Up on the western edge of the Cascade Range, as the mountains melt into gentle slopes, there exists a series of meadow-crowned ridges known as Horse Rock Ridge.
Like most natural features in the Pacific Northwest, the ridge was created by volcanic activity, this time by numerous basalt flows. Today, the dike formations are covered in grass and trees. Yet through this layer of green juts through blunt bones of rock, and the largest portion of exposed basalt arguably resembles a trimmed horse's mane, hence the name.
And for all its simplicity against the grandeur of the Cascades, this little spot of BLM land in the Coburg Hills northeast of Eugene makes for good, relatively easy hiking. Visitors are asked to be mindful that the area is labeled as both a RNA (Research Natural Area) and ACEC (Area of Critical Environmental Concern) due to the sensitive meadow vegetation. It’s an out-and-back hike of just over three miles total, but it crosses through interesting terrain, and rewards with varied views of nearby peaks.
Start off at the signed Horse Rock Ridge Trailhead. This requires one to clamber over some boulders and cross through a gated chain-link fence before hitting a woodland path. Elevation gain is gentle, with under 700 feet of change, and from the get-go you’ll see glimpses of nearby volcanic peaks. The forest here has seen a few clear-cuts, but new growth is making a determined comeback. Note that the trail through the woods is not well maintained, and may require good hiking shoes to navigate successfully, especially in the wet months.
Before the first mile comes to a close, the trail slides out of the forest into a series of cascading meadow slopes. There’s a main trail heading west, which it’s recommended to stay on to avoid damaging the fragile topsoil ecosystem of these meadows. Hike up about another mile to reach the Horse Rock formation, and you’ll find a small cave perfect for a picnic lunch. Look for Mount Jefferson and the Three Sisters on the horizon, as well as numerous smaller peaks.
The grassy slopes all around are great for lazing around and maybe reading a book in. And if you want to hike out a bit father, there’s another meadow just beyond where one can clock in a last trek before heading back down.
Learn more about Horse Rock Ridge:
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