Photo: Kirill Kotlyarenko/Shutterstock

24 Hours in the Rogue Valley

Oregon Insider Guides
by Jacqueline Kehoe Nov 10, 2016

IN SOUTHERN OREGON, in the hills between the Cascades and the coast, lies the Rogue Valley. It’s full of hardwood forests, acres of vineyards, California transplants, and Gold Rush history. Medford, Ashland, and Grants Pass make up the urban side of things; Roxy Ann Peak, the Rogue River, and the Siskiyou Mountains are just some of the rest.

Though 24 hours here is barely enough (and, no, there’s not nearly as much rain here as in Portland), it may have to do — there’s too much in Cascadia to stop in one place for long. Consider the below one itinerary, sure, but also mini-ideas for your return trips.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

Larks Restaurant

 Larks Restaurant MedfordMedford, United StatesBrunch so good this hotel restaurant requires reservations. Marionberry mimosas, omg! #brunch #coffee #fine-dining

It’s important to start off any trip on the right foot, and a reliable brunch spot is the way to do it. Larks Restaurant, part of Inn at the Commons, is throwing off its “hotel restaurant” label and becoming a stand-alone experience in Medford — which is why you’d be well-served to nab a reservation. Brunch is only served on weekends, and tables fill up fast.

Chef Damon Jones makes sure the food is local, fresh, and the menu seasonal. But regardless of whenever you go, you’ll always find fresh salmon options, a mean eggs benedict, and classics-turned-on-their-heads at the bar, like the marionberry mimosa.

Crater Lake National Park

 Crater LakeKlamath County, United StatesYes, it is worth getting up at 4 am to make the sunrise at Crater Lake. There are 50 plus viewpoints along Rim Drive that encircle this blue body of water. Those who rise early to capture this dormant volcano at magic hour will not be disappointed. Direct access to the lake shore can only be reached along the 1.1 mile Fleetwood Cove Trail and includes swimming, fishing, and boat tour activities.
#hiking #camping #oregon #craterlake #pnw

Now that you’re fueled up, you’re presented with a probably-can’t-refuse option: Crater Lake National Park. It’s around 90 minutes from Medford, and totally worth the 3-hour round trip. It’s the deepest lake in the United States, the fifth-oldest national park in the country, and is one of the clearest lakes in the world (it’s all isolated rainwater). What’s more, it’s huge: It was Mount Mazama 7,700 years ago until it blew up in a massive volcanic eruption and caved in on itself.

You can drive the rim from late June to late October, hike the trails, take a boat ride to Wizard Island, swim in the lake, and even fish (all in an old volcano, keep in mind). In the winter months Rim Drive closes, but you can still snowshoe around the park, go hiking, and take in the views with far, far fewer people. It’s a sight that deserves to be seen in any season, and some even say it’s better in winter.

Natural Bridge

 Natural BridgeProspect, United StatesLAVA TUBES. Good photo opp. Easy, short walk. LAVA TUBES.

If you did make the jaunt to Crater Lake, on your way back when you’re driving through epic hardwood forests on Crater Lake Highway with no cell reception, you’ll see a sign that says “Natural Bridge” with a camera icon right below it. Pro tip: Listen to the sign. A short, easy 10-minute walk takes you to the Rogue River — as it flows “underground.” Hardened lava is all around you, and for around 200 feet, the Rogue flows beneath it, creating the natural bridge you stopped for. It’s a good way to drill home just how chaotic and dangerous this area once was — making it seem even more peaceful and gorgeous now.

Nearby is Union Creek Resort and Beckie’s Cafe. Though we’ll be eating plenty of food in a bit, do know that Beckie’s is famous for pie (for good reason) and has plenty of Oregon microbrews on tap. Consider it “lodging research” for later.

Rogue Creamery

 Rogue CreameryCentral Point, United States“Solar-powered grilled cheese that’ll blow your mind” #cheese #yourewelcome

Any shop that you walk into and get presented with free samples of cheese should be lauded and lauded plenty. Feel free to drool at the cases of goodness you probably shouldn’t splurge on, but then move over to Rogue Creamery’s main event: their grilled cheese.

If you’re coming off from an afternoon at Crater Lake, there is nothing better. Nothing. You can get your classic version, no-frills, or you can go blue and add honey. Either way, it’s local, it’s fresh, it’s solar-powered, and it’s sustainable from beginning to end (they even have cows wandering around their nearby dairy farm if you’ve any doubt).

