A Traveler’s Guide to Southern Oregon

Are you thinking about Oregon for your next contract? The Southern Oregon Region is the perfect place for you! Southern Oregon is an ethos of arts and culture thriving in a land known for its wild rivers, deep caves and the awe-inspiring Crater Lake. This historic gold rush region has not lost its charm. In Southern Oregon you will discover a region where the past is honored with new riches, like wine and food trails, world-famous theaters and galleries, Wild and Scenic Rivers and colorful landscapes that look like they were painted. Come fall and winter, the treasure trove might include snowshoeing around America’s deepest lake, fishing for trout and steelhead, mountain biking on epic forest trails or witnessing a surreal festival of lights. In Southern Oregon, there’s an adventure everywhere you turn. In Southern Oregon you can find everything from Redwood trees, mountain ranges, lakes, and waterfalls. Southern Oregon is a modestly-sized and populated region of the state of Oregon, somewhat independent from the rest of the state, composed of Douglas, Josephine, Jackson, Klamath, and Lake counties. The region is primarily composed of mountains and high desert, while the Rogue Valley, Grants Pass, and Klamath regions are home to agricultural, commercial, and industrial enterprises.

The Culture

This little haven in the Pacific Northwest is a place where Indigenous people have lived since time immemorial, displaced by white settlers who arrived via the Oregon Trail. It’s a place where bold women and men built pioneer communities — many of which are still thriving today. Along came Oregon statehood in 1859 and a long line of elected leaders over the next century who took bold action to make Oregon one of the cleanest, most sustainably minded states in the nation, enacting protections on public spaces for all. Despite many barriers, Oregon’s communities were becoming a place where Japanese, Chinese, Latino and European immigrants and Black Americans arrived as laborers and entrepreneurs, laying the literal foundation of the state today. In the early 20th century, Oregonians were part of the great swell of activism that took hold of the U.S. — one that’s become a refuge for applied idealism. Oregon is a place for dreamers, a place with a unique voice, a sense of humor, and a drive to do things differently. It’s a place of authenticity, of intimacy, of stories, where dreams are still a real possibility.

The Scenery

Southern Oregon is full of beautiful scenery that you do not want to miss. From mountains and lakes, to waterfalls and Redwood trees, Southern Oregon has it all. Here are the top five marvels of Southern Oregon:

  1. Mt. Ashland– After winter’s snow melts and the ski lifts stop running, the fun doesn’t stop at Mt. Ashland — the tallest peak in the Siskiyou mountain range. There’s no better view than the one from the top, at 7,400 feet, which you can reach via the steep and challenging Summit Trail, with wildflowers and views of Mt. Shasta, Mt. McLoughlin and Pilot Rock along the way. Mountain bikers can also catch a shuttle up to 5,000 feet and bomb down the thrilling Mt. Ashland Super D trail, one of six spectacular trails in the Rogue Valley. If you’d rather take it easy, there’s space for that too. Take a relaxing amble along a nature trail with a pair of binoculars for some bird-watching, set out on a trail run; or check out a section of the Pacific Crest Trail, which passes right by.
  2. Cascades-Siskiyou National Monument–There are so many special superlatives you can use to describe the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, a national treasure in the heart of Southern Oregon. Even while it’s close by to Ashland and I-5, and bisected by 43 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, there’s a vast amount of pristine wilderness to bask in here as you spend your time fishing, boating, hiking or camping far away from the crowds. The 114,000 acres of protected land are home to marmots, mountain lions, river otters, black bear, elk and more than 200 bird species. In one weekend you can splash in a lake, cast a line for smallmouth bass and take a heart-pumping trek to the top of a bluff to take in stunning views of the Soda Mountain Wilderness.
  3. Rogue Valley Wine– Wine connoisseurs know and love Southern Oregon for its world-class wines and exquisite, family-owned and less-crowded tasting rooms. Here in Rogue Valley Wine Country, there’s plenty of room inside and out to spread out and admire views of rolling hills and vineyard sunsets. Spend a few days exploring the Bear Creek Wine Trail — Oregon’s warmest and driest wine-growing region, as well as the southernmost. Thirteen tasting rooms span a route of 21 miles, from Central Point at the north to Ashland at the south throughout the fertile Bear Creek Valley. The Applegate Valley Wine Trail includes another 19 tasting rooms stretching from Jacksonville northwest to Grants Pass, following the Applegate River with farms, lavender fields and country roads ideal for a scenic bike ride.
  4. Table Rocks– Seven million years ago, a volcano erupted and filled the Rogue River Valley with lava. As the landscape eroded, two plateaus stood behind, rising from Southern Oregon’s high desert like two “islands in the sky,” as the Table Rocks are often called. The Upper and Lower Table Rocks rise more than 800 feet from the valley floor and are magnificent places to visit, as long as you follow best practices to leave the space cleaner than you found it. Home to fragile ecosystems of plants and animals, they are official Areas of Critical Environmental Concern. For instance, Lower Table Rock is home to more than 200 wildflower species, including the extremely rare dwarf wooly meadowfoam, which grows nowhere else in the world. Consult the Bureau of Land Management’s guide on how to hike and camp at these geologic wonders, and see this guide to more treks in the area to pair with a tasty post-hike reward.
  5. Highway of Waterfalls– In terms of bang for your buck, there’s no better spot to see waterfalls in Oregon than along the 172-mile Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway (OR-138), aptly nicknamed the Highway of Waterfalls. Stretching from Roseburg south to Gold Hill, just north of Medford, the byway follows parts of the North Umpqua and Upper Rogue rivers and more than 15 eye-popping cascades. Among them are the double-tiered Toketee Falls, one of the most photographed in the region, and 272-foot Watson Falls, among the tallest in Southern Oregon. Some of the waterfalls attract crowds on the weekends, but many are more remote with very little foot traffic. Bring your camera for the necessary photo op and then put it away, because there’s so much more to do when you get here. Take a hike, enjoy the rush of the wonder of the cascades and breathe in the fresh pine-scented air.

