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35+ awe-inspiring things to do in Southern Oregon

If you’re trying to plan out your next Oregon adventure, head to the south. There are so many fun and exciting things to do in Southern Oregon. I mean, the state really has it all—do you love quirky cities full of craft beer and coffee shops? Visit Portland. Can’t get enough of the great outdoors? Check out the Rogue Valley. Obsessed with beaches? Take an Oregon Coast road trip. Intrigued by small towns? Oregon’s full of them. And Southern Oregon has a little bit of it all and for all seasons.


Southern Oregon is a unique area to explore for your next trip to this state. It has great outdoor recreation opportunities, interesting towns, and tons of beautiful scenery to enjoy.

If I were to pick one reason to head to this region, it’s to experience the great outdoors.

There are so many opportunities to get outside, from hiking, rafting, fishing, sand dune buggying, to so much more. Oregon is one of the top places in the United States to spend time outdoors!

But beyond the outdoor activities, southern Oregon has a lot of cultural and other attractions, too. Highlights include historic railways, art galleries, wineries and craft breweries, music festivals, and so much more! This post is your ultimate guide to all the epic adventures and things to do in Southern Oregon. 

I have visited Oregon a few times, mostly Portland and the Oregon Coast. Since I haven’t been able to explore every corner of the state (yet!), we collaborated with some other bloggers to get their input and expertise into the best things to do in Southern Oregon. So, this guide has some real first-hand recommendations to offer. We hope you enjoy planning your south Oregon adventure! 

Lakes at Alvord Desert
Alvord Desert

Ready to get started? Here are all the things to do in southern Oregon that must make it onto your to-do list!

Top 4 must visit places in Southern Oregon 

Before moving forward and talking about all the amazing things you can do in Southern Oregon and the best places to visit, I would like to share what other bloggers say about their absolute favorite must-do in Southern Oregon that you cannot miss. 

Camping on the Alvord Desert

By Agnes at The Van Escape

Alvord desert
Photo © Agnes

Oregon is famous for its beautiful coastline and lush forests, but it is also home to lesser-known places like the desert. The Alvord Desert is located in southeastern Oregon, in Harney County, near the Nevada border.

It used to be a lake, but now it is the 12 by 7-mile dry lake bed. This alien landscape is called Playa. You can admire the majestic Steens Mountains in the background, making this place extremely photogenic.

Alvord Desert is a unique place that offers a lot of excitement and fun. You can camp there, admire the starry sky and listen to the howling of the coyotes. You can drive through the desert. There are also car races. And finally, you can soak yourself in the rustic Alvord Desert Hot Springs at the gate of the desert. 

The best time to visit is summer, autumn, and winter. The driest season is from July to November. Spring is not a good idea as the desert could be sticky and muddy.

The desert is a remote area with no phone or wifi reception, so it pays to be well prepared for the trip. Take plenty of water, food, and a full tank of gas. There are no services in the area. The nearest gas station is in Burns.


Visit Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor

By Jessica at Uprooted Traveler

Samuel H Boardman coastal view
Photo © Jessica

Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor may sound like a bit of a mouthful, but this little slice of paradise is so much more than that.

Located in Brookings, Oregon along the coast, Samuel H. Boardman boasts some of the most scenic vistas of stunning sea stacks, craggy beaches, and dramatic cliffs anywhere along the coastline.

Located along Highway 101, it’s the perfect stop during an Oregon road trip to see, perhaps, the most picturesque vistas of the Pacific Ocean in the entire Pacific Northwest! 

The park, which has free admission, is full of easy and short hiking trails, perfect for the whole family. Consider, for example, Natural Bridges, the park’s most iconic spot, with a mossy natural arch gracefully curving over the turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean below.

If you’re looking for a great picnic spot, stop at Secret Beach– the beach is packed with towering sea stacks, wildflowers, and moody Pacific Northwest vibes. 

And for a hike that’s perfect for the whole family, plan a stop at Arch Rock, a 0.2 mile flat and easy loop that overlooks rocky islands and unexplored coastline. If you’re only going to make one stop along the Oregon coast, Samuel H. Boardman should definitely be at the top of your list!


Crater Lake National Park

By Francesca Makana at Homeroom Travel

Crater Lake National Park
Photo © Francesca Makana

Crater Lake National Park is one of the best things to do in Southern Oregon. Not only is it a gorgeous and picturesque spot, but there are also numerous fun hiking trails. 