The entire city of Jacksonville

 Historic Business DistrictJacksonville, United StatesPractically preserved in time; Jacksonville comes straight out of the 1880s. It was the first designated historic landmark district. You can practically smell the sweaty gold miners. #History buffs, rejoice.

If you’re pressed for time or energy, a less strenuous afternoon and a quicker drive can be found in the town of Jacksonville. It’s 15 minutes west of Medford, and it’s like being dropped in a different era (apart from the SUVs wandering around). Frommer’s even called it one of “America’s Top 10 Coolest Small Towns.” It was Oregon’s first National Historic Landmark District, namely because it feels stuck in the Gold Rush era. Most of the buildings are from the mid-1800s and look it — this is way better than shooting a buffalo with the click of a mouse and getting a pop-up window that you died of dysentery.

During summer you can take a narrated tour of downtown, and in any season you can grab a walking-guide of the main drag and relive the history yourself. Alternatively, stop into any of the shops and ask — the shopowners will likely spin off stories about duels on the stoop you’re now standing on, Indian uprisings, and let you know what’s worth checking out. Two spots that should make any history geek happy are Beekman bank — it closed in 1912 and looks the same as its last day — and the Jacksonville Cemetery, at the top of the hill. It’s full of the same people that built the town and gravemarkers that talk about coming over on the Oregon Trail, dying in Indian fights, and keeping the town alive.

Lillie Belle Farms Artisan Chocolates

 Lillie Belle Farms Artisan ChocolatesCentral Point, United StatesHandmade chocolates. Sometimes with alcoholic cores. Cookies, ganaches, bonbons, caramels. European techniques, American twist. Need I say more? #chocolate

It’s literally right next door to where your grilled cheese dreams just came true. Because sometimes cheese needs chocolate.

RoxyAnn Winery

 RoxyAnn WineryMedford, United StatesTotally cute winery. Good wine, can wander the fields, pumpkin patch. Romantic, good views of the hills. #wine

Let’s get romantic for a second. RoxyAnn Winery is a great place for a 1st, 2nd, or 46th date — they’ve got vineyards you can wander, a pumpkin patch in the fall, great views of the hills, and plenty of wine flowing freely. But what’s more important is that the entire Rogue Valley is becoming synonymous with wine production; it’s best to get on the Southern Oregon wine train now. Other notable stops include Belle Fiore, EdenVale, and 2Hawk Winery, all in the Rogue Valley not far from I-5.

You can also take a “twilight wine float” down the Rogue River through Hellgate Canyon. Because what’s adventure without a little wine buzz?

The Holly Theatre

 Holly TheatreMedford, United StatesRight now this 1930s theatre is being restored and is only open for tours, but soon enough it’ll be one of the coolest, largest concert venues in southern Oregon. #music #history

Keep your eye on this one. If you’ve got the time, it’s worth a tour. Otherwise, bookmark it for later — this place is guaranteed to be one of the coolest venues to see one of your favorite bands when renovations stop in 2017. It’s gonna be the largest venue in the area, and it’ll showcase artists as different as Cake is to the Temptations, to film festivals to symphonies.

BricktownE Brewing Company

 BricktownE Brewing CompanyMedford, United StatesCheap awesome beer. Amazing burgers. All a girl needs. Lemme know how the pulled pork tater tots are…dying to know. #beer #cheap-eats

But there’s always time for beer. Southern Oregon’s scene gets overshadowed by Portland and California, but it’s still going strong. Unpretentious and unassuming — just like the scene at large — BricktownE Brewing is a good example of why local craft beer gurus are getting excited. Their Darth Kriegers Russian Imperial Stout and their Workin Gal Browne are worth writing home about, and their burgers are insane. The Volcano Burger? The Carmelized Pear Burger? The Hangover Burger? Clearly they don’t stop at good beer.

Elements Tapas Bar & Lounge

 Elements Tapas Bar & LoungeMedford, United StatesCocktails: Do the Blue Rickie if you can resist ordering the Sexy Human. Food: the “house grapes” will blow your mind in a “what-universe-is-this” kind of way. Local food with an innovative Spanish bent. #tapas #fine-dining

We’ve got a successful day to celebrate, and if you’ve any room for more, cocktails and tapas at Elements is hard to beat. Top off the night with the Sexy Human if you can handle a little kick, or something classic-with-a-twist like a cucumber gimlet. The drinks are strong, but the flavors always blend in ways you wouldn’t expect. The same goes with their food — the “house grapes” are covered in pistachios and smoky blue cheese. Somehow, it all works out (with hints of sweetness and bacon, believe it or not). They’re totally innovative, and the night will surely surprise you — just like the rest of the Rogue Valley.

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