Special Places

Salt Creek Falls


The Willamette National Forest offers a stunning choice of year round recreation for day-trippers and vacationers alike from scenic drives, hiking, camping, fishing or skiing to picnicking or rafting along one of our scenic rivers. Seven major volcanic peaks rise within the Forest's Wilderness areas: Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, the Three Sisters, and Diamond Peak.

In other words, the Willamette National Forest is filled with special places! We've used this page to feature places and areas that offer a special type of experience but there are many more. Visit our recreation page to discover your very own special place on the forest! You can also use the interactive visitor map to help plan your adventure.

Out & About

Perches & Peaks

Follow the Water

Highlighted Areas

Detroit Ranger District (on US Highway 22)

Detroit Ranger District (US Highway 22)

A view of Mt Jefferson covered in snowDetroit Ranger District is located in the northern part of the Willamette National Forest, bordering Mt. Hood National Forest and the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.

This area is accessible from the west on Highway 22 from Salem, from the east on Highway 22 via Highway 20/126 from the Santiam Pass area, or from the north on Forest Road 46 from the Mt. Hood National Forest.


Here you will find popular campgrounds in the Detroit Lake Area, as well as Breitenbush Campground and Shady Cove Campground that serve as the base for adventures such as hiking, horseback riding, OHV riding, swimming, and more.

HikingA view from Three Pools Day Use Area with the North Fork of the Santiam River rushing over the rocks

Incredible vistas await while backpacking in the Mt. Jefferson - Jefferson Park Trail Area and the Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area.

Many day hiking opportunities can be found throughout the district such as the Detroit Reservoir Trail Area and Coffin Mountain Trail Area.

Other Recreation

Many areas offer great boating and swimming such as the Detroit Lake Area, Elk Lake Campground, and Three Pools Day Use Area.

Middle Fork Ranger District (Hwy 58)

Middle Fork Ranger District (US Highway 58)

A mountain bike rests on a trail through a meadow with mountains in the backgroundMiddle Fork Ranger District is the southern part of the forest, bordering the Deschutes and Umpqua National Forests. Accessible from the west on Highway 58 from Eugene, OR, or from the south via Highway 58.

Spend some time exploring Waldo Lake, one of the gems of the forest, but don’t forget to get out on some of the great mountain biking, hiking, and horse trails in this area.


Backpacking and day hikes can be found all over the district including, Fall Creek Trail Area, and Hardesty Trail Area. For spectacular mountain scenery, try a hike in the Willamette Pass Trail Area

Other Recreation

The renowned Middle Fork Willamette Trail #3609, Dead Moutain Trail and Alpine Trail are just a few of the more popular mountain biking areas.

One of the gems of the Willamette National Forest is the Waldo Lake Area provides many recreational opportunities including horse camping, non-motorized boating, swimming, hiking and biking.Waldo Lake on a clear day with the lake reflecting the surrounding landscape

For those who prefer to travel by horse, the spectacular Diamond Peak Trail Area offers multiple trails For those that enjoy travel of the motorized type, OHV enthusiasts can enjoy the Huckleberry Flats OHV Trail.

Sweet Home Ranger District (US Highway 20)

Sweet Home Ranger District (US Highway 20)

A group of people hike along Browder Ridge with mountains in the distanceSweet Home Ranger District is in the middle part of the Willamette National Forest. This area is accessible from the west via Highway 20 from Albany, OR, or from the east on Highway 20 from Sisters.

Let the Sweet Home Ranger District give you a taste of the sweet life! You’ll find mountain biking adventures, incredible wildflower hikes, swimming areas to keep cool on a hot summer day, and much more.

Guided Hikes

Sweet Home Nature and Heritage Tours offer incredible opportunities to learn about the plants, animals, geology and cultural history of the Sweet Home area, located on the edges of the Willamette Valley and within the spectacular Cascade Mountains. 


Keep cool on a warm summer day at one of the popular campground and swimming areas such as Fernview Campground, House Rock Campground, or Trout Creek Campground.


If you like wildflowers take a hike in the Old Cascade Crest Trail Area or the Tombstone Pass Trail Area (especially Iron Mountain Trail). The Hackleman Old Growth Trail is a short 1/4 mile hike, but offers spectacular sightings of old growth trees and views of the South Santiam River. Check out the Sweet Home Trail Guide for detailed explanations of each trail.Wildflowers cover a rock face on the Iron Mountain Trail

Other Recreation

Grab your bike and get your legs and heart pumping on the Santiam Wagon Road Trail Area and Iron Mountain.

Uncover the past at Longbow Organization Camp.

McKenzie River Ranger District (Hwy 126)

Explore the McKenzie River Ranger District (Highway 126)

Cars drive over the McKenzie Pass through lava fieldsMcKenzie River Ranger District is in the middle part of the Willamette National Forest, bordering the Deschutes National Forest. Accessible from the west via Highway 126 from Eugene, OR, or from the east on Highway 20 from Sisters.

The McKenzie River Ranger District is a collection of stunning lakes and waterfalls, epic mountain biking and rafting, and opportunities to explore history.


