Road Trip: Klamath County

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February 1, 2017

Adventure Capital of South-Central Oregon

By Jim Chadderdon

Photo at right: Two Nordic skiers pause for a photograph in front of Wizard Island from Watchman Peak Trail in Crater Lake National Park. Photo courtesy of Discover Klamath Visitor & Convention Bureau

 

Nestled 25 miles from the California border in South-Central Oregon, majestic Klamath County offers a panoply of recreation opportunities year-round. Its 300 days of sunshine and diverse topography spread out over 6,100 square miles of terrain — rolling hills and agricultural country in the south and forested, mountainous terrain in the north — make it an ideal destination for outdoors enthusiasts.

The county’s name is derived from the region’s first Native American settlers, the Klamath Tribe. Today, Klamath County is home to nearly 70,000 people, spread among the Klamath Falls metro area and 21 surrounding rural communities.

Land of Lakes and Rivers

A young kayaker paddles across the Lake of the Woods for a closer view of Mt. McLoughlin. Photo courtesy of Discover Klamath Visitor & Convention Bureau

Klamath County is home to some of Oregon’s most well-known rivers and lakes. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in North America at 1,949 feet and is also Oregon’s only national park.

Upper Klamath Lake, from a surface area perspective, is Oregon’s largest lake. Other lakes in the county include Odell Lake, Crescent Lake and the popular Lake of the Woods. Lake Ewauna is a smaller lake that is great for boating, rowing and fishing and within the downtown core of Klamath Falls. Scores of high mountain lakes can be found throughout Klamath County.

Klamath’s rivers are legendary for their abundant watersport opportunities. The Wood River is known for its beautiful lazy flow, which is perfect for kayakers. The Sprague River and Spring Creek boast breathtaking scenery and fishing opportunities.

The Link River — a one-mile stretch between Upper Klamath Lake and Lake Ewauna — is home to the Link River Falls, also known as Klamath Falls. This river boasts fishing and plenty of whitewater opportunities.

The town of Klamath Falls is called “The City of Sunshine” for a reason: more than 300 days of sunshine grace this mountain community located at 4,099-foot elevation.

Winter Adventure

In February, winter still has its grips on most of Klamath County, so winter sports such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are popular in the higher elevations. Downhill skiing and snowboarding are popular at Oregon’s fifth largest ski area, Willamette Pass Ski Resort.

Moore Park in Klamath Falls is the county’s largest city park and features an established trail system with a variety of cross-country and snowshoe pathways.

Crater Lake National Park frequently has fresh snow, and the views are epic. There, you can do a short jaunt of a half-mile, or you can camp and ski or snowshoe the 33 miles around the rim.

Lake of the Woods and the nearby “Great Meadow” on Highway 140 are among Klamath’s most popular cross-country destinations because they offer short, medium and longer trails with easy to moderate levels of difficulty.

Spring and Summer Pursuits

April temperatures can fluctuate between 40–70 degrees during the day. Either way, it is usually sunny and mild, allowing for a variety of activities from spring hiking to bicycling to early-season camping.

Klamath County’s most famous hiking trail is the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). It winds through this region of Oregon offering stunning views of the Cascade Range while traversing through mountains laced with evidence of the region’s volcanic historical past.

For those seeking an arduous and scenic hike, Stukel Mountain and Hogback Mountain, both near Klamath Falls, provide heart-pounding uphill climbs, followed by several miles of level trails along ridges with far-reaching views.

Klamath County is becoming increasingly well-known for its fair-weather road and mountain biking, which offer low-congestion riding across a variety of terrain.

One of the best bicycle rides is a 50-mile route that is a new Oregon State Scenic Bikeway. This route, dubbed the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Bikeway, begins at Crater Lake National Park’s Rim Village and terminates in the mountain town of Rocky Point.

The newest off-road trail system in Klamath is called Spence Mountain. Still in development, this trail system on Highway 140 between Klamath Falls and Rocky Point will eventually boast 50 miles of professionally developed single-track with epic views of Upper Klamath Lake and the Cascade Mountain Range. About 20 miles have been developed and based on the reviews to-date, Spence Mountain is destined to become one of Oregon’s best off-road cycling spots.

Klamath’s biking scene has grown in recent years and Klamath Falls has the highest concentration of bike-friendly businesses in southern Oregon. For more information about rides and routes check out www.RideKlamathRide.com.

Resources

Visit Klamath County: www.meetmeinklamath.com

Jim Chadderdon is the Executive Director for Discover Klamath Visitor and Convention Bureau.

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