Eugene, nicknamed "The Emerald City" for its verdant setting, is a south Willamette Valley haven nestled between the Cascade and Coast ranges cut through by the blue-green Willamette River and framed on three sides by Douglas fir forests. Together with neighboring Springfield, the area has become the second-largest residential area in Oregon, and boasts a thriving university, a well-developed arts scene, and has a reputation for fostering alternative lifestyles and organic products. Incidentally, Eugene also has some claim to fame as the birthplace of athletic brand, Nike - and with so much in terms of outdoor recreation to choose from, it's no wonder that this laid-back location has energy at its heart.
Rated as one of the top 10 cycling cities in the U.S., Eugene has some 250 miles of biking, walking and jogging paths. A park and greenway system borders the entire Willamette, and four unmotorized-only bridges connect both sides of the river to provide a loop system for walkers, runners, bikers, and in-line skaters. Other paths traverse the city's many parks and gardens, such as Hendricks Park. Founded in 1951, Hendricks is the oldest of Eugene's 100-plus city parks. Its 78 trail-laced acres include a mature forest, a world-renowned rhododendron garden, and a new native plant garden. Area recreation also includes rafting and fishing on the McKenzie River (which joins the Willamette north of town) and soaking in Cougar Hot Springs.
Eugene is also home to a wide array of cultural amenities. The 250-acre campus of the University of Oregon remains home to several handsome turn-of-the-century and early 19th-century brick buildings, all amid tree-lined footpaths and beautiful landscaping.
But more famously, Eugene experienced an influx of ex-hippie settlers in the 1970s, who have lent their cultural and philosophical influences to the city ever since. Progressive initiatives such as organic food co-ops, worker-owned collectives, and a strong activist community can be found here, as well as cultural events such as the Saturday Market, the oldest weekly, open-air crafts festival in the U.S.
Eugene is just west of I-5 about an hour south of Salem. To learn more about Eugene, select a topic of interest from the left-hand column.