🌲 25 Epic Things to Do in Southern Oregon: 2023 Bucket List

Best things to do in Southern Oregon blog cover image.  Text overlaying a photo of Mt McLoughlin at golden hours with lush green pines in the foreground.

First-time visitors to Southern Oregon are often amazed at the natural beauty of this frequently overlooked region. From endless waterfalls to natural hot springs to monolithic volcanoes, areas like the Rogue Valley and Umpqua Forest truly have it all.

I grew up in Southern Oregon in a small town called Rogue River. It was only after returning home having become a professional landscape photographer, however, that I realized how scenic the backyard I had taken for granted truly was!

In this guide, you will discover 25 of the best things to do in Southern Oregon. These include the best hikes and nature trails, unique adventures, unusual places to stay, and much more. You will also find tips for traveling in the areas to help you plan your itinerary.

Don’t forget to leave some comments after reading, and especially after visiting, to help me improve this guide!

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πŸš— Traveling to Southern Oregon: An Overview

About the Southern Oregon Region

The region typically referred to as “Southern Oregon” spans destinations off of the I-5 freeway south of Roseburg. This includes cities like Medford, Grants Pass, Ashland, and Klamath Falls as well as the towns and attractions adjacent to them.

Though technically in the south of the state, neither the Southeastern or Southwestern corners are typically associated with “Southern Oregon”.

There are some absolute treasures at Samuel Boardman on the coast and the Alvord Desert to the east, but both of these require lengthy detours to reach.


Getting Around

A girl in a vibrant red dress walks along a lonely highway in Southern Oregon on a winter day.

You will absolutely need a vehicle to explore Southern Oregon. Public Transportation services are extremely limited and most of the highlights require driving.

However, a standard 2WD vehicle will be fine for all of the destinations featured in the Top 25 Things to Do in Southern Oregon list.

If you can’t drive or prefer to have things taken care of for you, there are a few tour options but these are somewhat limited. We’ll mention these throughout the post, where relevant. Additionally, we’ll cover tour options in more detail toward the end!


Best Place to Stay

Welcome to Medford sign taken on a blue sky day in Southern Oregon.

The city of Medford is the ideal home base from which to explore Southern Oregon.

It is the largest city in the region providing the most diverse range of accommodation options, the most centralized, and located directly adjacent to the I-5.

This is also where you will find the only major airport in Southern Oregon.


πŸ“Έ 25 Best Things to Do in Southern Oregon at a Glance

  1. Visit Crater Lake National Park
  2. Chase Waterfalls Through Umpqua National Forest
  3. Soak in a Geothermal Pool at Toketee Hot Spring
  4. Raft the Famous Rogue River
  5. Hike Iconic Mt McLoughlin
  6. Make a Fur Friend at Wildlife Images
  7. Attend a Play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
  8. Hike to the Top of Table Rock
  9. Taste World Famous Pinot Noir in the Rogue Valley
  10. Day Trip to the Oregon Coast & California Redwoods
  11. Go Spelunking at Oregon Caves National Monument
  12. Hit the Slopes of Mt Ashland
  13. Go Stargazing & Milky Way Hunting
  14. Explore Historic Jacksonville
  15. Spend a Day on the Lake
  16. Picnic at Valley of the Rogue State Park
  17. Hop Across the Border to Shasta-Trinity National Forest
  18. Taste the “World’s Best Cheese” Award Winner at Rogue Creamery
  19. Scramble About the Avenue of the Boulders
  20. Spend the Night in a Treehouse at Out ‘ N ‘ About
  21. Hellgate Jet Boat Excursion
  22. Kayak Crystal Clear Wood River in Klamath Falls
  23. Hike Part of the Pacific Crest Trail
  24. Explore the Growing Craft Beer Scene
  25. Try Your Luck at 7 Feathers Casino

Each of these featured items will be discussed in detail below.

πŸ—Ί Map of the Best Things to Do in Southern Oregon

Map of all the best things to do in Southern Oregon

Use the interactive map above to find the exact locations for all 25 of the featured destinations in this guide.

Simply click on the map to open in a new tab, or click here.

πŸ“Έ Top 25 Best Things to Do in Southern Oregon

🏞 1. Visit Crater Lake National Park

A sunrise photo from Crater Lake National Park, considered the best thing to do in Southern Oregon.

Without a doubt, Crater Lake National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the world and the one place you absolutely MUST visit in Southern Oregon.

