With its craggy mountains and evergreen hills, carved by untamed rivers and dotted with charming historic towns, Southern Oregon draws visitors back again and again. That’s what happened to me — I’ve taken in Crater Lake, experienced the region’s world-class art and theater scene, and made memories in its lush green forests and dry desert flatlands.
As a newly minted dog owner, I knew I had to return with my goldendoodle Gus in tow.
We chose Grants Pass as the base camp for our Southern Oregon adventure. Located right along Interstate 5, the destination is one that makes you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time — which makes sense, given its storied history. In the 1800s, Grants Pass was a gold-rush town, a stagecoach stop and then later the rail head for the Oregon and California Railroad, which led to the city’s boom.
After a late-night arrival, our first to-do the next morning was taking a walk through downtown. This not only allowed me, my husband and Gus to stretch our legs, but it is a great way to get a feel for the city. Strolling through the city’s main streets in a light rain, we passed treasure-filled shops like Blue Door Salon & Boutique, Elegance Antiques and GG Sugarplum’s Bakeshop, which showed off its colorful treats in the window. Many of these businesses are housed in buildings that date back more than 100 years. Gus zigzagged across the sidewalk to take in all the new scents and got some love from the other window shoppers brave enough to pet a wet dog.
For breakfast we went to Ma Mosa’s, a farm-to-table brunch spot with dog-friendly outdoor seating. Along with their menu featuring scratch-made classics with house-made sauces, I was happy to learn they also had a dog menu. So alongside our breakfast, I ordered Gus a bowl of rice topped with roast beef. I mean, he’s on vacation too, and judging by the licked-clean bowl, he agreed with my decision.
After another short stroll and a break to dry off in the hotel room — Riverside Inn has dog-friendly rooms and stunning views of the Rogue River, and is conveniently located within walking distance of downtown Grants Pass — we headed out to the Applegate Valley for an afternoon of wine tasting. While that may not be the first idea for a dog-friendly activity, you might be surprised to learn there are quite a few wineries that will let you enjoy a glass with your favorite furball by your side.
For our first stop, we went to Wooldridge Creek Winery, a hillside vineyard and winery with an expansive outdoor covered seating area. When we pulled up, we got out to see their miniature horse named Laddy, which prompted an adorable head-tilt from Gus. Arguably the coolest part is that the winery is also a creamery making, serving and selling cheeses made from locally sourced organic milk. So while sampling their sustainable wines — a delicious chardonnay and a Bordeaux-style cabernet sauvignon — we nibbled their aged hard cheeses and fresh soft ones. We liked their black-garlic fromage blanc so much that we bought some to take home with us.
Gus ran around on Wooldridge Creek’s grassy knoll before we hopped in the car to visit our next Applegate Valley winery just 9 miles away: Red Lily Vineyards. The Spanish-inspired winery specializes in broody tempranillos and other varietals that feature earthy characteristics. They’re also one of the rare wineries that allow dogs inside, so I got to experience their beautiful lodge-style tasting room with Gus curled up at my feet. When other patrons commented on our sleeping pup, we joked that he’d had too much wine. Though the two wineries aren’t far away from each other, I enjoyed tasting the effects of the microclimates that allow the region to grow both cool- and warm-weather grapes.
The experience was made even more enjoyable by the welcoming and accommodating staff, each of whom got down on their knees to greet Gus and their other four-legged guests. It’s no wonder both establishments have a spot on the Rogue Valley Food Trail. I love drinking wine while looking out over the rows of grapes, and now I know I don’t have to forgo savoring the views and vintages when traveling with my dog.
Before leaving wine country, we stopped into Red Dog Pet Supply, a lovely shop where I bought Gus a new toy and a bone to enjoy during our dinner at River’s Edge Restaurant. The restaurant is known for its excellent steak and seafood and features a dog-welcoming outdoor patio overlooking the Rogue River. We opted for the perfectly cooked prime rib and seared scallops drizzled in chipotle honey, while Gus gnawed a bone and ignored all of the coos and adoration from the waitstaff. When he was done eating, Gus calmly sat and looked out over the river rushing over rock, with the occasional song from a bird flying overhead. The serene moment made for a delightful way to end our adventure-filled day.
Our plans for the next day included a hike, so we knew we’d need to fuel up at Buttercloud Bakery & Café in Medford, an artisan bakery whose outdoor seating area accommodates pups. From the moment I sat down and the server brought small pastries for us to sample and a handful of dog treats for Gus, I knew the meal would live up to expectations. With every bite of the fluffy, buttery biscuit I ordered, Buttercloud lived up to its name.
Once everyone was fully satisfied by the hearty meal, we headed to Prescott Park for a hike with Gus. While we’d intended to take on the 4.9-mile Roxy Ann Peak Trail, which promised sweeping views of the Rogue Valley and nearby peaks, the rain and cloud cover led us to shift plans and stretch our legs on the park’s ADA-accessible Madrone Trail. Like the name suggests, the path showed off its multicolored madrone trees, even prettier on a wet day, along with towering pines and vivid red manzanitas. Getting outside anywhere in Oregon is an enchanting experience, and Southern Oregon is no exception.
While my husband and I spent the ride home talking about our favorite parts of the trip, one peek into the back seat made it clear that Gus had a great time too. He slept the entire drive home with his toy-squirrel souvenir tucked next to his head. It was the perfect end to a memorable weekend. I got to partake in activities that immersed me in this special part of Oregon — all with my favorite dog by my side every step of the way.