Here I thought I was being so helpful in getting new Mama hikers out and conquering new heights, and they go and periodically close Spencer Butte. Drat. So let’s mosey on over to the other hill, er, mountain in our area.
The Howard Buford Recreation Area is a 2363 acre park that consists of 17 miles of trails. There are seven official trails but for today we will be on Trail #1: Beistel’s West Summit Trail. To learn more about the other 6 trails, click here.
From the parking lot, the park is very well marked and laid out. The West Summit Trail, which we will be traversing, is immediately above you. (This is where the daily parking fee station is located as well.) You will immediately see lots of hikers going to and from here. You can’t miss it. There is a big gate that seems to be always closed – you just walk around it.
If you aren’t ready to start your upward journey just yet, you can walk straight across a cute little bridge and find the bathrooms, the rental facilities, and a few of the other (flatter) trails. There is also an unofficial swimming spot that my kids LOVE. Disclaimer: It is a free running river so swim at your own risk. Also there’s potential toxins. The sign is clear enough.
Now that you’re ready to go, head up to the gate and the start of the gravel trail. The first half of this hike is on loose gravel and is steep. If you have knee issues on a steady incline, you will want to stay on the flatter trails. This first half is also without any shade or tree cover. If it is a hot, sunny day be prepared to be very, very warm.
If you are unsure, start up the hill and about the half-way point, you come to a bench where you can rest and decide if you have enough oomph to continue up.
(I would have taken a picture of this for all of you except there was another hiker who was sharing the bench with us that I didn't need to be taking pictures of.)
The second half has more overhead cover and some random dirt paths that cut through the taller grasses. There is another bench further up the path if you need to stop again before you reach the open summit. The grade is more gradual at this point as well.
Once you are on the top, there is a wide flat area with additional benches to sit on and several trails converge at this point as well, allowing you to continue on in a different direction if desired.
It seems that other trails converge here as well, but I’ve never explored that in recent years. There’s also a fun summit marker to mark your official completion.
So here’s what you need to know:
I have done this hike a dozen or so times since being a Mama. I have taken an infant in the front pack, a toddler in both the kid pack and the Ergo, and I have made the boy walk since he was about 4 ½. This was the first time I made my bug walk it by herself – at not quite 4. I wanted to know if she could walk it alone to be able to share with all of you. The answer is, yes she can (and she’s SO proud), but it was ROUGH. To be fair, she was awake about 2 hours earlier than normal this day, and she was very tired, and it was pushing dinner but oh the whining. But the way up wasn’t the worst part for me – heading down was super hard for her. She was slipping and sliding and fell multiple times. Holding my hand may have been making it worse as then her shoulder was getting pulled and she kept falling forward on her knees. So she was in tears, her knees bleeding, and she was begging to go home. If you have in-betweeners like her (too big to really pack up, too little to do this well) I would highly recommend taking another way. If you have all the time in the world to go super slow and stop often, heck, don’t let me stop you. I for one, will be either packing her for a heavy workout out, or waiting to try it again until next year.
Things we love:
· Distance wise, it’s not a very long hike but you still get a good workout.
· The views from the top are spectacular. You can see the whole valley and surrounding mountain ranges.
· It can be a very quick destination hike to the top OR a meandering family hike around the other trails.
· There are ALWAYS friendly people there to help and because there is an arboretum there as well, I feel that there is always someone around in case of emergencies.
· The bench – which I often use as bribery. You know, “When we get to the bench, you can rest…When we get to the bench, we will eat our snacks….Let’s just hike to the bench!” God bless this bench.
Things we don’t love as much:
· How hot and relatively steep the first part is. This makes it hard to convince my littles that they want to do this hike with me. (The boy is much happier with switchbacks or winding trails rather than up – turn – up some more.)
· The crowds – It can be VERY busy and because it is so out in the open, it feels more congested. In the summer there are often weddings taking place as well. Not on the summit trail, obviously, but it can make for difficult parking and a feeling that you are invading a private party when walking around.
· The trail - this does not feel like being out in nature (another thing that motivates my little to hike). It feels like walking up a long, steep driveway. So if lush Oregon green is what you’re looking for, stick to the bottom trails.
I have been winding my way around these trails since high school. It is definitely a place worth checking out and revisiting. There’s lots to see and do and experience out there.
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: Large parking lot right at the base of the trail
Parking Fee: $4/day or purchase a Lane County Parks Annual Pass for $40 (discounts available for seniors and military personnel)
Distance: 2.8 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 1050 feet
Bathrooms: Full flushing, running water
Trail: Well-groomed gravel and dirt trail
Cell Service: Yes
Potential Dangers: LOTS of poison oak/ivy
Safe to Hike Alone: YES
Animals: YES! Both dogs (on a leash) and horses (on specified trails)
Carrier: Ergo or Hiking pack
Shoes: Any – I have hiked this in running shoes and Chacos (the gravel can get in your sandals, though, so use caution with sandals)
Kid Shoes: Keen Hikers
Backpack: Only for snacks
In the pack: water and snacks
Have a great hike!
Jenna is mama to two awesome kids, a boy & a girl. They explore Lane County's hills & mountains on a regular basis. See all of Jenna's Hike Mom Hike posts here.