Understand that Crater Lake NP is a remote region of the state and can be difficult to get to in the winter when road conditions are poor. During non-summer months, only the South Entrance to the park is open and while it is plowed regularly, the high elevation tends to present challenges.

Regardless of the time of year, a visit to Crater Lake will always be one of the best things to do in Southern Oregon.

There are two options for lodging within the park; Crater Lake Lodge or the Cabins at Mazama Village. Additionally, there are campsites and backcountry options available. However, these are all only available seasonally during the summer months from May to September or October.

Otherwise, day trips are possible with Medford and Klamath Falls being the nearest cities. Medford is preferable as there is more to see and do between the two, and the road (Highway 62) is much easier to drive.

There are a handful of other natural attractions off of Hwy 62 between Medford and Crater Lake including some scenic waterfalls such as Pearsony Falls, Mill Creek Falls, and Barr Creek Falls. Be sure to include these on your itinerary as well.


πŸ’¦ 2. Chase Dozens of Waterfalls in the Rogue Valley & Umpqua National Forest

Southern Oregon is home to many beautiful waterfalls, many of which can be visited on a day trip from Medford all along one stretch of highway.

Among them is Toketee Falls; the most beautiful waterfall in Southern Oregon. It is nestled into Umpqua National Forest between the city of Roseburg and Crater Lake National Park.

A roaring cascade splits columnar basalt rock as it continues through an enchanted lush green scenery. A visit to Toketee Falls is a must-do when visiting Southern Oregon!

The hike to the main waterfall viewpoint is less than a mile with no real elevation gain. Though it is not paved nor wheelchair accessible, it is manageable for most even with mobility issues.

While Toketee Falls is the most picturesque in the region, you will also pass by several others all worth a stop. These include National Creek Falls, Mill Creek Falls, Barr Creek Falls, Pearsony Falls, Watson Falls, Clearwater Falls, and White Horse Falls.

⚠️ READ THE FULL GUIDE
ALL THE WATERFALLS OF SOUTHERN OREGON: A ROAD TRIP GUIDE


♨️ 3. Soak in a Geothermal Pool at Toketee Hot Spring

A young woman soaks in the natural rock tub at Toketee Hot Spring in the Umpqua National Forest.  These hot springs are one of the best things to do in Southern Oregon for free.

Soaking in the natural rock tubs at Toketee Hot Springs, aka Umpqua Hot Springs, is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable things to do in Southern Oregon. It is also one of the best FREE things to do!

What was once a locals-only treasure has become quite popular, but remains an incredible experience. End a day of chasing waterfalls all through the Umpqua National Forest with a short hike (about 1 mile) to the several natural tubs nestled into the hillside of the North Umpqua River.

Be aware that clothing is optional here and most elect birthday suits over swimsuits! Alcohol and marijuana use are also very common at this location.

If you are adventurous, Toketee Hot Spring has to be on your bucket list. If traveling with children, however, you may want to skip this one.


πŸš£β€β™€οΈ 4. Raft the Famous Rogue River

Rafts and a kayak rest on the bank of the Rogue River during a break on a rafting tour - one of the best things to do in Southern Oregon.

Rafting the Rogue River has been a favorite pastime of Southern Oregonians for generations, but gained national notoriety following the filming of the Hollywood blockbuster “The River Wild“.

Different sections of the river offer opportunities for all skill levels. Those of you who just want to cool off and float, for example, can arrange a rental and drop off out of Shady Cove and never need to paddle. Thrill seekers, meanwhile, can aim for the Galice section and navigate a Class V rapid.

While rafting is certainly going to be far more enjoyable in the hot summer seasons, spring and autumn are also popular times.

You will find a number of tour options for rafting the Rogue River, from half-day scenic floats to white water rafting and even multi-day adventures.


β›° 5. Hike Iconic Mt McLoughlin

A photo capture of sunset at Mt Mcloughlin in the summer.

Standing majestically over the Rogue Valley and visible from much of I-5, Mt McLoughlin is the most iconic feature of Southern Oregon and a symbol of pride in the community.

Fun fact, it also used to be known as Mt Pitt and will still be labeled as such, occasionally.

For those with a desire to reach the highest vantage points, various hiking trails to the top of Mt McLoughlin are available when snow is not present. The most popular option is USDA Trail #3716 – a 5-mile trail to the summit maintained by the forest service. This is also part of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

Of course, you don’t need to climb it to enjoy it! Most of my favorite views and photo ops are from the ground, especially some of the nearby alpine lakes.

