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What are the top sites we shouldn’t miss in Southern Oregon?

While in Southern Oregon, I recommend spending time in the quaint town of Ashland, taking in a Shakespearean theater production or dining at one of the many farm-to-fork restaurants. If time permits, a day trip to Crater Lake National Park is a must: the route from Ashland (or anywhere in Southern Oregon) will take you past Union Creek and several lava tube sections of the Rogue River. During the warm months, I recommend a day on the Rogue River, rafting or fishing, and in winter, various snow sports are on tap at Mt. Ashland.

If you’re into breweries, Medford and Ashland have several great locations, such as Caldera and Standing Stone, or if wine’s more your thing, I recommend a day on the Applegate Wine Trail (outside historic Jacksonville). If you let me know your interests, I know I could tailor my answer to you better!

What are some good hiking trails near Grants Pass?

Some of my favorite day hikes around Grants Pass are along Southern Oregon rivers and connected to mountain bike paths. Below are my top three.

Cathedral Hills Trail System:
This trail network is a great option if you’re short on time and want a trail head very close to town. It’s open to hikers, mountain bikers, and horses, and includes multiple loops, so it’s easy to adjust your hike to fit your schedule. The Outback Loop is 3.5 miles total, and a great route for viewing Madrone and Manzanita (beware, however, that you will encounter Poison Oak, too). From Grants Pass, Cathedral Hills is four miles out Williams Highway 238 on Espry Road.

Illinois River Trail:
For a more challenging hike, the Illinois River Trailhead to Pine Flat route is 5.3 miles, and follows the scenic Illinois River. You can find great swimming holes along the way in summer, but you’ll earn your dip in the water: the trail can be dusty and hot. In late May to July, wildflowers are spectacular here. From Grants Pass, take the Redwood Highway 18 miles to Selma Oregon. Take County Road 5070 (Illinois River Road) to 4103. The last few miles to the trail head are rugged!

Rainie Falls Trail:
For a cooler, southside hike, Rainie Falls follows the Rogue River from Grave Creek Bridge to the falls. The hike is 2 miles (and 2 more back) and is a great opportunity to see migrating salmon. It’s possible to swim at the falls, or better yet, eat a picnic lunch while watching kayakers and river rafters make the plunge down! From Grants Pass, take Exit 61 of I-5. Drive through Galice to the Grave Creek Bridge.

Enjoy hiking near Grants Pass!

Where are the best hot springs in Southern Oregon?

Hands down, the best and most comprehensive hot springs option in Southern Oregon is Jackson Hot Springs in Ashland. This historic hotel and hot springs is now a wellness and eco-resort, called Jackson Wellsprings. On site, guests can enjoy an olympic sized pool, soaking pools, hot tubs, steam rooms, and private pools. The entire resort has a beautiful garden setting, and overnight lodging is available (though not required to ‘partake of the water’). Enjoy!

Where can I go gold panning in Oregon?

Greetings from Southern Oregon! Our region is one of the state’s most prevalent for gold mining. Two of the four areas set aside on the state’s federal lands for recreational gold panning are located here:

Butte Falls Recreational Area:
Located in southwestern Oregon, Medford District, Bureau of Land Management (free site).
3040 Biddle Road
Medford, OR 97504
(541) 618-2200.

Applegate Ranger District:
Located in southwestern Oregon, Rogue River National Forest (four fee sites where there is a charge of a dollar a day for panning in areas adjacent to campgrounds).
Applegate Ranger District
6941 Upper Applegate Road
Jacksonville, OR 97530
(541) 899-3800.

Additionally, in Oregon, areas below the vegetation line on navigable rivers and streams and ocean beaches belong to the state and are therefore open for recreational gold panning.

If you want more guidance, there is an outfitter in Southern Oregon that specializes in gold mining:

Oregon Gold Trips, LLC.
P.O. Box 285, Grants Pass, OR 97528, toll free: (877) 672-8877, email: golddust@oregongoldtrip.com; www.oregongoldtrip.com

Answered by Sarah Lemon on November 24th, 2013 - Post Your Answer

What towns with lodging are near Crater Lake?

Because Crater Lake is in a very remote part of the state, there are few accommodations nearby. The closest actual town to Crater Lake is Prospect, which has a historical hotel (here’s a story about it from the Mail Tribune newspaper: http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050817/BIZ/308179989&cid=sitesearch).

Another 20 miles south on Highway 62 is the town of Shady Cove, which has an Edgewater Inn. Medford, which has numerous accommodations is still another 20 miles down the road. All of those towns are on “Crater Lake Highway,” making them the most convenient.

Staying in Ashland would require you to drive on Interstate 5 about 15 miles from Medford. The drive between Ashland and the national park takes about two hours.

Answered by Sarah Lemon on October 31st, 2013 - Post Your Answer

When is the best time to visit Crater Lake?

