When fresh snow dusts the forested peaks and folded hills of Southern Oregon, winter adds another layer to the many delights of the Rogue Valley. All year round, you can enjoy the valley’s renowned dining scene, world-class wines and famous fishing. But in the winter months, you’ve got the added bonus of snow — so bring your skis, sleds and snowshoes and discover new reasons to keep on coming back. Here are five winter adventures to take this season.
Wellness Retreat in Ashland
Play: Don’t worry about driving to the mountain — a free shuttle picks you up from the Ashland Hills Hotel & Suites and whisks you to nearby Mt. Ashland Ski Area, for a day of calorie-burning alpine skiing on the tree-lined trails and open bowls of Oregon’s highest peak west of the Cascades. Grab a sandwich and smoothie at the full-service cafe and bar in the beautifully renovated historic lodge.
Stay: Back at the hotel, refuel at the Luna Café + Mercantile, a playful farm-focused scratch kitchen that turns out flatbread pizzas, house-made burgers and a crazy-good weekend brunch (try their organic eco tea). You’ll truly get to unwind at the hotel. Set on 14 acres with broad views of the Siskiyous, it’s an oasis of calm just three miles from downtown Ashland. And that’s before you’ve stepped into the hotel’s spa studio, where skin treatments and massages will put you in a state of bliss.
Friends’ Getaway to Medford
Play: Tell your friends to come with skis or snowshoes — both are great ways to explore the scenic trails that skim along the ridgelines from the Grouse Gap Sno-Park in Ashland. (First-timers are welcome; there’s no judgement on the mountain.) Go-getters can tackle the 1.3-mile spur trail to the summit of Mt. Ashland, and you can all meet up at the sno-park shelter and stoke up a fire. Don’t forget the hand warmers.
Stay: Pile in the car and head 30 miles north to Medford, stopping for a little detour at 2Hawk Vineyard & Winery. Its rustic tasting room, evocative of an old western ranch, creates a warm backdrop for every type of wine drinker in the group — from novice to connoisseur — to sample locally grown tempranillo or rich ruby port. Just up the road in downtown Medford, check into Inn at the Commons, a revival of a classic 1960s motor inn with a groovy lobby where your gang can gather around the circular fireplace. Next door, Larks Kitchen & Cocktails elevates the motel restaurant, with inspired comfort foods like braised short ribs and truffled mushroom risotto. The craft beer fans in the group will love Common Block Brewing, just across the street from the inn.
Couple’s Escape in Ashland
Play: Twenty miles east of Ashland in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Forest, bring your adventure buddy and work up an appetite with a day of Nordic skiing at the Buck Prairie Winter Recreation Area, where 17 miles of interconnected trails provide terrain for all abilities and ambitions. On clear days, the stunning views stretch from Mt. McLaughlin to Mt. Shasta — all the incentive you’ll need to herringbone up that next hill. Pause for a sweet selfie together to remember your day of adrenaline-pumping fun.
Stay: Head into Ashland and recover from the day at the Peerless Hotel, once a boarding house for early-1900s railroad workers that’s been transformed into a luxury escape in Ashland’s historic railroad district. Its beautifully appointed rooms are all about Old World elegance, with fine linens and clawfoot tubs. You won’t have to go far for dinner — the hotel’s Peerless Restaurant & Bar provides an intimate bistro setting for couples, perfect for savoring locally sourced dishes like grilled Umpqua Valley lamb T-bone, shiitake and blue cheese dumplings, and a wine list that showcases the finest local bottles.
Family Excursion to Ashland
Play: Not a fan of crowds when you have young children in the snow? Head to Hyatt Lake Recreation Area and the sweet sledding hill at the Table Mountain Winter Play Area. Bring your own sleds and tubes to careen down the broad and gentle hillside, an ideal spot for families to enjoy a day playing in the snow without fast thrill-seekers getting in the way. When you’re ready for a break (of course we’re talking to you, adults), a nice warming shelter at the top provides a dry perch where you can keep an eye on the kiddos and admire the winter-wonderland views.
Stay: When you roll up with a carload of kids, dogs and gear, Callahan’s Mountain Lodge is just the kind of place you dream of finding: a burly beamed chalet at the base of Mt. Ashland, with a roaring fireplace and plenty of space (especially if you book one of the two-room suites with kitchenettes). Live music in the lounge sets the vacation vibe, and hearty dinners and brunch service every day of the week — Oregon berry crepes, buttermilk pancakes and more — will satisfy all your hungry travelers.
Nature Escape Around Crater Lake
Play: You may have heard of Crater Lake National Park, where the lake’s famously electric-blue waters take on an even more brilliant hue amid a blanket of winter white. Explore the sublime scenery on the network of ski trails that skirt the crater rim and wander off into the woods. Better yet, join a park ranger on a two-hour guided snowshoe walk through the forests and meadows in Rim Village. The tour is free, including the use of snowshoes.
Stay: So spectacular is Crater Lake that visitors from Medford used to endure a two-day trip by horse-drawn wagon to reach it, overnighting at a roadhouse in tiny Prospect. More than 125 years later, the Prospect Historic Hotel Bed and Breakfast Inn still serves as a wonderfully welcoming stop for visitors exploring Crater Lake and the many other natural wonders of Southern Oregon. Its acclaimed Dinner House closes for winter, but you’ll find good home cooking at local spots like Beckie’s Cafe in Union Creek, just a few minutes from Crater Lake.
If You Go:
Winter in Oregon can be unpredictable, so come stocked with fuel, food, water, paper maps, waterproof clothing layers and emergency supplies when venturing out to more remote areas. Always check weather and road conditions before you go, and have snow chains and know how to use them. Brush up on How to Winter Like an Oregonian for more tips.