The best time to visit Crater Lake National Park is in the late summer or early fall. In the wintertime, many of the roads are closed due to snow so you cannot access certain parts of the park. By visiting in the summertime, all the hiking trails will be open, and you can even get the opportunity to actually swim in the lake!

To get to Crater Lake, you will need to fly into Medford. Eugene or Portland are also cheaper options to fly into, but you will have a longer drive. From Medford, you can follow the 62 east to the entrance. 

Visitors must hike the Cleetwood Cove Trail. This trail is the only one that leads down to the lake. From there, you have the opportunity to get in the water or take a boat to Wizard Island in the middle of the lake. 

Crater lake oregon
Crater lake

Another must-do at Crater Lake National Park is driving the 33-mile Rim Drive around the park. This drive offers over 30 pull-offs for scenic views. Along the way, make sure to take the Plaikni Falls hike to a gorgeous waterfall.


Klamath Falls

By Trijit Mallick from Budget Travel Buff

Klamath Falls

Klamath Falls is known for its numerous adventure activities and endless natural scenic beauty. Surprisingly, this is one of the most affordable places in Oregon to visit and live in.

Klamath Falls is about five hours drive from Portland and a three-hour drive from Eugene. Amtrak train is also available that runs from Portland to Klamath Falls twice daily. 

The best time to visit Klamath Falls is from June to September when the weather is pleasant, warm, and with less rainfall.

It is an excellent location for rafting, boating, and canoeing because there are plenty of rivers in and around this area.  The presence of beautiful state parks also makes this place a paradise for nature lovers.

Begin your Klamath Falls trip by exploring the natural beauty of Moore Park which is located north of Upper Klamath Lake.

It is the largest park that is spread across 450 acres. It’s a heaven for hikers, bikers, and bird watchers. You can hike through the dense pine and juniper or can watch great bald eagles and a variety of warblers.

The Link River Trail is another popular choice among nature enthusiasts. Admire the natural beauty of this area and enjoy it to its fullest. The trail is filled with lush vegetation and you can walk through the gravel path or enjoy biking in the evening.

Klamath Falls is incomplete without visiting the Klamath, the main attraction of Klamath Falls. You will be amazed by the serenity and tranquillity of this place. You can spend your whole day just by relaxing and enjoying the breathtaking views of the lake.



All the things to do in Southern Oregon

Ok, now that we have shown the absolute must in Southern Oregon, here below I have shared everything I found in my research about this awe-inspiring region.

Get lost in nature by visiting some of the most beautiful state parks

There are a lot—254 to be exact—of state parks throughout Oregon. And, luckily, there is no shortage of them in the southern region either! Whether you’re interested in casual picnics or intense hikes, there’s something for you!

Here are a few state parks to visit in southern Oregon:

  • Umpqua Lighthouse State Park: Located near the town of Winchester Bay on the Oregon Coast. This park has, as the name suggests, a great lighthouse to check out and some beautiful walks with views out over the ocean.
Oregon Caves National Monument
Oregon Caves National Monument
  • Tou Velle State Park: This park is located on the bank of the scenic Rogue River, close to the Ashland and Medford area. It’s a day-use park with picnic areas at the foot of Table Rocks (upper and lower Table Rock), which are volcanic plateaus.
  • Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest: A beautiful forest with recreational areas for hiking and picnicking as well as overnight camping. Make sure to spend some time at Applegate Lake! It might not be the deepest lake in the state—that would be Crater lake!—but it’s picturesque and a great place to spend the day and go for a swim.
Rogue River
Rogue River

Of course, there are many, many more state parks in southern Oregon—here is a full list. Get out there and enjoy!


Go Hiking

You might be getting the idea already, but Oregon is a great place to explore nature and get outside! The environment makes it perfect for outdoor recreation.

Hiking is one of the easiest ways to enjoy the outdoors and wins bonus points for being free. Hiking is also one of the most popular activities because you can do it year-round, depending on the trails you choose. 

