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Willamalane’s brand new Thurston Hills Natural Area in Springfield, Oregon, is the perfect hike for families, and it’s right in town, making it even better. It’s rare for a hiking trail to have a trailhead in town, but for it to turn into such a great hike…well, that’s practically unheard of!
In short? GO. Go hike it NOW. It’s gorgeous and you’re going to love it.
Thurston Hills Natural Area
Parking is off Main Street and 75th street in Springfield’s Thurston neighborhood. There are ample parking spaces, bathrooms with flush toilets, and even a bike washing station. (Note: The trail goes all the way to Mt Vernon off Bob Straub, but there’s no parking there yet and the trailhead isn’t obvious. So don’t go that way!)
We started up the gravel trail and saw lots of local families enjoying a bit of winter sunshine. Leashed dogs are welcome on the trail and doggie bags were provided.
The first two miles are uphill, but the switchbacks are broad, creating a gentle slope. None of us had any trouble with the slope, and no one else that we encountered appeared to be out of breath either.
Before long, we were under the trees and the trail is jaw-droppingly beautiful. The trail winds through a lovely forest with mosses, frequent small streams, and a few views of the mountains.
Along the way, we met a lot of people. The trail wasn’t crowded, by any means, but clearly lots of people had the same idea: to enjoy a beautiful winter day exploring a new trail. Everyone was very friendly and eager to express how beautiful this new trail is. Many people had dogs, and on this day, all were leashed and very polite. We also met people from all age groups–babies in carriers, older gentlemen with canes, little kids running amok (ours, too), and every age between. Everyone appeared to be having a wonderful experience.
Back to the Parking Lot
We hiked for about a mile before our little ones were tired. We turned around and headed back to the parking lot, determined to come back again soon. My husband wants to hike it in the rain, and I think that would actually be a fun experience. I’d like to hike the whole 2 miles to where the gravel ends (the trail continues, but others said it was muddy on that day).
My 12-year-old daughter had her camera with her and took some amazing photos. For your pleasure, here is a small gallery of some of her favorites. Click to enlarge.
Amenities & Other Details
Amenities: flush bathrooms, bike washing station, interpretive signs and maps, water fountain
Cost: zero, nada, nothing, free!
Handicap & Stroller accessibility: the parking lot is paved with marked handicapped spots. The trail is wide and a gentle slope. It’s gravel, so may not be accessible for some wheelchairs and strollers. We have a pretty nice stroller that handles trails well, but I don’t think it would be able to go up this trail very far (although I haven’t actually tried).
Dog-friendly: yes, leashed dogs are welcomed, doggie bags and trash cans are provided.