Klamath Falls is best known, perhaps, as a gateway to Crater Lake National Park — and yes, you must go during your stay — but this small town has much more going for it than an easy commute to one of the world’s most scenic lakes. The geography surrounding this Southern Oregon community ranges from desert to forest to lakeside. It’s also on the migration path of hundreds of bird species, everything from magnificent bald eagles to waterfowl. And in the winter months, you get all of the above with a sparkling blanket of snow to top it off. Ready to make a family weekend of it? Here’s how.
Day 1: Kick off your shoes
A cozy lodge, 4 p.m.
Arrive in the Klamath Basin and check in at the Running Y Ranch Resort, located north of town on Highway 140. As you get situated in your lodge room or rental home, send the kids to the outdoor, covered Bill Collier Ice Arena, situated near the entrance to the Running Y. You can rent gear and skate under the canopy, warming chilly hands by the gas fire pits.
Dine in, 7 p.m.
At this point, it’s a good bet no one wants to get back in the car, so plan on dining at the Running Y’s lodge, where you can relax in the pub-like atmosphere of the Ruddy Duck Restaurant. There’s a good kids’ menu and an even better wine list for the parents. Relax after dinner in the Running Y’s indoor pool and hot tub complex, which is open to all guests.
Day 2: Snowy adventures
Dress up and chow down, 8 a.m.
Grab breakfast downstairs at the Ruddy Duck, or if you’re up for it, head to Klamath Falls’ charming, turn-of-the-century downtown to eat at the Green Blade Bakery (1400 Esplanade St.). Today is a day for outdoor winter exploration, so be sure to dress for the weather: winter boots, hats, gloves and plenty of layers. There are many sunny days in the Klamath Basin, but they often come with gusts of wind.
Slip slidin’, 9 a.m.
Pack sleds and head out on Highway 62 toward Crater Lake National Park. Break up the approximate one-hour drive with a stop at Annie Creek Sno-Park for some snowy fun. This park has a nicely shaped bowl to slide down, as well as a welcoming fire pit.
Snow on the rim, 11 a.m.
Arrive at Crater Lake National Park and make the Steel Visitor Center your first stop. Watch a 22-minute film that orients the kids to the park before heading up to the rim. Note: The Rim Visitor Center is closed during winter, but the historic Crater Lake Lodge is open. Check out the view of the lake with a layer of snow around the rim. Next, head into the lodge to warm up in its elegant lobby. Eat lunch in the lodge’s dining room, which is casual and kid-friendly.
Snowshoe trekking, 1 p.m.
Walk back over to the Rim Village (adjacent to the lodge) to take a ranger-led snowshoe trek in the park. This program is offered on Saturdays and Sundays all winter, and snowshoes are provided free of charge. Be aware that reservations are often necessary, so sign up at the Steel Visitor Center or call ahead (541-594-3100) before your trip. (Participants need to be at least 8 years old.)
Alternatively, make advance plans to tour Crater Lake on snowshoe with Klamath Falls-based Roe Outfitters, which conveniently has an office right on the Running Y property. Roe is excellent for families, and their expert guides offer loads of information about the terrain and wildlife.
Hot tub hour, 4 p.m.
Drive back to Klamath Falls after your busy outdoor day and unwind in the Running Y hot tubs. Perhaps there’s even time for an indulgent spa treatment for the grown-ups at the Y’s full-service spa? Of course there is.
Southern comfort, 6 p.m.
For dinner, head into town and pig out at Klamath Basin Brewing (1320 Main St.), which often hosts local bands during the weekend. Everyone will find something to please their palate on the menu of classic pub grub and American comfort food — think mac ’n’ cheese wedges, big ol’ burgers, pasta and pizza. Let the kids feast while you sip on a flight of the brews. Don’t miss the Crater Lake Amber, a nod to your day’s adventure.
Day 3: Hit the trails
Rise with the birds, 6 a.m.
Set an alarm for your last morning in Klamath Falls to catch its biggest winter show, the Bear Valley fly-out, during which you can watch bald eagles take wing each morning in search of food. The Klamath Basin is known worldwide as a premier bird-watching destination; more than 350 bird species migrate to or from here, due to the many marshes and large lakes.
To see the eagles, head to the Bear Valley National Wildlife Refuge (part of the greater Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex) and stop at the Klamath Basin refuge headquarters for information and a map. As many as 500 or more eagles make their home here in winter, and on any given day, dozens can be seen flying over the wintry landscape. To get there, travel south on Highway 97 from Klamath Falls to Keno Worden Road. Turn west onto Keno Worden Road, then immediately turn left onto Bear Valley Road. Park where you can; Bear Valley refuge, where the birds come from, will be uphill. Downhill, you’ll be looking toward the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, where they like to go.
If watching the fly-out leaves you with a taste for more, check out the Klamath Basin Birding Trails for more local birding opportunities. Coming in February? Consider arriving for the annual Winter Wings Festival (Feb. 16-19, 2017). Check out Meet Me In Klamath’s exhaustive birding resources for even more ideas.
Cross country, 9 a.m.
Grab a late breakfast at Nibbley’s (2424 Washburn Way). If there’s time for one more adventure before heading home, stop by The Ledge outdoor store (369 South Sixth St.) to get outfitted with cross-country skis. Then head north up Highway 140 for a 35-minute drive to Great Meadow Sno-Park, which features more than 165 miles of groomed trails for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. (Be sure to buy a day-pass sno-park permit for your car, available at The Ledge.)
One last bite, 11 a.m.
Try your hand (or, rather, legs!) at cross-country skiing on the flat trails until hunger drives you to the nearby Lake of the Woods Mountain Lodge & Resort. As you chow down on a burger or savor a steamy bowl of soup in the cozy dining room, you’ll no doubt be planning your next escape to Klamath Falls, where family adventure knows no season.