Corvallis is a hub for all levels of hikers. From nearly every point in the city, you can find a hiking trail of some kind in about five minutes or less. With spring nipping at our heels, we’ve decided to make you a quintessential neighborhood hikes “mix tape,” if you will.
Let’s Begin with Bald Hill Park
This is a great spot for novice hikers, but enjoyable for all. The park area itself has several options for hiking, including low incline and concrete pathways, hilly trails, off-leash areas for dogs, and more strenuous trails that head up the hill to Fitton Green—and it’s all just a few minutes from the center of town. The trails range from livestock fields to more heavily wooded, narrow trails that lead to the top of the hill, where on a clear day you can see the Cascade Mountains. Bald Hill is great for a quick, spontaneous hike, but if you mean business when you strap on your Merrells, you might want to consider taking the Mulkey Ridge Trail that connects Bald Hill and Fitton Green, or one of Corvallis’s several other options.
This is another moderate-level hiking spot with some breathtaking views. The trail extends a total of 4.3 miles, involves quite a few elevation changes, and takes about two hours. There are some gravel and dirt pathways which get very muddy during non-summer months. But the views of Marys Peak and the valley are worth trudging through knee-high muck, even on a rainy Corvallis day.
Chip Ross Park & Dimple Hill
Same trailhead, two different hikes. Chip Ross is a moderately easy hike offering a sweeping valley view at 270 feet of elevation gain in about 15 or 20 minutes. It’s a loop, with a nice change of scenery going back down. The other option is Dimple Hill, a decent booty-blaster of a hike. The total elevation gain is about 1,450 feet, which is almost two-thirds the gain of the trail for Marys Peak, but in a significantly shorter amount of time. This trail is a true loop hike and only lasts about three hours. Like many other trails in the area, the views from the top are well worth the time and energy. These hikes are located shortly before reaching Crescent Valley High School, roughly 10 minutes by car from the center of town; take Highland, then turn left on Lester Avenue which dead-ends at the trailhead.
In the 1930s, Peavy Arboretum was the site of a Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) camp; today it is one of Corvallis’ best hike locations. Peavy Arboretum is located about six miles north of Corvallis and acts as a sort of gateway to the McDonald-Dunn Forest, an OSU-owned forest. The trail offers a great wooden path option for hikers who don’t feel like wading through the mud during the winter months. This entire area showcases some serious old-growth forest and Cronemiller Lake, a glorified greenish lagoon really, which sits alongside an old dynamite cap house, now functioning as a location for the university’s logging competitions.
You can further avoid muddy trails by hitting up the 500 service road, which leads to the McDonald Forest and begins at the Peavy Arboretum parking area. What it lacks in mud the 500 road hike makes up for in serious elevation gain that will leave you heaving and huffing if you are not accustomed to such exercise. This hike is great for observing old-growth trees, but lacks that climactic vista so many other trails in the area have. Covering around 7,250 acres, McDonald Forest offers many other options for hiking, biking, and outdoor recreation.
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous and don’t mind the resonating sound of gunshots, Marys Peak might be just the spot for you. At 4,097 feet, it is the highest point on the Oregon Coast Range. This is one of Corvallis’ most popular hikes and for good reason. From the top you can see both the Pacific Ocean and the peaks of the Cascades to the east. There are a range of different levels of hikes of various lengths from just a short hour-and-a-half to about a half-day trek. The elevation gain gets a little raw on some of these trails, so choose your steps wisely.
by Maggie Nelson