If running in Forest Park is your bread and butter, get ready for a little dessert: The McKenzie River National Recreation Trail, east of Eugene-Springfield in the foothills of the Cascades.
Ranked near the top of scenic trails in the U.S., it’s a runner’s paradise—a gentle trail paralleling the river, with thundering waterfalls, a crystal clear “blue pool” where the river emerges from underground, and old growth forest. The MRT has it all.
Totaling about 26 miles in length, the McKenzie River Trail’s western terminus is near the hamlet of McKenzie Bridge, about an hour’s drive east of Springfield on OR 126. Multiple trailheads exist along its entire length, however, thus most runs are planned as out-and-back efforts of varying distance.
A nice loop near the trail’s upper end might include two major waterfalls plus a circumnavigation of Clear Lake. Top off your day with a relaxing soak in the swimming pool-sized Belknap Hot Springs, plus some refueling at a convenient burger stand at the adjacent resort.
One of the coolest trail running experiences in Oregon, every runner deserves this treat. (It’s also enjoyable when the weather cools, and the hot springs are even more soothing.)
On the long drive home, I guarantee you’ll be planning for a return trip to the MRT!
Note: I recommend a fantastic (and cheap at fifty cents!) map of the trail, available from the McKenzie Ranger District at (541) 833-7254.