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Hiking and Outdoor Recreation Guide: Suggested Hikes & Salem Attractions

Resource available at or through the Hatfield Library for outdoor recreation in Oregon & Washington: trekking/hiking trails, biking, camping, etc.

Salem Area Attractions

Salem-Keizer Volcano's Baseball is just off of I-5 in north Keizer. They chartered a new league called the Mavericks as of January 2021.

Bush's Pasture Park is a 90 acre park with open meadows and wooded areas in downtown Salem, next to Willamette University's McCulloch Stadium. In the spring, Camas lilies bloom under the oak trees on the east side of the park. The Salem Art Fair and Festival is held annually in July and draws hundreds of artists throughout the northwest. The autumn foliage of plants and trees throughout the park are amazing. The park features baseball fields, tennis courts, horseshoes, jogging and biking paths, stages, and picnic tables. 

Bush's Pasture Park

Mission Mill Museum & Willamette Heritage Center is across 12th Street from Willamette University. They offer tours and periodically demonstrate how the mill operated by water power, and provide historic accounts about the 14 historic structures. Each winter they string out lights in an impressive light display.

Hallie Ford Museum has rotating exhibits from artists all around the northwest. With one of the most significant collections of Northwest art, it is a leader in the research on the art of the Northwest, in addition to diverse collections of Ancient, European, American, and Asian works.

Minto-Brown Park is larger than Central Park in New York City. Explore 1,200 acres of open and wooded areas on foot or with a bike. Observe osprey, blue herons, rabbits, bald eagles, and red-tailed hawks.

The Oregon Gardens are located in nearby Silverton and showcase a stunning 80-acre collection of over 20 specialty gardens, including a "Hobbit House." They also provide an interactive light display during the winter.

Oregon Gardens Lights Display

The Saturday Market is a few blocks away from campus. It features local produce, flowers, meat/dairy, nursery products, plus countless arts and crafts, and handmade/handcrafted products.

Salem Pioneer Cemetery a scenic and peaceful cemetery that have some of Oregon's oldest gravestones from the original pioneers.

Riverfront Park is the premier park in downtown Salem that links Minto Brown park with the Wallace Marine park. It is the home to many of Salem's annual events, including the World Beat Festival, 4th of July Celebration, Summer Movies in the Park, and Holiday Tree Lighting, as well as the Riverfront Carousel, A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village, the Willamette Queen sternwheeler, outdoor amphitheater, splash pad, and even a temporary ice skating rink. 

River Front Park in Salem, OR

Martha Springer Botanical Garden is located on Willamette's campus along the Mill Stream (north and east sides of the Sparks gym). There are 12 smaller gardens, including a butterfly garden, herb garden, alpine rock garden, theme borders, and ethnobotany gardens. 

Oregon State Capitol Building is across State Street. View the statues of important leaders of Oregon's past, columns from the previous capitol buildings, the Governor's ceremonial office, the Walk of Flags of each state and the nine federally recognized tribes in Oregon, the Golden Pioneer on the Capitol's rotunda, the Grand Entrance and legislative wings, and the famous cherry tree blossoms each spring. 

Oregon State Capitol Building

 

 

Suggested Hikes

Salem is uniquely situated an hour from the coast and an hour from the Cascade Mountains. Take advantage of the proximity to all of the hikes and places you can visit will at Willamette University. These are just a few of the gems you can explore. 

Silver Creek Falls ImageSilver Creek Falls

  • Silver Creek Falls - A great place to start exploring locally and is generally open all year round with lots of paths to explore. It is also close to Salem. Walk behind waterfalls to cool yourself in summer or experience the power during the rain season.
  • Willamette Mission Park has lots of trails, is flat, and pretty to walk through with trees. I'd recommend for biking!  
  • Multnomah Falls has some really cool hikes. Great fall colors, frozen ice in winter, and pretty any time of the year. It is just east of Portland. Crowne Point is also nearby and is a great place to watch the sun set. You'll see wind surfers along the Columbia River Gorge where there is a natural wind channel.

