The best wintertime views of Crater Lake National Park comes via snowshoe. Kyle Greenberg

Why Winter Is an Incredible Time to Visit Klamath County

With desert lakes, thick forests, towering peaks, and hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails, Klamath County, Oregon, is an outdoor lover’s paradise. It’s just that most of those outdoor aficionados visit in summer, when rainfall slows to a trickle (if that) and temperatures routinely hover in the mid-80s. But by skipping a wintertime visit to the Klamath Basin, those visitors are missing out on a hidden gem, tucked away just east of the Cascades in southern Oregon.

Skiers and snowboarders enjoy some of the best views in the state, snowmobile riders have whole forests to themselves, and Oregon’s only national park is never more radiant than after a fresh coat of snow. And that’s to say nothing of the chance to indulge in a game of curling. Whatever your preferred activity, you’ll find something to love about the Klamath Basin’s winter wonderland. Here’s why it should be on your bucket list this winter.

IT’S THE SNOWMOBILE CAPITAL OF OREGON

Klamath County hosts roughly 400 miles of groomed and ungroomed trails for snowmobiling.  Michael McCullough

SnoWest Magazine once said the Klamath Basin "might be Oregon's best kept snowmobiling secret—maybe even the Pacific Northwest's." Need proof? Look no further than Pelican Butte, which—at 8,036 feet—lords over Klamath County from the shores of Upper Klamath Lake. Snowmobilers love riding to the summit, which offers wide-open views of Crater Lake National Park, Lake of the Woods, Upper Klamath Lake, and—on a clear day—Mount Shasta. In all, Klamath County hosts roughly 400 miles of groomed and ungroomed trails for snowmobiles. You could spend all winter exploring and never see the same views twice.

EXPERIENCE CRATER LAKE IN THE WINTER

Crater Lake National Park hosts more than three quarters of a million visitors each year, but the vast majority descend on the park at the height of summer. Those making a winter visit not only miss the crowds, but they’ll enjoy one of the most serene settings in all of Oregon. Granted, most of the park *is *closed each winter: Rim Drive is inaccessible, buried under several feet of snow. But a handful of viewpoints on the lake’s southern edge offer spectacular views of the snow-capped caldera.

But the best wintertime introduction to Crater Lake comes via snowshoe. Rangers host regular snowshoe hikes between November and April, leading visitors on a tour of the forests and meadows along the Crater Lake rim. More adventurous visitors can take solo snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trips around the rim, and rangers are happy to provide trail recommendations and weather warnings, as necessary.

ENJOY STUNNING VIEWS ON THE SLOPES AND TRAILS

Hit the slopes at Brown Mountain, which offers wide-open views and even a glimpse of Mount McLoughlin.  Michael McCullough

The Klamath Basin hosts some of the region’s freshest powder—and plenty of space for enjoying it. Hit the slopes at Brown Mountain, which offers wide-open views of the Sky Lakes Wilderness and Mountain Lakes Wilderness from atop its 7,311-foot summit. On your way down, keep an eye out for steam vents that leave patches of the volcano's slopes devoid of snow. Looking for a quieter cross-country experience? Take advantage of the Nordic ski trails at Walt Haring Sno-Park. Best known for hosting the Chemult Sled Dog Races, the park also invites cross-country skiers to cut through ponderosa pine forests and enjoy views of Mount Thielsen and surrounding peaks.

DISCOVER KLAMATH’S WORLD-RENOWNED BIRDING SCENE

It’s not breaking news to call the Klamath Basin one of the best regions in the world for watching, filming, and photographing migratory birds. But did you know that wintertime might be the absolute best season to see the bulk of the one million birds that descend on Klamath County each year? The basin is home to six national wildlife refuges, which offer a breadth of bird-friendly ecosystems—including desert lakes, alpine forests, and expansive meadows that accommodate a wide variety of migrating species. Klamath County also hosts the nation’s oldest birding festival, the four-day Winter Wings Festival, over Presidents Day weekend.

INDULGE YOUR INNER ATHLETE

Give the sport of curling a try at the Bill Collier Community Ice Arena.  Michael McCullough

Most of us will never know what it’s like to stand atop the podium at the winter games. But thanks to the Bill Collier Community Ice Arena, an outdoor (covered) rink at Running Y Ranch Resort, we can certainly imagine. Visitors can lace up their skates and go for gold—or have a little fun—in a number of medal-worthy events. The fun includes open and family skate sessions, freestyle sessions, drop-in hockey games, and broomball or curling lessons.

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