Hikes with kids: Mt Pisgah (Springfield)

Nitty-Gritty:

  • The trail to the summit is 3 miles and around 1000 feet of elevation gain. Great views of the southern valley and part of the Cascades.
  • Great trails for families and kids of all ages. While there is an incline, it is gradual and there are benches to rest.
  • Watch for poison oak as it can grow like crazy up there
  • Click here for the various trail maps they have available online

I grew up hiking the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, in the Willamette Valley, right where it narrows. Eugene and Springfield were my playgrounds and there is so much fun to be had there. There are 2 very popular hikes for families just outside of the city limits (sort of) – Mt. Pisgah Arboretum and Spencer’s Butte. Both are fantastic for different reasons. This post we are going to tell you about Mt. Pisgah because it really is one of our favorites and, in all honesty, we haven’t gotten around to taking the lad up Spencer’s Butte yet. That is on the plan for our next trip down!

Mt. Pisgah is an Arboretum to the south-east of Eugene, that overlooks the Middle and Coastal Forks of the Willamette River as well as the mountains to our east. To get to Mt. Pisgah Arboretum follow any of these directions from their website (I really can’t improve on them). There is a nice big parking lot, with a pay station. The entry fee is $4/car and this helps maintain the Arboretum for all to enjoy. You will see the pay box in the  main lot nearest the entrance to the Arboretum, but all cars require them if you are on the property.

There are several trails in this 209-acre living tree museum. Some of the most amazing and rewarding trails are the ones that take you to the summit (plus kids love to tell other kids they climbed a mountain…heck, adults love to tell other adults they climbed a mountain too!). There is a river walk trail as well as the trails through the Arboretum itself. These are great walks for the littlest kids.

We usually follow the Summit Trail. This trail starts right at the gate next to the pay box at the main parking lot and will lead you all the way to the summit.  There is a pretty good incline but it eases up as you make your way up the hill. The trails are wide and level gravel paths and I have seen kids 3 and up walking on their own. You will see lots of families on weekends for sure, especially if the weather is nice.

The trail will continue up the 1000 feet of incline for about 1.5 miles to the summit which gives people sweeping views of the valley, mountains and what our pioneers called the “Promise Land”. The summit is a nice wide open grassy area with benches to sit and watch nature or enjoy the view. They are also nice spots for quick picnics if you pack one along! There is a bronze sculpture (sighting pedestal) that shows the topography of the area so you can get a sense of what you are looking at. This pedestal is a memorial to Ken Kesey’s son Jed, who died in 1984 in a tragic accident while traveling with the U of O Wrestling Team to Eastern Washington.

On the trail back down the hill, we usually back track the way we came up, but break off the Summit Trail and take Trail #3. It is a trail you will see at one of the scenic benches about .8 miles down and it will be on the right. This will take you through grassy fields dotted with smaller trees. This area can be muddy with rains, but was  being maintained and improved when we were there in February. Wildflowers grow in these areas and you will see various species of wildlife as well.

A word of caution: make sure to stay on trails and keep dogs on tight leads. There is a lot of poison oak in this area (all over Pisgah) and I know way too many people who brought a terrible rash home as a souvenir. Dogs can also transfer the oil from the leaf onto humans, so keep a close eye on what they brush up against. If you do that, you should make it out just fine and itchy-free!

In the future we will try starting at different trailheads and try out some of the other trails that will take us up to the summit. This is such a great place to explore for families and we highly recommend it!

Have you hiked Mt. Pisgah before? Which trails are your favorite? Let us know so we can check them out!

 

 

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