Peek from the peaks

Climb Willamette Pass the easy way — aboard the new Oregon Skyway gondola

Bonnie Henderson

Ski resorts throughout the Northwest are now staying open in summer, using their chairlifts to tote sightseers, hikers, and mountain bikers to the summits. But there's nothing quite like the Oregon Skyway, which debuted last year at Willamette Pass, southeast of Eugene. In spring, roomy eight-person gondolas replace the chairs on the resort's express lift. Climb in and watch the panorama unfold ― Odell Lake, Diamond Peak, and a series of other southern Cascades high points ― as you zip 1,546 feet to the top of Eagle Peak. It's all downhill from here.

Return as you came and go back up later if you like; your ticket's good all day. Or stroll less than a mile east from the top, and you're on the Pacific Crest Trail. Walk south to wind back down to the ski area's base via a string of emeralds known as Rosary Lakes, a total of about 6 miles one way. Or take the PCT northbound to Maiden Peak Trail and follow it down to Gold Lake Road to loop back to the gondola's base. Mountain bikes are prohibited on the PCT but are welcome on several other routes for intermediate or better riders. 9-4 daily; $12, $8 ages 6-16, $1 ages 5 and under. Willamette Pass is off State 58, 69 miles southeast of Eugene and 71 miles southwest of Bend; www.willamettepass.com or 541/345-7669.