Go Spelunking, Look for Bigfoot and Make Your Own Glass Art
Adventure abounds in nearly every direction from Grants Pass. The community has long been the gateway to the Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve (hence the burly Caveman statues welcoming visitors to town). Hailed as the “marble halls of Oregon” and located in Cave Junction, about 45 miles southwest, the park features informative ranger-led tours descending 220 feet below ground through an otherworldly maze of stalagmite-strewn passageways. (The park is open seasonally from March through October; check the website for dates and reservations.) Above ground, hiking trails include the Big Tree Trail, a forested climb through meadows and past what’s thought to be the widest-girthed Douglas fir in Oregon.
Speaking of big — Bigfoot, that is — south of Grants Pass, the Collings Mountain Trail is home to a circa 1974 Bigfoot trap. Located about three-fourths of a mile from the trailhead, the large wooden structure with metal trap door is still waiting to lure an unsuspecting Sasquatch. Closer to downtown, Cathedral Hills is a popular, 10-mile network of trails for foot use, mountain biking and horseback, with towering Douglas fir and ponderosa pine, expansive views of the Rogue Valley and abundant spring wildflowers starting to bloom in late February.
Animal lovers will enjoy Wildlife Images in Merlin, 10 miles northwest of downtown, a sanctuary for the treatment of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife. Eagles, coyotes, skunks, bears, cougars and snakes are just a few of the wild animals you’ll encounter on self-guided tours available year-round. Next, meet and greet the cows at Rogue Creamery Dairy & Farm Stand during a free guided tour of the dairy operation. Afterward, sample award-winning artisan cheeses, nosh on a grilled cheese or stock up on picnic provisions to fuel the rest of your day.
Ten minutes east, have an artful afternoon at Glass Forge Gallery & Studio, where you can tour the studio, watch glass blowers at work and shop a gallery of colorful glass creations. Is there a creative spark in your family? Kids as young as 5 can make their own paperweight, bowl or ornament to take home.
In the Applegate Valley, gorgeous views pair with excellent vintages. Wineries here have a laid-back atmosphere, making it easy to taste a wine or two while relaxing in a casual, family-friendly setting. The beautifully landscaped Schmidt Family Vineyards, for instance, has loads of open space for little ones to burn off energy. Come hungry and enjoy their wood-fired pizza and charcuterie boards. Or enjoy picturesque views of colorful gardens from Troon Vineyard’s outdoor patio, then stroll down to the bocce court for a little friendly-family competition. Both vineyards welcome families.
Dine on Pizza and Have Gelato for Dessert
Local roots run deep at two Grants Pass locations of the Wild River Brewing and Pizza Company, where owners Jerry and Bertha Miller have been slinging pies in the Rogue Valley since the mid-1970s. You’ll find a menu that extends from wood-fired pizza and calzone to beer-battered onion rings, burgers, fresh salads, tasty appetizers and more. Taps feature their award-winning Wild River ales, like the quenching Honey Wheat ale or staff-favorite Jerry’s IPA.
Just down the road in downtown Grants Pass, grab dessert or an afternoon pick-me-up at House of Glory, a gelato purveyor churning out creative flavor combinations like guava and cream cheese, dulce de leche, mint stracciatella and dairy-free toasted coconut. Or choose a specialty coffee drink like the Bon Bon, a Spanish concoction of condensed milk and espresso.
A few minutes north, Weekend Beer Company offers family-friendly indoor and outdoor dining as well as a selection of yard and board games to keep everyone busy. Four resident food trucks turn out pizza, tacos, burgers and coffee, and there is a pancake pop-up the first Saturday of the month.
For fresh, local and organic fare, look no further than downtown’s Ma Mosa’s legendary brunch, offering everything from biscuits and gravy to huevos rancheros and a decadent French toast waffle sandwich. A mini-mosa menu caters to smaller appetites.
Stay in a Historic Inn or Whimsical Treehouse
Grants Pass lodging runs the gamut from hotel-style digs to more whimsical options. Along the downtown riverfront, The Lodge at Riverside offers spacious, elegant rooms and luxury suites, while the adjacent Riverside Inn is a bright and modern budget-friendly option. Both feature views of the Rogue River, a pool and on-site restaurant, as well as access to a meandering riverfront walking path.
The cozy Weasku Inn has been welcoming guests — including Hollywood royalty like Clark Gable, Carole Lombard and Walt Disney — for nearly 100 years to its location on the banks of the Rogue River. The retreat’s lodge rooms and cabins (many with fireplaces and room for families to spread out) have been updated for today’s guests without losing an ounce of charm.
A full-blown glamping adventure awaits at Out ‘N’ About Treehouse Treesort. Suspension bridges, ladders and trap doors leading to tree houses with names like the Peacock Perch and Serendipitree give it a Swiss Family Robinson vibe. Kids will love on-site activities like adrenaline-pumping zip lines through the treetops and horseback riding.
If You Go:
If you’re traveling by car from the north or south, hop on Interstate 5 for a straight shot to Grants Pass. For those arriving by air, the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport is a 30-minute drive away from downtown Grants Pass.