Westfir, Oregon, is the gateway to the Willamette National Forest.
We marched along the dirt trail under a canopy of thick Douglas firs, hidden from the heat of the sun, save for tiny slivers of light peeking through. I could hear the hurried waters of the North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River below us to the right in this section of Willamette National Forest. For whitewater rafters, it was an ideal day. Our path narrowed to the point that a bit more care was needed if we didn’t want to go tumbling through the trees and into the gushing water. One foot in front of the other, one foot in front of the other. Then, I stopped, pricked up my ears, listening for the sound of Tonka’s footsteps, and heard nothing. Nervous, I turned around, looking for the familiar cream-colored scruff of fur, but saw nothing. Panicked, I looked down toward the heel of my hiking boot, and there he was — all six pounds of him.
He was off leash, and normally I’d be wary of the dangers of being out among the wilderness. But within Willamette National Forest, there wasn’t a soul in sight to fight for his attention. In the stillness, all we could hear were birds and the rush of the river. We were on the North Fork Trail, and I was hoping we’d get to the bridge, which would mark three miles, and turn back before dark.
The Willamette National Forest encompasses more than 1.6 million acres and stretches across seven mountains. More than 380,000 acres are considered wilderness areas, offering boundless opportunities for exploring, especially in the summer months.
Our base camp was the Westfir Lodge & Mountain Market, a charming inn with eight rooms, a small market with homemade jam made by co-owner Tracey Sunflower, and a large outdoor patio with picnic tables and Adirondack chairs. Set in the heart of the Willamette Valley in Lane County, Westfir is a small town that takes up all of 203 acres, with less than 270 full-time residents. Named for the fir trees that inhabit the area, it’s a popular destination for mountain bikers, hikers, and water sports enthusiasts. Many come for the revered Alpine Trail, a 15-mile route with a 4,000-foot elevation gain.
The town and Westfir Lodge are rich pieces of Oregonian history. Westfir was a thriving mill town from the 1920s up to its decline in the 1980s. During the height of its growth, the Edward Hines Lumber Company mill had more than 500 employees. The town had its own school, a gymnasium, a grocery store, and saloons. Built in 1925, the lodge was originally the mill’s office, where bookkeeping was kept and business was conducted. In 1945, the iconic Office Covered Bridge was built, connecting the lumberyard to the office. Its distinctive Howe Truss-engineered design allowed for heavy cargo to pass through, ensuring even distribution and safety. Another unique feature is the covered walkway, which allows pedestrians to cross safely.
The Westfir Lodge’s new owners, Tracey and Noah Sunflower, acquired the property in 2018, but before that, it had passed through some hands, mostly without much development. The couple live on and operate their farm several minutes away, where they raise livestock, restore old-growth oak and pine trees, and grow fruit. The fruit from the orchard is used to make delicious homemade preserves, which Tracey sells at the market.
I booked the Waldo room for our three-night stay because it was the largest accommodation, featuring a king bed, a comfortable couch, and an en-suite bathroom. The renovated space still retained its old-world charm, with wood floors, antique furnishings, and rustic appeal. There was a large window that allowed sunlight to filter in. I loved the thick, pull-back drapes with their old-fashioned flair. However, modern amenities such as air-conditioning, heat, a hot shower with good water pressure, and fridge were also present. Our room had a private entrance with a porch, where I sat every morning with a cup of coffee and listened to chirping birds and the faint whirs of motors passing through.
The lodge has five rooms with in-room bathrooms and three rooms with private bathrooms in the hallway. Its great room is centered around a huge fireplace, where guests can gather and relax on large, comfortable couches. Books line the shelves and board games are also on hand for spending time with loved ones. Dining tables and chairs dot the perimeter of the great room — a perfect space for enjoying breakfast and coffee.
Adjacent to it is the Mountain Market, a farm store stocked with snacks and beverages plus gifts such as artisan chocolates, T-shirts, and homemade jelly. Guests receive a complimentary a la carte breakfast assortment every morning. As a playful nod to the mill, you’ll find scrip tokens in your room, which you can "trade" in at the market every morning for pastries and other goodies. For something heartier, make your way to The Campfire, Home of Cowgirl Cookn in the neighboring town of Oakridge, a quick, eight-minute drive away. Biscuits and gravy are a great way to fuel up before a day of activity.
Inside the lodge is the mill’s old vault, where money and valuables were stored. The structure has been restored to its original state. Upon walking in, it’s as if you’re going underground. The owners display an original ledger that pays homage to the historical significance. Framed historic photos of the mill and lumberyard can be found throughout the hallways of the lodge — mesmerizing remnants of what was once a bustling town.
No visit is complete without a guided adventure with the Cascades Outdoor Center, which offers whitewater rafting, paddling, standup paddleboarding, and mountain biking tours, as well as snowshoeing in the winter. Supermoon and stargazing standup paddleboarding and kayak tours are available from August through October. For a special treat, visit in August when the Perseid meteor shower is active. There’s a good chance you’ll have a sighting on the river, without streetlights to distract.
On our last night in Westfir, we stopped at 3 Legged Crane Pub and Brewhouse, a fun brewery serving delicious burgers and beer. There’s plenty of outdoor seating and live music on select nights. I ordered the pub burger with cheese and a side of hand-cut fries, and wasn’t disappointed.
Before heading out the next morning, Tonka and I meandered across the Office Covered Bridge one last time to the ruins where the mill’s lumberyard building used to be located. In its place was a huge 18-hole disc golf course. Beyond that, the towering fir trees stood proud, part of Westfir’s history.
How to Get to Westfir
By Plane: Fly into Eugene Airport, then drive approximately one hour to Westfir. If you have the time, stop by 5th Street Public Market and pick up some food from Provisions Market Hall, which specializes in artisan pizzas.
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