Excursions & Things to Do – Ashland & Medford – Southern Oregon

Excursions & Things to Do

Crater Lake
The Cascade Range stretches in an unrelenting chain from the Columbia River Gorge to the hills above Ashland. Each link in the chain has its claim to fame: northern Oregon has Mt. Hood, central Oregon, Mt. Washington and the Sisters – and southern Oregon has Crater Lake.

At first glance Crater Lake is hard to fathom. It is too big, too clear. The mind is slow to accept the scale. Eventually the view becomes real, but if you turn away briefly and turn back once again, it becomes delusive once more.

It is no wonder that the area attracts thousands of visitors every year. Most visitors experience little more than the Rim Village and the occasional vista along Rim Drive. Keeping this in mind, it is best to view the lake early in the morning. The colors are best early too; then head out for a hike in the afternoon to some less-accessible sites.

One possibility is the Lightning Springs Trail, which begins about two miles northwest of the Rim Village. The trail descends for approximately one mile and intersects the Pacific Crest Trail. Another possibility is to drive down to the Pumice Desert near the north entrance and wander along PCT through the vast emptiness.

Those looking to stay in the park have the option to camp or stay in one of two lodges. Lost Creek Campground and Mazama Campground are open between June and October, and tent sites cost $10-$15 per night.

Choosing to stay at the Crater Lake Lodge, right on the rim or at the Mazama Motor Inn just down the road, are much more expensive options. Rooms rates range from $103-$238. Travelers on a budget might splurge and enjoy just a meal at Crater Lake Lodge; the breakfasts are outstanding and the view is unbeatable – be sure to try the marionberry syrup.

The park is always open, though many roads and facilities are closed during the winter months. Entry to the park is $10 per vehicle and is good for seven days.

From Ashland, take I-5 north to Exit 30 in Medford. The off ramp will point you in the correct direction of Hwy. 62. Continue east on Hwy. 62 past the towns of White City, Shady Cove and Prospect. Approximately 55 miles out of Medford the road forks;; stay right on Hwy. 62 and continue the remaining 18 miles to the park’s west entrance.

For additional information call visitor information at 541.594.3100 or visit the National Parks website.

The Rogue Valley is home to miles of backcountry trails, many more than can be highlighted in this guide. For more information stop by the Ashland Ranger District at 645 Washington St. in Ashland (541 482 3333). An excellent book on trails in the area is Where the Trails Are by Bill Williams; inside are good descriptions and handy topographical maps.

Rogue Valley Transportation District
Upper Table Rock
Upper Table Rock is a geological must-see in the Rogue Valley. The flat-topped andesite formation rises up from the valley floor and is visible for miles in all directions. The ancient mass offers year-round hiking with incredible views of the valley. The 2.5-mile (round trip) hike is moderate in difficulty and can usually be accomplished in a few hours.

From late fall to spring the trail can be fairly muddy, so be sure to bring extra footwear as the clay-based mud is incredibly sticky. Early spring is an amazing time to be on Upper Table Rock, when little wildflowers blanket the vast summit. Be sure to bring binoculars as huge turkey vultures often soar the thermals along the cliffs.

From Ashland head north on I-5, just past Medford take Exit 33, and head east approximately one mile to Table Rock Road. Turn left on Table Rock and continue 7.5 miles to Modoc Road. Turn right on Modoc and proceed 1.5 miles to the marked trailhead parking on your left.

Pilot Rock
This lone rock sentinel once guided travelers crossing by horse and wagon from northern California to southern Oregon. Today it offers a unique opportunity for adventurous hikers.

The hike begins on the Pacific Crest Trail, which it quickly leaves in favor of a steeper, more direct trail. The trail soon turns to semi-scrambling and ends abruptly at the base of the rock. At this point, the hike turns into a climb as the route proceeds up an obvious rock gulley leading to the summit. Though not very technical, the steep gulley does require a bit of daring and the careful choice of hand and foot holds; a fall here could be serious. Beware of rock fall from above, especially if others have gone before you. Once on the summit the vista is spectacular, with views stretching far south to California and north into the Rogue Valley.

From Ashland, take I-5 north to Exit 6. The off-ramp spills onto old Hwy. 99, keep right. In approximately two miles take a left on Pilot Rock Road (40-2E-33). At two miles turn right onto road 41-2E-3. A half-mile farther keep right at a junction; the Pacific Crest Trail crosses the road slightly beyond the junction. Park, and hike east along the trail for a quarter mile to the steep track to the right that leads to the base of the rock.

Southern Oregon is a Mecca for cyclists. Whether in search of quiet secondary roads or winding high country trails, the area is sure to please. The local shops are the best source for information and directions. Several evening and weekend rides leave from the shops, and ride-ups are welcome. The Southern Oregon Mountain Bike Association usually has something happening each month, so be sure to check their site: www.somba.org

Lakes Loop (On Road)
This scenic and challenging route is a favorite among local road riders. The 50-mile loop leaves Ashland and heads north toward a long classic climb up Greensprings. Just after the summit, the ride turns north and travels along the rolling Hyatt Lake-Howard Prairie Road, eventually joining Dead Indian Memorial Road and a fast lengthy descent that heads back to Ashland.

The climb up Greensprings is quite steep in places and is fairly exposed to the sun, so be sure to bring water and sun block. The descent down Dead Indian Memorial Road is prone to gusty winds and the occasional impatient driver. Also watch for the sign warning of a cattle guard about half-way-down.

For a great map of this ride and others in the area visit Siskiyou Velohttp://www.siskiyouvelo.org/lakesloop.html

Lithia Loop (Off Road)
This 28-mile mountain bike ride begins and ends in Lithia Park in Ashland. Along the route riders experience steep climbs, awesome vistas and a speedy downhill. Park at the Upper Duck Pond in Lithia Park and begin the seven-mile-climb by riding up Granite Street, it soon turns to dirt and you arrive at a fork in the road- stay left. You are now on Glenview Drive, ride a half-mile farther and hop on Ashland Loop Road. When Ashland Loop Road turns to dirt, it becomes Forest Road 2060 – keep going!

The climb winds along Road 2060, through the watershed and is fairly shaded, though summer temperatures can still make it hot. Continue climbing until you come to a four-way intersection, at this point, aptly named "four-corners". Take the road to the right and begin approximately 15 miles of level to slightly rolling terrain, passing seasonal creeks and year-round views. Immediately following this section is a steep seven-mile dirt road descent back into Lithia Park.

Average riding time is three to five hours. Riders have spent an unplanned night in the watershed due to navigational errors, be sure to get a map! For information and a map stop by the Ashland Ranger District at 645 Washington St. in Ashland (541.482.3333), or see the friendly and knowledgeable folks in Ashland Cycle Sport at 191 Oak St. in downtown Ashland (541.488.0581).

Alternative Theatre
Artattack Theatre Ensemble
Artattack is a recent addition to theatre in Ashland and has been well-received by locals and visitors alike. The trim, compact theatre is capable of seating 45, in what has to be one of the most exciting and intimate theatre experiences around. To give an idea of the audience’s proximity to the action, each show begins with a request that audience members refrain from resting their feet on the stage!

The venue is great, the actors superb. Do not leave town without seeing a performance!

Showtimes are: 8:00pm Friday, Saturday and Monday; 2:00pm Sunday.

Tickets run $17 Friday or Saturday, and $15 Sunday or Monday.



If you want more information about this area you can email the author or check out our North America Insiders page.


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