Tucked in by the Cascade Range, Willamette Valley, Eastern Oregon and California, Southern Oregon is a warm, dry pocket of the state that’s jumbled with mountains, valleys, rivers, caves, lava beds, rural towns, small cities and the state’s most famous lake.
Crater Lake National Park is by far the top tourist draw in this area. The 2,000-foot-deep, shimmering blue Crater Lake, formed by a volcanic eruption and filled with snowmelt, can be enjoyed by driving around the 33-mile Rim Drive or hiking down to the water’s edge to swim, fish or boat.
But there’s much more to Southern Oregon, with opportunities for adventure everywhere. The North Umpqua and Rogue rivers, popularized for their fishing by Zane Grey’s writings, Oregon Caves National Monument, numerous waterfalls, Table Rocks mesas, hot springs, mountains and high desert terrain provide places for exploring, camping, fishing, swimming, boating, biking, hiking, climbing, rafting and many other outdoor pursuits. Ziplining, panning for gold and golfing are other favorite activities, as are farm, orchard and winery tours.
Southern Oregon is also known for its artsy towns and cultural pursuits. Ashland is the site of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Jacksonville is the site of the Britt Festivals, an annual summer music and dance festival. Fine dining, farm-to-table restaurants, breweries, festivals and events, tax-free shopping, family-oriented activities and a range of accommodations abound in Medford, the region’s largest city, as well as Ashland, Klamath Falls, Roseburg and Grants Pass. Look around this site for all the information you’ll need to enjoy a stay in Southern Oregon.
The Regions of Southern Oregon
Southern Oregon is thought of in five distinct regions. The Rogue Valley region along the Rogue River contains Applegate Wine Country and Rogue Valley Wine Country, the Oregon Caves, the town of Jacksonville and the highly populated Medford-Ashland Metro Area, which is becoming a popular retirement destination.
The Umpqua Valley region is home to the North Umpqua River, numerous wineries, scenic byways, Seven Feathers Casino & Resort on the South Umpqua River and the towns of Roseburg and Elkton. The Klamath Basin region is a natural paradise offering fly-fishing in the Williamson River, canoeing in Klamath Lake and exploring at the intriguing Lava Beds National Monument and Klamath Falls. The rugged Southern Oregon Outback region offers high desert forests, skiing at Warner Canyon Ski Hill, birding, hot springs and outdoor activities galore. The picturesque Illinois Valley region is home to the town of Cave Junction, gateway to the Oregon Caves, as well as the Siskiyous Mountains and small farm communities offering crafts galleries, antiques, farm markets and more.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is swimming allowed in Crater Lake?
Yes, but the National Park Service says the shore at Cleetwood Cove Trail is the only safe and legal place to do it since the lake is so steep and deep. The mile-long trail opens in mid- to late June and leads to a beach where swimmers are welcome. But it’s cold!The average temperature of the lake is 38 degrees F, but in summer the surface can warm up to 55 or 60 degrees F.
What is the population of Medford?
Medford itself has a population of close to 82,000. The Medford Metropolitan Area, which includes Ashland, Central Point and Grants Pass, has a population of around 200,000.
How long does it take to get from Medford to Portland?
The drive to Portland from Medford is about 273 miles, which takes about four and a half hours.
Are there redwood trees in Southern Oregon?
Yes, you can find redwood groves on Redwood Highway (OR Highway 199) between Grants Pass and the Oregon Coast. Several short hiking trails among the redwoods are found there.
Where can I pan for gold in Southern Oregon?
This part of Oregon offers the best prospects for gold panning. Federal lands that allow gold panning include Butte Falls Recreational Area near Medford and Applegate Range District near Jacksonville.
What kind of wines will I find in Southern Oregon wineries?
Southern Oregon vineyards are known for growing stellar cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, malbec, pinot noir and Temperanillo grapes. The mountainous topography, long growing season and European-style climate, however, make the region ideally suited for more than 70 grape diverse varietals, so you’ll taste a wide variety of local wines in this region. There are more than 150 wineries in Southern Oregon in five regions: Applegate & Jacksonville, Elkton, Illinois, Rogue Valley and Umpqua.