πŸ“Έ DISCOVER MORE:
MOST BEAUTIFUL PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATIONS IN SOUTHERN OREGON


🐺 6. Make a Fur Friend at Wildlife Images

A grey wolf at Wildlife Images in Grants Pass Oregon is seen here sniffing a visiting girl's face.

Wildlife Images is the best thing to do for families and animal lovers in Southern Oregon, and you can feel good about supporting them!

This is not a zoo, nor an exhibition, but rather an animal rescue and rehabilitation center. 90% of the animals they care for are re-released, but those who cannot be become educational ambassadors. The majority of these ambassadors were attempted to be kept as pets and can therefore not safely be re-introduced to the wild.

Wildlife Images has been featured on several TV programs, the most notable being “Crikey! It’s the Irwins“.

Visitors can browse Wildlife Images on a self-tour or engage with some of the animals via a “wildlife encounter experience.”

This is Sophie and my favorite place in the Rogue Valley to visit and support. We have worked with them on multiple occasions and can’t say enough good things about the staff or the work they do.


🎭 7. Attend a Play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Performers on stage in front of a crowd at the outdoor stage at the Allen Elizabethan Theatre

Despite the name, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (or OSF as it is known locally) produces classic and contemporary plays that go well beyond the scope of Shakespeare.

This is one of the greatest national draws in all of Southern Oregon and an absolute must-do if you are visiting between late April and December.

During this time each year, 800-850 performances occur. If possible, I recommend trying to catch one of them staged in the outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre.

While you are in Ashland, you will also find an artsy, quirky downtown with an emphasis on all things artisan. In addition to the funky shops and boutiques, you will discover craft breweries & distilleries, upscale dining, and inevitably some sort of seasonal events taking place.


πŸ₯Ύ 8. Hike to the Top of Table Rock

An aerial photo of sunrise at Table Rock near Medford, Oregon, with low fog covering a large pond at the base.

Table Rock is not well-known outside of the Rogue Valley, but it is perhaps the most heralded natural feature in the region amongst locals of Medford and Central Point.

You will catch your first glimpse of Table Rock from the I-5 freeway as you near Central Point. If you are looking for an excuse to stretch your legs with a view to savor, you can hike to the top of both Upper and Lower Table Rock.

Upper Table Rock is a 3.2-mile roundtrip climb with a moderate elevation gain. Most hikers only need a little over an hour to reach the top. It is also the more popular for the views.

Lower Table Rock is about double this at over 6 miles roundtrip, but can still be done in a half-day visit.


🍷 9. Taste World Famous Pinot Noir in the Rogue Valley

A photo of Del Rio vineyard, one of the most awarded wineries in Southern Oregon.

The 2004 film “Sideways” brought significant notoriety to what Oregonians already knew; we produce some incredible wine! In particular, Pinot Noir from Oregon is considered the best in the world!

Four even seasons and ample space have created an ideal home for vineyards in Southern Oregon. What’s more, the idyllic scenery of the Rogue Valley and surrounding areas provide wine tasters with a treat that the eyes can enjoy while the nose and mouth are hard at work.

Even if you do not consider yourself a connoisseur, a day in a tasting room or outdoor space in the beautiful Southern Oregon wine country is truly one of the most enjoyable ways to spend an afternoon or evening.

Below are the most popular wineries and tasting rooms in the region:

  • Del Rio Vineyards
  • 2Hawk Winery
  • RoxyAnn Winery
  • DANCIN Vineyard

For full enjoyment, let someone else do the driving! Consider a full-day winery tour so you can just relax and enjoy the wine and views!


🌊 10. Day Trip to the Oregon Coast & California Redwoods

The Southern Oregon coast is perhaps the most photogenic coastline in the entire US. It is less known for its beaches, however, than for the incredible sea stacks, natural bridges, arches, and other forms of savage and wild beauty.

Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor is the best stretch of all for witnessing this spectacular nature. This is an 11-mile stretch that begins just north of the Oregon border city of Brookings.

From Medford, the drive to the Southern Oregon coast is about 2.5 hours, so you will want to spend at least the day if not one night there.

On the way, you will drive through sections of mighty California Redwoods National & State Park and are absolutely encouraged to stop to experience these up close and personal! These stoic, arbor monoliths have seen a lot in their centuries on this planet, and standing amongst them is a humbling experience.

Jedidiah Smith State Park will be your easiest point of access, though you will see redwood trees from Hwy 199 that takes you to the coast.