The Weather

The climate is mild with an average annual maximum temperature of around 68.0, annual minimum of 40.9. Average annual precipitation is 29.5 inches. Snowfall is minimal – 2.3 inches per year Our ideal climate provides a minimum of precipitation, unlike our neighbors to the west. Our average rainfall is just under 30 inches and we boast a very gentle wind velocity. Visitors can plan on warm, sunny days and cool, dry evenings from mid-May through mid-September. The climate is so good, in fact, that the valley had an active agricultural industry around the turn of the century. The Rogue Valley is still known as “pear country,” and you can see trees from the old orchards around the Medford-Ashland area. The climate is also conducive to growing grapes, and we have many Wineries and Vineyards here.

Attractions

Wildlife Safari– Located in the small and scenic town of Winston, Wildlife Safari serves as a major attraction for family adventures in the Umpqua Valley. Each year approximately 150,000 people visit the park, making it one of Oregon’s favorite visitor destination points. Here you can drive through a 600-acre pre­serve and see over 550 animals and over 76 species from Africa, Asia and North America roam freely in the park. They are dedicated to conservation, education and research of native and exotic wildlife. Beginning in 1972, with the dream of Frank Hart who had the vision of creating a facility in the Pacific Northwest that would help save rare and endangered species from around the world, this non-profit has continued to do exactly what it had intended to do.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival– The Tony Award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Fes­tival (OSF), located in charming downtown Ashland, Oregon, is one of the nation’s true artistic gems. Each season, running from February through October, OSF presents 11 classic and contemporary plays on three unique stages in a rotating repertory. With tours and fun educational events and an ever-changing free summer entertainment on the Green Show stage, OSF is an immersive cultural experience for the whole fam­ily that you’ll never forget.

Rogue Valley Food Trail– The Rogue Valley Food Trail offers a self-guided adventure to diverse farms, artisans, and restaurants. The growers and crafters along this bountiful trail are committed to sustainable practices and supporting the local community.

Rogue Valley ZipLine Adventure– Rogue Valley ZipLine Adventure is nestled in the Historic Gold Mining hills of beautiful Southern Oregon. This Company provides Guided Zip Line Tours run by certified guides on our progressive 5 zip line Course. With many spectacular views including but definitely not limited to, Crater Lake Rim, Mt. McLoughlin and Table Rocks. Home to the most THRILLING ZipLine in the Pacific Northwest and the Zip, Dip, & Sip Tour.

Southern Oregon State Parks– Southern Oregon features several great State Parks for camping adventures depending on where you are and what you want to do. Valley of the Rogue State Park in Gold Hill and Joseph Stewart State Park are both on the beautiful Rogue River, with the latter offering boating on Lost Creek Lake. In the high country of Klamath County Collier Memorial State Park features the Logging Museum and Jackson E. Kimball State Park offers a primitive experience at the headwaters of the Wood River.

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