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Besides Crater Lake, where should we stop in Southern Oregon?

Before you get to Crater Lake, I suggest exploring Ashland and the greater Rogue Valley.

Outside Ashland, I highly recommend spending some time in the Siskiyou Mountains. Whether you have kids or not, Willow Witt farm is a wonderful retreat. Stay the night in a lodge room or ‘glamping’ style in a canvas tent. In Ashland, I recommend Ashland Hills Hotel or the downtown Lithia Springs hotel. You can take in a Shakespeare show or just enjoy the culinary scene here.

Outside Ashland, the Rogue River is one of the most beautiful spots in the valley. See it in multiple places: head up to Shady Cove when you’re en route to Crater Lake and check out the lava tubes up by Prospect and Union Creek, or watch the whitewater rafters north of Ashland at Galice. You can even hike part of the river on the Rogue River Trail there.

If you’re into winery tours or wine tasting, check out the Applegate Wine Trail or Upper Rogue Wine Trail. Applegate Lake is a wonderful place to hike and swim (past Ruch and Jacksonville), and historic Jacksonville is charming as well!

What attractions are recommended for kids in Southern Oregon?

You’ll have a great time with kids in Southern Oregon! On the Oregon Coast, I highly recommend staying at Whaleshead Resort. They have very unique and beautiful cabins for rent that overlook the ocean, and a pedestrian walkway takes you directly to the beach. The upper units have the best views, but the lower units are in coastal forests and are on flatter streets (perfect for kids to play or ride bikes).

If you’d rather camp, Harris Beach State Park has wonderful yurts to stay in, but you’ll need to reserve early. Lesser known, Alfred Loab State Park is located on the Chetco River above Brookings, and has riverside campsites. You can access the coastal redwoods there too.

Between Grants Pass and the Coast, you’ll find Out ‘n About Treesort, which has treehouses to stay the night in. Even if you aren’t staying over, it’s worth a stop to try their zip lines. Nearby, Oregon Caves National Monument offers an excellent cave tour, but check to see if your kids are tall enough to enter. As you depart the coast on Highway 199, you should also stop at the CA redwoods (there’s info at the bottom of this post).

Right in Grants Pass, the Jet Boat Tours are fun for kids; they zip along the Rogue River, and some go as far as the ocean.

Enjoy your trip!

Where should we visit after Crater Lake?

Glad to hear you have time to explore more of Oregon after visiting Crater Lake! I suggest driving from Crater Lake National Park north on Highway 97 to Highway 138 toward Roseburg (known as the Waterfall Highway). There are many places to stop road-side to take short hikes to waterfalls in this area. From Roseburg, I’d get on I-5 and either head south to Grants Pass to either raft on the Rogue River (stopping at Abacela Winery in Roseburg) or to access Highway 199 to the Coast.

If you’d rather not head north first, drive toward Medford from Crater Lake and stop in Prospect to see the lava tubes along the river at Natural Bridge Trail, and the waterfall at Mill Creek Falls. You’ll drop down into the Medford/Ashland area.

If you’re interested in rafting, many outfitters depart from Merlin, Oregon (north of Grants Pass), for either day trips or multi-day. There’s also hiking along the Rogue River, but it will be hot and exposed in summer.

For the best wineries in this area, I’d head to Ashland, Oregon, where you can enjoy the Shakespeare Festival or just enjoy the dining and shopping in town. Try Dana Campbell for good views while sipping Oregon wine! Then spend a day on the Applegate Wine Trail or Upper Rogue Wine Trail…either will combine beautiful scenery with great wine.

Are there really tree house hotels in Oregon?

Yes, here in Southern Oregon, we have the amazing Out ‘n About Treesort, filled with tree houses to stay overnight in. We had a wonderful experience there with kids, but of course it’s just as magical for adults. You’ll want to check the official website for up-to-date information on pricing.

The treesort is located outside of Cave Junction, Oregon, off Highway 199 (Redwood Highway). I would definitely suggest pairing a stay there with a visit to the nearby Oregon Caves National Monument or to the redwood groves on the Oregon Coast. Our favorite place is at Alfred Loab State Park on the Chetco River.

Can you swim in Crater Lake?

Good question! Short answer, yes, but there is actually only one place where it is safe and legal to get down to the lake shore and swim at Crater Lake National Park. It is the Cleetwood Cove Trail, which usually opens mid to late June. The Cleetwood trail is just over one mile long (each way) and quite steep, dropping nearly 700 feet down to the lake shore. Visitors are welcome to swim in the lake from the shoreline at the end of this trail. There’s really no other access, since Crater Lake is so ‘deep and steep.’

Can you tell me the best camping spots near the Grants Pass/Medford area?

Glad to help you find a camping site in Southern Oregon! Currently, it’s pretty wet and chilly in the Medford/Ashland area, but fun camping spots do exist. Just expect full rivers and streams and some rain.