🌊 FIND OUT MORE:
TOP 10 BEST PLACES ON THE SOUTHERN OREGON COAST


πŸ§— 11. Go Spelunking at Oregon Caves National Monument

Spelunking at Oregon Caves National Monument is one of the favorite activities and best things to do in Southern Oregon.

Located outside of Cave Junction in a remote part of Southern Oregon, the Oregon Caves National Monument is a 4,554-acre park that protects an underground wonderland.

Spelunkers (a term for people who enjoy exploring caves) will discover a world of stalactites, stalagmites, and other natural phenomena that have taken eons to create drop by drop.

If you have never explored caves before, this is one of the best things to do in Southern Oregon. The ranger-guided tours require a bit of maneuvering in tight spaces, but the experience is a lot of fun for those without claustrophobia and you will be amazed at how diverse nature’s artistry truly is.


β›· 12. Hit the Slopes of Mt Ashland

A skiier on the slopes of Mt Ashland in Southern Oregon on the California border.

Mt Ashland is the crown jewel that looms above the artsy, quirky city of Ashland. In the summer, hikers and downhill mountain bikers enjoy the twisting trails that lead to some incredible views of Mt McLoughlin and the Cascade Mountain range.

In the winter, the mountain is transformed into a snow-covered powder wonderland perfect for skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and snow-shoeing.

While Mt Ashland is not up there with the likes of Jackson Hole or Breckenridge, it is an easily-accessible destination even in the winter for those seeking a fun family ski trip or who just want to spend a day on the slopes.

When the snow is thawed, this is one of the best places in the state for mountain biking and other downhill adventure sports.

Other things worth checking out in Ashland are Lithia Park, the natural hot springs at Jackson Wellsprings or Lithia Springs, and one of the best scenes for foodies and art lovers in all of Oregon.

Ashland is also host to numerous events year-round, the most famous being the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) which you may have noticed already feature on this list.


🌌 13. Stargaze the Famously Dark Night Skies

Stargazing in Southern Oregon from Willow Lake with the Milky Way captured over Mt Mcloughlin.

Southern Oregon is home to some of the darkest night skies in the state. With no metropolises for hundreds of miles in any direction, astrophotographers and casual stargazers alike will be blown away by the incredible display of infinite space on any clear night.

Those of you visiting Southern Oregon from a city should make it a point to spend at least one evening somewhere remote appreciating our night sky.

If you visit between March and September on a night without moonlight, you will easily be able to spot the Milky Way with the naked eye (just don’t expect the color and detail that a camera can achieve).

Any dark place is good, but any lake will be an especially good bet. Lakes will have unobstructed views and tend to be free of light pollution at night. Those with views of Mt McLoughlin are even better!


πŸ‘¨β€πŸŒΎ 14. Explore Historic Jacksonville

An old barn and covered wagon are seen in this photo from historic Jacksonville near Medford, Oregon.

Jacksonville is a small, charming town outside of Medford that has done an impressive job preserving its history while keeping up with modern needs. It is a juxtaposition of the Old West with modern services, and it is awesome!

I highly recommend spending an evening grabbing dinner at one of the many amazing restaurants and exploring the very walkable town on foot.

On Thursdays, you can sample local craft beers and BBQ’d oysters outside at Bella Union, then walk across the street to the old-fashioned Boomtown Saloon for a game of shuffleboard.

And, if your visit times out for the summer months, be sure to check out a show at the Britt Festival. This outdoor concert and comedy venue is truly one of the best in the country.


πŸŒ… 15. Spend a Day on the Lake of Your Choice

Sunrise at Willow Lake in Southern Oregon featuring a spectacular sky and snow capped Mt Mcloughlin

There are simply too many beautiful lakes in Southern Oregon to declare one as “the best” to visit. I certainly have some favorites of course which I will name below, but I urge you to spend a relaxing day breathing in the fresh air and being mindful of this planet’s beauty at any one of them.

Your personal interests will largely determine which option is the best for you. For photographers, Willow Lake is my favorite as the views of Mt McLoughlin are unbeatable, especially at night and at sunrise. Fish Lake and Four Mile Lake provide similar views and experiences.

Diamond Lake is located on the way to Crater Lake and is a very popular place for weekend fishing trips. There is also a lodge, making overnight stays easier for those not planning on camping.

If you are staying in Medford and want something nearby, Agate Lake and Emigrant Lake will be the best options.


🧺 16. Picnic at Valley of the Rogue State Park

Drone photo of the cascade mountains from Valley of the Rogue State Park in Southern Oregon.

