The Cascade Mountain range spans the eastern most boundary of the Eugene, Cascades & Coast region, and includes portions of the Umpqua and Willamette National Forests, crowned by Diamond Peak and the South, Middle and North Sisters.
A destination for snow sports and all season outdoor pursuits, this recreational paradise is only an hour from the Eugene - Springfield metro area.
In winter the Cascades serve up a veritable smorgasbord for nature lovers who groove on groomed Nordic, relish rugged back-country, savor snowshoe, skijor and schussing downhill.
In summer there are wildflowers and waterfalls along hiking and biking trails that cover diverse terrain from accessible to challenging. River rafters paddle the rapids and fly fishermen wade out into the shallows. Year-round the hilltops sparkle with azure-blue mountain lakes, a feast for the eyes whether seen from your ride up the chairlift or from the coziness of your campsite.
There are many campgrounds and RV parks in the Cascades, some lakefront, some riverfront, and others tucked away in quiet forest glens. Lodges and cabins also make memorable mountain retreats. With hot springs bubbling up, wild mushrooms attracting forgers, rumors of Big Foot, and spectacular vistas around every turn, the Cascades are a guaranteed adventure.
From Eugene - Springfield, drive southeast on Highway 58 to the mountain town of Oakridge, "The Mountain Biking Capital of the Northwest,"and a launch pad for rafting or fishing trips on the Middle Fork of the Willamette River. Just 28 miles further is the Willamette Pass ski area.
Nearby Salt Creek Falls is a wondrous sight with a well-maintained trail leading to the bottom of impressive cascade. Be forewarned that the hike up is no less beautiful than the walk down, but is more of a challenge! Salt Creek is the second highest falls in Oregon. An excellently-positioned platform has rails specially designed for viewing the falls from wheelchair or on foot, and all the facilities at the observation site are designed for easy chair access.
Waldo Lake is a peaceful respite from the buzz of daily living. Believed to be one of the purest lakes in the world, Waldo's pristine clarity is preserved by a ban on all motor-craft. However, you can still glide a canoe or rowboat into its waters for an afternoon of quiet fishing. When snow drifts abound, this is a popular place for snowmobiling.
From Eugene - Springfield, follow the scenic Highway 126 east along the McKenzie River toward McKenzie Pass. The river corridor is known for amazing white water rafting, riverfront fishing lodges and artisan studios. Over two hundred years of traceable history is connected to this region.
Hike through lava fields to the Dee Wright Observatory for a breathtaking, other-worldly view. At Clear Lake peer down at petrified forest beneath the still water, or gaze up into the old growth tree canopy on a guided tree climb in the J.H. Andrews Experimental Forest.
Connecting the communities of the McKenzie River and Oakridge - Westfir is the Aufderheide, a segment of the West Cascades Scenic Byway. Drive or ride the twisting mountain roads and stay in B&Bs. The Cascades are enduringly romantic, providing a stunning backdrop for wedding nuptials.
If you are approaching the Cascades from the east (Sisters), check out some of the other remarkable sights en-route as you Travel Oregon.