: Upper Klamath Canoe Trail

Hike, Bike, Paddle, Soar: 4 Wild Adventures in Klamath County

Kamrin Nielsen,  Photographer
March 10, 2020

Nestled at the foot of the Cascade Range in Southern Oregon, Klamath County is awash in natural beauty. And, befitting the region’s many landscapes, you can take it all in however you see fit: from the well-worn path of a hiking trail, along one of the region’s relaxing waterways, in the saddle of a mountain bike, or even while tethered to a zipline. As you’re planning spring and summer getaways, here are four adventures for making the most of the warmer weather and enjoying all that scenery around Klamath County.

Hike among pristine mountain lakes on the moderate Varney Creek Trail, just off the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway.

Hike Among Lava Flows

Hiking trails dot Klamath County, connecting hikers with dense forests, lava flows and more. About 45 miles northwest of Klamath Falls, the Summit Sno-Park and Trailhead offers easy access to the world-famous Pacific Crest Trail. Follow the footpath as it heads south, crosses Highway 140 and darts between hemlock forests and rust-colored cinder atop the Brown Mountain Lava Flow. Wide-open views of Mount McLoughlin overwhelm the surroundings to the north. The PCT continues south, but a 6-mile round-trip hike showcases the best of the views in this area. The trail gradually gains about 675 feet along this stretch, making it suitable for most casual hikers.

For a closer look, make the 10-mile round-trip trek to the summit of Mount McLoughlin — the highest point in the southern Cascades, with views of several nearby peaks and the rim of Crater Lake. Keep an eye out for small rock mounds and trail signs fastened to trees and bring a map, first-aid supplies and other Ten Essentials before hitting the trail. Given that the trail gains nearly 4,000 feet, it’s best suited to experienced hikers. While you’re in one of Oregon’s natural areas, remember to leave it cleaner than you found it, say hello to fellow explorers and Take Care Out There.

The 4.4-mile Varney Creek Trail is about 45 minutes northwest of Klamath Falls, just off Highway 140 — also known as the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway. Here you’ll find a more moderate trek, with opportunities for fishing and swimming in pristine mountain lakes. 

Wherever you go, grab lunch before heading out with help from Green Blade Bakery (which makes its naturally leavened breads from scratch) or Green Springs Market (known for sandwiches piled high with fresh ingredients) — both in Klamath Falls.

Gaze upon the rim of Crater Lake and other iconic peaks as you soar through the trees with Crater Lake ZipLine, then cap the day with a guided kayak tour.

Zipline and ‘Skyak’ Through the Trees

Can’t decide between sky-high adventure and on-the-water fun? Crater Lake ZipLine’s all-day, all-inclusive tour delivers both. The outfitter’s one-of-a-kind Skyak package gets you on the water for a kayak tour of Malone Springs, just north of Upper Klamath Lake. It includes lunch and caps off the day with a three-hour zipline canopy tour that affords aerial views of the region’s most iconic sights, like Upper Klamath Lake, Mount McLoughlin and the rim of Crater Lake. The little ones in your crew will love Sasquatch Hollow, designed for children ages 5 to 12. The challenge course includes four ziplines, a suspension bridge, rope crossing and more.

If you bypass the all-day Skyak package for a zipline-only tour, grab a fresh sandwich at Sassy Onion, the on-site food truck. Or enjoy views of Upper Klamath Lake from the lakeside restaurant at Rocky Point Resort, which opens for the season in April.

Bask in tranquility at Spring Creek, where you just might have the waterway to yourself.

Paddle Through Crystal-Clear Creeks

The Klamath Basin and Cascade foothills are home to countless waterways that demand exploring — whether from the seat of a kayak or atop a stand-up paddleboard. Spend a day on the quiet, crystal-clear Spring Creek (roughly halfway between Upper Klamath Lake and Crater Lake) and unwind afterward at The TP in Chiloquin — home to the half-pound Hippo Burger, every bit as indulgent as it sounds. 

And after paddling the Williamson River — which passes through Klamath Basin farmland just north of Chiloquin — stop in at a nearby eatery: JJ’s Café serves traditional American and Mexican dishes, while Peak to Peak Restaurant (inside Chiloquin’s Kla-Mo-Ya Casino) dishes a mix of popular pub fare, including ribs smoked for 24 hours and basted with a housemade whiskey BBQ sauce.

After paddling around Crescent Lake in the Cascade foothills, kick back at The Pines Bar & Grill at Hoodoo’s Crescent Lake Resort, reopening for the season in May 2020. Noted for its lodge-like interior and expansive patio, the restaurant serves fresh-caught fish alongside a menu of American classics.

Looking for rentals to get started? A variety of experienced outfitters have you covered — including Real Oregon Experience, which has been guiding kayakers for more than 20 years, and Sky Lakes Wilderness Adventures, which offers optional drop-off and pick-up services for your kayak.

Explore one of Southern Oregon's top mountain-bike destinations at the Spence Mountain Trail system, with 40 miles of crisscrossing trails.

Bike Forest Trails

The Klamath Basin boasts miles of world-class singletrack bike trails — the Spence Mountain network being the most popular, with nearly 40 miles of crisscrossing trails. Beginners and experts alike can spy Upper Klamath Lake and other local landmarks from the singletrack paths. After getting off the trail, enjoy a plate of pub-style fish and chips at the Ruddy Duck restaurant at Running Y Ranch Resort.

The Moore Mountain Trail System sits inside Klamath Falls city limits, and most of the system’s ascents are relatively mild — all creating an easy escape for families and beginner riders. Afterward, refuel with the classic Margherita pie at Rodeos Pizza & Saladeria, made with plenty of fresh mozzarella and basil. 

Gentle ascents and descents are the hallmark of the High Lakes Mountain Bike Trail, known for delivering a smooth ride on a wide path near the Lake of the Woods region. Speaking of which, pop into The Lake House Restaurant at Lake of the Woods Resort for great views and a killer panini. A recent remodel offers a fresh feel and a new bar upstairs; a grand opening is scheduled for May.

If you need a bike, Zach’s Bikes offers rentals along with shuttle and delivery services. The Cerulean Hotel rents bikes for children and adults, with a variety of styles suited to novice and experienced riders. Wheel Fun Rentals at Running Y Ranch Resort rents bikes and equipment for the whole family.

Find plenty of convenient lodging in the area, like Rocky Point Resort, where you can grab a bite and glide right into the Upper Klamath Canoe Trail from the resort's boat launch.

If You Go:

Klamath Falls is known for its year-round sunshine, so there’s never a bad time to visit the region. That said, temperatures in the Klamath Basin can reach near triple digits in the heart of summer — all the more reason to hit the water or head into the Cascades. Find plenty of lodging options in the area, from hotels, motels, B&Bs, vacation rentals, RV parks and campgrounds.

About The
Author

Matt Wastradowski
Matt Wastradowski is a travel and outdoors writer living in Portland, Oregon. He’s written about the outdoors, craft beer, history, and more for the likes of Outside, the REI Co-op Journal, Willamette Week, 1859, and Northwest Travel & Life.

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