New Food Trail Showcases the Bounty of the Mid-Willamette Valley
There’s a lot to savor about the Willamette Valley: Hundreds of farmers have tilled their fields and picked produce for generations, countless wineries pour some of the world’s best Pinot noir and chardonnay, and dozens of craft breweries and cideries incorporate the region’s bounty into their mouthwatering recipes.
In all, three self-guided food trails celebrate that bounty and crisscross the Willamette Valley: The South Willamette Valley Food Trail covers the likes of Eugene, Creswell, and Cottage Grove; Great Oaks Food Trail brochure (PDF) celebrates Polk and Marion counties; and Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail covers more than 50 businesses across the region’s agricultural communities, including Monroe, Albany, Philomath, and Corvallis.
So what exactly is a food trail, anyway? In short, it’s a self-guided trip designed to connect visitors with farms, restaurants, breweries, distilleries, and other producers in a given region around the Willamette Valley. The idea is to show off what makes that area’s culinary scene so unique; in the Willamette Valley, that’s farm-fresh fare, seasonal produce, and—of course—wine. You can catch a few highlights in an afternoon or spend a whole weekend eating your way through the trail; the great thing about a self-guided tour is that it’s all up to you.
And with harvest season in full swing, there’s no better time to see the culmination of another year of hard work. As fall dawns, that might include visiting for the Willamette Valley’s vaunted wine harvest, noshing on fresh apples, and picking pumpkins at farms throughout the region.
So if you’re looking to hit the road this fall and want to enjoy farm-to-table (or farm-to-glass) experiences along the Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail, here’s a guide to making the most of the experience.
Highlights Along the Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail
Dozens of eateries, wineries, farms, markets, and one-of-a-kind experiences line the trail. Here’s a look at some of the highlights along the way:
Craft beverages: With hops, apples, and grapes growing in abundance, nearly 20 mid-Willamette Valley producers create beers, ciders, wines, and spirits throughout the region. At the southern edge of Corvallis, Block 15 Brewery and Tap Room offers views of both its acclaimed brewery and Marys Peak, along with a rotating tap list of award-winning ales. And in Albany, Springhill Cellars Winery pairs its pinot noir and pinot gris with stunning sunset views.
Farms and ranches: A trip through the heart of the region’s agricultural community would be incomplete without stops at working farms, markets, and ranches. Just outside downtown Corvallis, Peoria Road Farm Market sells fresh, locally grown produce (always in season) and fresh-cut flowers. And Midway Farms bills itself as the only gluten-free farm in Oregon, selling a mix of fresh jams and jellies, herbs and spices, flowers, and more.
Eateries: Once you’ve visited the farms, why not eat at a restaurant where all that fresh produce, meat, and cheese winds up? (Several even offer outdoor dining options for a safer, socially distant experience.) Frankie’s in Albany prides itself on farm-to-table fare that builds a relationship between diners and the food they eat; as such, produce, meat, and even wine and beer is sourced from local purveyors whenever possible. And Sybaris Bistro, also in Albany, boasts a cuisine that leans heavily on Northwest fare—with a menu that changes with the crops each month, ensuring the freshest local foods.
Know Before You Go
You’ll want to keep a few details in mind before hitting the road.
Your own schedule, your own pace: The Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail is an entirely self-guided food trail. That means you can explore at your own pace, visit only the locations that seem most interesting, and start and end wherever you’d like.
When to visit: The food trail is open year-round, but is best enjoyed at the height of harvest—generally, May-October. That said, seasonality varies by product: Strawberries and blueberries are freshest between May and July, while apples, pumpkins, and hazelnuts are at their peak between September and November.
Keep pets in mind: Many of the farms along the trail are home to animals and, as such, may not be pet-friendly. Double-check the Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail brochure before heading out, or check with specific stops beforehand to ensure they’ll welcome Fido, too.
Interested in learning more? Travel Oregon offers an in-depth look at the new Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail. And when you’re ready to hit the road, download the food trail brochure for a look at where to go, when to visit, and what you’ll find at each stop—along with a map and other good-to-know tips.