Thoughts on Rogue Valley, OR

Old Jan 31st, 2020, 03:57 PM
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Thoughts on Rogue Valley, OR

We're considering a return visit to OR. In 2016 we visited the Willamette Valley, Cannon Beach, Bend, Hood River and Walla Walla/Dayton Washington. That trip was geared around food and wine, a bit of hiking and just taking in the scenery.

We enjoyed that visit, even with all the rain, but we were surprised at how suburban the Willamette Valley felt.

After reading my report from that trip, the suggestion was made that the Rogue Valley might be more up our alley.

Today it rained…on the road in the PNW

I've just this minute started looking at the Rogue Valley. I see that there are three main towns - Medford, Ashland and Grants Pass, but other than that I'm clueless. I'm not even sure which airport we'd fly into (coming from Denver).

I realize this is incredibly vague, but I'm wondering if anyone here could share their experiences of the Rogue Valley just to give me a feel for what it's like. Is it suburban? Rural? Lots of tourists? How about the wineries....busy like in the Willamette Valley, or more laid back? That sort of thing.
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Old Jan 31st, 2020, 04:54 PM
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The closest major airport is Portland. Medford (Rogue Valley airport) may have direct flights from Denver - check. If you fly into PDX, you can either rent a car there or take one of several trains or buses south from the Portland Amtrak station to Eugene. You can easily rent a car in Eugene for the trip south on I-5.
Do you have any desire to visit Crater Lake NP while you are in the area? Do you have any desire to visit the Pacific beaches? The Rogue River empties into the Pacific at Gold Beach.
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Old Feb 1st, 2020, 06:34 AM
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tomfuller - thank you.

Yes, Crater Lake NP and beaches are a distinct possibility.

Have you been to the Rogue Valley? How would you compare it to the Willamette in terms of busyness? Is it just more suburbia or more rural?
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Old Feb 1st, 2020, 06:47 AM
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When would you be visiting? In the summer the Rogue Valley can get hot as hell, and sometimes surprisingly humid, too.

My own view, and take this for what it's worth, is that I wouldn't spend a lot of time there, unless you're into music and Shakespeare, in which case you could take a few days and be culture vultures. There are two festivals worth noting, the Britt Festival in Jacksonville, and the ongoing-and-forever Shakespeare festival in Ashland. https://www.brittfest.org/ and https://www.osfashland.org/

Those two towns, Jacksonville and Ashland, are around 20 miles apart and can become extremely crowded during the summer months. Jacksonville is very small and quite picturesque; Ashland is full of nice old houses and is reputed to be the number one choice for retirement among clergy (old story, no idea if it's true.) It can get quite pricey during the peak Shakespeare period and we often end up staying in Medford if we go for the theater. The OSF venues, particularly the outdoor Elizabethan Theater, are very, very nice, and the city's Lithia Park is one of the highlights of the region. Ashland is close enough to the population centers in northern California that it can become mobbed, particularly over long weekends. If you want to go to one of the major plays during the Shakespeare festival, you need to buy tickets as soon as they're available; things sell out.

Medford and Grants Pass... well, in my view, meh. Not bad, just... meh. The valley floor (around Medford) is big-scale agriculture; it's the home of Harry and David, if that's a familiar name. I don't have any experience with the wineries etc., but being Oregon, I'm sure the standards are high, also with the beer. I don't think comparisons with the Willamette Valley are especially useful; they're very different (culturally too - they don't call Jackson County "Little Dixie" for nothing.)

Depending on how much time you have, I'd be tempted to break the trip into two parts - a few days around Ashland/Jacksonville, and a few out on the coast, maybe with Crescent City, Brookings or Gold Beach as a base, during which you could explore the southern Oregon coast and the northern part of the redwoods as easy day trips, then return to Medford to fly home. BTW, United has multiple DEN-MFR nonstops daily in the summer.

Map - https://goo.gl/maps/uCq279SqMMg9vFDJA

Last edited by Gardyloo; Feb 1st, 2020 at 06:57 AM.
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Old Feb 1st, 2020, 06:59 AM
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Thanks Gardyloo, I was hoping you'd see this post.

We'd be going in early May in an effort to miss some of those tourists. Late April is a distinct possibility too, but we thought the weather in May might be better. We don't do hot and humid and definitely aren't into festivals.

