Hiking and Backpacking

Whether you’re looking for an afternoon stroll, a day hike or a multi-day adventure, Albany and the surrounding areas have more trails than you could hike in an entire summer.

Urban Trails

For a quick but scenic hike while you’re in town, wander the trails of Albany’s Talking Water Gardens. This first-of-its kind public-private partnership is an engineered wetlands created to cool wastewater before its returned to the Willamette River.  The 50-acres site, crisscrossed with walking paths, provides some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in Albany.

The Talking Water Gardens trails connect to additional trails at Simpson Park. You’ll feel like you’re in the wilderness as you explore this forested riverside trail.

On the north side of the Willamette River, walk or run the Takena Landing Trail. You’ll enjoy peaceful views of the Willamette River on this 3.6 out-and-back trail.

Out of Town Hikes

A hidden gem in the foothills of the Cascades is McDowell Creek Falls. Visitors can see spectacular waterfalls on this 3-mile loop. Located just 25 miles southeast of Albany, McDowell Creek offers beautiful vistas of Royal Terrace and Majestic Falls from the bridges and viewing decks of this lush green park.

In eastern Linn County, hike through stunning seasonal displays of wildflowers at Iron Mountain, explore pioneer history on the Santiam Wagon Road, or hike through Douglas fir forests to pristine mountain lakes on the Gordon Lakes Trail. These are just a few of the hikes you can find in the Willamette National Forest, which covers much of eastern Linn County.

Across the Willamette, just 15 miles from downtown Albany, the MacDonald-Dunn Research Forest is a wooded wonderland managed by the Oregon State University’s school of forestry, with multitudes of trails open to the public.


For hikers seeking more adventure, Linn County is the gateway to wilderness areas with multitudes of backpacking options. The epic Pacific Crest Trail runs through the eastern half of Linn County. You can do small portions or plan ahead and hike the entire 2,650-mile route!

Other areas to explore on a backpacking journey include the Middle Santiam Wilderness, Menagerie Wilderness, Mt. Washington Wilderness and Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. These are all protected areas in the Cascade mountains – closed to motorized traffic and accessible only by trail – perfect for visitors intent on exploring the beauties of Oregon’s back country. Check out the Willamette National Forest website for additional information.

Winter Hiking

Just a short drive from Albany, you’ll find beautiful snowy landscapes accessed by hiking trails in or near the Willamette National Forest.

As mentioned earlier, McDowell Creek Falls also offers spectacular viewing in the winter, providing eye-popping photos of frozen falls and snowy landscapes.

Farther east up Highway 20, River Bend County Park offers access to low elevation Willamette National Forest trails. Lava Lake Trailhead, also part of the Willamette National Forest, is a high-elevation trailhead that is just 10 minutes down the road from Clear Lake. Photographers and nature lovers will find many things to appreciate in this snowy landscape.

From Lava Lake, it’s a short trip to the top of Santiam Pass. At 4,817 feet at the top of the pass, visitors can get clear views of Mt. Washington and Three Fingered Jack.

Back at Clear Lake, take the Clear Lake Loop Trail, a 5-mile loop around the lake. As the snow begins to pile up, hiking gives way to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Clear Lake also provides easy access to several Willamette National Forest trailheads at lower elevations.