It is a gorgeous Fall in Oregon this year. We are free of smoke, and the weather has been temperate. It is a perfect time to take some leisurely drives to see these spectacular places and enjoy the Fall colors along the way.
Here are several suggestions:
The Rogue Umpqua Scenic Byway
You can go all 172 miles or shorten the trip and stop off at a picnic spot along the route. This byway connects I-5 from Roseburg to Gold Hill. The route is completely paved and there are stop-offs like Diamond Lake (https://www.diamondlake.net/) or Idleyld Park (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idleyld_Park,_Oregon) .
Lithia Park in Ashland
Just a hop, skip and a jump from Medford, walk the trails through Lithia Park. Visit the duck pond or the Japanese Zen Garden. There is a playground for children with swings, opportunities to climb all these amenities are next to restrooms. For more private strolls, go up higher in elevation and past the Lithia Band Shell and find the Rose Garden. For trail guides, see the above link. You will also want to find out which areas of the park allows pets before you head out.
Rogue River Greenway
Only 3.9 miles but worth the drive up to Rogue River. The trail ends at Depot Street Bridge and I-5 and Twin Bridges Rd. just east of N. River Rd. Make sure to check out Valley of the Rogue State Park where you can have a picnic or just rest. This is also a good trail for biking or bringing pets along.
The Jack-Ash Trail Phase 1
This trail that opens in June of 2019 is 145 miles of dirt and a newly-built trail. You can enjoy it on foot, bicycle or horse only. Phase1 of this trail connects with the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail (https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/oregon/sterling-mine-ditch-trail) and makes a giant loop. You can find an informative trail map here: https://sutaoregon.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/20170704-JackAsh-Ph1-and-SMDT-Loop-Map-w-Terrain.pdf.
If you want to take a longer trek. In about 302 miles, you can be in Multnomah Falls from Medford, Oregon. There are no fees to see it and it is open all year round. You can take a 2.2-mile hike of a 5.4-mile hike in to see the Falls and they are breathtaking at any time of year, but the Fall season adds spectacular surrounding colors.
Mckenzie Highway – Oregon 242
You will need to drive a bit for this one. Mckenzie Highway starts past Belknap Springs (http://belknaphotsprings.com/), which is a lovely spot to soak in a pool fed by natural Hot Springs next to the Mckenzie river and take a walk to the secret garden. You need to get to Oregon 242 before the snow flies as this highway gets closed in the Winter. According to Travel Oregon: “In 9 miles/14.4 kilometers, a 1.3-mile/ 2-kilometer trail leads through lava fields reclaimed by forest to Proxy Falls. The lovely two-part falls spills over mosses and ferns, its waters largely disappearing right back into the green-blanketed rocks. The byway then switchbacks steeply through an area known as Deadhorse Grade, climbing nearly 1,200 feet/365 meters in just 4 miles/6.4 kilometers. You’ll be treated to more outstanding volcano views, this time of North Sister and Middle Sister.”