Located right off of the I-5 freeway just beyond the city of Rogue River is, surprisingly, the most-visited state park in all of Oregon at Valley of the Rogue State Park.

To be clear, this is by no means the most impressive park. Its high visitor count is most certainly a product of its proximity to a major thoroughfare than to the activities available, but it is also just a lovely, tranquil place to spend an afternoon!

Valley of the Rogue follows a section of the Rogue River where people can float, swim, picnic, or camp. Restrooms and camping facilities are available, as are picnic tables.

If you are just traveling through Southern Oregon and looking for the best things to do without a detour, Valley of the Rogue State Park will be your best bet for a quick-stop destination.


πŸŒ„ 17. Hop Across the Border to Behold Mt Shasta

A photo of Mt Shasta at sunrise from just across the Southern Oregon / Northern California border.

Every now and then, you will catch glimpses of the incredible twin peaks of Mt Shasta from Southern Oregon. As beautiful as it is from here, it is absolutely spellbinding up close!

The drive from Medford to Weed, a city at the base of Mt Shasta, is only a little over an hour and is well worth it!

Whether you want to enjoy a day on a nearby lake and appreciate its grandeur, hike some of the nearby trails, or find some waterfalls and hot springs, the Shasta-Trinity National Forest provides a wealth of unforgettable opportunities for nature lovers.

This can easily be done as a day trip from Southern Oregon, or as part of a road trip. Equally, those with the time should consider staying at least one night nearby. Castle Lake is a particularly amazing place to watch the sunrise!

πŸ” READ THE COMPLETE GUIDE:
SHASTA-TRINITY NATIONAL FOREST ULTIMATE GUIDE: BEST HIKES & VIEWS


πŸ§€ 18. Taste the “World’s Best Cheese” Award Winner at Rogue Creamery

A photo of the award winning "world's best cheese" Oregon Blue from Rogue Creamery.
PC: Rogue Creamery

Calling the Oregon Blue Cheese from Rogue Creamery the “best in the world” is not hyperbole; this local treasure was actually awarded the incredible distinction at the 2019/2020 World Cheese Awards in Bergamo, Italy.

According to their website:
“A panel of over 250 of the world’s foremost cheese connoisseurs chose Rogue River Blue as Grand Champion – a first for an American-made cheese.”

If that doesn’t qualify as one of the best things to do in Southern Oregon for the foodies amongst you, nothing will!

You can visit Rogue Creamery at their Cheese Shop in Central Point, Oregon, or visit the farm itself out in Grants Pass.


πŸͺ¨ 19. Scramble About the Avenue of the Boulders

The Avenue of the Boulders is a scenic stretch of the Rogue River named for the giant boulders that occupy the river bed. You will find it on the way to Crater Lake from Medford if you take the Mill Creek Drive detour.

Scrambling amongst these boulders as part of an adventurous sort of hike is a favorite thing to do in Southern Oregon for locals. However, those with mobility issues or a lack of time and desire for such things can still enjoy picturesque views of the area from the Mill Creek Drive bridge.

While here, you will also want to make sure you arrange some time for Mill Creek Falls and Barr Creek Falls nearby, as well as Pearsony Falls in the town of Prospect just up the road.

Long exposure photography from Pearsony Falls in the small town of Prospect, Oregon.
Pearsony Falls

🌳 20. Spend the Night in a Treehouse at Out’N’About

One of the treehouses you can stay in at Out'n'About Treehouses in Southern Oregon
PC: Out’N’About

Fulfill that childhood dream of staying in a real-life treehouse at Out’n’About in Cave Junction.

Tucked away in the Illinois Valley is this quirky “Treesort” where guests can sleep in one of several treehouses.

You will be absolutely amazed at the level of functionality they have achieved, and the night you spend here is sure to be one you talk about whenever you think back on your time in Oregon.

For the adventurous, they offer ziplining on-site with several different courses to choose from. Additionally, they offer horseback rides and rafting trips.


🚀 21. Hellgate Jet Boat Excursion

A photo of one of the Hellgate Jetboat Excursion boats racing past Caveman Bridge in downtown Grants Pass, Oregon.
PC: Hellgate Jetboat Excursion

Hellgate Jetboat Excursions is a local family-run business providing one of the best things to do in Southern Oregon for the whole family.

Take a thrilling ride along the Rogue River gliding inches above the water on a fast-paced and scenic joyride.

Make it even more of an adventure by opting for one of their 4-hour brunch or dinner options. With these, you’ll enjoy a narrated tour of 36 miles of the river through the beautiful Hells Canyon before stopping at Hellgate River Lodge for a champagne brunch or dinner.


