Running in Corvallis: Three Great Fall Routes

“Further Along” by -Wink-, courtesy of Commons. This is the view of Bald Hill as you approach it from the east, near the Benton County Fairgrounds.

Update: With the arrival of another great fall in the Willamette Valley, this seemed like a good time to bring back this blog post. Enjoy! 

This is my favorite time of year to run in Corvallis.

Eugene may be Tracktown, USA, and Portland has its Forest Park, but for the number of great runs less than five minutes from your front door, Corvallis is hard to beat.

My three favorites?

Why this time of year?

For starters, you can sleep in and still have cool running temperatures and lots of shade between 8 and 11 a.m.  Second, the city’s practically deserted — classes haven’t resumed at OSU yet and many Corvallis families are out of town for that final summer getaway.  Third, along most  routes these days runners can savor the fall scents of ripe blackberries and apples.  Oh, yeah.

So, here’s the highlights of my three top routes:

Bald Hill

While you can park at either end of this natural area west of the city limits, I prefer to start from the parking lot along Reservoir Road instead of the Oak Creek entrance.  Runners/walkers have their choice of a wide, paved pathway or a well-kept trail.

“Why Do I Feel So Incomplete :-)” by -Wink-, courtesy of Commons. This is the barn at Bald Hill. From here head up the trail to the top.

We usually run to the barn at the base of the hill, then head up one of several paths to the top.

Once at the top, the view west looks over Philomath toward Marys Peak.  Go a bit further to the summit and you’ve got a terrific vantage point over all of Corvallis.  The Cascades, especially the Three Sisters, highlight the view to the east.

After a short rest at the top, take the back side down Bald Hill.  The groomed, gravel path is ideal if you want to feel what it’s like to be one of those really fast runners, at least for the quarter-mile downhill.  Then it’s on to the “seven bridges” on the north end of the Bald Hill trail system.  Runners can take a number of routes before circling back to their starting point.

Distance: 3-6 miles.

Best part about Bald Hill: The view at the top and the well-groomed trails.

What to watch out for: Poison oak. D’oh!

Avery Park to the Willamette River

Start on the west end of one of the city’s oldest parks, named after one of its founders, Joseph Avery.  I like to start at the Rose Garden, then head east under the canopy of trees, past the “dinosaur bones” and the antique steam engine. Head east on Avery Avenue toward Crystal Lake Drive. That will lead you to the Crystal Lake Sports Complex,

“Corvallis Sunrise” by Jeff McCrory, courtesy of Commons.

and an amazing bark-covered path along the banks of the Willamette River.

After about a mile under the trees, you emerge on the north end of Willamette Park and can take the paved path past the city’s water treatment plant toward the houses that overlook the river in the Willamette Landing subdivision.  When you reach the end of the path, you once again get a glimpse of Marys Peak and can rest a moment in the shade. Then it’s back to Avery Park.

Although you seem to pass by plenty of other runners, walkers and folks enjoying these park areas, it never seems too crowded.  Today I got passed by Mike Parker, voice of the Beavers, no doubt getting in a last run before heading to Texas for the football team’s big opener this weekend against TCU.

Distance: About 6 miles.

Best part: Views of the Willamette River.

What to watch out for: Dogs. It’s a popular path, though most of those walking their dogs are good about keeping their pets close as you pass.

Corvallis Riverfront and OSU

We like to start at the parking lots around Starker Arts/Sunset Park, and head east on the bikepath that takes you behind Ashbrook School and along Highway 20/34.  You go past Avery Park and under the Highway 34 bypass into downtown Corvallis.  The view along the Riverfront is second to none and a water fountain awaits at the north end of First Street, by Big River Restaurant.

The best way to head back is through downtown along Monroe Avenue, which takes you past Central Park, the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library and on toward OSU.  Be sure to veer off Monroe when you reach Lower Campus so you can run beneath the oak trees lining the way toward the music building.  Take your

“Irish Bend Covered Bridge” by Lance and Erin, courtesy of Commons.

choice of routes through campus, they’re all worth it.  I prefer taking Campus Way, through the arch and onto either 30th or 35th Street.  (A great detour further west on Campus Way takes runners through the

historic Irish Bend Covered Bridge.)

From 35th Street its back through Starker Arts Park, past the duck pond and a refreshing drink of water at the restroom near the playground at Sunset Park.

Distance: About 6 miles.

Best part: The run along the downtown Riverfront and through OSU’s campus.

What to watch out for: Occasional traffic lights and pedestrians that can slow you downtown.

If you haven’t tried one or more of these routes, please do. These are just a few of great routes to run in and around Corvallis. I’d love to read about some of your favorites.


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