Best of 2020: Corvallis outdoor recreation locations

By Scott Schmidt
The hills of McDonald-Dunn Forest stand in the distance, veiled in a thin layer of mist.   

William Ross, News Contributor

First place: Mary’s Peak

Marys Peak is a mountain with the highest peak in Oregon’s coast range. With its wildlife and recreational opportunities, Marys Peak was voted the best outdoor location. 

Marys Peak is best known for its summit, which attracts visitors every day. The mountain is home to multiple trails for hiking and exploring.

Clear days and sunset are the most popular times to take a trip to Marys Peak, according to Cori Rendón, a public affairs specialist for the U.S. Forest Service, but Marys Peak is open to the public 24 hours a day. 

OSU alumnus Eidy Bambang-Sunaryo has taken it upon himself to visit Marys Peak from morning to night. 

“Marys Peak has a lot more to offer than you would think…if you’re looking more towards the night sky, I recommend May because that’s when the milky way pops up, a little late like 3 a.m., around that time is when you get the nice sky,” Bambang-Sunaryo said.  

Once winter hits, Marys Peak is no stranger to snow, which may cause traveling up the mountain rough, according to Rendón. 

“The road up to the top does get icy and snowy, we don’t recommend people who aren’t prepared or use to those driving conditions to head up their because it can be pretty dangerous. The road is not maintained throughout the fall and winter.” Rendón said.

According to David Eckert, co-founder of Marys Peak Alliance, “If you hit snow in the road [while driving], either stop there and hike if you know how to hike snow, but don’t drive in it because those roads are so treacherous.” 

No matter the time of the year, it’s always a matter of importance that people check the weather forecast before going to Marys Peak, according to Rendón. 

With the unpredictable weather at Marys Peak, Eckert recommends visitors have the proper gear and preparedness before enjoying the mountain. Hiking, sledding, skiing and snowboarding tend to be popular activities once it starts snowing regularly. 

“Proper shoes, proper clothing, proper hat… you just have to be prepared,” Eckert said. 

With Marys Peak being at an elevation slightly above 4000 feet, it still has activities people can get involved in.

“You can hike up there, ride your bicycle up the road to Marys Peak, there’s a campground you can camp at,” Rendón said. “People really enjoy going up there for the sightseeing, on a clear day, you can see plenty of peaks in the cascades, all the way to the ocean.”

While the sights and activities available at Marys Peak get a lot of attention, Eckert said that Marys Peak holds an ecological importance. 

“There are special communities of plants that don’t exist anywhere else like they do on the top of Marys Peak. There are animals named like Marys Peak tailed frog, there’s a Marys Peak ice beetle, there are things you don’t find other places,” Eckert said.            

Marys Peak includes special habitats fragile to the ecosystem of the mountain, according to Rendón. Therefore, visitors are asked to stay on trails while visiting.  

No matter the weather condition or the difficult drive, people still travel to Marys Peak to enjoy the outdoors. 

“[Things to bring], I’d say definitely warm clothing because it can get windy out there and just your excitement to see the outdoors and views,” Bambang-Sunaryo said. 

A valid Northwest Forest Pass or other valid recreation pass is needed at the Marys Peak Day Use Area. For more information on Marys Peak and other recreational opportunities visit the Siuslaw National Forest’s website or follow the forest on Facebook and Twitter at @SiuslawNF.


Second place: McDonald-Dunn Forest

McDonald-Dunn Forest is one of 10 Oregon State’s research forests around the state of Oregon. Corvallis, Ore. residents and visitors can still visit the forest for recreational purposes. 

With McDonald-Dunn Forest being a part of OSU, students use the land for class, labs and research, and timber is also harvested various times of the year on the land by the university. Visitors can come into the forest too, to enjoy what the land has to offer. 

Stephen Fitzgerald is the director of the College of Forestry Research Forests program. McDonald-Dunn Forest is one of the research forests Fitzgerald oversees. 

According to Fitzgerald, part of the McDonald-Dunn Forest was donated to OSU decades ago, making them owners of it, but some of the forest was purchased as well. They obtained the Dunn Forest from the Defense Department because it was originally part of Camp Adair, a WWII training camp.

McDonald-Dunn Forest is now available to the public and features plenty of trails for people to explore. Visitors on these trails can hike, run, bike and ride horses according to Fitzgerald. 

“During the wintertime, some of our trails are closed to mountain biking because they get muddy and leave tracks that begin to erode,” Fitzgerald said.

Events are permitted to happen on OSU’s McDonald-Dunn Forest, according to Fitzgerald. Mountain bike and running races, educational events and ROTC training can all happen within the forest. 

People should be prepared when deciding to make the 6.8 mile day trip from OSU to McDonald-Dunn Forest, Fitzgerald said. A person should bring their cell phone with them, a backpack with water, clothing and a first aid kit.

“Just come prepared to be out in the woods,” Fitzgerald said. 


Third place: Bald Hill

Hiking on gravel, dirt, or pavement is all possible when going to Bald Hill. Whether it’s being adventurous or wanting to relax Bald Hill offers a variety of options.  

Bald Hill is in Corvallis, Ore. and features multiple trails and native plants for people to experience. Creeks and fields surrounding the hill are are accessible to the public from the paths set out by the park.    

Allison Walkingshaw is an employee with Parks and Recreation and a frequent visitor to Bald Hill. 

“Bald Hill is a park with the City of Corvallis so it is open to the public… visitors are encouraged to stay on the designated trails to protect the surrounding area.” Walkingshaw said. 

Visitors of Corvallis will have multiple routes to go through, according to Walkingshaw. Bald Hill features a paved trail that is handicap accessible. The hill also includes another hike that will take people through the woods to get to the very top of Bald Hill.  

While Bald Hill is welcomed to walking and hiking by people, pets can also partake. 

Walkingshaw said, Bald Hill is a favorite among dog walkers for its multiple routes. The hill even includes a dog park where people can allow their dogs to run around and play unleashed. 

Though it can be a challenge for some to get to the top of the hill, according to Walkingshaw, the view of Corvallis is great. 

“I think it (Bald Hill) is for all residents of Corvallis. Something nice about Bald Hill is any activity level can go,” Walkingshaw said. 

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