For seclusion, I love camping at Squaw Lakes, just above Applegate Lake outside Ruch, Oregon. It can be found just past Jacksonville. There are a collection of walk-in sites, all spaced around the small lake. Fire pits and picnic tables are in place, and there’s a water faucet and pit toilet. Otherwise, no structures exist. In summer, this area gets crowded, but in winter and spring, it’s empty and there’s no fee for the sites. Since the elevation is pretty low, there’s very rarely snow.

Later in the spring, the campground at Mt. Ashland offers the same level of seclusion, but it’s not usually accessible for camping (other than snow camping) until April or May. This year, it may even be later!

If you need something close to I-5 just to lay your head at night, try Valley of the Rogue state park. There are even yurts to reserve.

Where are the best places to see wildflowers near Ashland in April?

April is a lovely time to visit Ashland! Right in town, I suggest spending some time in Lithia Park, which offers acres of cultivated gardens, duck ponds and wooded walking trails. For wildflowers, you’ll find them at higher elevations. The best place, in my opinion, to view alpine wild flower blooms is Mt. Ashland, in the high alpine meadows below the peak. They are accessible via the Pacific Crest Trail or the forest service road that continues past the Mt. Ashland ski area parking lot. Usually, April is a good time to visit this high elevation, but this year, we’ve had a lot of snow, so it may still be covered until May. Still, keep it on your radar.

Slightly lower down in elevation, Grizzly Peak is also a good wildflower viewing area. Located on the other side of I-5 from Mt. Ashland, the trail is a five-mile loop. If you don’t already have accommodations, I highly suggest a stay at Willow-Witt Ranch. This working organic farm is located near Grizzly Peak (outside town) and offers beautiful mountain meadows and pastures of its own. I visited in late April and lots of flowers and other plants were blooming.

Where can my dog and I find some sunshine during a long winter weekend — without crossing snowy roads?

If you’re seeking sunnier days and a lack of snowy roads, Ashland might be your best bet. It’s very dog-friendly, with hiking trails that stay snow-free for the most part (though we are having a pretty intense winter so far!). I-5 is well-maintained of course, and you won’t encounter a truly snowy pass until Siskiyou Summit, which is just south of Ashland. If interested, you can catch some fun plays in the off-season, plus tour brew pubs and wineries. And always, Ashland is full of fun shops and dining options. Dogs are allowed on many outdoor patios, which are mostly heated in winter.

This website has good reviews of Ashland’s dining scene. Check Bring Fido for dog-friendly lodging; I love Ashland Hills Hotel. You can find more information on local hiking trails (accessible directly from downtown) here.

The Southern Oregon Coast is also dog-friendly with wide beaches and fun yurt camping; some allow dogs, and I’ve had great weekends with my dogs on the Coast. However, you’re not too likely to get sunny weather. Also, Bend will most likely be sunny, but there will be lots of snow…

Answered by Amy Whitley, Ask Oregon Southern Oregon Expert on December 17th, 2015 - Post Your Answer

Are the waterfall hikes in Southern Oregon accessible during the winter?

I often visit Mill Creek Falls and Pearsoney Falls, but have not done so this late in the season. This region, between Prospect and Crater Lake and Diamond Lake, gets quite a bit of snow most years. Highway 62 and 138, which lead from Prospect and around Diamond Lake, will be plowed and remain open in almost all cases. You’ll want four-wheel drive or snow tires if conditions warrant them. The smaller access roads to Barr Creek Falls, Salt Creek Falls and Diamond Creek Falls may well close.

I think a winter trip to this area is a very fun idea (we spend time in this area during the winter ourselves), but if you go, plan on the chance of snow, and perhaps rethink the trip to being a snowshoe trek or snow play type of experience. Instead of planning to hike to waterfalls, I’d plan to snowshoe or cross country ski in the Diamond Lake area or at Crater Lake. Diamond Lake’s resort is on the rustic/bare bones side, and Crater Lake is historical and more upscale. Snowshoeing around the lake is stunning! Of course, during the time of your visit, the snow may be gone, in which case you could do the same routes on foot.

Either way, you’ll have a fun trip, but flexibility will be the name of the game!

Answered by Amy Whitley, Ask Oregon Southern Oregon Expert on November 14th, 2015 - Post Your Answer

Where can I find large, family-friendly lake cabins in Southern Oregon?

I actually just answered a similar question, so you’re not alone in your love of lakes! For a family that size, I would suggest renting cabins at either Lake of the Woods or Fish Lake, both located on Highway 140 between Medford and Klamath Falls. Both have rustic cabins situated around the lake, and both have nice swimming, fishing, and kayaking onsite. You can also find hiking trails in the nearby Sky Lakes Wilderness. Book early, as these resorts do fill up fast for summer!

If you want something a bit more comfy, I’d recommend The Running Y Ranch in Klamath, though the lake it’s on (Klamath Lake) does not offer any swimming. Have fun!

Answered by Amy Whitley, Ask Oregon Southern Oregon Expert on September 15th, 2015 - Post Your Answer
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