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You simply cannot live in Eugene or Springfield without being a fan of Mount Pisgah Arboretum. With 7 miles of trails spread over 209 acres, there is a trail for every hiking style. Bring your dog, bring your stroller, bring your grandma, bring a picnic!
Mount Pisgah Arboretum
Want to hike to a panoramic vista point? Mt Pisgah.
Want to hike an arid hillside, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the scent of sun-baked vegetation? Mt Pisgah.
Want to stroll leisurely down a well-graveled and shaded trail to a riverside bench? Mt Pisgah.
Want to explore a narrow path through a wetland, discovering a bird blind and listening to the frogs? Mt Pisgah.
Most often, when we visit Mt Pisgah, we’re just looking for a nice walk in the fresh air. It’s one of our very favorite places for a winter hike since it’s not usually very muddy and we can use a stroller if we like. We don’t generally have a destination in mind. Many times, we walk the Riverbank Trail to a spot where the kids can throw rocks into the river.
The Riverbank Trail is the first right turn once you’re in the park, just past the parking lot and right before the bathrooms. It follows the river, and has lots of benches for sitting and watching the water roll by. In the spring, this area blossoms with wildflowers.
The path meanders alongside the river, passing oak trees, fir trees, and cedar trees. We’ve seen deer cross before, on their way through the thicket down to the water. And before long, maybe 0.25 mile, the trail is at a juncture with a large bench. Take a right, and you reach the river.
During the winter, though, the river is full and swift. In other months, we stop and throw rocks into the water, but on this trip we kept walking and saw a sign we hadn’t seen before: Water Garden Trail.
Water Garden Trail
The Water Garden Trail is just past the river access point, and we’ve technically taken this trail before, but not in years. This time we discovered that that the trail has been improved…a lot!
As the trail wound toward the wetland area of Mt Pisgah, we saw something through the trees…what on earth?
Sometime in the past 15 years since we last took this trail, Mt Pisgah built a fantastic interactive interpretive center in a massive bird blind! I later researched and found that it was built in 2016 after several years of planning. The entrance is a long tunnel studded with bright interpretive signs about habitat, water, and ecology.
The tunnel ends in a large bird blind and exhibit built on a wooden deck. There are interpretive signs that slide open to reveal portals through which to view the surrounding wetland habitats, perfect for bird watching!
The Water Garden nature exhibit is dedicated to longtime Mt Pisgah fan Ann Johnson, and a bench is located near her favorite spot to watch birds.
Pond Lily Trail
Finally exhausting the treasures of the nature exhibit, we headed back to the Water Garden trail, heading toward the Pond Lily Trail. We crossed a lovely bridge, and stood in the center to look for turtles and frogs. We heard plenty of frogs, but never did see any.
More of Mount Pisgah
The Pond Lily Trail looped us back to the junction at the Riverbank Trail. We stopped to play in some puddles and we found some mushrooms. Our kids were mostly interested in the puddles, and not so much about how fungi grow on fallen logs. We can’t help it, we’re both forestry graduates and educating our children is second nature to us!
To end our hike, we walked around the barn, through the events center, and back to our van. All in all, we walked maybe a mile and enjoyed a wonderful afternoon discovering the nature exhibit on the Water Garden Trail.
Other hiking trails at Mt Pisgah
Mt Pisgah has so many wonderful trails. The Theodore Trail, leads to a hilltop with a swing…this hike is wonderful for kids with a fun payoff. Once, while swinging, we watched 3 parachuters land gently in a field.
The Summit Trail is a sometimes-steep uphill hike to a grassy peak with 360-degree views of Pleasant Hill, Eugene, Springfield, and the south Willamette Valley. Gain over 1000 feet of elevation with a 3.3 mile out-and-back (or up and down) hike. If you’re not used to elevation gains, it can be a strenuous hike, but it’s well worth the effort. It really is a fantastic view and popular with locals.
And several trails wind up and around and through a fir forest, shaded and quiet under the sun. Mt Pisgah is everything a natural park should be and truly has a hike for every hiker.
History of Mt Pisgah Arboretum
As a park, Mt Pisgah is relatively new. In the 1970s, Governor McCall set aside 2363 acres for the new Howard Buford Recreation Area, which was to include a 118-acre arboretum. During the early 1980s, the first staff members were hired and the first 1-mile trail was established. The first Spring Wildflower show and first Fall Mushroom show were both held in 1982.
Over the next decade, bathrooms were built as well as the first educational kiosks and displays. An education program was initiated that served over 2000 children. The visitor center opened.
During the 1990s, the barn was renovated, along with the visitor center. Seven miles of trails were completed, and 22 bridges built.
Between 2004 and 2007 (about the time we started frequenting Mt Pisgah) they built the White Oak Pavilion for events and weddings. I still remember the first time we visited after it was finished…it was open and we walked through, with twinkly lights hanging from the ceiling, and imagined it as the perfect spot to hold a large event.
The arboretum continues to change and grow. In 2016, they built the first of eight interactive nature exhibits, which is the aforementioned Water Garden exhibit. At least three of these exhibits are now in place, including an Incense Cedar Exhibit and an Oak Savannah Exhibit. We can’t wait to return and explore these, now that we know these exist.
Parking fee: $4 online or on-site (card-only fee station)
Restrooms are available near the entrance of the park
Dogs welcome on a leash
Many of the paths are stroller-friendly and accessible for wheelchairs.
Visit Mt Pisgah online for more details