Southern OR: A Natural Treasure Chest

Rushing rivers, intriguing caves, one-of-a-kind towns, and some of natures most radiant gems wait to be discovered in Southern Oregon. 

Published: 2/01/2015

Rushing rivers, intriguing caves, one-of-a-kind towns, and some of natures most radiant gems wait to be discovered in Southern Oregon. 

Halfway between Portland and San Francisco, Southern Oregon is an amazing vacation destination. It is home to many natural treasures like Crater Lake, Oregon Caves National Monument and Historic Chateau, the Redwood forests, and the mighty Rogue, Umpqua, and Klamath Rivers, as well as world-class cultural events like the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland and the Britt Festival in Jacksonville.

It’s easy to spend a full week or longer in this majestic area. To keep our heads from spinning with all of the possibilities, let’s explore the area in three sub-regions: the South Coast, the Valleys, and the High Country. The South Coast is an unspoiled stretch of coastline running 101 miles—from America’s Wild Rivers Coast to the Heart of the Dunes in Reedsport/Winchester Bay. For the outdoor adventurer, this exhilarating stretch offers fabulous river and ocean fishing, hiking, camping, kayaking, and sightseeing. Directly east, the Valleys of Rogue, Umpqua, and Applegate offer hundreds of mini-valleys to explore. In Rogue Valley, the towns of Ashland is a center for theatre, music, dance, art, and more, and Jacksonville is a National Historic Landmark town with great places to stay, acclaimed restaurants, and high-end boutiques. In Applegate Valley, Medford has a dedicated Old Town Dining and Entertainment District, and Grants Pass is a nucleus for all kinds of river adventures. In Umpqua Valley, Roseburg’s historic downtown shouldn’t be missed. Beyond the coast and valleys, awaits the High Country, replete with cascades, lakes, rivers, wetlands, woodlands, and desert. The towering Cascade Mountains include fabulous recreation areas like Seven Lakes Basin, the Sky Lakes Wilderness area, Four Mile Lake, Lake of the Woods, Fish Lake, the Mountain Lakes Wilderness area, and massive Klamath Lake, where you can rent equipment and camp or stay in a cabin or lodge.

And that’s only the beginning. Southern Oregon is also an emerging wine region! Spanning 125 miles from Eugene south to the California border, the Southern Oregon AVA is the warmest growing region in the state, with hillsides and valleys offering such diversity, you can easily sample wines from cool climate grapes alongside wines warm climate grapes. Unique varieties like Albariño, Pinot Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, Marsanne, Roussanne, Baco Noir, Marchal Foch, Mourvèdre, Sémillon, Petite Sirah, Tempranillo, and Viognier do well here, so get ready to discover something new! There are more than 60 wineries across the Rogue, Applegate, Illinois, and Umpqua Valleys, so you can easily make wine tasting part of your day.

Southern Oregon really does offer adventure at every turn. Between the coast, valleys, towns, mountains, and deserts, there are old-growth forests, quiet lakes, and intriguing caves. With such an array of natural diversity, it’s almost impossible to spend a day without making some new sort of discovery. So make a bucket list of outdoor adventures and see how many you can cross off in Southern Oregon!

As seen in the issue Pacific Northwest Spring 2015 of Touring & Tasting Magazine.