2 Day Trip Itineraries – Crate Lake & Oregon Caves
There are two great day-trips from Jacksonville that highlight the natural diversity of Southern Oregon – Crater Lake and Oregon Caves. Neither drive is too challenging but each makes a full day to get there, see the sites and get back.
Day 1-Crater Lake:
A stunning National Park, widely known for its intense blue color of the water in the deepest lake in the United States and spectacular views and is absolutely a must see. During summer, visitors may navigate the Rim Drive around the lake or take a trolley tour, enjoy boat tours on the lake surface, have lunch or dinner in the historic Crater Lake Lodge, or hike some of the park’s various trails including Mt. Scott at 8,929 ft.
The winter brings some of the heaviest snowfall in the country, averaging 533 inches per year. Although park facilities mostly close for this snowy season, visitors may view the lake during fair weather, enjoy cross-country skiing, and participate in weekend ranger-led snowshoe hikes.
Getting There: Crater Lake National Park is just under a two hour drive but so worth it. Driving directions are simple – head out of Jacksonville on Highway 238 which turns into Crater Lake Highway until you get to the park turnoff.
- Check the current conditions – driving and weather/visibility
- Stop at Ray Market to pick up some snacks and water for the day.
- If you want to take the boat to Wizard Island secure tickets in advance since seats are on a first-come first-accommodated basis. You can call 888-774-2728 to purchase tickets, and for more information go to National Parks – Oregon and craterlakelodges.com
- You can enjoy fantastic views of the lake and plan on having lunch at the lodge. Allow extra time if you are interested in hiking.
With no extra driving time you should also stop to see the Rogue River Gorge and Natural Bridge. It is a great way to break up the drive and you will regret it if you don’t see it. This section of the Wild and Scenic Upper Rogue River is forced through a narrow channel of ancient lava beds and is quite mesmerizing.
After you pass the Prospect turnoffs start looking for the signs around 14 miles down the road.
The Natural Bridge comes before Union Creek and the gorge just past it.
Beckies Diner is in the Union Creek Complex has is a well-known diner.
Day 2 – Oregon Caves:
Another 2 hour drive in the opposite direction takes you to Oregon Caves National Monument.
This attraction encompasses a remnant old-growth coniferous forest including a Douglas-fir tree with the widest known girth in Oregon with three hiking trails, above ground. But the main attraction is below ground – a marble cave system created by natural forces over hundreds of thousands of years in one of the world’s most diverse geologic realms.
Tours are available from late March through early November. The guided tours are a great way to learn how the geology, fossils, cave life, bats, watershed, old-growth forest, and human history make Oregon Caves significant. During the summer there are also off-trail tours and candle light tours.
On the way back to Jacksonville, be sure to check out It’s a Burl! A unique road-side shop and gallery where artisans create decorative items and furniture out of redwood burls. If you saw the independent film Redwood Highway you will recognize it as the place Tom Skerritt’s character resided.
Getting There: Take Hwy 238 heading north from Jacksonville’s California Street for a beautiful drive through the Applegate Valley. In Grants Pass Hwy 238 connects with Hwy 199 which will take you to Cave Junction where you will see signs for the road to Oregon Caves.
Additional Resources for Outdoor Adventures & Natural Wonders
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