The pastures of Lebanon and Brownsville  east of Corvallis  are good places to spot bald eagles. Venture out to the fields (beginning in February) when sheep are lambing to see eagles soaring above the newborn lambs. In the winter, grass seed farms outside Albany , Coburg, and Junction City attract tundra swans.
West of Corvallis, two spots have drawn seekers of natural beauty and solitude for many years. Mary’s Peak and Alsea Falls are each a short drive from Route 34, a scenic route to Waldport , which branches off U.S. 20 southwest of Philomath.
Mary’s Peak (541/563-3211, www.fs.fed.us/r6/siuslaw ) sits about 12 miles southwest of Corvallis . From I-5, take U.S. 20 into Corvallis, then Route 34 to Philomath. From here it’s 9 miles west to the road’s Coast Range Summit (1,230 feet). A sign north of the highway points the way to a 10-mile drive to the top of the Coast Range’s highest peak (4,097 feet) on Forest Service Road 30, the only road on the peak’s south side.
Along the way, pretty cascades, interesting rock outcroppings, and over-the-shoulder views of the Cascades on the eastern horizon intensify the anticipation of this mountaintop Kalapuyan vision-quest site.
When you get to the parking lot at the end of the road, the view is impressive—but don’t stop there. If it’s a clear day, take the short walk across the meadows to either of the two summit lookouts for perspectives on Mounts Hood and Jefferson, the Three Sisters to the east (reportedly eight Cascades peaks in total are potentially visible from here), and the Pacific Ocean at the base of the Coast Range to the west.
The summit, thanks to its status as a federally designated botanical area, remains untouched by clear-cuts that speckle the forests nearby. A biome unique to the Coast Range exists up here, with such flora as alpine phlox, beargrass, iris, tiger lily, Indian paintbrush, purple lupine, and the blue-green noble fir.
Exceptionally large species of this fragrant tree grow on the Meadows Edge Trail. This trail connects to a primitive car-camping area with 16 sites (Mar. 21–Oct. 31, $4 per night) 2 miles below the summit. It’s part of a 9-mile network of trails around the upper slopes of the mountain.
You’ll also find hemlock, fir, and grand fir. Local creeks are home to the unique Mary’s Peak salamander, and the surrounding woods host bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, spotted owls, and Clark’s nutcrackers—seldom seen west of the Cascades. There are also, very occasionally, black bears. When it’s clear, Mary’s Peak is a prime viewing spot in western Oregon for the Perseid meteor shower in August.
Snow, an infrequent visitor to most Coast Range slopes, can often be found here in winter, even at lower elevations. In fact, the road is sometimes impassable without chains from late fall until early spring. A Sno-Park permit is required for day use November 15–April 15. Contact the Waldport Ranger Station (541/563-3211) for more information.
Farther down Route 34 is the town of Alsea. The adjoining Lobster Valley area drew many countercultural refugees in the 1970s, a portion of whom have remained to become farmers and craftspeople. The greenness of the valley surrounded by Coast Range foothills recalled the lower alpine regions of Europe enough to inspire the nickname “Little Scotland.”
South of here, a paved-over logging road through the tall timbers of the Coast Range can take you back to the Willamette Valley  on a remote scenic byway. Look for a sign that says “Alsea Falls, South Fork Road/Monroe.” There’s also a campground (www.blm.gov/or ) with 16 sites, piped water, pit toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings for $10 per night. You’ll follow the Alsea River much of the way until you come to the sloping parking lot near Alsea Falls on the east side of the road. A short trail leads you to a picturesque cascade, ideal for a picnic. The road continues through once-active logging towns into farming country and the Finley Wildlife Refuge south of Corvallis . From here, Route 99W goes north to Corvallis or south to Junction City and Eugene .