After the frenzied fun of summer, fall offers us the chance to slow down and take a look around. It’s the perfect season for a good old-fashioned road trip. And Southern Oregon, with warmer temperatures and beautiful byways, is just the right destination with great hiking, bird watching, boating and other outdoor pursuits. Follow this itinerary to check out the state’s beautiful southern lake country.
From Roseburg, follow the Rogue Umpqua Scenic Byway up OR-138 to Diamond Lake, where you can rent a boat at the Diamond Lake Resort to paddle the lake, or take the easy 2-mile Diamond Lake Loop Trail to enjoy great views of Mt. Bailey. For a more challenging hike, climb the 4-mile trail to the top of Mt. Thielsen for northward views of the Cascade volcanoes all the way to Mt. Hood.
Barring early snow, you can access the seasonal section of OR-138 that leads into Crater Lake National Park by way of the north entrance. Drive the 33-mile rim road or take it on two wheels; it makes a great fall road ride. Hike down to the azure waters of the lake via the steep, 1.1-mile Cleetwood Trail, and stop at scenic viewpoints for photos of Wizard Island and Phantom Ship.
Continue south on OR-62, part of the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, to Upper Klamath Lake for fall birding in Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. Rent a canoe at Rocky Point Resort to paddle the 9.5-mile Upper Klamath Canoe Trail where you can spot birds like resident sora, yellow rail and grebes and myriad migratory species. For a guided trip, head out with the Klamath Basin Audubon Society, which has several trips planned for this fall, or book a fishing trip with Roe Outfitters to go after the elusive redband trout.
Take OR-140 east of Klamath Falls to jump on the Oregon Outback Scenic Byway. Clustered around the town of Lakeview in Lake County, you’ll find a number of picturesque lakes that give this rugged region its name as well as the volcanic history that left the longest exposed fault scarp in North America rising 2,490 feet out of the desert floor — Abert Rim.
Goose Lake, on the California border, is a tranquil spot for camping (to October 1), wildlife viewing and bird watching. Lake Abert, a saltwater lake, is an important stopover for migratory wildlife, though its waters have been drying up in recent years. The geographic sink that is Alkali Lake is noteworthy for its dunes, which support various species of plants. The Summer Lake Wildlife Area is a great spot for viewing migrating songbirds and waterfowl (closed October through January for hunting season). Privately owned Summer Lake Hot Springs offers lodging and a rustic bathhouse for enjoying the 106- to 118-degree natural hot springs.