarks—such as Alton Baker Park, the University of Oregon, and the scenic Owen Rose Gardens (which is awash in color between late May and June)—and offers an enchanting introduction to the communities of Eugene and Springfield. Also note that bike rentals are available throughout Eugene—itself a bike-friendly city, even away from the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Path System.

Step Back in Time Along the Oregon22 Heritage Trail

In spring of 2022, the World Athletics Championships Oregon22, Museum of World Athletics, and Travel Lane County announced an ambitious way to honor the state’s track and field greats: the Oregon22 Heritage Trail, which covers the breadth of Oregon.

The trail pays tribute to 22 influential athletes through commemorative plaques, each located in the hometowns of iconic athletes or at locations that were important to them. Ten of the 22 athletes have plaques in Lane County—with six in Eugene, three in Springfield, and one in Coburg. Learn more about the Oregon22 Heritage Trail, and follow in the footsteps of the region’s celebrated athletes on your next trip through Lane County.

Explore Scenic Beauty Along the McKenzie Highway

Highway 126 heads east from Eugene, passing through Springfield and quickly heading into the foothills of the Cascade Range—almost always hugging the McKenzie River. By the time it ends at a junction with Highway 20, more than 75 miles from downtown Eugene in the heart of the Cascades, the McKenzie Highway (as it’s commonly known) offers easy access to some of the most beautiful outdoor attractions anywhere in Oregon.

We couldn’t begin to list every last stop along the highway, but we’ll share some of our favorites—any of which make for an ideal day-trip destination—in the order you’ll encounter them on your way out of Eugene.

In June and July, Blueberry Patch Farm offers excellent U-pick opportunities along the McKenzie River—a fun opportunity to experience the agriculture of the Willamette Valley and the perfect stop when you want a snack for the road. Soon after, you’ll come to the oft-photographed Goodpasture Bridge; at 165 feet long, it’s the second-longest covered bridge in Oregon.

Further east, stop into the McKenzie General Store and on-site Obsidian Grill for a selection of healthy groceries, locally crafted beer and wine, and a seasonal menu of fresh pub favorites (such as salmon tacos and a pulled pork sandwich crafted with locally farmed pork). The region’s best outdoor recreation is yet to come, so keep the store and eatery in mind if you want to unwind with a meal or a pint on the way back to Eugene; an expansive outdoor seating area hosts live music on weekend evenings in spring and summer.

As you head into the Cascades, your outdoor opportunities are numerous. Relax with a soak at Belknap Hot Springs; enjoy a hike through old-growth forests and lava flows to the stunning Tamolitch Falls (Blue Pool); make time for the thundering Sahalie and Koosah Falls, both on the McKenzie River; or admire the electric turquoise hue at Clear Lake, where Clear Lake Resort offers kayak and rowboat rentals.

If you head out along the McKenzie River, note that extensive damage is still apparent from the 2020 Holiday Farm Fire and that several recreation destinations remain closed. Those that are open, have seen increased visitation in recent years—so please plan a day trip or overnight outing with caution and consideration for the region’s communities. Learn more about staying safe and having fun along the McKenzie River.

Make a Day Trip to Oakridge and Westfir

Just 45 minutes southeast of Eugene sit the neighboring communities of Oakridge and Westfir—and the epicenter of outdoor activities in the West Cascades. 

Oakridge is most popularly called “the Mountain Biking Capital of the Northwest”—and with more than 300 miles of single-track trails crisscrossing the hillsides around town, who are we to disagree? If you have a free afternoon, learn how to get started mountain biking in Oakridge.

If you’re pressed for time or want something a little more low-key, you’ll find several easy-to-access, laid-back highlights that are worth a quick stop: Visit the scenic Westfir Covered Bridge, check out Salt Creek Falls (the second-tallest single-drop waterfall in Oregon), and pair your pint with a plate of excellent fish-and-chips at The 3 Legged Crane Pub and Brewhouse.

And if you’d rather make a night of it, Westfir Lodge and Mountain Market offers several comfortable beds—along with the Cascades Outdoor Center, which provides bike shuttles and guided experiences (such as hikes and kayak trips).