A Weekend in Rogue Valley, Oregon

A river runs through this picturesque Gold Rush town.

Nighttime view of the Rogue River in Grants Pass, Oregon
Rogue River in Grants Pass, Oregon.
Jerry Sanchez / Alamy

Just over the California border in southern Oregon, the Rogue Valley makes an ideal getaway for a long weekend, especially in summer, when the days are long and temperatures are balmy. Whether you’re in the mood for hiking, winetasting, or exploring a historic downtown, you’ll find delights here for the entire family.

Things to Do

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, hunt for bears around the valley’s main hub, Grants Pass—but don’t worry, these bears don’t bite. Instead, whimsical fiberglass statues can be found all around town, each involved in its own distinct activity, from pushing off on a skateboard or pedaling a trike to delivering mail. Find a bear map online at Evergreen Federal Bank: The local lender kicked off the public art project in 2003, and the hunt has since grown into an annual tradition.

Get a lesson in all things cheese at Rogue Creamery Dairy and Farm Stand, creator of Rogue River Blue, which was named the World’s Best Blue Cheese by the World Cheese Awards at the 2019/2020 international cheese competition. Take a free guided tour to see Holstein, Brown Swiss, and Jersey cows being milked by robotic milking machines, some of the first implemented in Oregon. Afterward, savor a grilled cheese sandwich in the leafy picnic area.

Rogue River Creamery Cheeses on a tasting tray.
Rogue River Creamery cheese tasting.
Carolyn Jung

For more cheese fun, visit Wooldridge Creek, Oregon’s first combo winery and creamery, established in 2015. The boutique spot specializes in both small-production artisan cheeses and estate wines, particularly hefty reds such as Tempranillo and Malbec. Enjoy a wine flight on the patio alongside a cheese plate complete with house-made pickles.

With a blooming flower garden, abundant koi pond, and rows of vines, Dancin Vineyard, 35 minutes south on I-5 in Medford, boasts a setting so beautiful you’ll be hard pressed to leave. The wines are named for ballet movements, a nod to the philosophy that winemaking is akin to a dance with nature. It doesn’t get better than a pork belly and brie pizza fresh out of the oven, paired with a glass of En Bas Pinot Noir.

Twelve minutes west of Medford, explore Jacksonville, a town designated a National Historic Landmark. One of the best ways to see this 1800s gold-boom town is to jump on a narrated trolley tour that rumbles past the state’s oldest city hall (circa 1880) as well as majestic Victorian homes. From June to September, visitors come from all over for the Britt Festival, a music celebration named after famed photographer and horticulturalist Peter Britt, one of Jacksonville’s most important settlers.

The boardwalk at Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical Wayside on a clear blue day.
The boardwalk at Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical Wayside.
Carolyn Jung


Stretch your legs in Jacksonville on the Enchanted Forest Trail, a 1.7-mile moderate-grade path with throngs of butterflies in summer. For a less strenuous outing with a rare find, head to the Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical Wayside, 26 miles southwest of Grants Pass. This 1/8-mile wheelchair-accessible boardwalk meanders over a botanical wetland preserve filled with yellowish-green cobra lilies, the only member of the carnivorous pitcher plant family found in Oregon.

Or go off the beaten path to Nymph and Woodsman, a 280-acre farm in Jacksonville that offers a unique, reserve-ahead group experience: a plant walk on the grounds, complete with BYO picnic lunch and lessons in making your own herbal tincture to take home.

Flan and whipped cream on a table outside of Cultured Palate.
Cultured Palate's flan.
Carolyn Jung

Where to Eat

In Grants Pass, refuel on the expansive deck overlooking the Rogue River at Taprock Northwest Grill—a grand structure in timber and stone resembling a fishing lodge—with halibut tacos drizzled with cilantro lime crema or a Wagyu patty melt served with a mountain of thick onion rings. Or enjoy a soulful taste of Cuban food at Cultured Palate in downtown. Owner Angela Padilla even brings out sample tastes of her slow-cooked pork, chicken, and beef to entice newcomers before they order. Don’t miss the house-made flan, a thick wedge drenched in burnt caramel.

There’s something for everyone at Bohemian Bar & Bistro, another downtown Grants Pass establishment, which serves up creative seasonal cocktails along with lamb gyros and some of the best dry-rub chicken wings around.

If you’re headed to or from Oregon Caves National Monument, a must-stop is Taylor’s Sausage Country Store, a family-owned institution in Cave Junction since 1924. It doubled in size in early 2024 to add more seating and a larger kitchen, where cooks craft nearly 100 different kinds of sausage. Take a seat on the patio to savor a paprika-laced Hungarian sausage on a bun with a side of creamy, sweet baked beans.


Where to Shop

Find items for your modern wardrobe and specialty vintage clothing—think ultra rare pieces dating back to the 1920s—at Woven and Wyld in downtown Grants Pass. Co-owner Ashleigh Bracy can even help you create a capsule wardrobe with beautiful pieces to compliment every style. The boutique carries something for everyone, from your 10 year old daughter to your 80 year old grandmother.

Super Natural Chocolates, a bean-to-bar factory, specializes in raw chocolate, which in the wrong hands can sometimes be off-putting for its gritty texture. That’s why owner Savannah Cobain takes the tack of grinding Peruvian and Ecuadoran cacao bean nibs for five days, ensuring incomparable smoothness while maintaining antioxidants. Her handmade truffles, available in 12 flavors, have won fans nationwide. Pick up a gluten-free, dairy-free cupcake, too, that’s remarkably indulgent.

A bucolic paradise awaits at Pennington Farms, a 90-acre family-owned farm and bakery in the heart of the Applegate Valley in Grants Pass. Jars of homemade tayberry and marionberry jams tempt, along with peach-blueberry scones, chicken pot pies, and ginormous cinnamon rolls. Thanks to co-owner Sam Pennington, who’s from Hawaii, Kona coffee beans are also stocked. 

Step back in time at the Grants Pass Pharmacy. Yes, you can get prescriptions filled, as well as shop for greeting cards and old-fashioned candies galore. But the real draw is the historic soda fountain that’s been in operation since 1933. Have one of the teenage soda jerks make you a phosphate, a from-scratch soda that gets its name from the addition of phosphoric acid to lend a distinctive tartness.

Places to Stay

Only two miles off I-5 in downtown Grants Pass, The Lodge at Riverside is as convenient as it gets. In addition to its spacious rooms, many of them overlooking the Rogue River, this charming establishment with rustic touches offers complimentary breakfast, afternoon wine and cheese, and after-dinner cookies with milk.

Guests enjoy similar complimentary treats at the circa-1924 Weasku Inn along the banks of the Rogue River in Grants Pass. Once a vacation retreat for old-Hollywood luminaries such as Clark Gable, Carol Lombard, and Walt Disney, this historic property now boasts a five-room main lodge as well as cabins featuring gas fireplaces framed by river rock.