Get your water fix at the Upper McKenzie Trail Area hiking the Water Falls Loop Trail #3503 where you can see the popular Sahalie and Koosah Falls. View the headwaters of the McKenzie River at the stunning Clear Lake Loop Trail #4341.Sahalie Falls tumbles over rocks surrounded by a lush green forest

Other Recreation

The O’Leary trail complex and Upper McKenzie Trail Area offer some of the best mountain biking on the forest. Road cyclists will love the challenge of the McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass National Scenic Byway and the views are spectacular from your vehicle as well!

Don’t miss the Dee Wright Observatory, along the scenic McKenzie Highway (Hwy 242), for panoramic views of Cascade peaks such as Mount Washington and the Three Sisters. For Highway 242 opening and closing dates, check the Oregon Department of Transportation website.

History buffs will enjoy a stop at Fish Lake Interpretive Day Use sites, or try spending a night at an historic guard station (reservations required) such as Box Canyon Guard Station or Indian Ridge Lookout.

Take a guided trip down the river with one of our McKenzie River Permitted Outfitters and Guides.

The West Cascade Scenic Byway

The byway travels through much of the Willamette National Forest, offering some of the best up-close views of thundering waterfalls, ancient forests, rushing whitewater, and cool, placid lakes.

  • Length: 222 miles / 354.1 km
  • Time to Allow: Eight hours

From the Oregon Department of Transportation

The 220 mile West Cascades Scenic Byway runs north to south, skirting the northern half of Oregon's Cascade Mountain Range. Nurtured by abundant rainfall, the Western Cascades are bursting with life. The lush forests provide excellent habitat for northern spotted owl, bald eagle, pine marten, pileated woodpecker, Roosevelt elk, blacktailed deer, and mule deer. The rivers along the byway - including the North Fork of the Middle Fork Willamette, the McKenzie, the North Santiam, and the Clackamas - support many game fish, including rainbow trout, steelhead, chinook salmon, bull trout, and a rare species of cutthroat trout. Spectacular views of snowcapped mountains (Jefferson, Washington, Three Fingered Jack, and the Three Sisters) are omnipresent - keep your camera handy! Myriad recreational activities make this byway an outdoors person's paradise. For hikers, there are three well-maintained National Recreation Trails - and hundreds of miles of other trails, all accessible from the byway. The byway's lakes provide ample opportunities for boating and swimming. Kayakers and rafters will find challenge on the whitewater portions of the rivers. Anglers will encounter willing trout in the riffles and pools that are but a short walk from the road; several fishing piers are also available on the lakes. There are faster ways to get from Eugene to Portland. But you'll be hard-pressed to find a more scenic route.

Pure, cascading rivers. Towering old growth Douglas firs. Peaceful lakes. Snowcapped volcanic peaks. This is the Oregon many visitors imagine. And this is the Oregon you'll find on the West Cascades Scenic Byway.

Details at https://www.tripcheck.com/Pages/Scenic-Byways-West-Cascades

Oregon Scenic Byways Official Driving Guide

McKenzie River Scenic Byway

This byway travels through a portion of the Willamette National Forest on State Highway 126 east of Eugene, It travels along the McKenzie River and connects to the existing West Cascades Scenic Byway.

The landscape of this area was defined over the ages by actions of the McKenzie River, which created a travel route along its banks that has been in use for over 8000 years. First by the Molalla and Kalapuya tribes; in the 1800s by the European hunters and explorers and then by immigrants on wagon trains staking claims along the river. The route travels through the lower 34 miles of the 80-mile McKenzie River. It connects the I-5 corridor to two Nationally Designated Scenic Byways (McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass and the West Cascades).

The scenic views provide an enjoyable transition from the broad agricultural plain of the lower McKenzie Valley – then heading up the narrower river canyon scenery between Vida and Blue River – before transitioning again to the more rural and wild forested lands of the upper Valley. Travelers along the McKenzie River Scenic Byway will not only experience the iconic charm of one of the Pacific Northwest’s most beautiful landscapes but also have many opportunities to learn how the area’s unique geology and hydrology support a rich habitat of flora, fauna, and fish.

Oregon Scenic Byways Official Driving Guide

Aufderheide Scenic Byway (Forest Service Road 19)

Aufderheide Scenic Byway (Forest Service Road 19) is part of the 220 mile West Cascades Scenic Byway, which runs north to south, skirting the northern half of Oregon's Cascade Mountain Range. 

Aufderheide Drive (Forest Service Road 19) connects Highways 126 (McKenzie River) and 58 (Oakridge), winding through the lush undergrowth of the majestic Willamette National Forest and meandering along the cold, clear waters of the McKenzie and Willamette Rivers. Popular with cyclists and hikers, the road connects Oakridge / Westfir with the McKenzie River communities. Many popular recreation sites are located along the route, including Cougar Reservoir and Terwilliger (Cougar) Hot Springs. This route is not maintained during the winter, generally from November until April.

  • Length: 60 miles / 96.5 km
  • Time to Allow: Take two hours to drive the byway or four hours to stop at places along the way

Learn more from Travel Oregon at https://traveloregon.com/things-to-do/destinations/lakes-reservoirs/aufderheide-scenic-drive/

Oregon Scenic Byways Official Driving Guide