Tucked between the Oregon’s Coast Range on the west and the Cascade Range to the east, Roseburg and the greater Umpqua Valley offer an abundance of outdoor recreation. Visitors can sip world-class wine at the birthplace of Oregon pinot noir; mountain bike through the evergreens along the North Umpqua Trail; catch whitewater thrills on the Wild and Scenic North Umpqua River; and meander the Highway of Waterfalls for a peek at endless cascades. The bonus? It’s all ripe for exploring without crowds or a sense of hurry. Here are four adventures not to miss.
1. Take a waterfall hike
Cruise Oregon Route 138, also known as the Highway of Waterfalls, stopping at any or all of the 15-plus scenic overlooks and short hikes to view waterfalls of all shapes and sizes. Caution: You may have to fight the urge to pull over and gawk around every turn: Some of the falls are visible from the road, while others are tucked back into the evergreens and rock formations of this part of Oregon. The full scenic route covers 172 miles and takes about five to seven hours, traveling from Roseburg to Diamond Lake and the north entrance to Crater Lake. Either go at your leisure for an epic waterfall road trip, or download a waterfalls brochure to target a specific experience. Set your sights on Little Falls, which are usually anything but, at mile marker 38.3 for a waterfall easily glimpsed from the roadside, or aim for iconic Toketee Falls or the 272-foot Watson Falls — one of the highest in Oregon — if you’re up for about a half-mile hike. If you’re looking to really stretch your legs, head for Lemolo Falls (mile marker 72.8) which requires a strenuous 1.7 mile climb.
2. Shred downhill on two wheels
Serious mountain bikers and weekend warriors alike head to the North Umpqua Trail (aka the NUT.) for truly epic riding. While great mountain biking exists across the state, the NUT offers variety for both novice and experienced riders. Spanning 69 miles, the trail is comprised of 11 sections, all but one of which are open to mountain bikers. Pick a lower section during the cooler, wetter months (the elevation ranges from 800 to 4,300 feet), and save the upper sections for the peak of summer. Here, you’ll experience drier, warmer terrain, the trail shaded by madrone and oak. To experience the trail in its entirety, start at Kelsay Valley Trailhead (snow conditions permitting) but if you’d rather tackle just one section, the aptly named Dread and Terror is on most riders’ bucket list. If an intense workout isn’t your goal, the Hot Springs section may hold greater appeal. At these higher elevations, you’ll be more shaded by ferns and greener foliage than on the lower trails, glimpsing the occasional trickle of a waterfall while immersed in taller evergreens. As you’re planning your ride, keep in mind that there’s no official shuttle service for the NUT, though folks at Lemolo Resort have been known to help a rider or two out. Call ahead to inquire about availability of a driver.
3. Raft the Wild and Scenic river
More than 33 miles of the North Umpqua River is designated as Wild and Scenic, from Soda Springs Powerhouse to the confluence with Rock Creek. No rafting experience is required to float and raft this section of the river, as guided trips by North Umpqua Outfitters and Oregon Whitewater Adventures, among others, will provide all gear, expertise and equipment needed to navigate the class IV and V rapids. From your perch on the edge of your raft, keep your eyes peeled for osprey and bald eagles, which are often in abundance as they fish the river. You’ll also easily spot hawks lazily circling a perfectly blue sky. Since 1988, this protected section of the river has offered an abundance of wildlife and whitewater thrills; trips are offered daily from April to September, conditions permitting, and some two-day trips are available in the summer months.
4. Explore the wine trail
The Umpqua Valley wine-growing region is approaching its 50th anniversary, though their wine growing history dates back to the 1880s. Today, 30 wineries producing more than 40 different wine varieties vie for your attention. Download a wine trail map and get started! On the southern side of Roseburg, Abacela awaits with a stunning tasting room with views for days, and some of the finest Spanish varietals tasted in the state. This is a good place to start, moving north as you go. For an urban winery experience in the heart of historic downtown Roseburg, hit Paul O’Brien Wines next where you’ll feel the industrial vibe mixed with downtown sophistication (they can also provide you with a gourmet picnic to go, available for purchase on-site). The estate setting of Becker Vineyards offers a cheery, mellow and welcoming vibe. And on the northern end, Rivers Edge Winery and Brandborg Wine offer tranquility and views of scenic Elkton’s rolling countryside dotted by ranches, farms and oak-lined valleys. If you want to go directly to the heart of Roseburg winemaking, HillCrest Vineyard is the area’s first winery and boasting the first pinot noir in the state, with a snug yet idyllic tasting room and pourers who are not just employees, but rather integral to the winery and wine production. Call ahead to ask about their new winemaker tasting experience.
If you go:
Keep in mind that due to Roseburg’s temperate climate, visitors have plenty to do all year-round. To beat the heat, consider visiting in May or June or September or October, and if you do go in the peak of summer, stay cool with a rafting trip or plenty of dips in the North Umpqua. Excellent lodging options include Hampton Inn & Suites, within two miles of the city center; cozy bed-and-breakfasts such as Hokanson’s Guest House, a Victorian manor in historic downtown Roseburg; and the upscale Bell Sisters Flats— two short-term apartment rentals on the second floor of a 1900s hat shop.