Southern Oregon is made up of countless natural marvels and down-to-earth cities including Klamath Falls, Ashland, Medford, Jacksonville and Grants Pass. It’s one of those regions where outdoor adventure springs out from every corner. From wandering mysterious caves and hiking through old-growth forests to battling raging whitewater and discovering America’s deepest lake, the possibilities here are just as vast as they are varied. Immerse yourself in unspoiled nature and then continue your journey through old gold rush towns, world-class theaters and hundreds of top wineries.
Crater Lake Explorations
One of the crowning jewels of this area is Crater Lake. Measuring 6 miles wide and almost 4,000 feet deep from the caldera rim to the lake floor, America’s deepest lake was created by the eruption and collapse of Mount Mazama 7,700 years ago. Take your boat out or trek to the lake’s edge to admire its mesmerizing blue water and drive down Rim Drive to see the Cascade Range looming in the distance.
There may not be any waterfalls in Klamath Falls, but the city makes up for it with its tranquil lakes, plentiful birdlife and more than 300 days of blue skies. Pack your binoculars and spot up to 130 bird species in the Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. From November to February, these marshes house hundreds of bald eagles, making the Klamath Basin the biggest wintering home for bald eagles in the continental United States.
Klamath County is probably already on your bucket list if you’re a hunter. Smack in the middle of the Pacific Flyway, this area gives you the chance to bag loads of ducks and geese every year. Big game is abundant here as well with mule deer, antelope, black bears and cougars lurking in the dense terrain of the Cascade Range. If angling is more your calling, toss a line in Crescent Lake, Fourmile Lake, Lake of the Woods or Odell Lake to snag trophy trout.
Ashland has a big art scene that’s sure to take you by surprise. The town is famed for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival which runs from March through October. This Tony award-winning festival has been held annually since 1935 with 11 plays shown every season. Watch as many performances as you desire and consider doing a backstage tour to learn more about the festival’s beginnings and how a repertory theater operates.
Kick Back and Relax in Ashland
You deserve a little R&R after roaming the great outdoors. Treat yourself to a sauna session and rejuvenating massage at the Chozu Bath & Tea Gardens or indulge in a healing soak at Lithia Springs Resort’s Waterstone Spa. In the evening, experience Oregon’s renowned farm-to-table dining scene at Larks Home Kitchen Cuisine or Alchemy Restaurant and Bar. Finish your day off with a local craft beer at Caldera Brewing or Standing Stone Brewing Company.
More of a wine drinker? You’ll be glad to know that Ashland is close to the Rogue Valley, a wine-growing region with 180 vineyards. The unique, fertile terroir supports about 50 grape varieties which range from warm-weather reds such as cabernet sauvignon to refreshing whites like pinot gris. Sip the popular pear and honeydew viognier at Paschal Winery and take in sweeping views of the Siskiyou Mountains from Irvine & Roberts Vineyards. Your wine tour doesn’t need to end in Rogue Valley. Go north to Grants Pass until you reach Applegate Valley. This area is known for its organic farms, lavender fields and 18 wineries, all easily accessible thanks to the Applegate Valley Wine Trail.
Medford is the largest city in Southern Oregon and an exciting hub for family-friendly activities. Hop around in the 20,000-square-foot Rogue Air Trampoline Park or soar across treetops at Rogue Valley ZipLine Adventures. You can also hike the volcanic plateaus of Upper and Lower Table Rocks to view migrating birds and scores of wildflowers. In town, catch music and theater performances at the Craterian Theater and look at old locomotives in Medford Railroad Park.
Harken Back to the Gold Rush Days
In 1851, miners struck gold in Jacksonville which sparked a mass migration to the Rogue Valley. The gold rush turned Jacksonville from a quaint town into a prosperous one with saloons, supply shops, gambling halls and other establishments set up by 1852. Over a hundred of these historic buildings are still standing today and offer an authentic glimpse into a bygone era. If you have time, visit the cemetery to see some of Oregon’s oldest gravesites and the Beekman House which displays original furnishings once owned by a wealthy pioneer. Feeling lucky? Try your hand at gold panning in the nearby Applegate River or Rogue River.
Jacksonville puts on a party every summer during the three-weekend Britt Music Festival. The event takes place in a naturally formed amphitheater and welcomes artists from across all genres.
Take your vacation from mild to wild by heading to Grants Pass, the gateway to the Rogue River. Overflowing with Class I to IV rapids, this river promises an epic excursion for paddlers of all skill levels. Embark on a four-day trip to conquer raging waters or opt for a relaxing trip on the river’s “Wild and Scenic” section. Up the adrenaline by riding a spinning jetboat in Hellgate Canyon. The Rogue River is also an angling paradise. Flick your rod in more than 215 miles of fishable water to catch multiple types of salmon and steelhead trout. Locals say October is the best month for steelhead fly-fishing.
Umpqua River Thrills
The whitewater adventures continue in the North Umpqua River. Snaking between Roseburg and Crater Lake, the North Umpqua River keeps you at the edge of your seat with drop rapids and Class III to IV waters. After a long day of paddling, soak your sore muscles in the Umpqua Hot Springs and check out over a dozen waterfalls along Highway 138. Back on land, the North Umpqua Trail dishes out thrills for mountain bikers. At its full length, the trail spans 71 miles and ascends more than 4,000 feet in elevation, but the trip is worth it. Riders will enjoy river views, steaming hot springs and lush hanging gardens.
Tucked underneath the Siskiyou Mountains, the Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve is an underground world formed by dripping rainwater over millions of years. Traverse the natural marble caves and gain a better understanding of their unique geology by joining a guided tour. Take an off-trail caving tour away from the crowds to refine your spelunking skills. Above ground, you’ll find a network of trails that weave through old-growth forests. Follow the Big Tree Trail to meet Oregon’s largest Douglas fir tree or the No Name Trail to reach two waterfalls.
For More Information
Oregon Tourism Commission