Spencer Butte: The Best Hike in Eugene
Main Trailhead: Spencer Butte Trailhead, Willamette Street
Distance: 1.7 mile loop hike (can be made longer)
Spencer Butte is the best hiking trail in Eugene, Oregon.
Located within a 310-acre park is the 1.7 urban hike to the 2,058 foot summit of Spencer Butte. The trail leading up to the Spencer Butte summit is part of Eugene’s Ridgeline Trail system so there are many options to make this a longer hike. From the top of Spencer Butte, you are greeted with amazing views: the Three Sisters to the East, the city of Eugene to the North and the Coastal Range to the West.
Spencer Butte’s interesting history.
Spencer Butte was privately owned until the late 1930s, when the City of Eugene decided to purchase the butte. It was a complicated negotiation involving two families. The City of Eugene was short the funds to purchase the land and started a fundraising campaign. More than 1,000 people contributed at least one cent and up to five dollars. So Spencer Butte was literally purchased by the people. A celebration dinner was had in February of 1938.
The city immediately started implementing plans so that people could enjoy the land. By 1976, Spencer Butte was seeing 20,000 annual visitors. A current estimate I came across claimed that Spencer Butte now sees 300 average daily visitors!
There are a few tips to beat the crowd, however.
Seventy-five per cent of people who hike Spencer Butte do so from 11AM – sunset. The earlier you arrive to make your way to the top, the better.
Ninety per cent of visitors to the summit of Spencer Butte use the main trail. Make is a slightly longer hike and avoid some of the crowds. Try this 5.2 mile out-and-back hike from Hike Speak.
Watch for Wildlife.
As well as having been and being an iconic point in Eugene’s history, the Spencer Butte summit is also an important and unique habitat in the Willamette Valley. The Native American name for Spencer Butte is Champ-a Te, which means Rattlesnake Mountain. The summit is home to Western Rattlesnakes and ground squirrels. Spencer Butte is also an important stop for migrating butterflies and nesting ground birds.
To Get There.
Spencer Butte is located South of Eugene. There are two trailheads off of Willamette Street: The Spencer Butte Trailhead (1.07 miles to the top – the main route) and the Willamette Street Trailhead (will take you on a longer 5.2 mile RT to the summit and back). There are also a multitude of other trailheads from which you can access Spencer Butte Summit.