Jefferson Park

  • The Pacific Crest Trail is literally in our back yard! Hike along hundreds of miles that line the Pacific Northwest from Washington through California. The closest access points are around Mount Jefferson, such as Pamelia Lake, which has been recently ravaged by wildfires. However, the views of Mount Jefferson are breathtaking. 
  • Mary's Peak is south of Corvallis. It is a great spring and summer hike, or when it is hot. It has a great view of the Willamette Valley. 
  • Tamolitch Blue Pool and the McKenzie River Trail. Two very close trails and are incredible during the summer. This is one of my favorite hikes during summer because you walk along a blue river and it is very picturesque. The trail is also voted #1 bike trail in the US.  

The Painted Hills

  • The Painted Hills. This is one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon. It is in eastern Oregon, so it makes for a longer day trip. But you'll probably see antelope or elk along the way. There are a few shorter hikes, but also a great fossil research center.
  • Smith Rock has some great hikes and rock climbers love this area. Hiking to the top of Smith Rock takes a good chunk of the day, but the view is amazing and the rock formations are cool. Just keep an eye out for rattlesnakes when you're by the river.

Crater Lake National Park

  • Crater Lake is Oregon's only National Park, but it is one you have to see! It is an awesome place to explore with lots of trails and easy access points. You can do it in a day drive, but it's a long day trip. During the summer the rim opens after the snow melts and you can drive to the various trails like Watchman Peak where you can climb an old lookout tower. There's even a trail that leads down into the crater to a boat dock--you can ride across the lake to Wizard Island and hike around. There's Pinnacles Valley Trail and Godrey Glen Trail which are both easy and fun hikes. 
  • The Wallowas, dubbed the Little Switzerland, is located in NE Oregon and is a wonderful place for camping, hiking, and playing in a lake. There are black bears in the area and ever-present elk and deer. A gondola lift takes you to the top of Mt. Howard. There are bikes, paddle boards, mini golf courses, kayaks available to rent.

Hells Canyon

  • Hells Canyon is the deepest canyon in North America, and located relatively close to the Wallowas along the Seven Devils Mountains. It is even deeper than the Grand Canyon! View it from one of the observation areas, or drive along the Snake River, or even boat down the river. There are petroglyphs and pictographs of ancient rock art.
  • Drift Creek Falls Suspension Bridge is by Lincoln City which is a pretty fun city to explore after your hike--I'd recommend getting clam chowder at Moe's. This is a fun short hike. Quick access is available close to Lincoln City, and for a longer and scenic route (with plenty of pot holes and a gravel road) access  is available off of Highway 22.

Cannon Beach

  • Ecola State Park is a great place to explore along the beach, and nearby is Cannon Beach, a quaint little coastal town.
  • Cape Lookout is an amazing coastal hike on a mini peninsula (4.7 miles there and back with a 270* view of the ocean). Some people say that you can even see a slight curve in the Earth. It is cool to hike when it is foggy with funky trees, but the best view is of the ocean on all sides when the weather is clear during the summer. You can also hike along the Netarts Spit Trail nearby. 
  • Tillamook Head is a great hike, and is as long as you want to make it. It is popular during the summer and is near Seaside.

Mount Saint Helens

  • Mount St. Helens is another must while you're in the Northwest. Some locations closer to the rim have ash which kicks up in the wind and can get in your eyes, but on a nice day the hikes are amazing. There's also Ape Cave nearby which is a chilly, pitch-black lava tube over two miles long.
  • The Oregon Caves National Monument, dubbed the "Marble Halls of Oregon," is a popular place in the summer. You can take guided tours of the twisting passages and lava tubes, including "spelunking" (off-trail caving) of the Siskiyou Mountains. 
  • The Oregon Redwoods are located along Oregon's south coast of the Rogue River and Siskiyou National Forest. This near-tropical zone has towering giant redwoods where you can hike and explore. You don't have to travel all the way into California to experience the redwoods!

Mount Hood at sunset from Hood River

  • Mount Hood is America's largest night ski area, and is a great place to explore any time of the year. There are the ski lifts for skiing, snowboarding, and inner tubing in the winter. Drive up to Timberline Lodge during summer and fall to view gorgeous foliage. 
  • The Alvord Desert is a dried up lake bed in southeast Oregon. Similar to Death Valley, its frequently used for sail racing along the 37 miles long stretch (east to west) and 20 miles wide. Best time to visit is in the fall.

Alvort Desert and Steen Mountains