The McDonald Research Forest is managed by Oregon State University and has over 7,000 acres of forested land just north of Corvallis. Because the forest is located the eastern foothills of the Oregon Coast Range, it’s easy to find plenty of hilly trails and expansive views of the Willamette Valley and even the Cascade Mountains on a clear day. The forest is neighbored by Peavy Arboretum (North-East), Dunn Forest (North), Chip Ross (East) to combine for almost 12,000 acres of recreational access to runners, hikers, bikers, and equestrians.
Trails are constantly being added and modified by OSU and Team Dirt and signs are rare, so it’s easy to get lost. Most Corvallis residents say it adds to the appeal. Heading out for a run or ride is like being in a corn maze, so the distance is irrelevant, just make sure plenty of time is allowed to find the way back to the trailhead. OSU does have maps featuring some of the trails and most of the forest roads that connect them. Starker Forests Inc. is a private company that owns land in the middle of McDonald Forest that allows public access as long as a permit to enter is filed. Also, be sure to check with Oregon State University on any closures before entering the forest.
The five main parking areas are the Oak Creek Gate, the Chip Ross Access Gate, the Lewisburg Saddle, the Soap Creek Gate, and the Peavy Arboretum. Sulphur Springs Road runs through the middle of the forest and hosts many access points. The prominent climbs are to Peavy Peak (1280′), Vineyard Mountain (1453′), Dimple Hill (1478′), and McCulloch Peak (2178′).
The McDonald Forest 50k is one of Oregon’s oldest ultramarathons and changes the course every year to take advantage of all the new and different trails of the forest. Western Oregon, Willamette, and Oregon State country teams use the trails as training, as well as runners from all over the mid-Willamette area.
One run we did in McDonald Forest with Heart of the Valley Runners started from Lewisburg Saddle and featured McCulloch Peak and Dimple Hill for over 14 miles and 3500′ of climbing. The route uses several forest roads and trails with names like Secret’s Out, Innuendo, Who Do You Love, and many more. The Anti-Face trail is almost 1000′ feet of vertical climbing in one mile on the way to Dimple Hill.
Since McDonald Forest is a research area, there are several different species of trees in both old-growth and new-growth timber, as well as deciduous trees native to the area. The fir needles combined with the moist soil offer a soft running surface, but the trails can get muddy in the middle of the winter where they might be closed to horses and mountain bikes.