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Medford, Oregon (Part 2)

Gateway to Crater Lake and the Rogue Valley

Winter view of Crater Lake. Photo credit: Rachanee Curry

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Crater Lake National Park has a haunting beauty in the winter months when storms from the Pacific Ocean dump an average of 43 feet of snow. Plan a full day from your lodgings in Medford to tour the park.  It is about an hour-and-a-half drive on Route 62 to the park's south entrance. There are limited facilities in the park during the winter, so plan for a full tank of gas. Insider tip: If you are military, don't forget your National Park pass to get in for free. If you don't have one, just show a military ID card and park rangers will issue you one.

To start your visit, head into Rim Village. The Steel Visitor's Center is located in the village and makes a good first stop. Take the time to look at the exhibits and watch the 22-minute movie, Into the Deep.  Rangers are available to answer questions, and there are updated weather and road reports. The Rim Café and Gift Shop are also located in Rim Village. The café serves quick meals, and the large gift shop carries winter clothing and has snowshoes available for rent. Insider tip: There is an upper observation room above the café that has partial views of the lake, some exhibits and another information desk.

The first thing you will want to do is to view the lake. It's considered to be the cleanest and clearest large body of water on Earth. In the winter, you will need to climb a snow bank to see it. Snowpack can reach heights of 10-15 feet, and the park builds a snow ramp across from the Rim Village restroom building. Be careful as it is often icy and slippery, and remain well away from the edge.  There can be a snow overhang that makes it difficult to know where the edge is. Winter hiking involves snowshoes or cross-country skis. Consider snowshoeing with children; it is a pretty easy activity to pick up. The visitor's center will have trail maps and updates on trail conditions.

When you begin to head back to Medford, make a quick stop at the Union Creek Resort. The Rogue River Gorge is a few steps away.  Take the time to walk the paved half-mile interpretive trail, which offers four viewpoints of the wild and scenic Rogue River pounding through the narrow Rogue River Gorge. There are dramatic waterfalls and, at times, the river disappears as it flows through lava tubes. Make a stop at Beckie's Café, which is famous for the homemade pies it bakes fresh daily. There are more than 10 varieties.

You pass through parts of the Rogue Valley AVA, so, if time allows, make a stop at one of the many wineries along the route. Two worth a stop are Kriselle Cellars and Cliff Creek Cellars. Both are family owned and have many award-winning wines. For more information about Southern Oregon wine, visit southernoregonwines.org.

These are just a few of the many activities and adventures to be had when visiting Southern Oregon. For more information, visit southernoregon.org. It is a very well-organized website and easy to use to plan your own trip.

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