Maybe you just like a nice walk in the landscape of one of the world’s most storied wine-producing eco-climates, but me, I am a person who is always looking for the exact replica of my traveler’s imagination, a place so close to perfection it hits all of my Oregon buttons: valley vistas, fern-swathed gullies, sun-toasted lavender fields, vineyard views, maybe something to smell and taste along the way.
Friends, it exists. And it is located at one of my favorite places, a picture-postcard-perfect nursery and olive mill you might know as the Oregon Olive Mill but which recently rebranded as the Durant Olive Mill at Red Ridge Farms.
The hike, just a mile long, is called Penny’s Path after Penny Durant, the grand dame of the Durant family enterprise. Penny’s hits all of the sensual notes a body can handle in one place, including aromas of lavender and stunning views of Mt. Hood and the Willamette Valley.
To get there:
Head out across the Olive Mill parking lot towards the Durant Vineyards tasting facility. Once you’ve passed it on your right you’ll be able to see the first sign of the trail, which heads down a winding path of crunchy hazelnut shells.
The hike meanders past a sheep pasture and a sign about beneficial bugs towards the lavender fields visible from the main olive mill, just a hazy line of lavender in the distance. You can’t make this stuff up: Just as we passed the vineyard birds of prey point of interest, a bald eagle circled overhead.
Visiting the olive mill has always been fun, but now you can walk past the olive groves without feeling like you’re trespassing. They’re a gorgeous tangle of the sweetest sage green. Then you’re headed down a steep embankment into the woods for a lesson on native plants before emerging near Stonycrest Vineyard and a Beatrix Potter-level tree (that’s an Oregon Big-Leaf Maple to you).
Afterwards, you’re headed up the hill towards the Olive Mill, past the production facility where the mill processes fruit from 17 acres of olive trees. You can stop in for a tasting there — I did it with my two boys, 6 and 9, and they loved it. Which did they like best? “Olive them,” my elder son said.
Tiny travelers, I cried on this walk, and I’ll probably cry again next time. It is such a generous gift the Durants have given to travelers to the area, to invite them into this patch of creation where you can experience so much of what makes Willamette Valley life distinct.
I’m never wanted to write a thank you note after hiking before, but I’m doing just that today.
Other things you can do at Durant:
- Wine tasting at Durant Vineyards
- Visit the nursery and gift shop, a destination for epicures
- Do an olive oil tasting: Many varieties alongside specialty vinegars
- Tour the gardens, lavender fields and plant nursery
- Take a class
- Attend a Summer on the Lawn concert
- Mark your calendar for the Lavender Festival
Read more at Visit McMinnville.