Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve is a quiet park located in Southwestern Oregon in the Siskiyou Mountains. If you are road tripping on Interstate 5 in that part of the state it’s worth a slight detour.
Take exit 58, OR-99 through the quaint mountain town of Grants Pass, where you’ll quickly learn that “It’s the Climate”. This is the recreational hub of Southern Oregon, much of which centers around the incredible Rogue River. The Hellgate Jet Excursions is a fast and furious way to experience the Rogue River up close and personal.
After crossing the Rogue on OR-99 turn right on US-199/Redwood Highway to Cave Junction and from there the Oregon Caves are about a 20 mile drive on OR-46. The last part of the road is a narrow winding journey back into the Park.
There are several Ranger lead cave tours available. The 90-minute tour is the most popular and will give you a good feel for the cave and its labyrinth. You will encounter 500 stairs on this tour, some of which can be steep and uneven, so know your limitation prior to starting out. There is an exit about half way through that will allow you to see the cave without the majority of the stairs – so don’t count it out if stairs aren’t your thing.
These caves were formed by rainwater runoff from the forests about which, over the years, has carved away on the marble underground creating a beautiful system of underground rooms and passageways.
Back above ground please make it a point to go into the Oregon Caves Chateau. This lodge is considered to be one of the finest National Park Lodges and is a National Historic Landmark. Although not as grand as the Ahwahnee in Yosemite or the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone, the Oregon Caves Chateau is a work of art nestled in the landscape. Completed in 1934 by self-taught architect Gust Lium, the lodge is made of natural resources of the area including the marble and cedar bark which you will see throughout.
The Monterey Furniture was handmade for the Chateau and though many pieces have worn and been removed there is still a good sampling in and around the site. The rooms are small but clean and comfortable. This is a fantastic place to stay if you are headed south to California’s Redwoods.
The Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve is a great place to relax and wander. If you are on a Park Finding quest, sometimes the smaller lesser known options can deliver great payoffs! Big or small, popular or lesser known – Get out and #FindYourPark.