By Amy Whitley
Surrounded by mountains and national forest, the Rogue Valley makes a natural base camp for your next winter day adventure. End your excursion with a glass (or two) of Southern Oregon wine and you’ve got the perfect pairing. Here’s where to go, depending on the outdoor interests of your pod.
Slopes and Syrah
Located at the end of the Mt. Ashland Ski Area parking lot approximately 20 miles from Ashland, the network of snowshoeing and Nordic ski trails at Grouse Gap Sno-Park offers stunning views of Mt. Shasta and the Colestin Valley. Some traffic is to be expected, as you’re sharing the road with downhill skiers and sledding families, but persistence will be rewarded once you reach the Grouse Gap shelter (approximately 2.5 miles from your car and right off the Pacific Crest Trail), stocked with firewood and ready for your bonfire. Remember to BYOG (guitar). If downhill is more your speed, Mt. Ashland offers slopes for every skill level, and is encouraging tailgating with a picnic lunch as their lodge is utilized on a limited-capacity basis.
Bring a bottle of your favorite Rogue Valley wine to uncork for apres-ski, or if you’d rather warm up off the hill, cap your adventure with a tasting 25 minutes north on the newly remodeled outdoor deck at Weisinger Family Winery, now outfitted with gas fire pits at every social-distance-spaced table.
Cool-Weather Shenanigans and Chardonnay
Thirty minutes from downtown Ashland, the extensive network of cross-country and snowshoeing trails at Buck Prairie Recreation Area can be accessed from no fewer than four trailheads, up Highway 66 and Dead Indian Memorial Road. While there’s something for everyone here, pay attention to the trail levels (when they say “difficult,” they do mean it). Dog-friendly trails are designated, too. If you’re more of a dedicated snowshoer, Hyatt Lake Recreation Area may be more your speed, and quieter, too.
Unwind with valley views on the deck at Irvine & Roberts Vineyards as you approach Emigrant Lake, especially if you’re a Chardonnay or Pinot Noir fan, or head into Talent after making a private reservation at Naumes Suncrest Winery (open by appointment only).
Apres-Ski Big Reds
Up Highway 66 past the Green Springs Inn, Table Mountain Winter Play Area is the perfect place to bring the kids (pro tip: Keep those pocket hand-warmers handy). Afterward, head back toward Ashland to Belle Fiore Winery, where enough outdoor space allows friends to settle 6 feet apart while sipping double gold medal-winning Sidero.
Uncrowded and pristine in the snowy months, Crater Lake National Park is only 1.5 hours from Medford, offering incredible scenery and snow play for the kids (or kids at heart).
On the way home, stop at one of the wineries along the Upper Rogue River. Kriselle Cellars in White City will surely win over your crew with its pizza oven and outdoor fire pits on the giant patio surrounding the spacious, lodge-like tasting room. And quaint Cliff Creek Cellars in Gold Hill welcomes wintertime visitors to try their big reds in comfort, with over-table heaters and blankets on their patio overlooking the vineyard.
Top photo: Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument by Bob Wick / BLM