Willamette National Forest
Willamette National Forest
Things To Do
The Willamette National Forest stretches for 110 miles along the western slopes of the Cascade Range in western Oregon. The Willamette National Forest is named after the Willamette River, which begins on the Forest. (The "Wallamt" was the Indian name for a place on the river near present day Oregon City.)
The Forest's northern extent is the upper reaches of the Santiam River as the melting snow flows off the glaciated slopes of Mount Jefferson; the river supplies drinking and irrigation water to canyon communities and to the City of Salem.
Elevations on the Forest range from about 1,500 feet above sea level to 10,495 feet at the snowcapped top of Mt. Jefferson, Oregon's second highest peak. Most of the Forest is covered with Douglas-fir, the State tree of Oregon and a valuable timber species in the United States. The Forest contains large stands of old-growth Douglas-fir, with diameters ranging from three to eight feet. Old growth stands can be seen at Delta Campground, along Fall Creek Trail, and at other locations throughout the Forest.
Mountain biking trails abound on the Forest -- with most on the McKenzie and Middle Fork Ranger Districts, and a few on the Detroit and Sweet Home Ranger Districts.
Many people enjoy touring on bicycles with stop overs at Forest campgrounds and day use sites. The areas listed here are popular stop offs for bike touring, but there`s really no limit.
Use caution on forest roads and plan your route ahead of time. Not all forest roads are paved or have suitable shoulders for sharing the road with cars and trucks. Please check for local conditions or with cycling clubs for recommended routes.
Cycle Oregon and Cascade Cream Puff 100 Mile Race are two examples of the many biking events taking place every year on the Forest. Remember, events like these require a Special Use Permit.
Views of soaring peaks including Three-Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters (North Sister, Middle Sister and South Sister) can be seen while traveling along the byways.
Unique attractions including points of cultural, geological and historical interest can be found featured on interpretive panels and brochures located at many byway pull-offs.
In addition to more than 70 developed campgrounds that provide a range of settings and experiences, the forest offers a more primitive, or "dispersed camping," experience outside of these developed areas.
You may camp a maximum of 14 days out of every 60 on the Forest.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife manages fishing regulations. Fishing permitted in the Forest.
The Willamette National Forest has about 1,700 miles of trail. While many are in wilderness areas, a number of trails are low-elevation, easy-access trails for year-round hiking.
Three scenic low-elevation trails have been designated as National Recreation Trails. Two of them, Fall Creek and McKenzie River Trails, are located within 50 miles of Eugene, and the third, the South Breitenbush Gorge National Recreation Trail, is located 60 miles east of Salem.
The Willamette has eight wilderness areas, most of which are near major mountain peaks in the Oregon Cascades. While trail maps on this website give you an idea of the length and difficulty of wilderness trails, they are NOT adequate to prepare you for a wilderness experience. Each year several people get lost while hiking in the wilderness. Be sure to have a good, detailed map and compass!
Horseback riding and horse camps are present in Willamette National Forest.
Please contact the park for information on hunting.
Off Highway Vehicles
OHVs are a great way to combine America's love of motor vehicles with the love of the outdoors. To make your time in the outdoors safe as well as entertaining, you need to know the laws governing OHV use on public land. The cornerstone of any outdoor recreation activity is respect: respect for yourself; respect for others and respect for the environment.
There are no OHV-only campgrounds on the Willamette National Forest.
Big Lake Campground is adjacent to the Santiam Pass riding area and serves those seeking a variety of recreational pursuits. OHVs may not be ridden in Big Lake Campground or any other developed campground--except for ingress and egress from/to established campsites from/to an adjacent designated trail.
Dispersed camping is permitted throughout the forest, including near the Huckleberry Flats OHV and Santiam Pass trail areas.
Whether you're looking for a quiet, secluded spot by the river or a sheltered area for a crowd, there's a multitude of possibilities for your family picnic site.
Group picnic sites are available on a first come, first served basis. Upper Arm Day Use Area, on Detroit Lake, offers individual, multiple and a group picnic area, near shoreline trails and swimming access.
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Developed picnic areas typically offer parking, tables and restrooms. Always be prepared to pack out trash and garbage, as onsite garbage service may be limited or not offered in all areas. Some sites require a day use fee or a Northwest Forest Pass.
Many of the developed campgrounds, boat launches and viewpoints on the forest offer day use picnic sites. Some sites offer picnic shelters which provide shade in summer and cover during rainy weather. Some areas, such as Salt Creek Falls Observation Site [link] on Highway 58 and Paradise Day Use Area on the McKenzie River, offer immediate access to hiking and bicycling trails.
Two Winter Recreation Areas are hubs for winter sports on the Forest. Activities radiate from the SnoParks in each winter recreation area. Activities include: mushing/skijoring, skiing/snowboarding, sledding/tubing, snowmobiling and XC skiing/snowshoeing.