🚣 22. Kayak Crystal Clear Wood River in Klamath Falls

A photo of Wood River in Klamath Falls from a kayak, taken by Michael McCullough
PC: Michael McCullough

The head of Wood River features some of the most incredible color and water clarity you will ever float on.

No experience is necessary for this tranquil water expedition outside of Klamath Falls, just rent or borrow a kayak and be sure to bring a camera.

Even if kayaking is not your thing, take a trip to the Wood River Day Use area to marvel at the scenery. The USDA Forest Service maintains this area, providing camping and facilities for a day trip or overnight visit.


πŸ₯Ύ 23. Hike Part of the Pacific Crest Trail

A female hiker walks a section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) on a snow dusted day in Southern Oregon.

The Pacific Crest Trail (aka the PCT) is a National Scenic Trail spanning the entire 2,650-mile range from Mexico to Canada.

It has been a famous pilgrimage of sorts for generations but received a new level of fame following the 2014 hit film “Wild” based on the book by Cheryl Strayed.

Most hikers will only ever do a few miles of the PCT, though there are plenty of people out there who have walked every single mile. This is typically done in shifts, but some have achieved it all in one season.

If you are one of those people who likes to tick off bucket lists, some sections of the PCT are easily accessible from Southern Oregon, allowing you to wander as far along it as your heart desires.

The easiest access point in the region will be just outside of Crater Lake.


🍺 24. Explore the Growing Craft Beer Scene

A young woman sips on a sample of craft beer with a tasting flight on the table in front of her at Portal Brewing in Medford, Oregon.

The craft beer scene has exploded in Southern Oregon. Between the dozens of local breweries and the countless regional vineyards, there is no shortage of options for those whose idea of exploring a place includes at least a bit of imbibing.

Every city in Southern Oregon has at least a couple craft breweries, but Medford is the stand out!

Among them, Common Block has emerged as one of the best places in the city for a bite and a brew, especially in the summer months when the ample outdoor seating space is available. This is a great starting point for a fun night out in downtown Medford.

If you want something funky and creative, Portal Brewing is our favorite for experimental beers.

Bricktowne Brewery nearby is a nice social option as well.

Other top options include Walkabout in Medford, Caldera in Ashland, and Weekend Beer Co. in Grants Pass.


🎰 25. Try Your Luck at Seven Feathers Casino

Feeling lucky? The Seven Feathers Casino is conveniently located directly adjacent to the I-5 as you travel through Southern Oregon in either direction.

In addition to offering all of the usual slots and games, this full-service venue also brings in famous performers for weekend shows. Admittedly, most of them are a bit past the prime of their careers, but the shows are still plenty entertaining!

For those with the time and discipline, I would recommend a quick stop to fuel up at the cheapest pumps in the state, then ducking in for a budgeted round of gaming at most.

πŸ“ Tips for Planning Your Trip to Southern Oregon

Now that you know all the best places to visit in Southern Oregon, it’s time to plan the rest of your visit!

This section will provide insight into the important planning bits such as where to stay, how to get around, and so on.


πŸŒƒ Best Cities to Stay in Southern Oregon

Welcome to Medford sign on sunny day.

Depending on your exact itinerary, there are several solid cities to consider staying in Southern Oregon. Below is a breakdown of the best options and considerations to factor in when deciding which is best for you.


Medford / Central Point

A sunny day photo from the backroads of Medford, Oregon.

Medford or nearby Central Point will be the best place to stay in Southern Oregon for the majority of visitors.

Because this is the largest city in the region, it is where you will find the widest range of accommodation in terms of size, price, and quality. It is also where you will find the most services and restaurants, as well as some nightlife.

Medford is centrally located while also being adjacent to the I5, making it the ideal home base for your time in Southern Oregon.

Perhaps most importantly, Medford has the only major airport in Southern Oregon.

⭐️ Best for: Most travelers, especially longer stays, those wanting to explore numerous areas, and those flying in and/or out.


Ashland

Just down the freeway is the touristy city of Ashland.

Ashland is the most charming and interesting of the cities in Southern Oregon, with a real focus on all things hand-made, artisan, and craft. It features an eccentric mix of artists, college kids, and tie-dye-touting retirees.

Ashland is a great option for character, but is going to be by far the most expensive option for all services, including gas, accommodation, and food. There is even a city tax that does not exist anywhere else in the state.

