Home  •   Field Guide  •   Forums  •    Unread Posts  •   Maps  •   Find a Hike!
| Page | Discussion | View source | History | Print Friendly and PDF

Spencer Butte Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Looking north along the summit ridge in a winter fog, Spencer Butte (bobcat)
Steps on the West Trail, Spencer Butte (bobcat)
Descending from the summit, Spencer Butte (bobcat)
Douglas-firs on the Main Trail, Spencer Butte (bobcat)
Incense cedar near the summit, Spencer Butte (bobcat)
The loop at Spencer Butte (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: MapBuilder Topo
  • Start point: Spencer Butte TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Spencer Butte
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 1.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 755 feet
  • High Point: 2058 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes



The loop to the top of Spencer Butte, which dominates Eugene’s southern skyline, may seem simple on the face of it, but there are a few hazards to be aware of if you want to get the city’s best views. If you are doing the loop, it’s best to take the West Trail first, but this steep rocky path is very slick when wet, sometimes necessitating a scramble here and there. On a rainy day, hikers may want to opt for the more gently graded, newly refurbished (2015) Main Trail as a 2.2 mile out and back. In addition, Spencer Butte is a haven for poison oak from top to bottom, so mind your leaves of three! If this weren’t enough, the hill is home to some of the Willamette Valley’s last remaining rattlesnakes although you should count yourself very lucky if you happen to see one (The Butte’s native name is Champ-a-te, Kalapuyan for ‘rattlesnake’.). The reward at the top could just be an invigorating hike on a cloudy day, but on clear days, there are expansive views up the Willamette Valley, to the Fern Ridge Reservoir and the Coast Range, and also to the snowy tips of the Three Sisters.

A longer hike to the top of Spencer Butte can be started at the Willamette Street Trailhead. You’ll follow the Ridgeline Trail to the Ridgeline-Spencer Butte Tie Trail Junction, and then head up to the summit. This outing is five miles round-trip (See the Ridgeline Trail Hike).

Walk up the wide flight of steps to the trail kiosk, where you can pick up a map of the Ridgeline Trail system. The short steep West Trail departs on the left side of the kiosk. You’ll begin ascending under moss-draped big-leaf maples and tall Douglas-firs on a wide trail tread overlain with paving stones. Sword fern, trailing blackberry, and inside-out flower form the understory. Rise steeply in five switchbacks protected by rail-and-pole fencing. The path then ascends precipitously through a mossy boulder field to a meadow with views over the Spencer Creek drainage towards the Fern Ridge Reservoir. There is some serious braiding of the trail on this upper part of the route. Keep left at two junctions with unofficial routes, and make a big switchback in shady woods before turning back to the upper slope of the meadow. In spring, look for grass widows, blue-eyed Mary, chickweed monkey flower, and naked broomrape on this grassy incline. Cross a couple of steep shortcut trails, and then head up to the left to reach Spencer Butte’s summit ridge. The true summit is a rocky outcrop to your right, and on weekends it can be very crowded towards the middle of the day. Views extend up the Willamette Valley, west to the Coast Range, and to the central Cascades peaks of the Three Sisters. Immediately to the south of the summit, a rocky meadow supports a few examples of white oak, incense cedar, Douglas-fir, and Willamette Valley ponderosa pine.

The return trail is much easier and underwent a total overhaul in 2015. Drop down the east side of the ridge, using several sets of new rock steps to descend a rocky meadow that blooms with wildflowers in the spring. Enter a mixed woodland dominated by Douglas-fir with a vine maple understory, and switchback down three times. Spring bloomers here include calypso orchid, stream violet, alumroot, and toothwort, with twin flower budding out a little later. Keep your eyes peeled in the woods for a couple of large Valley ponderosas, a variety that was almost wiped out by early settlers, who prized it for its soft, easily worked wood. Reach the Spencer Butte-Spencer Butte Tie Trail Junction. It’s 0.8 miles from the junction to the Ridgeline Trail itself.

Keep right here, and switchback. Through the trees, get a glimpse of a private pond and Fox Hollow Road. Traverse a slope in an open understory dominated by sword fern. Cross two stone culverts, and pass above a weedy meadow as the trail levels. There’s another meadow to the left, an old picnic area shaded by large oaks. Before you reach the parking area, you’ll see trails leading left to a rope challenge course.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Dogs on leash
  • Park open 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
  • Picnic area, port-a-potties, information kiosk
  • Do NOT leave belongings in your vehicle
  • Maps available at trailheads


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Best Easy Day Hikes: Salem and Eugene by Adam Sawyer
  • Best Easy Day Hikes: Eugene, Oregon by Art & Lynn Bernstein
  • Oregon & Washington: 50 Hikes With Kids by Wendy Gorton
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • Best Hikes with Children: Western & Central Oregon by Bonnie Henderson
  • Beer Hiking: Pacific Northwest by Rachel Wood & Brandon Fralic
  • Eugene Oregon Walks by Tyler Burgess
  • 100 Hikes: Central Oregon Cascades by William L. Sullivan
  • Trail Running: Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Best Dog Hikes: Oregon edited by Falcon Guides
  • Canine Oregon by Lizann Dunegan

More Links

Page Contributors

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.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.