With hiking shoes laced up, sunscreen applied, and snacks packed it’s easy to feel unstoppable. Keep your adventurous appetite fed with a journey through any of these riparian landscapes, wildlife refuges, and research forests.
Just 15 minutes away from Independence is a riparian forest fanatic’s dream hike – Luckiamute Landing State Natural Area. Luckiamute Landing’s North Trailhead offers a 4-mile oasis for an easy hike. Set your feet down in the parking area to the wood chipped path through a meadow and an intact riparian forest of Oregon Ash and Big Leaf Maple trees ending at the Willamette River. The South Trailhead offers a half mile hike to the West Pond. If you’re lucky, you might even encounter a Western pond turtle that is native to Oregon and on Oregon’s Sensitive Species List.
Ankeny Wildlife Refuge
Learn about refuge habitats and management for Canada geese and more during your hike at the Ankeny Wildlife Refuge. An assortment of trails zigzag through over 2,700 acres of woodland, grass fields, creeks, ponds, marshes, boardwalks and more. A variety of avian species will provide some chirpy tunes to listen to during your hike. To ensure a safe refuge for our winged friends, the hiking trails are closed from October 1st to March 31st. As with all wildlife refuges, dogs are not permitted on the trails. A wildlife hike filled with flocks of bald eagles, hawks, and more is only 15 minutes from Independence.
McDonald and Dunn Research Forest
It’s difficult to know where to begin when speaking of the McDonald and Dunn Research Forest, but with over 11,000 acres it’s easy to start exploring. There are several family-friendly trails featuring sparkling creeks, 200-year-old Douglas-fir trees, a firefighter memorial shelter for picnics, and an impressive number of bathrooms. If you’re searching for a more difficult hike, McDonald and Dunn Research Forest hosts trails that reach over 1,000 feet in elevation and grades of over 14 degrees. Oregon State University uses this forest for an assortment of research, instructional training, and logging sports. There are over 20 trail options to wander and all just 20 minutes away from Independence.
Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge
Don’t leave your camera at home during this hike. Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge not only provides a 2-mile Baskett Butte loop hike but also the chance to encounter elusive and endangered species through your journey. The loop hike leads you up to the small peak, Baskett Butte, gaining only 260 feet in elevation making this hike an easy adventure. Keep your eyes open for bald eagles perched above in the canopy of oak trees, beavers washing up in Morgan lake, and listen for rare songs from Western meadowlarks. The trail leads to an open prairie where you might spot the endangered Fender’s blue butterfly and views of Mary’s Peak. Want to do another? Basket Slough has many trails and viewpoints for its seven habitat types making it easy for birdwatchers to add to their life list. A short 15-minute drive will bring you back to Independence to show off all the great pictures you snapped to friends and family.