Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park draws visitors from around the world to Klamath County. Shahid Durrani

7 Reasons You Should Visit Oregon's Klamath County

For decades, the Klamath Basin was known more for its mining, logging, and rail operations than its rich natural beauty. But as new rules, technological advances, and environmental protections curtailed those historic industries, a new, outdoors-focused culture arose in their wake.

Today, outdoor adventurers are getting wise to the secrets that lie in southern Oregon’s Cascade foothills. Bird-watchers gather every winter to watch hundreds of thousands of migrating waterfowl, cyclists and hikers peruse paths that once served logging outfits, and the spectacular Crater Lake National Park has become a world-class destination that attracts half-million visitors every year.

Interested in getting outside and seeing what the changing region has to offer? Whether you’re eating your way through Klamath’s locally grown food or checking out its trails, here are seven reasons you should visit Oregon’s Klamath County.

1. THE CYCLING SCENE IS AMONG THE BEST IN OREGON

Just 15 miles from Klamath Falls, the Spence Mountain trail system features something for both novice riders and thrill-seekers alike.  Discover Klamath Visitor and Convention Bureau

With hundreds of miles of pavement, gravel, and dirt trails—not to mention 300 days of sunshine every year—you’re never far from your next ride. Mountain bikers love the 18 miles of singletrack at the 7,400-acre Spence Mountain trail system. Just 15 miles from Klamath Falls, Spence Mountain features trails for both novice riders and thrill-seekers alike, with views of Upper Klamath Lake and Mt. McLoughlin along the way.

The 109-mile OC&E Woods Line State Trail is Oregon’s longest linear state park—and it offers dozens of landmarks and vistas whenever you need a breather. The rail-to-trail conversion follows the route of a century-old rail line and sports a hodgepodge of surfaces for cyclists seeking variety. In addition to the organized trails, a spiderweb of abandoned logging roads stretches through many of the region’s forests, giving adventurous riders plenty of room and terrain to explore.

2. YOU’RE A SHORT DRIVE FROM OREGON’S ONLY NATIONAL PARK

The deepest lake in North America is a must-visit destination.  Jonathan Miske

Crater Lake National Park is Oregon’s only national park, and when you first spy the lake’s eerily rich sapphire hue from the rim, it’s something you never forget. The deepest lake in North America is an outdoor lover’s dream. Miles of hiking trails show off views of the lake and the surrounding Klamath Basin. Summertime cruises invite visitors to explore Wizard Island to see the lake from a new perspective, while the 33-mile Rim Drive offers dozens of scenic viewpoints along the way. A lack of light pollution invites visitors to watch the sunset and stick around for stargazing. Take advantage of the hundreds of campsites for the chance to slow down and enjoy Crater Lake’s charms over several days.

3. YOU’LL (PROBABLY) ENJOY SOME OF THE BEST WEATHER IN OREGON

When most visitors imagine Oregon weather, they immediately think of Portland—and all that rain. Let them fret about getting wet while you soak up vitamin D and enjoy some of the 300 days of sunshine the Klamath Basin sees every year. Summertime highs rarely top 85, and the region sees just 14 inches of rain per year—roughly one-third of what Portland gets—and most of that falls between November and March.

4. YOU’RE ALMOST ALWAYS IMMERSED IN THE REGION’S INDUSTRIAL HISTORY

The 109-mile OC&E Woods Line State Trail follows a century-old rail line.  Roy Luck

Wherever you go, you’re rarely far from a glimpse into the Klamath Basin’s industrial past. The Collier Logging Museum at Collier Memorial State Park takes a deep dive into the region’s logging history. The museum launched in 1947 and today hosts one of the largest collections of logging equipment in the country, including tools used in the Klamath Basin and eastern Oregon over the past century. Learn more about the region’s rail history at the Train Mountain Railroad Museum, which lays claim to a pair of world records: The museum boasts the world's largest private caboose collection (37 cabooses, in all) and the world’s longest miniature railroad, which runs 36 miles through 2,300 acres of pristine forest. The museum also hosts more than 60 full-size maintenance and rolling stock cars, including cars and equipment that once ran on the OC&E line.

5. INDULGE IN THE REGION’S FOOD AND DRINK SCENE

Klamath Basin Brewing has become one of the region’s most popular craft breweries.  Discover Klamath Visitor and Convention Bureau

Oregon has established a reputation for local, sustainable, and organic food and beer—and the Klamath Basin is no slouch when it comes to fresh fare. More than 1,000 family farms and ranches grow a variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains throughout the Klamath Basin, including alfalfa, onions, horseradish, and other crops—including barley for craft brewers and potatoes for Frito Lay chips. Naturally, Klamath hasn’t escaped the craft wine and beer craze, either. 12 Ranch Wines specializes in small-batch merlot, cabernet, sauvignon, and syrah, and Klamath Basin Brewing Company, which opened in 2001, has become one of the region’s most popular craft breweries.

6. ENJOY SOME OF THE NATION’S BEST BIRDWATCHING

The Klamath Basin is truly the birdwatching capital of Oregon, if not the whole West Coast. The region sits along the Pacific Flyway, which extends between Alaska and Argentina, making it a popular winter stop for roughly one million migrating birds every fall, winter, and spring. Keep an eye out for bald eagles, owls, raptors, and other waterfowl—and don’t miss the nation’s oldest birding festival: The four-day Winter Wings Festival takes place every President's Day weekend in Klamath Falls.

7. HIKE TO YOUR HEART’S CONTENT

A hike in the Gearhart Mountain Wilderness will take you through the region's volcanic history.  Michael McCullough

Klamath hosts some of the most diverse hiking terrain in all of Oregon. With hundreds of miles of trail to choose from, it’s not easy to narrow your choices—but here are a few favorites:

Where can you hike to the summit of a volcano within another volcano? Take the lake cruise to Wizard Island at Crater Lake National Park, and you can do just that. Gaze upon the region's volcanic history with a hike through the Gearhart Mountain Wilderness. There, meadows butt up against impressive cliff walls, dorsal fin-shaped rock formations dot the trail, and towers of lava lord over hikers. Hearty hikers should try their hand at the Union Peak Trail in the national park, which gains roughly 700 feet in the excruciating final half-mile. The hike traverses lodgepole pine forests and boulder fields—but also offers sweeping views of Mt. McLoughlin, Upper Klamath Basin, and Crater Lake.

Written by Matt Wastradowski for RootsRated Media in partnership with Discover Klamath Visitor and Convention Bureau.