Our initial thought was to revisit some of the places we visited in 2016, but we're looking for quieter options, assuming OR has any. WA is a possibility too. Just brainstorming at the moment, nothing planned as of yet. Time frame is flexible, but we're thinking two weeks. Interests are food and wine, hiking, the great outdoors and as few other people as possible.
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Old Feb 1st, 2020, 07:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Melnq8 View Post
tomfuller - thank you.

Yes, Crater Lake NP and beaches are a distinct possibility.

Have you been to the Rogue Valley? How would you compare it to the Willamette in terms of busyness? Is it just more suburbia or more rural?
Yes I've been to the Rogue Valley many times over the past 14 years. Please wait until May - later the better if you want to go to Crater Lake NP. As it is, you will have to go into the park from the southern entrance off Rt. 62. The north entrance will not be open before June 15 or later due to a large amount of snow. The park service does use a large rotary plow to keep the road from the entrance up to the Crater lake lodge parking lot open.
I would describe Jackson, Josephine and Curry counties as mostly rural with fewer wineries than the Willamette Valley. Ashland is well known for the annual Shakespeare Festival. There are stage productions of plays other than Shakespeare as well. Jacksonville has a historic district that draws tourists year round.
The best route to the coast would be over Rt. 42 through Myrtle Point. Go north on US 101 to Coos Bay for a night.
Have you decided on which airport you want to fly to PDX or Rogue Valley (or Eugene)?
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Old Feb 1st, 2020, 11:13 AM
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Thanks again Tom. I've looked into flights to PDX, will check the others.
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Old Feb 1st, 2020, 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Melnq8 View Post
Thanks Gardyloo, I was hoping you'd see this post.

We'd be going in early May in an effort to miss some of those tourists. Late April is a distinct possibility too, but we thought the weather in May might be better. We don't do hot and humid and definitely aren't into festivals.

Our initial thought was to revisit some of the places we visited in 2016, but we're looking for quieter options, assuming OR has any. WA is a possibility too. Just brainstorming at the moment, nothing planned as of yet. Time frame is flexible, but we're thinking two weeks. Interests are food and wine, hiking, the great outdoors and as few other people as possible.
Well then, let me throw out some places for you to investigate.

But first, May is too early for Crater Lake - it's snowbound. And you've been to the Palouse and Walla Walla areas, and to the Columbia Gorge and Hood River Valley areas, so that's out. May (before Memorial Day) would be a good time for the Rogue Valley and redwoods/southern Oregon coast.

Other places I'd investigate, and forgive me if you've been there, done that:

- California gold country. CA Hwy 49 runs through a series of gorgeous old towns left over from the 1849 gold rush. These have become BIG wine centers of late, with the town of Murphys being the epicenter of the viticulture zone. In addition, you've got the Calaveras Big Trees, and of course Yosemite, glorious in the spring. Map - https://binged.it/2SaI2fq


- BC Okanagan and WA scablands. The BC wine region in the Okanagan Valley (spelled differently on the US side of the border) is very up-and-coming. You could easily spend a few days in this region, possibly starting with some vineyard areas in the Fraser Valley just east of Vancouver, then swing down into the US and explore the “scablands” or “coulee country” along or near the Columbia River. Places like Dry Falls State Park, and Grand Coulee dam itself, are visually stunning. You could even drive to Chelan, a lakefront resort on US 97, then take the “Lady of the Lake” ferry up fjord-like Lake Chelan to the isolated village of Stehekin, on the east edge of North Cascades National Park. You could fly in and out of either Spokane or Vancouver airport, using beautiful BC Hwy 3 if the (US) North Cascades Hwy - WA Hwy 20 – is still closed by snow. BC 3 is open year-round. Maps - https://binged.it/38VMtBx and/or https://binged.it/2OmQdUS . The second map includes the lovely Nelson BC, in the Kootenay mountains.



