6 Must-Visit Attractions in Southern Oregon
Southern Oregon is simply for the diverse of palate. The variety of activities offered throughout the region can fill calendars for months on end. But despite a seemingly endless string of things to do and see, the region remains a tranquil place, a destination sought for the purpose of retreating from the hustle and bustle of modern living.
Condensing Southern Oregon into a short list of must-see attractions is a tall order, scratching only the surface of discovery. So, here are six must-visit attractions in the region that serve as a jumping-off point for your Southern Oregon deep dive.
Crater Lake National Park (Klamath County)
Formed by an ancient volcano that erupted so violently it collapsed inwards onto itself, Crater Lake is one of Oregon’s most famous landmarks. It is the deepest lake in the country, with depths reaching 1,949 feet. Famous for its deep blue color, the lake is as clear as it is because its waters have only had two sources: snow and rain −centuries of them.
Its breathtaking beauty makes Crater Lake and the surrounding park a worthwhile destination for anyone who enjoys nature. You can explore its network of trails from spring to fall, then switch over to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing during the winter.
Because of Crater Lake’s high elevation (it is perched between 7,000 and 8,000 feet above sea level), make sure to bring warm clothing. The best time to visit is between July and October. Crater Lake’s cold winter season runs from October through June.
Oregon Caves (Josephine County)
Located deep within the Siskiyou Mountains, the Oregon Caves is a solutional marble cave formed through thousands of years of rock activity. A cooling reprieve on hot summers, the best time to go underground is between late March through early November. If you want to stay above ground, the surface area of the national monument and preserve is open all year round.
The guided cave tours reveal a lot of interesting tidbits about Oregon Caves’ geology, fossils, bat species, and, on the surface, the dense, old-growth forests. If you’re feeling move adventurous, you can join an off-trail cave tour in the summer. You’ll learn about caving techniques and etiquette while crawling and climbing through the cave passages.
Lithia Park (Ashland, Jackson County)
Blanketing approximately one hundred acres of hilly terrain, with the Ashland Creek coursing in the middle, Lithia Park is a very welcome sea of green in Downtown Ashland. Named after the water rich in lithium salts (you can drink from this from one of the park’s fountains), it’s a great place for some outdoor recreation and relaxation in the city.
Explore Lithia Park’s numerous trails, some of which have been paved for more convenience. All you need is a trail guide to help you go exploring on your own.
If you’d like to learn more about Lithia Park, you can also join one of the free tours. These tours run for an hour and a half and are held in the park three days a week. Conducted by volunteer naturalists, these Lithia Park tours are a great way to admire the park’s trees and pick up some tree knowledge along the way.
Lithia Park is also the home of the Allen Elizabethan Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s famous outdoor performance stage. So, if you want to enjoy culture and nature, swing by this loved local destination.
Toketee Falls (Douglas County)
Carved from basalt rock and cascading 120 feet down, Toketee Falls is a picturesque waterfall that’s famous even outside Oregon. The falls are just a short, half-mile trek through Idleyld Park on the North Umpqua River on a well-maintained trail that leads up to the official lookout spot. This short hike is great for novice hikers.
There are no official trails that lead down the bottom of the falls, but you can make their way down. Tales from experienced and courageous hikers who have tested their luck came back with reports of better views and quick, refreshing dips in the cool waters.
Umpqua Hot Springs (Douglas County)
Just like Toketee Falls, Umpqua Hot Springs is in the Umpqua National Forest in Douglas County. If you don’t mind a few more miles of trekking, you can make your way to the hot springs from the falls, killing two birds with one stone and rewarding your muscles with a relaxing, hot soak.
If Toketee is not on the agenda, getting to Umpqua Hot Springs will have you pass through I-5 and Highway 138, if you’re coming from Medford for example. The drive is two hours and 15 minutes on average, covering a total distance of 109 miles.
Once you arrive at the hot springs, take time to observe public etiquette. First, make sure that you already have the right parking pass (available for purchase online or at local stores like REI) stuck onto a visible surface of your car. Be ready for a hike to the springs, ideally with hiking shoes, since parts of the trail are steep and slippery. Lastly, keep in mind that the hot springs are for day use only. You can soak all you want from sunup until sundown, but you have to say goodbye when it gets dark.
Troon Vineyard (Grants Pass, Josephine County)
Southern Oregon’s mild climate and varied topography make it an ideal region for growing wine, and one of the best places to sample a great bottle is Troon Vineyard in Grants Pass in the Applegate Valley.
Active since the early 1970s, this Southern Oregonian winery has built its reputation on the quality of its organic wine. No commercial yeasts, enzymes, sugar, and other additives are used in the winemaking process. Additionally, grape varietals are grown through biodynamics, a brand of organic farming that focuses on the interrelationship between soil fertility, plants, and livestock.
The result of this keen attention to winemaking are wines that regularly bag awards, all while staunchly remaining reasonably priced crowd favorites. Visit the Winery Tasting Room on the vineyard’s premises to enjoy its Druids Fluid blend of reds or its orange wines.