This past summer we finally got to spend some time travelling around Southern Oregon. We had never been to Crater Lake so that was a must. After researching other possible destinations, I booked everything and we took off. Note that the Crater Lake boat tours and campgrounds fill up quickly, so be sure to book those way ahead of time!
Day 1: Leave Portland and drive to Winston
Wanted to take the kids to the Wildlife Safari in Winston. The animals are much more active in the morning, so decided to leave here the afternoon before, have a nice slow start to the trip. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Roseburg. They have a package which includes Wildlife Safari tickets and breakfast. Perfect! Swam in the pool and had a lovely leisurely evening.
Day 2: Winston Wildlife Safari, Watson Falls, Crater Lake
Breakfast in the hotel then a quick jaunt over to the wildlife safari. The drive through took about 1 1/2 hours. It was great seeing the animals up close. The kids loved this African Crane who wouldn’t leave our car alone. We would try and drive to the next area but he would stick his head up to the car. I think he was liking the shade, but the kids thought he was just weird! We then headed towards Crater Lake. Stopped about halfway there for lunch and a quick hike up to Watson Falls. That night we camped at Mazama Campground by Crater Lake.
Day 3: Crater Lake Boat Tour
We booked the boat tour that included a stop at Wizard Island — awesome because it’s a cinder cone volcano inside the crater of another cinder cone! To get to the boat dock, you have to hike down from the edge of the rim to the water’s edge. BOOK EARLY FOR AVAILABILITY! Not a problem in the morning when you’re fresh, but a little challenging in the afternoon heat. We toured around the lake, then they dropped of us off on Wizard Island and we headed up to the peak. Had lunch up there and explored around the top and then back down to wait for the boat. Be prepared for the elevation — about 2,000 feet down to the boat, about 2,000 feet up to the top of Wizard Island, then the same in reverse! Some people went swimming at the boat dock — chilly!
Forest fires were really bad this summer so there was a bit of smoke at the lake. Didn’t get the picture perfect shot, but we had a great time!
Day 4 Crater Lake and Oregon Vortex
Finished up seeing the last bits of Crater Lake, kids did a ranger program and then we headed off towards Medford. Stopped at Lost Creek Lake for a picnic lunch — less than impressive. Seems like it’s more for motor boats and water skiing. Also stopped for a quick walk along the Rogue River What a beautiful river! Now I want to go read Zane Grey’s books again! No trip to this area would be complete without a stop at the funky, odd . The kids were befuddled and we were entertained. Totally hoaky, but still a great stop (plus it’s shady!) Although, I did feel very dizzy and out of sorts while there, so maybe there’s something to it? Makes you wonder…. Stayed at Valley of the Rogue campground in a yurt. Again, lots of forest fires, so there was smoke in the air. A nice ranger engaged the kids in a shelter building project and fun was had!
Day 5: River Rafting on the Rogue and on to Oregon Caves
Wouldn’t miss a chance to go rafting on the Rogue. Some friends recommended Ferron at Ferron’s Fun Trips. Met him at the river and hopped in for a ride. We had the full day trip which was perfect. Lazy drifting in the beautiful waters punctuated by intense moments of white water. The kids had a great time and went back and forth with the individual kayak. Ferron is an odd duck, but very knowledgeable and we were safe and well cared for. Lunch was a delight and we all had fun! Headed to Oregon Caves. The drive there is long and winding and intense. Glad we decided to spend the night since there’s no way I would want to drive both ways in one day. Campgrounds were closed by the caves, so we had reservations in the Chateau. It was an amazing historic building. Loved the architecture, live music in the lobby, games for the kids, a great ambiance. The rooms are small and old-feeling, but not junky, more vintage and historic. The only negative was the restaurant. It was over priced and not up to the standard that we had heard about — wait staff was overworked and overwhelmed, food was mediocre quality at high prices. But you are in the middle of nowhere so you have to consider that.
Day 6: Oregon Caves to Redwoods
The cave tour was fun. Learned lots about limestone caves and the discovery of the caves. It is very cold inside to be sure to bring coats. Our guide was great with lots of stories and information. The walk wasn’t too strenuous but some other members of the group had a hard time with the stairs and a few tight spots. Once we were done with the caves, headed back down the winding long road to Cave Junction. Stopped at Taylor’s Sausage Country for lunch and on to California! Camped at the . Had never stayed in a KOA before, but this one was highly reviewed online. It was great! Loved having a nice quiet place to setup camp in the middle of these huge trees. Kids played around with the camera trying to take shots of bark chips in motion!
Took in the sights of Crescent City (not much!).
Day 7: Redwoods
Stopped by downtown Crescent City to stock up on food. Definitely not a spot to have as a destination, but it was nice to get groceries. Drove up to the Boy Scout Tree trail and hiked in to see it. Loved the huge trees with just a bed of ferns underneath. The trail was nice and flat. It wasn’t obvious where “the” tree was, but after conferring with the guide book, we found it off the trail up a steep hill.
Day 8: Redwoods to Florence
The redwoods are truly majestic and amazing. After leaving the woods, we headed up the coast stopping when we felt inspired. I had printed out a map of Oregon lighthouses and so we tried to stop at most of them. Love the architecture and history. The Oregon Coast is amazing! Almost got a ticket in Gold Beach though. Be careful. Lots of little tiny towns looking to increase their revenue with tourist dollars! Cape Blanco is definitely worth a stop. Loved the tour of the old lighthouse.
For more resources be sure to take along guide books, there are lots of other places to stop along the way. The coast has lots of hidden coves to stop. For our last night we stayed at the Best Western in Florence. Lovely hotel right on the river. Went across the river to the old town and had a great time wandering around in civilization.
Day 9 Sand Dunes and Portland
We went on a dune rail tour of the sand dunes. What a blast! Loved the skill and expertise of our guide. We got our thrills without the spills. Be sure to take a bandana to cover your face to keep sand out of your mouth and nose. Headed out to I-5 and north to Portland. Oregon is beautiful! Lots of fun places to take children and have an awesome family vacation! Great vacation! Lots of memories and fun times!
One family tradition we started this summer, is that every time we have to do a u-turn, to cheer! No day is complete without at least one wrong turn! It’s a sign of adventure and risk