The Best Winter Adventures in Klamath County
Klamath County is a genuine, honest-to-goodness, no-foolin’ year-round destination for outdoor lovers. Spring brings its epic flush of migrating birds and spectacular blooms, summer scintillates with world-class paddling and backpacking and angling, and fall transfixes via such autumnal awesomeness as golden aspens and big-game hunting.
Now—how about winter? As it happens, this neck of the woods happens to be an all-around ace place to adventure around when the flakes are flying, with top-shelf snowsports and sightseeing on tap. Here’s a look at some of the best wintertime destinations in this mountaintop-to-marsh wonderland!
Set in the High Cascades above Odell Lake on national forestland, Willamette Pass has been delighting downhill aficionados since the early 1940s. Offering close to 1,600 feet of vertical and 555 skiable acres—and better than 400 inches of annual snowfall, thanks to the not-too-far-off North Pacific and the Cascades’ windward, weather-making loom—the resort serves up a nice range of beginner-, intermediate-, and expert-level runs, including the famously steep R.T.S.
And wintry delights here aren’t confined to going gloves-off against gravity: Willamette Pass is also a fine place for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Crater Lake National Park
Among North America’s definingly, gobsmackingly stunning landscapes, Crater Lake takes on piercing beauty in the heart of winter. The essentially unreal-looking flooded caldera of Mount Mazama, plus its flanking subalpine forest, gets magnificently clobbered by the white stuff, with a yearly average of some 450 inches (and roughly twice that amount falling during the record winter of 1932-1933).
Strap on skis or snowshoes to tour the unplowed Rim Road on your own, or join one of the guided ranger snowshoeing outings. And relish that crisp silence, those mind-boggling sightlines, and the privilege of experiencing a Cascadian marvel under Old Man Winter’s frosty paintbrush.
The flanks of this cinder-cone-topped Southern Cascade shield volcano west of Lake of the Woods lure backcountry skiers and snowshoers, some of whom might even steer their way (carefully) to the 7,311-foot summit. Reached via Highway 140W—including via the Summit Sno-Park in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, which also provides prime winter access for adventurers to the Mountain Lakes Wilderness—this peak serves up some stunning panoramas, which include the gorgeous symmetry of Mount McLoughlin just a (relatively speaking) snowball’s toss away. Consider overnighting in one of Lake of the Woods Resort many cabins you can warm in.
Speaking of that king peak of Southern Oregon—a roughly 9,500-foot stratovolcano within the Sky Lakes Wilderness which ranks among the Beaver State’s shapeliest mountains—it rears up as an ambitious goal for wintertime climbers. You’ll need crampons and an ice axe for the job, which is a tougher task than the (decently huff-and-puff) summer summit hike, as well as the standard arsenal of winter mountaineering and other wilderness essentials. But what bragging rights—and what a vast viewshed—you’ll reap for your efforts…
Walt Haring Sno-Park
A mere five miles northwest of Chemult, this sno-park in the Fremont-Winema sits at some 4,800 feet on the eastern flank of the Cascades and serves as a jumping-off point for snowmobile and cross-country ski trails as well as the hub for January’s Chemult Sled Dog Races. Aim for lovely Miller Lake, or climb local heights for stop-you-in-your-tracks views of that glorious nearby fang Mount Thielsen, the “Lightning Rod of the Cascades.”
Eagle-Watching in & Around the Klamath Basin
The Klamath Basin lays claim to the largest population of wintering bald eagles in the Lower 48, offering singular opportunities to view America’s national symbol—and just an across-the-board impressive raptor, a member of the sea-eagle clan.
A stakeout along the road leading to the Bear Valley National Wildlife Refuge (closed to the public) can yield memorable views of these hulking birds of prey commuting from a large and long-standing nighttime winter roost while tooling around the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge in winter should give you plenty of looks at eagles on the prowl for unwary waterfowl.
Get Your Winter On—Big-Time—in Klamath County
From Pelican Butte to Yamsay Mountain, there are plenty of other primo destinations for wintertime outdoor adventuring in Klamath County. But checking one or all of the above off your must-see list during a cold-weather visit certainly gives you a representative (and delicious) taste of the season’s possibilities in these parts!
Written by Ethan Shaw for Matcha in partnership with Discover Klamath Visitor and Convention Bureau.