Cottage Grove

Dubbed the Covered Bridge Capital of the West, Cottage Grove is the place for romance and nostalgia.
Dubbed the Covered Bridge Capital of the West, Cottage Grove is the place for romance and nostalgia.
Photo by Joni Kabana/Eugene, Cascades & Coast

When it’s time for romance, plant a kiss in Cottage Grove

written by James Sinks

In yesteryear, covered bridges also were known as kissing bridges. Some say it’s because the seclusion offered a seductive smooching opportunity. Or, because horses slowed to a walking gait to pass through, it became much easier to wink and lean into a lip-lock. And for the superstitious, a kiss represented a wish for luck, as covered bridges were known to sometimes house bats and other scary critters.

Whatever the reason, or the season, the spans remain a perfect place to practice your pucker. And in Oregon, you’ll find opportunities aplenty surrounding the hamlet of Cottage Grove, dubbed the Covered Bridge Capital of the West. So if you’re hoping for some kissing on Valentine’s Day—or any day, really—the town just might be the mood enhancer you’re looking for.

“If you are a city nightlife person, then Cottage Grove is probably not the right spot. But if you love nature and a small-town feel, there is romance everywhere,” said Alyssa Gomez, the owner of Sweet Springs Family Farm Bed & Breakfast, south of town.

When couples book the farm’s quaint cottage, Gomez gets out “all the fuzzies,” including a furry rug in front of the fireplace and—if desired—a one-night adoption of one of their long-eared, soft-as-snow Holland lop rabbits.

Also among surprising local picture-perfect places to stay is Lakeside Villa, an Italian-style mansion with guest suites, a music room, formal gardens and a footbridge straight out of a Monet painting.

Fifteen minutes from Eugene and home to 10,500 people, Cottage Grove initially grew thanks to the most romantic of metals, gold in the nearby mountains. Eventually, like much of the South Willamette valley, the economy came to rely on farming and lumber, and the local Weyerhaeuser mill saws are still spinning.

Prior to white homesteaders’ arrival, the region was home to Yoncalla Kalapuyan Indians, led in the mid-1850s by a popular chief named Halotish, or Halo for short. The former chief’s village once sat along the Row River, which weaves out of the Umpqua National Forest and swirls underneath several covered bridges.

Chances are, you’ll see a bit of the scenic waterway during your stay. Except, of course, when you close your eyes and pucker.

Day 1


Another thing you might enjoy about Cottage Grove is the privacy, and not only for the kissing. You won’t find bumper-to-bumper traffic, except maybe at the speedway come summertime, or elbow-to-elbow crowds on the hiking trails and bicycling routes, where you will be headed shortly.

First, a carb-loading lunch is in order. One of the state’s bucket list eateries, Creswell Bakery was founded in 2008 by a New York-schooled chef who returned home and honed her recipes in her grandma’s farmhouse kitchen. Today, her restaurant is a celebration of yeast, starch and flavor. (They even sell “Flour Power” T-shirts.) Expect mouth-watering smells and a line.

The popular Cresswell Bakery in Cottage Grove is home to many baked delights and a good stop after riding the covered bridges route.
The popular Cresswell Bakery in Cottage Grove is home to many baked delights and a good stop after riding the covered bridges route.
Photo by Turell Group/Eugene, Cascades & Coast

Known as the “Old Slow and Easy,” the former Oregon and Southeastern Railroad carried wood and ore along the Row (rhymes with “cow”) River, from 1904 until the last of the track was scrapped in 1994. The abandoned 18-mile route was then reborn as the nation’s first rail-to-trail project, the Row River National Recreation Trail.

Much of it paved, the path—part of the longer 36-mile Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway—extends from Cottage Grove and alongside the nearby Dorena Reservoir. Among the spans you’ll traverse is the Mosby Creek Covered Bridge, featured in the 1986 movie Stand By Me.

A frequent film backdrop, the area also appeared in the 1926 black-and-white Buster Keaton Civil War-era biopic The General, in which a locomotive plunges into the Row River. The city’s historic district was the parade route in 1978’s Animal House.

Most days, you won’t find parades downtown, but you will find coffee (and root beer floats) at the Hot Spot Cafe, in the aptly named Fun Depot. Also fun: browsing at the 5 Flying Monkeys boutique and antique shop.

Cottage Grove may seem like a real-life cousin of utopian TV town Mayberry—the city even recognizes a “yard of the week” during warm months—but its history has a darker tinge.

At the Bohemia Gold Mining Museum, learn how the local gold rush started after an outlaw, James “Bohemia” Johnson, on the run after killing an Indian in Roseburg, stumbled onto glittering ore in the uplands nearby. In ensuing years, scores of mines were dug, and the mountainside mining town of Bohemia was born. The town is long gone, but there’s a pancake feed each summer at the site, once roads are passable.

Bohemia Gold Mining Museum provides a brief grounding in the area’s sparkling past.
Bohemia Gold Mining Museum provides a brief grounding in the area’s sparkling past.
Photo by Colin Morton/Eugene, Cascades & Coast

For the suggested $2 museum donation, browse a collection of maps and mining relics, and for another $5, pan for gold in a giant vat. In the mining district—long abandoned by corporate interests—hobbyists are still working some 2,000 claims.

Downtown in a former timber firm office, you’ll find the Axe & Fiddle Public House, with seasonal cocktails and, often, live music. The kitchen serves up sirloin, shrimp and grits, pork belly tacos and pub fare.

After dessert, decide whether your evening should include a live production at the local Cottage Theatre, or some role playing on your own.

Day 2


Want to start the day with a friendly wager? Loser buys breakfast.

