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

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

Return as you came and go back up later if you like; yourticket's good all day. Or stroll less than a mile east from thetop, and you're on the Pacific Crest Trail. Walk south to wind backdown to the ski area's base via a string of emeralds known asRosary Lakes, a total of about 6 miles one way. Or take the PCTnorthbound to Maiden Peak Trail and follow it down to Gold LakeRoad to loop back to the gondola's base. Mountain bikes areprohibited on the PCT but are welcome on several other routes forintermediate or better riders. 9-4 daily; $12, $8 ages 6-16, $1 ages 5 and under. WillamettePass is off State 58, 69 miles southeast of Eugene and 71 milessouthwest of Bend; www.willamettepass.com or541/345-7669.

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