Timing your visit to Crater Lake depends on which activities you most enjoy. Summer, obviously, is the most popular time to visit because the park is most accessible. In addition to viewing the lake from the rim or by boat in the caldera, there are opportunities for hiking, camping and learning about the lake’s history and unique ecology.

In wintertime, outdoor activities turn to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing (free, guided hikes are offered by volunteer rangers generally from November to April). Crater Lake officials always say winter is the park’s dominant season, considering that it is snow-shrouded most years from October to May.

I would recommend visiting both times of year.

Answered by Sarah Lemon on September 5th, 2013 - Post Your Answer

Can I visit Crater Lake in June?

Glad to hear you’re focusing some of your visit on Crater Lake National Park. It’s perhaps Oregon’s most unique feature and an attraction I routinely recommend.

June still isn’t considered high season for visiting Crater Lake, but your chances will start rapidly improving for seeing more of the park. While there likely will still be some snow on the ground, and lake visibility could be affected by weather, more of the trails will be accessible. Last year, the park’s north entrance and most facilities opened in mid-June, but the year before that, it wasn’t until the end of the month.

Because Crater Lake is at 6,000 feet above sea level, snow has been known to fly in midsummer, and conditions can change in a flash. Be sure to pack a weatherproof jacket and shoes, long pants and a hat and gloves for the time of year you plant to visit. The only way to know what the current conditions are at the park is by checking its website http://www.nps.gov/crla/planyourvisit/current-conditions.htm

Answered by Sarah Lemon on March 27th, 2013 - Post Your Answer

What are good things to do in the Grants Pass, Ashland and Medford areas?

Greetings from Southern Oregon.

Many attractions in this region depend on the season and how active visitors are. The Grants Pass area is renowned as the gateway to the wild and scenic section of the Rogue River. As such, it is a destination for whitewater rafting and fishing. For those who prefer to see the river from a motorized craft, there is Hellgate Jetboat Excursions.

Grants Pass also is very near Oregon Caves National Monument, the state’s oldest and one of the region’s top attractions. The city’s downtown is popular with antique collectors, and there are lots of wine-tasting opportunities in the nearby Applegate Valley, as well as a Saturday farmers market downtown.

Wildlife Images in Merlin and the Bear Hotel Artworks Museum are popular with kids and adults alike. Here are recent stories from the Mail Tribune’s Joy magazine about those attractions: http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20101020/JOY/10200347&cid=sitesearch and

http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110921/JOY/109210348&cid=sitesearch

Just south of Grants Pass in Gold Hill is the offbeat and quirky Oregon Vortex House of Mystery. Here’s another story about that: http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120415/OURVALLEY/204150329&cid=sitesearch

Medford is the headquarters of Harry & David and home to its Country Village. The city of Jacksonville, just west of Medford, is an Old West-style town designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Most tourists come to this area for activities in Ashland, which has the region’s highest concentration of art galleries, live music, restaurants and the popular Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Oregon Cabaret Theater. The city’s beloved Lithia Park, which extends for miles into woodland above downtown should not be missed.

Answered by Sarah Lemon on February 28th, 2013 - Post Your Answer

What are the best trails in Southern Oregon?

Greetings from Southern Oregon,

Our outdoors writers always tout that the Pacific Crest Trail runs through our region, through the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, Soda Mountain Wilderness and Sky Lakes Wilderness. Of course, those areas are most popular for longer, overnight treks.

If you want a relatively easy day hike, consider locals’ favorite, the Table Rocks. While the trail to the top of these mesas cuts through the region’s typical, oak-savannah flora, the view from the top of these distinctive geographic and geologic  features is unsurpassed: http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20111023/READERSCHOICE/110230356.

There also are popular trail systems through the Jacksonville Woodlands and Ashland’s Lithia Park. For more on the region’s hiking trails, check out the landing page on the Mail Tribune newspaper’s Oregon Outdoors site: http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?category=OREGONOUTDOORS01&keyword=Hiking

Enjoy your trip.

Answered by Sarah Lemon on January 30th, 2013 - Post Your Answer

What is the best time of year to visit the Rogue-Umpqua Byway to see the waterfalls?

Greetings from Southern Oregon,

The most commonly recommended time to travel the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway is June through October, mainly to ensure clear roads, fair weather and more daylight hours. Volumes of water running in the falls largely depend on wintertime precipitation. We’re off to a good start for this year, considering the flood warnings throughout Southern Oregon several weeks ago. And Crater Lake started seeing enough snow in October to close some roads.

You could plan your trip in mid- to late spring, but mountain travel in this region could still be unpredictable then. If I were planning the trip for myself, I would check the National Weather Service’s precipitation records for this region throughout the winter to confirm they were average or above, obtain extended weather forecasts for the period that I wanted to visit and verify favorable road conditions on ODOT’s website, www.tripcheck.com.

Here’s a story from the Mail Tribune newspaper on the Rogue-Umpqua waterfalls that may help: http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080313/LIFE/803130301&cid=sitesearch

Answered by Sarah Lemon on January 4th, 2013 - Post Your Answer
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