Daily life in the city can quickly get bogged down with the fast pace demands of urban living. Even riding my bike or taking walks every day, I needed a break–a chance to slow down and actually relax far from the everyday pressures. To disconnect, I decided to get in my RV and take a trip. And there, somewhere on one of these gorgeous southern Oregon hikes, I reconnected with the land and found peace in nature.
Hiking Southern Oregon
Compared to Portland and the surrounding area, Southern Oregon is like a different world. I found my quiet center amongst the trees, mountains, and other amazing geological features of this region of Oregon on my trip. Here are 4(ish) of my favorite hikes from my road trip through this area.
As Oregon’s only national park, Crater Lake National Park was my first stop. As you round an early bend of the scenic Rim Drive, the lake’s deep, clear blue water comes into view from between the trees. I had never seen a lake like it. I would have happily done any hike in this park, but first and foremost, I set my eyes on the summit of Mount Scott. The thought of standing on top of a mountain and only having to hike up 1200 ft was too good to pass.
This 4.2 mile out & back trail may be one of the hardest trails in the park, but it is still only moderately challenging. The entire trail took me only a few hours and could’ve been shorter if I didn’t keep stopping for beautiful panoramic photos of the lake and the surrounding Cascade Range ridgeline. Come prepared as this trail can sometimes be snowy, even in the summertime.
For those looking to the water rather than the sky, check out the 2 mile Cleetwood Cove Trail which provides the only access down to the lake and to the docks where the boat tours leave. Because it is the only access, this trail was extremely crowded. It’s worth the trek and has rightfully earned its popularity–this lake is in a class of its own.
Umpqua National Forest
Just northeast of Crater Lake National Park, the Umpqua National Forest is full of beautiful first-come-first-serve campgrounds and stunning geology. Any of the waterfalls in this area are absolutely worth a visit (and many are incredibly short hikes to get to). But by far, my favorite, and possibly one of the most beautiful falls in all of Oregon, was the Toketee Falls Trail.
This short trail is almost a mile long and features a fair number of stairs. When you arrive at the viewing platform, you’re greeted with the sound of water falling more than 100 feet into a large, blue-green pool. On a sunny day, the water ripples and takes on a shimmering unparalleled color. There were no amenities at all at this trailhead, but the hike is only about a half hour long–without factoring in however long you choose to stay and be wowed by the beautiful basalt formation.
This section is a little misleading, I’ll admit. The full Rogue River National Recreation Trail stretches forty (40!) miles all the way from Grave Creek to Big Bend, OR. But I didn’t want to miss this incredible scenic area just because I didn’t have the time or gear to backpack all 40 miles of this trail. Instead, I took a short 4-mile hike on the Rainie Falls Trail.
Rainie Falls sits on the other side of the river than the big trail, but it features all of the same mighty trees and green vegetation and even a little more sun. The trail was rocky and sometimes slippery, with more waterfalls than just Rainie Falls at the end. I let myself be transported by the rich mossy scenery and fell in love with this mighty river at first sight. The rockiness and narrow spots make this trail a moderate-rated trail, but anyone near Medford, OR should make the time to go see this wonderful spot.
Cape Sebastian Trail
The Cape Sebastian Trail was a must-visit for me for a chance to see a bit of the scenic Southern Oregon coast. The trail is officially a little more than 2.5 miles long each way, but you’re going to want to keep going all the way down to the secluded little beach. When I visited this trail, I saw few other people, but I felt comfortable and safe alone on the trail.
While the beach access was incredible, the forest with coastal views between the trees made this trail one that I will visit again–hopefully during whale watching season. The sound of the ocean waves and the gentle mist really epitomized the beauty of this section of the Oregon coast so much that I couldn’t believe this well-maintained trail wasn’t much busier. I made an entire day out of this fairly short trail and came prepared with snacks and plenty of water.
Lost and Found in Southern Oregon
Ever since my trip to Southern Oregon, I have been dreaming of the lush, verdant scenery and towering heights of the Cascade Mountains. Many of the small towns I drove through along the way were welcoming and full of delicious food and wine. But forest-bathing (and some waterfall bathing) made these Southern Oregon hikes some of the most memorable in my long history of camping and hiking.
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