Pairing arts and culture with rugged outdoor excitement, Southern Oregon — a four-hour drive from Portland — is rich in both scenery and sensory experiences. With a gallery of resplendent landscapes as varied as the wild, wooded Rogue River and serene Crater Lake, it’s no mere day trip. And acclaimed arts institutions light up the rustic region at night.
Much of the area falls within the watershed of the Rogue River, which flows 215 miles west from the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, making the region famous for its world-class salmon fishing, whitewater rafting, wildlife spotting and breathtaking hikes. With its warm water and range of rapids, the Rogue is a must-paddle for outdoor enthusiasts, while jet boat tours take adventurers of all abilities around the river to see the sights.
On the eastern edge of the watershed, Crater Lake sits like a sapphire in the Oregon rough. The deepest lake in the United States, this body of water formed when the volcanic Mount Mazama collapsed around 7,500 years ago, leaving a cliff-lined, crystal-clear wonder in its place. A pair of visitor centers, some shops, plenty of campgrounds and the Crater Lake Lodge provide the only modern comforts in the park, but the view is the real draw here. Additional lodging is available at the Prospect Historic Hotel/Motel, 30 miles away. The national park is open year-round to visitors, though some roads and buildings close in the winter.
Major arts festivals
While it may sound like a fleeting event, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland actually lasts from February to November and puts on more than 800 performances per year. A Tony-Award-winning theater dating back to 1935, this esteemed nonprofit organization produced 11 plays per year, four by William Shakespeare and seven by other playwrights, including classics, contemporary pieces and world premieres. With three stages, the plot is always thickening, especially at the outdoor Elizabethan Stage, which was constructed to resemble the famous Globe Theater in London.
Meanwhile, Britt Festival does run for a limited time. With more than a dozen outdoor concerts held under the stars, the event brings world-class musicians from a variety of genres to the historic town of Jacksonville each summer. Held at a single-stage facility with lawn and picnic bench seating for 2,200, its open-air concerts are relaxed, with a small-town vibe that even lets patrons bring their own beverages (to most shows, at least). It’s the kind of friendly, down-home experience that could only happen in Southern Oregon.