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Three Days From Cascades to Coast

Published: July 05, 2021

 

A visit to Eugene can also include excursions to the dramatic Oregon Coast and the beautiful Cascade mountains, both only an hour from Eugene. Explore it all with this three day itinerary that uses Eugene - Springfield metro area as the base for day trips to the Cascades and Oregon Coast. 

Seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall

 

Day 1 - Eugene and the Willamette Valley

Start your day with a short hike or drive to the top of Spencer Butte for a spectacular view of downtown Eugene and the surrounding area.

Just east of downtown tour the University of Oregon campus, home to Hayward Field, the college's track and field stadium and site of the Olympic Trials in 2021. While on campus, stop at the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History and see the world’s oldest pair of shoes! (Shoes are a big deal in Eugene-Springfield, where Nike was created.)

Enjoy lunch at an award-winning craft brewery in downtown Eugene, such as Falling Sky Brewing House or McMenamins

Then, explore the 5th Street Public Market, which offers boutique shops as well as several restaurant and café options. 

Spend the afternoon driving through the beautiful wine country of the Willamette Valley, best seen along Territorial Highway. Stop at a tasting room to sample world-famous Oregon Pinot Noirs.

Enjoy dinner in Eugene. Try tacos and cocktails at local favorite Tacovore in the Whiteaker neighborhood.

Day 2 - In the Cascades

Start in Eugene with a hearty breakfast at Off the Waffle. Stop in at local grocer The Kiva to load up on a variety of healthy snacks and deli sandwiches for a picnic lunch later in the day. 

From Eugene, drive east on Highway 126 along the McKenzie River. Along the way, watch for fishermen in their iconic McKenzie River drift boats as well as whitewater kayakers and rafters running the rapids.

Make a stop at the Leaburg Fish Hatchery, the largest trout hatchery on the West Coast.

Once back in the car be sure to look out for the photogenic Goodpasture Covered Bridge, which crosses the McKenzie just east of Leaburg.

Stay on Highway 126 until you reach Sahalie Falls. This picturesque waterfall is easily accessible right off the highway, but the parking can be crowded. Another option is to park at Koosah Falls, with an earlier turnout, and hike to Sahalie along the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail.

Next turn back down the mountain toward Belknap Hot Springs Resort for a soothing soak or a swim. The warm, naturally spring-fed pools are family friendly and open to all (entrance starts at $8). This is also a great place for a picnic lunch.

After an early afternoon at the hot springs, turn off Highway 126 onto Old McKenzie Highway 242 (open seasonally late June to early November) and hike (1.5 mile loop) to cascading Proxy Falls. Follow the twists and turns of Highway 242 to the summit of the pass and Dee Wright Observatory. It offers amazing views of nearby black lava and the distant peaks of the Cascade Mountains.

Back on Highway 126, if you are looking for a place to stop for dinner, try Takoda's Restaurant. This burger, pizza and sandwich shop is a great place to stop and refuel before you head back to your hotel, B&B or campground. Ike's Lakeside Pizza, further down the river and closer to Springfield is also a great dinner stop.

Day 3 - At The Coast

The weather on the coast is often different from the weather in Eugene. Be prepared with everything from sunscreen and a baseball cap to a rain jacket and sweater.

Grab coffee and a lite bite before heading out of Eugene at Metropol Bakery. From downtown Eugene, drive west on Hwy 126 from Eugene to get to the coastal town of Florence. This scenic drive is about 60 minutes from Eugene and should take a little over an hour to complete. 

When you pull into Florence, park near Historic Old Town Florence. Take some time to leisurely explore Florence's artsy, coastal downtown. Many shopping opportunities exist from antique shops and art museums to souvenir and candy shops. Enjoy lunch here at one of the many restaurants.

After lunch, head Northeast and get on Hwy 101 N. Travel along the highway for about 13 miles until you reach the Sea Lion Caves. Take an elevator down to America's largest sea cave and year-round home of the Steller sea lion! Tickets start at $8 for children. 

When you're done viewing the iconic sea lions, get back in the car and head North 2 miles to Heceta Head Lighthouse. View the Lighthouse from the parking lot, complete a quick 0.6 mile hike to the Lighthouse Viewpoint, or stretch your legs hiking the Hobbit Trail (1.75 miles). This State Park Day Use Fee Area requires a $5 fee or parking pass

Continue your adventure by getting back on Hwy 101 and heading North 12 miles to Cape Perpetua and Thor's Well. Experience breathtaking views of tidepools, churns, spouting horns and the majestic Oregon Coast. Take one of the multiple short trails from Cape Perpetua Visitor Center down to Thor's Well, or up to Devil's Churn Information Center. You can also view Thor's Well from the highway at the Cook's Chasm Viewpoint. The Cape Perpetua Visitor Center parking area is a Northwest Forest Pass Day Use Fee Area that requires a $5 fee, or parking pass

Head back to Eugene by heading South on Hwy 101 for 23 miles and then East on 126 for about 62 miles.  

Author: Taj Barnhart Morgan

Taj Barnhart Morgan is the Director of Content Strategy for Travel Lane County. A journalism graduate from the University of Oregon, Taj has two decades of special event management and hospitality marketing experience in San Diego, CA and Maui, HI. Passionate about mothering, and back to her Oregon roots, she is discovering the Eugene, Cascades & Coast region all over again through the eyes of her daughter.