At Hidden Valley Golf Course, smack balls between—and hopefully not into—giant oaks on a 90-year-old, ten-hole course (yes, ten). Or fling frisbees at the municipal disc golf course.

The Cottage Grove municipal disc golf course.
The Cottage Grove municipal disc golf course.
Photo by Melanie Griffin/Eugene, Cascades & Coast

Afterward, you’ll both feel like winners at Jack Sprats. Despite the dietary restrictions of the eatery’s namesake, there is indeed fat on the menu—hello, beautiful bacon—plus salmon, biscuits and gravy and several gluten-free options, including chicken and waffles with a basil lemon sauce.

During your morning outdoors, you might have imagined what you’d like your partner to grow in your garden or planters this spring. Maybe, say, cocktail garnishes.

Whatever makes your thumbs green and your liver happy, find seeds and inspiration at the flagship store of one of the country’s best-known organic producers, Territorial Seed Co. Launched with a tiny mail order catalog in 1979, the Cottage Grove company now runs a 75-acre research and production farm, and ships worldwide.

The verdant valley nearby is a checkerboard of farms. For tourists, the most exciting crops tend to be those that end up in a glass. At Saginaw Vineyard, in a circa-1901 red barn, enjoy vintages inside with their cats, and outside with their friendly goats.

From the cozy confines of Saginaw, head west to the historic farm town of Lorane and one of Oregon’s most architecturally impressive and also most significant wineries. Started in 1991, King Estate is a sprawling French-style chateau surrounded by 1,033 acres of grape vines, the largest biodynamic certified vineyard in North America. And while wineries in the McMinnville area put Oregon on the international map for pinot noir, King Estate earned widespread acclaim for its varietal cousin, Oregon-grown Pinot Gris.

King Estate Winery, a French-style chateau in nearby Lorane.
King Estate Winery, a French-style chateau in nearby Lorane.
Photo by King Estate

That’s not the only wine being poured in the elegant tasting room, where reservations are a very good idea. Select among more than twenty options, but don’t miss the lively white that made the King family famous.

Feel like something that’s less winey or a snack? Next door you’ll find cider, appetizers and a laid-back vibe at Alesong Brewing & Blending.

Back in Cottage Grove, prowl the eclectic Coast Fork Brewing and Feed Store, where seasonal decor shares shelves with farm necessities, and then dive into brews and comfort food including chicken pot pie, shepherd’s pie and dessert pies (and sandwiches and soups). As you’d expect with a good farm store, they also have menu options for pets.

For a nightcap and maybe a little dancing, step under the neon sign downtown and into old-time The Grove Bar & Grill. Snuggle into a red leather booth, and enjoy billiards, jukebox tunes and dive bar prices (it’s cash only).

Day 3


When a river spills over a ledge and becomes a waterfall, it turns into something magical. Falling for somebody can be like that, too.

Of course, both can be rocky and risky, at times. One such time: waking your partner to go hunt for splashy metaphors, when there’s still sleepy time before checkout.

The high country that surrounds Cottage Grove is laced with clear creeks that tumble into ravines. You’ll find plenty of waterfall destinations along Brice Creek, and among those is Upper Trestle Creek Falls, named such because river water was once diverted via an elevated canal.

A hiking trail winds behind Upper Trestle Creek Falls.
A hiking trail winds behind Upper Trestle Creek Falls.
Photo by Rick Faber/Eugene, Cascades & Coast

The hike is a moderately easy 1.5-mile-each-way trek, through old growth to a mossy grotto where the most exciting occupant is the 65-foot-tall, two-tiered cascade. If you think staying dry is dumb, the trail goes behind the plume—and you can follow it farther downstream to Lower Trestle Creek Falls.

The picturesque falls tumble near a 4,200-foot-high mountain that earned headlines last year for an identity change. Previously called Swastika Mountain, although that moniker long predated World War 2, it was renamed in 2023 in honor of Kalapuyan Chief Halo.

If you’re visiting the south Willamette Valley in the summertime and you want to fall for each other with dramatic aplomb, head to the Creswell Airport for a parachuting adventure with Eugene Skydivers. They don’t toss people out of planes in colder months, however. If that’s a little too much adrenaline, you can admire other flying things at the Cascades Raptor Center, a nonprofit where rescued eagles and owls roost in the hills between Eugene and Creswell.

For a romantic getaway finale, find booze, Italian sodas, bingo on lazy Sunday afternoons and a Hawaiian-inspired menu at Covered Bridge Brewing Co., just around the corner from Bohemia Park and the historic district. Try the Loco Loco, a burger patty over rice with an egg and rich gravy, or the barbecued pork bowl with a drizzle of creamy wasabi.

Then, hands entwined, wander five blocks to the Centennial Covered Bridge, a handsome whitewashed pedestrian span across the coast fork of the Willamette River. Of course, with any luck, you won’t be looking at it.

Centennial Covered Bridge spans the Willamette River and decades of romance.
Centennial Covered Bridge spans the Willamette River and decades of romance.
Photo by Eugene, Cascades & Coast



Alesong Brewing & Blending

Axe and Fiddle Public House

Coast Fork Brewing and Feed Store

Covered Bridge Brewing Co.

Creswell Bakery

Hot Spot Café

Jack Sprats


Best Western Cottage Grove Inn

Gordon Hotel

Inn at the 5th

Lakeside Villa

Sweet Springs Family Farm


Bohemia Mining Museum

Cascades Raptor Center

Cottage Grove Covered Bridges

Cottage Theatre

Eugene Skydivers

Hidden Valley Golf

King Estate

Row River Trail

Saginaw Vineyard

Territorial Seed Store

Trestle Creek Falls

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