MT MCLOUGHLIN

There are endless hiking options throughout southern Oregon, but here are some of the top picks:

  • Mt. Mcloughlin: This is a challenging trail located in Winema National Forest. Your starting point is likely to be from Medford or Ashland, as it is not too far away. The trail is 10.6 miles long with an elevation gain of over 3,300 feet. Like all challenging hikes, though, it’s worth it for the views!
  • Hike to see 10 waterfalls in Umpqua National Forest: There are so many different waterfalls in the Umpqua Forest, located in the Cascade Mountain range of central-south Oregon. Pick a trail from this list and see some of the beautiful sites!
Pacific Crest Trail
Pacific Crest Trail
  • Pacific Crest Trail: Made famous by the novel and film adaption, “Wild,” the Pacific Crest Trail is an epic hiking option! The entire trail is 2,650 miles… unlikely you have the time for that! But you can definitely enjoy this iconic hike in small sections. Details and day hike options of the Pacific Crest Trail are available on the Pacific Crest Trail website, so you can spend some time enjoying it while in southern Oregon.
  • Natural Bridges Cove: This trail is located in the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor near Brookings, Oregon. The natural bridge loop is just 0.5 miles long but is quite steep and narrow. The views are out over the ocean and unique rock formations that look like bridges. You’ll definitely want to bring your camera for this one!
NATURAL BRIDGES
  • Rocky Ann Peak Trail: This is a moderate trail near Medford, Oregon. It’s about 12km long with little elevation gain. You’ll enjoy some amazing views of wild flower meadows! 

Enjoy good wine and craft beer

One of the best things to do on a vacation is to sit back and relax with a good drink in hand. It can also be fun to explore a new area by checking out local wineries, vineyards, or breweries. And, luckily, southern Oregon has a lot of great options! Whether you love a pinot noir or an IPA—or both!—there’s something for you. 

Here are some of the top experiences to grab a drink in southern Oregon:

  • Visit wine country. The central-south region of Oregon is perfectly suited for growing grapes, thanks to the perfect elevation and climate. The wine region consists of the Umpqua Valley, the Rogue Valley, the Applegate Valley, and Jacksonville. 
WINE TRAIL
  • Get your fill of craft beers on the southern Oregon Ale Trail through Ashland, Medford, and Grants Pass.
  • Sit at a seaside tasting room to enjoy some brews at Arch Rock Brewing (Gold Beach) or Misty Mountain Brewing & Tap Haus (Brookings).


Pro tip: ask your server at the restaurant if they serve any local beer, wine, or other alcoholic beverages. This is a great way to try something new and support local companies as well!


Have some fun on the Sand Dunes

Popular images of Oregon often include long, sweeping sandy beaches with miles and miles of sand dunes. Southern Oregon is the best place to experience this iconic sand-dune experience!

The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is a state park and 31,500-acre portion of the Siuslaw National Forest. The nearest town to this area is Reedsport (almost the central point of the Oregon Coast) though other towns are also connected to the dunes.

There are so many fun ways to play and explore on the sand dunes. Here are some recommendations:

  • Take a walk. The most simple and easy way to enjoy the sand dunes. Just make sure you read signs as you walk on the dunes, as there are some areas that are not very stable.
  • Go sand dune buggying! I’ve gone a few times and it is such a thrill. Imagine being on a rollercoaster… but on the sand. Sand dune buggying is accessible by a tour through a local operator.
OREGON DUNES
  • Rent fat bikes. This is a trend that’s gaining more popularity. Fat bikes are like regular bikes, but with wide tires that make it possible to bike over different terrains, like sand.
  • Go sandboarding! If you are a snowboarder, this is the summertime alternative! Or, you can use the sandboard as a toboggan and slide down on your stomach. 
  • Join the Dunefest in Winchester Bay, which has a number of events, activities, and competitions during the summer.

There are several places that you can book sand dune buggying tours or rent fat bikes or sand boards. Sand Master Park in Florence is a great option for beginners, as they have classes, lessons, and rentals. They have the first sandboard park in the world, with sculpted dunes to learn and practice your new skills


Take a Scenic Drive

Southern Oregon is a beautiful region, and one of the best ways to explore it is by going for a drive. Road trips are so much fun and give you a chance to explore and see the scenery. Grab some tunes and some snacks and then go for a drive! Here are a few routes to try:

  • The iconic Highway 101 runs down the coast of Oregon. It’s a beautiful drive with tons of spots to stop and take in the sites. The southern leg stretches (approximately) from Reedsport down to Brookings. To drive this full route, it would take nearly three hours to drive the 134 miles. But, you’ll definitely want to take your time along the way! Highway 101 is so scenic that it is a popular tourist destination in it’s own right.
HIGHWAY 101 SCENIC DRIVE SOUTH OREGON
  • The Umpqua River Scenic Byway. This 66-mile route takes you from Reedsport on the coast eastward to Oakland. It will take between 3-5 hours to complete and has amazing views of the Umpqua River, forests, and the valley.
Umpqua river scenic byway
  • Myrtle Creek to Canyonville route. This drive is a detour off of the I-5 Highway and is 68 miles long (3-4 hours drive). The loop will take you through the Cascade foothills with beautiful views of streams, farms, and forests. 
MY PICK
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Get your Adrenaline Pumping

