by Jodie Delsere
I like to think of myself as a level-headed, even cheerful, morning person. But no amount of rest, yoga, or coffee can dampen the fits of rage I experience as I am blinded by the sun during my morning commute.
I drive west-to-east on my way to work, and I regularly roast my retinas as I desperately try to position the early sun somewhere behind my visor, a streetlight, or a bank of trees. I’m sure you’ve been there. It’s not ideal.
At some point, it dawned on me (see what I did there?) that instead of fighting the sunrise, I ought to celebrate it. So I went exploring, and I’ve found the best Willamalane parks to sip a coffee and welcome the day with one of nature’s light shows. Here are my top picks.
#5. Jesse Maine Park
Where you can find this park: 770 S. 70th St.
Ease of access: 4/5
Coffee pairing: Flat white
Highlights: This park-atop-a-hill tucked into a Thurston-area neighborhood offers lovely southward views across the valley. There are several benches to relax on as you witness the sky changing color.
#4. Willamette Heights Park
Where you can find this park: 508 Valley View Ave.
Ease of access: 3/5
Coffee pairing: French vanilla latte
Highlights: Just a couple of minutes’ drive from downtown Springfield, you’ll find stunning views of Dorris Ranch, the Willamette River, and the valley across to Spencer Butte. Sprawling oak trees frame the view northward.
#3. Eastgate Woodlands/Whilamut Natural Area
Where you can find this park: Aspen St.
Ease of access: 2/5
Coffee pairing: Dark roast with hazelnut creamer (in a thermos)
Highlights: This viewpoint is a bit of a jaunt, but for an early riser who loves a morning walk or bike ride, it has an incredible payoff. Start at the Heron playground, then journey west until you approach I-5. You’ll encounter a pedestrian bridge over the Willamette River. Face east and revel in the colors reflecting in the glimmering water. Absolutely stunning.
#2. Clearwater Park
Where you can find this park: 2400 Clearwater Ln.
Ease of access: 5/5
Coffee pairing: Amaretto breve
Highlights: An absolute Springfield treasure, Clearwater Park offers gorgeous views of the sunrise both in the sky and dancing over the Willamette River. Park your car near the boat launch and step out to the paved sidewalk to enjoy, or if you’re more adventurous, head down to the rock jetty and view from the water’s edge.
#1. Kelly Butte Park and Overlook
Where you can find this park: 937 Summit Blvd.
Ease of access: 5/5
Coffee pairing: Raspberry mocha
Highlights: With panoramic views and an unimpeded eastward view, Kelly Butte is my top pick for a sunrise stop. I’ve witnessed dozens of light shows from this vantage point, and it never gets old. Bonus: On a cold morning, you don’t even need to leave your car; you can pull up near the edge of the butte and enjoy the sunrise in cozy comfort.