⭐️ Best for: Non-budget travelers who are not planning many day trips.


Grants Pass

A goose takes a sunset swim in the Rogue River under the Caveman Bridge in Grants Pass, Oregon.

Grants Pass is the gateway city to the Southern Oregon coast, and the second largest city in the area.

It offers a full range of services and amenities, and is also the home and birthplace of the increasingly famous “Dutch Bros Coffee”.

Grants Pass is a beautiful city located on the Rogue River and is a solid option to consider. It is closer to the coast and Oregon Caves, but much further from the waterfalls and Crater Lake. There is also just a bit less to do here than in Medford, especially at night.

⭐️ Best for: Accessing the Southern Oregon coast, and a good option for a night or two.


Klamath Falls

Once a city to avoid, the mountain town of Klamath Falls is rapidly being restored and improved thanks to a flood of California money moving in.

Parks that were once untouchable are now great places to walk the dogs and enjoy the day, and a bar scene that once brought chills is becoming safe and enjoyable.

Still, I would not recommend Klamath Falls as a base of operations for most visiting Southern Oregon. It is the most remote option and requires traversing a mountain pass that is often snowy and icy, even in non-winter months.

It is also a longer distance from the I-5 and the least central location for most of the best things to do in the region.

While I went to college at OIT in Klamath Falls and will always have a lot of love for the city, this will not be the best option for most of you.

⭐️ Best for: Access to Crater Lake and Mt Shasta in summer.


πŸš— Getting Around Southern Oregon

Aerial view of Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon with snowcapped mountains and low clouds over pine trees.

The only way to get around Southern Oregon is by vehicle. Bus and plane services can get you to Medford, but you will need a rent a car or van to get around once here.

The good news is that the roads are all easily drivable even during the winter months. Standard 2WD vehicles will be able to get you to any of the locations featured in this guide unless a rare winter storm has recently hit hard.

Even the roads to the waterfalls, hot springs, and remote destinations mentioned will be paved, plowed, and typically accessible year-round.


🚍 Southern Oregon Tours

While I would recommend renting a car and exploring Southern Oregon on your own to see the most of this beautiful region, I appreciate this is not the best option for everyone.

For those of you that prefer tours, you will find that the options are much more limited than in other parts of the USA. However, below are some of the best-rated tours available to consider.


Multi-Day Tours

A pink sky over Wizard Island covered in snow at Crater Lake photographed during blue hour.

5-Day Exploration of Southern Oregon

Starting in Medford, this 5-day tour takes you to all the main highlights in Southern Oregon, including Crater Lake, Rogue Creamery, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Hellgate Jetboat Excursions, Wineries, and more.

This is perhaps the best tour option for seeing the highlights of the region in a few days.


Water draining into Thors Well on the Oregon coast at sunset with a dramatic golden sky under dark clouds.

7-Day Oregon South Experience

While not strictly a Southern Oregon tour, this 7-day Oregon tour does take you to a few of the best places to visit in Southern Oregon. Some of these include Crater Lake, the Southern Oregon coast, the Rogue River, and California Redwoods.

It starts and finishes in Portland and visits other parts of Oregon too. This would be a good option for those that want a whistlestop tour of the state and don’t mind traveling at a fast pace.


Day Tours in Southern Oregon

Rogue River Rafting Tours

There are a number of great tour options for rafting the Rogue River. Whether you’re looking for a half-day scenic float, full-day white water rafting, or even a multi-day adventure, you can find it.

Below are some of the top-rated Rogue River rafting tours:


Golden light spills onto Del Rio winery in Southern Oregon on an otherwise moody, cloudy day.

Full-Day Tour of Rogue Valley Wineries

Spend the afternoon sipping world-class wines and taking in gorgeous views as you visit three distinct wineries in the Bear Creek region.

πŸ™‹β€β™€οΈ FAQs About Things to do in Southern Oregon

This section answers the most frequently asked questions regarding the best things to do in Southern Oregon. Simply click the drop-down arrows to reveal answers.

What are the best things to do in Southern Oregon?