If you’re a bit of an adrenaline-seeker, there are so many exciting options to explore in southern Oregon! Here are some of the top things to do in southern Oregon to catch some thrills:

  • Try white water river rafting! There is no shortage of rivers in Oregon, many of which have exciting rapids! The Klamath Region, Umpqua Region, and Rogue Valley all have a number of whitewater rafting tours to join.
Rafting Camp in Rogue River Oregon
  • Go on a Rogue jet boat adventure. Imagine zipping down the Rogue River in a speed boat—so much fun! You can book a tour and experience this fun adventure!
  • Go for a bike ride. This might not be as intense as the other activities, but biking is such a fun experience to have. There are a bunch of biking options, from beginner routes to more challenging ones. The Oregon Outback Scenic Bikeway is a 90-mile route, definitely for experienced bikers. Then there is the Ashland Bikeway, which is a 55-mile route along the Cascade Siskiyou Scenic Route. Or, just consider renting bikes in town and exploring the area you are staying in. 

Go Golfing

Golfing is a fun and relaxing way to enjoy the day. There are several awesome golf courses in southern Oregon, including:


Read also | 15 awesome things to do in Oregon


Eat, eat, eat!

Any good trip involves food! And there are so many great options throughout southern Oregon to find your next favorite dish. Here are some suggestions on how to make the most of your time in southern Oregon:

  • East some seafood on the coast. Coastal towns like Bandon, Port Orford, Coos Bay, Gold Beach, Brookings—anywhere along Highway 101, really!—has great seafood options. Because of the proximity to the ocean, you can get fresh fish, shellfish, fish & chips, chowders… 
  • Check out a farmer’s market. A lot of the small towns and cities in southern Oregon host farmer’s markets, especially in the summer. The farmer’s market is a great place to pick up some local, fresh food like cheese, bread, and produce. Pick something up for a picnic and enjoy!
  • Follow the Rogue Valley or Great Umpqua Food Trails. These food trails put together a map of stops just off of the highway to purchase some local food and ingredients. It’s a great way to explore farm-to-table dining in southern Oregon!
Brookings Oregon
Brooking coastline Oregon

Best towns to visit in Southern Oregon

Ashland

Ashland, Oregon is a must-see spot in southern Oregon. It’s located just 16 miles from the border with California, and holds a spot on the top ten of “The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America.” So, if you are someone who loves arts and culture, make sure to stop by! 

Ashland is famous for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which runs annually from February to November. Each year they put on multiple famous Shakespeare plays, so you won’t ever run out of ones to see! Ashland also has a ton of art galleries to visit and explore as well.

Ashland Oregon train track
Ashland Oregon

If you are interested in getting outside, go skiing at the Mt. Ashland ski area. This resort is open for both downhill skiing and snowboarding and cross-country skiing. For something a bit more low-key, enjoy the afternoon at Lithia Park or visit the Rogue River. You can just have a picnic there, or go for a river rafting adventure!

Also, read | 21 amazing things to do in Ashland Oregon


Medford and Jacksonville

Just 13 miles down the road from Ashland is Medford, another great stop in Southern Oregon. It’s a good choice if you are looking for more of an urban, city-life experience.

Medford has great restaurants, wineries, and breweries to check out. Medford also has the popular Craterian Theater which has concerts and plays to keep visitors entertained. 

Another popular tourist attraction in Medford is the Medford Railroad Park. It’s a 49-acre outdoor museum dedicated to trains.

medford - oregon

There are full-size cars and models of trains and railroad tracks. It’s often used for private functions but is open to the public on a limited basis.

It’s a fun, family-friendly place to check out! After checking out the trains, head to Bear Creek park to hang out. This park has a skate park and BMX track, so it’s fun to watch!

Jacksonville, Oregon is a suburb of Medford, just five miles away. It is known as one of the first areas that struck gold! To learn more about the history of this area, join a Jacksonville Trolley Tour. You’ll visit some beautiful vintage homes and buildings and learn more about the history of this once-booming gold rush town.

These days, Jacksonville is less about the gold and more about the music! The Britt Music & Arts Festival is a popular festival every summer since its start in the 1960s. Thousands of visitors show up to enjoy the live music from many different artists and performers.

