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Winter Activities in Willamette National Forest

A mountain full of snow-covered pine trees and a light mist.

Willamette National Forest has just as much to offer its winter visitors as it does in summer. From skiing, picturesque trails, and hot springs, to cozy cabins in the woods, if you’re looking for winter weekend getaways in Oregon, this is your perfect option. Whether you’re a family looking for an action-packed adventure, a group of friends wanting to escape the city, or a couple in search of a romantic weekend in a winter wonderland, Willamette National Forest has something for everyone. Here at Horse Creek Lodge, our idyllic cabins are the ideal launchpad for exploring everything the area has to offer, and a great place to unwind after a day out in the snow! As outdoor experts, we want to share some of the top winter activities available in Willamette National Forest.

Snow Sports in Hoodoo Ski Area

With more than 800 acres of terrain, 34 runs, 5 lifts, and great on and off-piste options, Hoodoo is one of Oregon’s go-to ski destinations. As both a budget and family-friendly ski area, it’s a perfect place to take some ski lessons or show off your skills and shred some powder, and as Horse Creek guests, you get discounted ski passes!

Hoodoo is also the only ski area in Central Oregon that offers night skiing and riding. This unique experience allows you to carve the less-crowded slopes under the starry sky, and there are often live music events to take advantage of during your après-ski. If you’re the only non-skier in your group, why not try out the Autobahn, Oregon’s largest tubing park. A mere 40-minute drive from Horse Creek Lodge, Hoodoo is a great option for a full-day or half-day activity.

Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing at Local Snow Parks

If you’re looking for views, head over to Potato Hill Sno-Park, a must for snowshoeing in Oregon. The park, squeezed between Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Washington, boasts magical mountain vistas especially in winter when the snow offers a striking contrast against fire-blackened trees. There are two trails totaling 6.2 miles, the easier option is the 3-mile Hash Brown Loop and the second, Jack Pine Way Trail has a slight, gradual ascent. Both trails are relatively uncrowded, allowing you to go at your own pace, enjoying the snow-blanketed fir trees and the eye-catching peaks along the route.

Clear Lake and Sahalie Falls Hiking Trails

Winter on the Clear Lake trail is one of the area’s best-kept secrets. At the bottom of the lake, you’ll see a forest submerged around 3,000 years ago. In the wintertime, these trees are frozen by the lake’s icy temperature and they produce a bewitching kaleidoscope effect beneath the surface. You can follow the 5.5-mile lake trail for a bracing winter’s walk with views of snow-capped mountains.

Heading southbound on the McKenzie River from Clear Lake lies the 100-foot cascade that is Sahalie Falls. In winter it looks like a scene straight from Narnia with snowdrifts perched precariously upon rocks and surrounded by snow-covered fir trees. The 2.6-mile trail that connects the waterfall with the neighboring Koosah Falls is family-friendly and a great option for those looking for accessible loop trails.

Snowshoes are needed for these walks as the tracks are not always treated in winter. Visitors should also use either ice cleats or walking poles for grip in case the trails are icy.

Take a Dip in Cougar Hot Springs

After a morning of hiking or snowshoeing, nothing beats a plunge into the hot pools of Cougar Hot Springs, or Terwilliger Hot Springs as it’s also known. Oregon is overflowing with hot springs due to the volcanic landscape, and these pools lie just a 30-minute drive from Horse Creek Lodge. A chain of 6 stair-stepped pools, the water is naturally heated by subterranean magma, and the temperature of the pools drops in descending order, with the highest pool being the hottest. You can access the springs from the road via a half-mile walk and it will set you back $7 per person for the day.

If you prefer a more deserted spot, try the Deer Creek Hot Springs. These enchanting hot pools on the edge of the McKenzie River, despite being much smaller, take the prize for their unique location. The edge of the pools actually border the river and some are sheltered in small caves.

Enjoy a Weekend in a Cozy Cabin in the Woods

Put your feet up and relax with a glass of red wine or a hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire, whether it be after a long day in the snow or a long week of work in the city! All our cabins at Horse Creek lodge feature indoor fireplaces to create the perfect snug environment that you’d expect from cabins in Oregon. Make s’mores on an outdoor fire pit and take in the unbeatable views of the stars from your porch. Choose from our different sized cabins, from larger options for groups of 10-16 to smaller couple and family options, all fitted with bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms, and fully equipped kitchens.

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