A Traveler's Guide to the Rogue Umpqua Scenic Byway, Highway of Waterfalls
By Emily Hunter | 11/29/2022 | Attractions, Fishing, Lakes & Rivers, National Park, Outdoor Activities, Outdoor Adventure, Rafting & Kayaking, Ski & Snowboard, Things to Do, Trails, Water Adventures

A TRAVELER’S GUIDE TO THE ROGUE-UMPQUA SCENIC BYWAY

When it comes to the wealth and bounty of the valley - Medford’s rushing rivers and majestic mountains create a kaleidoscope of wonder for your eyes to feast upon. World-renowned for its fishing, whitewater rafting, experiences and more - the Rogue River has cascaded its way along the hills and valleys, carving some of the most incredible waterfalls you could visit. This beloved, 172 mile stretch is affectionately and accurately known as the “Highway of Waterfalls”, or the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway.

More than 15 beautiful cascades lie upon this wonderful little road trip - and it all starts right here in the Heart of the Rogue.

Your journey begins on OR-62, where several turnouts entice you to snack on a picnic lunch, or fly fish along the Upper Rogue River. As you pass Shady Cove, you’ll pass the Casey State Recreation Area and Cole Rivers Hatchery, where Salmon and Steelhead are raised and released to the river each year. Nestled off the road is a must-see gem, Crowfoot Falls! Simply take a right on Crowfoot Road off OR-62, and discover a complete oasis. Perfect for family trips and wading in the water throughout the summer, Crowfoot Falls is a wonderful first pitstop on your trip.

This is only the beginning of the treasures that await you along the byway! As you pass Lost Creek Lake, a plethora of waterfalls await your exploration

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Ancient lava flow once roared along the valley, cementing interesting caverns, caves and tubes for the water to rush through. The main trails around this area are paved and wheelchair accessible, allowing all abilities to explore the stunning falls. The trail makes a “Y”, with two out-and-back options. To the left, discover the Avenue of Giant Boulders, as the river swiftly swerves through lava rocks. As you make your way along the trail, you will come upon an observation platform overlooking the Rogue Gorge

Each minute, the Rogue Gorge's 25-foot wide, 40-foot deep chasm could fill an Olympic size pool - the equivalent of 2.5 million liters of water!

Just one mile further, you will uncover one of nature’s greatest magic tricks. A 250-foot lava tube embraces the river, forcing it to travel underground and create a natural bridge of swirling, hardened lava flow on top. After your venture here, make your way back to the “Y” and take a right to Mill Creek, Barr Creek and Pearsony Falls. This section of trails is not paved, but is completely flat with packed dirt; the total distance of the trail is 0.3 miles.

Plunging forcefully 174 feet and into the Rogue River, Mill Creek Falls is a true sight to behold. Just a stone throw away, Barr Creek Falls is 242 feet tall, and offers a more graceful descent into the river. We’re just getting started - as Pearsony Falls is your next stop in this area! Cascading down river rocks and colorful forestry, Pearsony Falls offers a wonderful nature trail and truly rounds out your experience at this pit stop. Yes - this is only the second stop on your trip along the byway!

As OR-62 breaks off onto OR-230 (W Diamond Lake Hwy), countless trailheads and waterfalls lie ahead. To continue on to the highway of waterfalls, you will want to go on to OR-230 - but if you’re aiming for the wonders of Crater Lake, continue on OR-62 for another 15 miles. OR-230 follows the Rogue River, and introduces you to National Creek Falls, Alkali Creek Falls, and Muir Creek Falls. To get to National Creek Falls, take a right off OR-230 onto Old Diamond Lake Road. The parking lot is slightly small, but the views are well worth the stop. The plunge and power of the falls are indescribable - with beautiful greenery, rocks and fallen trees creating a scene that belongs in its own fantasy world. Alkali and Muir Creek Falls are two lesser known stops - but beautiful, stepping stone cascades right in the area.

Next up - Diamond Lake! Cradled between Mt Bailey and Mt Thielsen, Diamond Lake offers wonderful activities to do all year round. In fall and summer, enjoy the cycling and fishing path around the entire lake, horse-back riding, boating, swimming and other resort activities. In the winter months, the lake is the prime location to enjoy snowmobiling, and snowcat skiing and snowboarding.

As we bid adieu to the lake, OR-138 (Cascade Lakes Hwy) introduces us to the Umpqua River, and some of the most famous and photographed falls in the state. The third highest waterfall in Oregon - Watson Falls drops 272 feet into the gorgeous national forest. The trail feels like walking through a dream, with rapids along Watson Creek falling over and along basalt lava rocks that make the air cool and misty. Bring your camera and keep your eyes open - as you will see many different angles of Watson Falls as you ascend. Just minutes away and surrounded by basalt lava cliffs, Toketee Falls plunges from two tiers into a large pool of water. The North Umpqua River carved a sinuous gorge from lava flow to create a marvelous basalt cove. The upper falls plunge from the natural cliffs at 28 feet, with the lower rushing down at 85 feet to create a true masterpiece.

Finally, the Umpqua Hot Springs are just seconds away! Perched upon the side of a mountain, multiple geothermal hot springs overlook the Umpqua River. One of the largest lies underneath a wood canopy, while the rest are open with full views of the river and forestry surrounding the area. The springs are some of the warmest (155°F, 46.1°C) and most popular in the state. The trail to the top is quite steep, but the experience and scenery makes for the perfect payoff!

*Be advised, the hot springs have been known as a clothing optional location. Plan accordingly and remember to leave no trace.

Adventure and beautiful scenery are bursting at the seams here in the Heart of the Rogue. Discover incredible hiking and biking trails, as well as the pure awe that is inspired by the sights of each waterfall along the byway. Be sure to respect these trails, leaving no trace and keeping our wonderful home as beautiful as it is. Uncover the unexpected sights, sounds and experiences of the Rogue Valley - with Medford as your launchpad to explore it all!

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