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Champoeg Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Pioneer Mother's Memorial Cabin, Champoeg State Heritage Area (bobcat)
View over fields, Champoeg State Heritage Area (bobcat)
Manson barn, Champoeg State Heritage Area (bobcat)
Woods violet (Voila glabella), Champoeg State Heritage Area (bobcat)
Provisional Government Monument, Champoeg State Heritage Area (bobcat)
The loop hike at Champoeg State Heritage Area (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps



In the early 1840s, before the masses arrived via the Oregon Trail, early valley settlers met at Champoeg, the first town in the Willamette Valley, to discuss settlement of the estate of the valley's wealthiest resident, Ewing Young, as well as wolf predation of livestock and other matters. In time, these early meetings assumed a larger scope. In 1843, an eclectic group of 102 white male settlers gathered on the banks of the Willamette River to vote on a provisional government. Government was established by a 52-50 vote, the deciders cast by a pair of French-Canadian trappers. The very next year, the government moved to Oregon City, but Champoeg remained a regular steamboat/stagecoach stop. A massive flood in 1861 destroyed most of the town's buildings, forcing abandonment, and another flood in 1892 erased Champoeg's significance as a transportation link. Today, apart from the Newell House up on the bluff, very little remains of those early days, but a series of markers guides walkers around the Champoeg State Heritage Area and provides a delightful glimpse into early European settlement of the valley.

Before beginning the loop, take a tour of the small Visitor Center, which is well-worth your time. Here you can also pick up a map of the state park. A paved trail heads along behind the Visitor Center and past a gate leading to the grounds of the Manson Homestead. The 1862 barn has been restored; there’s also an apple orchard and a kitchen garden. Take the switchback downhill and cross Mission Creek on a footbridge. Then cross the park road and go left on a paved bicycle trail. The trail is fenced on both sides as you pass across an open field. Cross a channel of Mission Creek and pass through a line a cottonwoods and cherries. Then amble through a lush grassy area shaded by locust and maple trees.

Reach a road and pass a house. Continue to the end of the parking loop and pick up a paved trail heading along an avenue of sequoias. At a trail junction, go right up to the Champoeg Pioneer Memorial Building and Monument Plaza. This was the park’s Visitor Center from 1918 to 1977. A sign designates the 140-year-old Provisional Government Park Cottonwood and the monument is inscribed with all the names of those who voted for government. Behind the building, walk up the Pavilion Trail. See a high water mark on the building marking the depth of the 1861 flood. The trail heads along a bluff above the river under Douglas-firs and maples. The Riverside Day Use Trailhead, an alternative start to this hike, is on your left. Trillium and violets are bloom in profusion in spring. The trail rises, passes through a covered picnic shelter, and drops down a staircase. Then go left through a thicket of salmonberry, nettle, and waterleaf. The path loops around and heads east along the banks of the Willamette River under some big cottonwoods. Keep left at all junctions. From the last junction, the trail dips to river level and then rises up the bluff: this section may be closed at high water times. Past the the Pioneer Mother’s Cabin, pick up a path that heads left.

Walk on a chip trail under oaks and locusts. A grove of Oregon white oak shades a carpet of chocolate lilies that bloom in mid-April. Reach the first of several street markers at the old Champoeg townsite. Here the trail braids: go left under maples, Douglas-firs and cottonwoods. Then burrow through a thicket of Armenian blackberry. Finally, head across a field to a wooden fence and a junction at a parking area. The Townsite Trail continues down to the left. At the next junction, you can go straight down to the floating dock or right to continue on the Townsite Trail. A spur leads left under cedars to willow and ash-lined Champoeg Creek. Head back to the left along a field and then along the edge of the oak-shaded Oak Grove Picnic Area, which also sports a disk golf course. Champoeg Creek runs to the left. We reach the junction with the bike trail. Go left to continue on the route of the Champoeg to Butteville Hike, or make a right to return to the Visitor Center.

Heading back, follow the trail as it parallels the road along an oak grove. Cross a branch of Mission Creek and enter an open prairie. Reach the junction with the trail to the Visitor Center and head across the park road and up the hill. Before leaving, you can walk from the Visitor Center parking lot to the reconstructed Robert Newell House (1852) and the Pioneer Mother's Memorial Cabin, part of the Newell Pioneer Village ($6 admission, guided tour). The cabin is not an original structure but was actually built as a museum in 1929. It was moved here from its original location on the riverfront in 2013. The grounds here include the jail (1849) and schoolhouse (1858) from nearby Butteville.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • $5 day-use fee
  • No pets allowed
  • Visitor Center, museum, picnic area, campground, bicycle trails
  • Guided tours in the summer
  • Newell Pioneer Village open 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, holidays - March 1st through October 31st ($6 admission)


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Hiking Oregon's History by William L. Sullivan
  • Take a Walk: Portland by Brian Barker
  • Wild in the Willamette edited by Lorraine Anderson with Abby Phillips Metzger
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • The Willamette River Field Guide by Travis Williams
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Megan McMorris
  • Oregon Campgrounds Hiking Guide by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • The Dog Lover's Companion to Oregon by Val Mallinson
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan

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Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

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