Dense woods, lush meadows, verdant wetlands, a free-flowing river, abundant wildlife, and miles of easy trails. That’s Elijah Bristow State Park.
Located off Hwy. 58 near Eugene, the 847-acre Elijah Bristow State Park is a great place for a day ride. Horses are permitted on over 10 miles of trails that provide access to wildlife viewing sites, beautiful forest and meadows, and the Middle Fork of the Willamette River.
The wildlife viewing opportunities are exceptional. Keep an eye out for egrets, herons, eagles, turtles, beaver, deer, elk, and coyotes. And all this just a few miles from Eugene!
The trail network allows you to create a variety of loops, so whether you want to ride all day or do a quick jaunt after work, you can tailor your route to fit the amount of time you have.
Named in honor of Elijah Bristow, the first pioneer settler in Lane County and founder of the town of Pleasant Hill, the park does a remarkable job of preserving the wonderful things about this area that may have attracted Bristow to it in the first place: beautiful meadows, forest, and marshes, and diverse wildlife.
Most of the park’s loop trails are located near the equestrian trailhead, while the longer River Trail runs all the way to Dexter Reservoir. Parts of the River Trail may be impassible in winter due to high water, as may the fords over Lost Creek.
On the other hand, the Elk and Heron Trails are nicely graveled, providing good winter riding surfaces. The Angler’s Trails are not maintained for horses, so they can be narrow, brushy, and rocky. They offer close-up views of the river, though, so if you are an experienced rider with a steady mount they are definitely worth exploring.
Please keep in mind that all of the trails in the park are multi-user trails, so you’ll need to keep an eye out for mountain bikers and for anglers carrying scary-looking fishing poles.
Volunteers from Oregon Equestrian Trails have been working closely with park officials to begin installing a series of “trail training stations” scattered along beside the trails. Each station has a different trail obstacle you can use to familiarize your horse with the kinds of challenges they may face in normal trail situations, including downed logs, bridges, step-up/downs, and gates. Getting your horse comfortable with these challenges in a controlled environment can make a huge difference in his confidence level in real trail situations.
Trail Statistics: 10+ miles of trails. Multiple loops are possible. Elevations are 600 to 660 feet. Most of the trails are suitable for barefoot horses. Stock water is available on the trail.
Getting to Elijah Bristow State Park: From Eugene, take I-5 south to exit 188-A and follow Highway 58 (Willamette Highway) toward Klamath Falls/Oakridge. After 10 miles, turn left on Rattlesnake Road. Drive 0.2 mile and turn right on Wheeler Road. The equestrian trailhead parking area is on the left in 0.3 mile.
Season: Year round
Trailhead Facilities: Day-use parking for many trailers, toilet, drinking water, garbage cans, 4 corrals, 60-foot round pen. Group shelter with picnic tables, fire pit, and 2 barbecues. Part-time camp host. No fee to park.
More Information: Elijah Bristow State Park trails are covered in more detail in the park’s namesake chapters in Riding Northwest Oregon Horse Trails and Riding Southern Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2013 and 2014, respectively.)