Southern Oregon Coastline
Southern Oregon Coastline

If you want to get outside and explore, check out Forest Park. It’s a large, 1,000-acre park with tons of trails that are perfect for hiking, biking, or horseback rides. 


Bandon

Bandon, Oregon is a quintessential beach town located on the southern Oregon coast (although it is actually the most northern city mentioned in this guide).

It has beautiful beach views and picturesque lighthouses. There is also a vibrant art scene, so you can check out exhibitions and galleries. For example, the Washed Ashore Gallery has a mission to create art to save the sea and has some really unique pieces. 

Bandon Oregon Coast
Bandon beach

As a coastal town, there are endless options for great seafood. One spot to check out is the Bandon Fish Market, which serves fish and chips, chowders, and fresh fish. 


Gold Beach

Gold Beach, Oregon is located about 55 miles south of Bandon along the coast. The drive along Highway 101 here is absolutely gorgeous. Gold Beach might lay claim to the most beautiful beach in southern Oregon—just imagine miles and miles of sandy beaches to explore! 

If you’re feeling outdoorsy and adventurous, consider a boat tour on the Rogue River. Jerry’s Rogue Jets is a well-known company that will take you on either a thrilling ride or a calmer, historical route. 

You can also get some exercise and enjoy the views by hiking Otter Point. This recreation area has many excellent hiking trails up along the bluffs that overlook the beautiful Pacific Ocean.


Brookings

Brookings, Oregon is the southernmost point of the Oregon Coast. As it is just across the Californian border, the weather here is warmer and there are some great spots to explore and enjoy. 

Coastline Brookings Oregon
Coastline Brookings Oregon

One of the top recommendations in this area is to check out the Oregon Redwoods in Loeb State Park. There is a loop called the Redwood Nature Trail where you can see the massive 250-feet tall Redwood trees.


When is the best time to visit Southern Oregon? 

Like anywhere, the best time to visit southern Oregon depends on what you are planning to do. If you are a big outdoors person, you may choose the time to go based on the weather.

Hiking, biking, and rafting? Go during the summer. Skiing or snowboarding? Winter is best. Southern Oregon is a real four-season region, with warm summers and cold winters. 

Rogue River
Rogue River

You may also want to consider the tourist season, especially in some of the more popular places. If you don’t like as many tourists—or want to find some good deals on accommodations and attractions—consider visiting during the shoulder seasons in the Spring and Fall.

This is when the weather is still pleasant, but there are fewer visitors than in the summer. 

If you have a specific event that you want to go to, like the Oregon Shakespeare Festival or the Britt Music & Arts Festival, make sure your dates line up. Book accommodations well ahead of these busy events that bring in a lot of tourists. 


Southern Oregon Packing list

Similar to choosing a time to visit, your southern Oregon packing list will vary quite a bit depending on the type of activities you plan on doing. But, since there are so many options to get outdoors, it is recommended that you pack accordingly! Here are some packing essentials:

  • Rain gear, including a rain jacket, boots, umbrellas. Especially if you are visiting anytime besides the summer! You don’t want to let a little rain get in the way of exploring some of the amazing spots.
  • Sun gear, including hat, bathing suit, sunscreen. This is, of course, if you plan on going in the summer. Some parts of southern Oregon, especially inland areas like Medford and Ashland, get very hot in the summer.
  • Some clothes for a night out. Whether you’re heading to the theatre or a nice restaurant, bring something other than hiking gear to get a bit dressed up!
  • Camera and binoculars. There is such spectacular scenery all around southern Oregon that you will want to be able to see it (binoculars) and capture it (camera).
  • Campfire gear. A lot of the beaches along the coast allow you to build bonfires. This is such a fun activity, so bring along an ax and s’mores materials to make it happen! You can also usually buy campfire wood in town.
  • Road trip essentials. You’ll likely be driving a lot, so ensure you are equipped and ready to go! This means snacks and a great playlist, obviously, but also a full tank of gas and an offline map.

About the Author

alyssa writer portrait photo

Alyssa is a freelance writer with her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies degree. Alyssa is passionate about travel and has been to over 20 countries – and counting! Living in Vancouver, Canada, she loves to take advantage of the mountains and ocean by getting outdoors as much as possible. When she’s not writing, Alyssa is probably walking by the river, caring for her many houseplants, or grabbing a coffee with a friend. You can keep up with her on her personal blog.