We travel to Eugene as a family every few months—my parents live there, so we drive the two hours from Portland often to visit the grandparents. When we brainstorm family friendly activities in Eugene, Oregon, we always come back to hiking Dorris Ranch, a great hike for kids and families.
Dorris Ranch is a 250-acre park in Eugene, Oregon, that is an operating hazelnut orchard. You can stick to the path, wander among the rows of hazelnut trees, eat a picnic along the Willamette River or hop on the multi-use Middle Fork Path, which runs to Clearwater Park and connects to the 8-mile-loop Mill Race Path.
The scenery is gorgeous any time of year, and this Eugene kid-friendly hike is easy for babies in strollers, toddlers and big kids ready to race ahead.
A fun family hike in Eugene, Oregon
Dorris Ranch’s trails are all flat, so little kids and children just learning to walk won’t be worn out from a lot of up-and-down hiking. Small portions of the trail run alongside the Willamette River, but otherwise, the park is safe enough for kids to roam safely. I love that my kids can run to their heart’s content and I can always keep an eye on them: The hazelnut orchards are flat and open enough that I have a clear line of sight pretty much wherever they run.
Dorris Ranch is more than just a hazelnut orchard (though it does contain nearly 10,000 hazelnut trees!). Side trails wind through wooded sections that brim with wildflowers during the spring and along the river, where you might spot a kayak or drift boat floating along.
Keep an eye out for deer, wild turkeys, hawks, eagles and critters that love hazelnuts—particularly squirrels!
Insider tips for hiking Dorris Ranch
Dorris Ranch is a fantastic location for a family friendly hike, partly because of the features kids love.
About halfway down the main path that runs from the orchard entrance (at the information kiosk) through the hazelnut orchards, you’ll find an old tractor kids love to climb. We take a photo here every time we come, so we have about a dozen photos of Peeper and Kiwi at all different ages. There is also a little hay barn where kids can climb—and a portable toilet. (Cue the applause!)
My kids also love to collect fallen hazelnuts. They’re self-shucking nuts, meaning they lose their husks as they fall, so you could actually take them home with you and eat them. (Here’s how: Crack them with a nutcracker, roast them at about 300 degrees for 10 minutes, and roll them in a towel to remove the dark skins—then enjoy!) FYI, squirrels also love hazelnuts, so your dog may go a little insane chasing critters into trees.
Side note: If you have ever eaten a hazelnut, there’s a good chance it came from Dorris Ranch, either directly or indirectly. More than half the nation’s commercial hazelnut trees came from nursery stock in Dorris Ranch!
Picnic tables are sprinkled here and there once the main trail nears the river. This is a great spot to stop and enjoy a snack as a family. Or bring a picnic blanket and spread it out among the trees or in the grassy fields here and there.
Finally, your kids may also want to check out the community farm and the historic replicas near the park’s entrance. You can tour a log cabin, a pioneer homestead and a Northwest Coast Native American plank house.
Dorris Ranch hiking: Details
Directions: Enter the park at 205 Dorris St., Springfield, Oregon. It is about 2 miles from I-5 in Eugene and Springfield.
Features: Hazelnut orchards, river trails, biking trails, self-guided tour
Good for: Toddlers, families, strollers, dogs, babies in carriers
Must-know: Technically, dogs must be on leash within the park, though this rule isn’t followed closely and isn’t really enforced. If your kids fear dogs, keep them close and pick them up when walkers with off-leash dogs come near. In addition, if you’re going during the rainy months, make sure to wear boots: Sections of trails can get very muddy!
PS – If you’re hitting the trail with little ones, have you read my post with 7 tips for hiking with kids?