Mt. Hood and Trillium Lake from a duck’s perspective


Get Out!

A UO sophomore offers her insights on exploring the great outdoors near campus.

It’s true: Eugene, Oregon is a rainy place. But University of Oregon students don’t let that stop us from enjoying the outdoors year round. Most come to appreciate the rain—or at least accept it—because it produces the beautiful, green forests, pristine rivers, and spectacular waterfalls that distinguish this beautiful region. Our campus is conveniently located in the center of Eugene, which is surrounded by old-growth forests and an easy drive from the Pacific Ocean, snow-capped mountains, and beautiful lakes, trails, and campgrounds. This proximity to so many outdoor adventures offers an exquisite energy—great for the mind, body, and soul.

Opportunities to explore nature are everywhere, even right off campus. It’s a quick 10-minute walk to Hendricks Park, where there are running trails twisting through the trees, a cliff with a panoramic city view, and flower gardens perfect for picnicking or relaxing with a good book. The Ridgeline Trail circles around the city through lush forests, excellent for exploring. This trail connects to popular hikes, such as Spencer Butte, which is a small mountain right in Eugene’s backyard. I like to hike the butte at dawn and watch the “O” on Autzen Stadium light up with the rising sun.

From Eugene, it’s about an hour drive to the coast. Fog often nestles in between the trees, the sun glistens across the water, sea anemones wiggle inside tide pools. You can walk for miles along the broad, sandy beaches (which are never crowded), or string a hammock between two fir trees overlooking the beach and watch one of Oregon’s dazzling sunsets. Drive the opposite direction from Eugene, and the Cascade Mountains are also only about an hour away. The UO Outdoor Program is a great resource for students, offering low-cost or free equipment rentals and organizing affordable ski and snowboarding trips in winter. Other times of year, you can learn to kayak or river raft—and borrow all the equipment you need.

There are countless places close to Eugene waiting to be explored. Smith Rock, in Oregon’s high desert, is the birthplace of modern rock climbing. It’s a great place to climb, hike, camp, and experience a change of scenery. Brice Creek Trail leads to a sunny swimming hole with an exhilarating cliff jump, the perfect place for a picnic with friends. Silver Falls Trail circles past 10 huge waterfalls in only 10 miles.

If you aren’t that into the outdoors, don’t let it intimidate you. Before I moved to Eugene (from Chicago), I preferred to be indoors. Now it’s hard to get me back inside. Oregon’s natural beauty is unlike that of any other place; it’s incredibly captivating and diverse. Having access to nature offers a quick escape from the daily pace of classes and projects. You can leave campus for a few hours or a few days, and fall asleep under the stars to the sounds of frogs and the running river. It’s an experience you’ll remember always.