The top 25 best things to do in Southern Oregon are:

  1. Visit Crater Lake National Park
  2. Chase Waterfalls Through Umpqua National Forest
  3. Soak in a Natural Hot Spring at Toketee
  4. Raft the Famous Rogue River
  5. Hike Iconic Mt McLoughlin
  6. Make a Fur Friend at Wildlife Images
  7. Attend a Play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
  8. Hike to the Top of Table Rock
  9. Taste World Famous Pinot Noir in the Rogue Valley
  10. Day Trip to the Oregon Coast & California Redwoods
  11. Go Spelunking at Oregon Caves National Monument
  12. Hit the Slopes of Mt Ashland
  13. Go Stargazing & Milky Way Hunting
  14. Explore Historic Jacksonville
  15. Spend a Day on the Lake
  16. Picnic at Valley of the Rogue State Park
  17. Hop Across the Border to Shasta-Trinity National Forest
  18. Taste the “World’s Best Cheese” Award Winner at Rogue Creamery
  19. Scramble About the Avenue of the Boulders
  20. Spend the Night in a Treehouse at Out ‘ N ‘ About
  21. Hellgate Jet Boat Excursion
  22. Kayak Crystal Clear Wood River in Klamath Falls
  23. Hike Part of the Pacific Crest Trail
  24. Explore the Growing Craft Beer Scene
  25. Try Your Luck at 7 Feathers Casino
What is Southern Oregon known for?

Southern Oregon is best known for its four-season climate ideal for growing pears and wine grapes, and is also becoming known for the outstanding natural beauty of the region.

Southern Oregon is also the region where you will find only National Park in the state in Crater Lake NP.

A photo of Crater Lake National Park at sunrise with Wizard Island in the foreground.
What is Medford Oregon known for?

Medford is known for being the largest city in Southern Oregon and the gateway to the beautiful Rogue Valley. In addition to boasting impressive natural beauty, the Medford area is famous for its vineyards, craft beer scene, and pears.

Rows of pear trees line the foreground with Table Rock in the distance in this photo from Medford Oregon.
Where should I stay in Southern Oregon?

Medford is the best place to stay in Southern Oregon. As the largest city, it provides the widest range of services & accommodation as well as an ideal central location for exploring locally.

Other popular areas to consider are Central Point, Eagle Point, Ashland, and Grants Pass.

Is Jacksonville Oregon worth visiting?

The historic town of Jacksonville is one of the most charming and quirkiest towns in the entire state of Oregon. Visitors will enjoy the modern amenities juxtaposed with the Old West character.

An old barn and covered wagon are seen in this photo from historic Jacksonville near Medford, Oregon.
Is Southern Oregon worth visiting?

Southern Oregon is home to some of the most beautiful and diverse nature in the United States. Travelers with an interest in outdoor activities should absolutely include Southern Oregon on any west coast itinerary.

A log fog sweeps over a snowy forest with the Cascade Mountains looming above in this winter photo from Southern Oregon.
Is Southern Oregon pretty?

Southern Oregon is a stunning region for nature lovers, boasting endless waterfalls, mesas, deserts, coast, and of course, the only National Park in the state (Crater Lake). It is an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Sunrise at Willow Lake in Southern Oregon featuring a spectacular sky and snow capped Mt Mcloughlin
How far is the ocean from Medford Oregon?

By car, Crescent City is the closest point on the coast from Medford and is a 2 hour & 15-minute drive (111 miles). Brookings is the closest point on the Oregon side of the border at 2.5 hours.

Night photography from Brookings on the Oregon Coast with the Milky Way above a seastack and a creek leading up to it.

πŸ“– More Oregon Travel Guides

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Are you planning a larger road trip around Oregon and the beautiful Pacific Northwest? Or perhaps you’re a local just looking to get out and explore more of our beautiful state?

Browse the titles below for some of our most popular Oregon travel guides:

πŸ’¬ Final Thoughts on the Best Things to Do in Southern Oregon

A full moon over Mt McLoughlin creates an unusual night rainbow in a cloud formation blowing off the snow-covered tip of the mountain, captured at Willow Lake in Southern Oregon.

The two of us work very hard to create these free travel guides to help you plan your dream vacation. If you think we’ve done a good job and would like to say thanks, please consider clicking the donate button below πŸ™‚

I truly hope you have found this guide on the best things to do in Southern Oregon useful as you plan your trip to my hometown!

Though admittedly biased, I genuinely believe this region to be one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated parts of Oregon… especially for nature lovers!

Now, I’d like to hear from YOU!

Was there anything missing from this guide you think needs to be included? Anything that is unclear? Was it everything you hoped and more?

Help us to help future readers by sharing your thoughts in the comments below!

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2 thoughts on “🌲 25 Epic Things to Do in Southern Oregon: 2023 Bucket List”

  1. Love it! This is an easy link to share with out of town friends who are coming to visit. It also reminds me to get back there and check things out again since my SOSC college days are long gone.

    Reply

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