- BC Sunshine Coast and Gulf Islands. BC’s Sunshine Coast – on the mainland north of Vancouver but accessed by ferry – isn’t well known to US visitors, but it’s a fantastically attractive area. It’s called the “sunshine” coast because it’s in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains and Vancouver Island, so the climate is drier and sunnier than other parts of the lower BC mainland. If you want, you could make an enjoyable loop out of the trip by including some of the BC Gulf Islands, idyllic islands in the Salish Sea, full of artsy and intriguing little towns set in stunning scenery. Map - https://binged.it/2UhFoas



Last edited by Gardyloo; Feb 1st, 2020 at 12:02 PM.
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Old Feb 1st, 2020, 11:47 AM
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Wow, Gardyloo, that's fantastic! I'm off to do some research.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 10:16 AM
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Since it's wine you're after, I will throw out another suggestion for you to research: Paso Robles, CA. Fantastic wineries, food, and scenery.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 12:53 PM
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Thanks Austin, will look into it.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 12:39 PM
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I'll second the recommendation of Gold Country. It's rural and low key. In addition to Calaveras County, look at the wineries in Amador County. The towns in this region are tiny. I've been to Calaveras Big Trees a couple of times in mid-May and it's relatively quiet, beautiful time of year too. May can be a busy month in Yosemite because of the waterfalls.

https://www.calaveraswines.org/

https://amadorwine.com/
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 02:15 PM
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Thanks Patty.
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 11:36 AM
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The Rogue Valley is much more rural than the Willamette Valley. Our family settled in Jacksonville generations ago. Normally May is too early for Crater Lake for most visitors, and the rim road won't be open yet, but you can enter from the south. The way this snow pack is this year, you might be able to see quite a bit.

Gardyloo's suggestion of Stehekin is excellent. I would not opt for a day trip though, at least stay one night at least. It is a beautiful area and so remote from anything around here. No grocery stores, no ATM, no cell service, etc to give you an idea. Great hiking from there! The lodging is limited, so you definitely need to book asap, especially for the boat. Absolutely take the express boat vs the regular! If you stay at a cabin, quite a few of them will have vehicles for your use so you don't have to rely on the shuttle buses for the trailheads.

The Walllowa's in OR are great, but May is too early for real hiking there. That would be more July onward. Great area for it though, and we have done a lot of backpacking there.

We just got back from Germany and Prague last night, so I am wiped, but will come back later to read more and see if I have any useful input, lol.
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 01:19 PM
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Thank you mms. Get some sleep!
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 03:15 PM
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Melnq8--You can fly from Denver to Eugene nonstop. We have family that takes that route quite a bit. That would save you two hours from Portland, and of course the Eugene airport is tiny, so super easy to navigate. I need sleep, but DH ended up really sick at the tail end of this trip so we are off to urgent care instead. Ugh!
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 05:19 PM
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Tiny is good. I'll take a look at flights.

Have been working on a trip to Spain next month, so haven't had time to research all these great suggestions yet. Must get cracking.

Hope your DH feels better.
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Old Feb 6th, 2020, 01:47 AM
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I wasn't the one who suggested it, but I have always enjoyed Southern Oregon. I too would spend zero time in Medford, and the same with Grants Pass except as jumping off places.

More than once, we have enjoyed a ride on a jetboat on the Rogue River. Many people do this from Grants Pass. You can also sign up for a rafting excursion. Either way, the Rogue River is famous for its beauty. The author Zane Gray spent a lot of time here.

Definitely go later in May so you can be sure to see Crater Lake. I would do an overnight at the small inn near the lake or at the official lodge, then go for a bot ride on the lake (you schedule this). During the ride, you can get off and hike to the top of Wizard Island.

The Shakespeare Festival is one of the more famous ones in the United States. They also have a range of other other playrights, and very contemporary plays too. I wouldn't write this off if you don't like the Bard. And there are also tours, and a costume museum where you can try on outfits from past plays... Between the festival and a state college in town, Ashland has great restaurants and great bookstores.

We took a drive to the Oregon Caves, a national monument. The drive itself is a bit of an adventure on 199. The lodge is also just lovely with a river actually running through it.
The whole downtown of Jacksonville is on the historic register. It's just a few miles from Ashland and worth a quick visit and lunch or dinner.

You could also pair this with time on the Oregon Coast. I prefer either Florence or Bandon to Coos Bay.
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Old Feb 6th, 2020, 06:01 AM
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I agree, the boat ride at Crater Lake is great! The only thing is that usually does not start until mid July.
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Old Feb 6th, 2020, 06:15 AM
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So many choices...thanks again for all the wonderful suggestions.
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