Natural Splendors in Oregon: Rogue–Umpqua Scenic Byway

from The Most Scenic Drives in America | 217

10. Rabbit Ears These massive twin peaks—once part of a volcano’s interior—seem to some wondrously alive, as if cocked to the murmurings of the wilderness. For a close-up view, secondary routes loop around the ears and lead to Hershberger Lookout. Mts. Bailey and Thielsen dominate the northern skyline, and to the south the Cascades roll like waves toward California.

11. Rogue Gorge After exploring the national park, backtrack on Rte. 62 to the town of Union Creek, which was once a base camp for the Civilian Conservation Corps. Like the government workers before them, today’s sightseers are bound to be impressed by the local landscape.

While in the area, visit the Rogue Gorge Viewpoint, where it is easy to see why the Rogue River is so aptly named. Churning wildly—unbridled and uncontrolled—the Rogue roars through a narrow basalt cut. Farther south at Natural Bridge Viewpoint, the waterway ducks out of sight, flowing through an underground channel; still tumultuous, it reappears from the ground about 200 yards farther downstream. The route follows the river south and west, crossing the stream repeatedly on numerous bridges. 12. Stewart State Park A popular spot for camping, an easy day hike, or a picnic beneath the comforting shade of pines, Stewart State Park makes an inviting stop. While away an afternoon fishing for trout and bass, or sunbathe on the park’s lawn, which slopes gently to the shores of Lost Creek Reservoir.

13. Table Rocks This pair of volcanic remnants, while shadows of their former selves, still manage to impress. Short but fairly difficult hikes climb each of the rocks, which are separated by several miles. The views from the flat, rocky summits take in countryside that was once teamed with Takelma Indians. In spring, the grasslands of this area is strewn with varied arrays of wildflowers.

14. Jacksonville The official Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway route ends at Gold Hill, but there are jewels to be found to the south. Once in Gold Hill, briefly follow Rte. 99 to the east, then switch onto Old Stage Road, which leads to the gracious town of Jacksonville. Tucked into the Siskiyou Mountain foothills at the northeastern edge of Applegate Valley, the community was established in the high-spirited days of a local gold rush. More than 80 buildings reminiscent of that era have been restored to their 19th-century appearance, and they often double as a set for western movies—the town’s phone poles can be removed to mimic the pre-electric era, and its paved streets are covered with soil. From the handsome brick buildings along Main Street to the elegant Victorian and colorfully decorated German-Gothic homes that line the quiet roads in residential neighborhoods, a tour of Jacksonville is a step back in time. Don’t miss the Jacksonville Museum, with exhibits that document the growth of the valley. 15. Lower Applegate Valley From Jacksonville, head west through the Lower Applegate Valley. A soothing counterpoint to the rugged Cascades, the area exudes a mellow grace —a rural mix of small towns, vineyards, and farms with golden fields and horses. The Applegate River, like an attentive escort, parallels the road, whispering encouragements all the way to the Rogue River, which by this point is much tamer than during its tumultuous descent down the Cascades. Beyond the Applegate lies Grants Pass, a center for tourism and trade. Gold Hill is just a few miles south on Rte. 5.

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