10 Best Things to Do in Grants Pass, Oregon

Kayaking on Oregon Lake

mdurson / Getty Images

Located in Southern Oregon's Rogue Valley, sunny Grants Pass makes a great base for awesome outdoor experiences with many opportunities to enjoy local foods, wines, and microbrews. The Rogue River runs 215 miles from the headwaters near Crater Lake National Park to Gold Beach at the Pacific Ocean—a stretch of it near Grants Pass is officially designated as a National Wild and Scenic River. The vast Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest lies to the west of Grants Pass, while Crater Lake National Park sits to the east. Needless to say, activities like river rafting, hiking, biking, and fishing are all pretty popular in this part of the state.

In addition to the glorious outdoors, the Grants Pass region is also home to interesting pioneer-era history, which you can learn more about at several sites and attractions. There's also a thriving regional wine and craft brew scene, which you can enjoy during a driving tour of the area's many eateries, wineries, and breweries.

01 of 10

Learn About Wildlife at an Animal Rehabilitation Center

Wildlife Images Rehabilitation & Education Center

Wildlife Images Rehabilitation & Education Center

11845 Lower River Rd, Grants Pass, OR 97526-9613, USA
Phone +1 541-476-0222

Located just 20 minutes from downtown Grants Pass, the Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center has been providing for orphaned, sick, and injured wildlife since it was started as a non-profit by wildlife warrior J. David Siddon in 1981. Today, it's made headlines thanks in part to an association with Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo and the Wildlife Warriors—fans of the Irwin family can visit sections of the park called Bindi's Critter Creek and Robert's Reptile Room.

Stop by the animal sanctuary, see the admirable work that's being done at the Wildlife Hospital clinic to help creatures in need, and learn about wildlife during educational talks and feeding presentations. Hear more about invasive species, wading birds, gray foxes, eagles, bears, wolves, ducks, opossums, and other animals from the keepers themselves or, for an extra fee, get a behind-the-scenes look during a 45-minute tour of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

02 of 10

Admire Artwork at the Grants Pass Museum of Art

Grants Pass Museum of Art in Oregon

Grants Pass Museum of Art

229 SW G St 2nd Floor, Grants Pass, OR 97526-2415, USA
Phone +1 541-479-3290

Formerly known as Gallery One when it first opened in 1979, the Grants Pass Museum of Art offers a look at traveling exhibitions by local artists, with previous rounds focusing on new perspectives in which to view the world around us, activism in art, photography, and spoofs of classic works of art, among other creative themes.

Check the website to see if any special events such as Sunday Afternoon in the Museum with Artists, Art in the Garden, the Music at the Museum live concert series, Poetry Night, or any number of workshops for adults and children (ages 7 and up) will be happening while you're in town.

03 of 10

Go Rafting Along the Rogue River

White Water Rafting on the Rogue River in Oregon

Erik Isakson / Getty Images

Oregon's Rogue River is famous for its beauty; rafting opportunities often include wildlife viewing as well. A number of outfitters in the area, particularly in the nearby town of Merlin, offer whitewater rafting and float trips. Along the river, you'll find parks, campgrounds, lodges, and charming towns with accommodations and amenities to suit any budget. Some sections of the river also feature exceptional fly fishing spots.

People come from all around the world to take advantage of the Rogue River's untamed majesty. You'll find Class I and II rapids suitable for a thrilling family float trip, while other sections of the river offer a greater challenge, with numerous Class III and IV rapids. Whether you choose to do your raft trip, which can last anywhere from a few hours to several days, with an expert guide or float on your own, it's bound to be a memorable adventure. Note that from mid-May through the middle of October, float permits are required and competitive for the wild and most remote sections covering Grave Creek to Watson Creek.

04 of 10

Tour the Canyon in a Jet Boat

Two Hellgate Jetboats on the water

Hellgate Jetboat Excursions

966 SW 6th St, Grants Pass, OR 97526-2908, USA
Phone +1 541-479-7204

While most traffic on the Rogue River is non-motorized, a jet boat can handle the white water and take you to a magnificent and wild section of the Rogue that's otherwise inaccessible. Hellgate Jet Boat Excursions provides narrated tours through Hellgate Canyon as part of an exciting trip focusing on scenery, wildlife, and area history. Most excursions also include brunch, lunch, or dinner.

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05 of 10

Go Wine Tasting

Schmidt Family Vineyards

Schmidt Family Vineyards

330 Kubli Rd, Grants Pass, OR 97527, USA
Phone +1 541-846-9985

The Rogue Valley and nearby Applegate and Illinois Valleys are home to a number of vineyards and wineries, making southern Oregon a wonderful destination for foodies and wine lovers.

Stop by Schmidt Family Vineyards for a wine tasting and a memorable flatbread pizza lunch. Enjoy a fresh salad, then wander and relax among the lovely gardens. Nearby, the warm and welcoming folks at Troon Vineyard in Applegate Valley teach visitors about Troon's various wines, biodynamic winemaking, and the local wine scene, all with the stunning Siskiyou Mountains landscape as your backdrop. Next, savor wine and taste artisanal cheeses and cured meats on Woolridge Creek Winery's outdoor patio or inside by the fire in the tasting room. Make time to visit this scenic 56-acre vineyard in the Applegate River Valley.

06 of 10

Tour Oregon Caves National Monument

Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve tour

Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve

19000 Caves Hwy, Cave Junction, OR 97523, USA
Phone +1 541-592-2100

Check out the ancient cave system—its marble formations being the main attraction—at Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve, about 90 minutes from Grants Pass. The park includes over 4,500 acres, where you can enjoy numerous trails for hiking, wildlife watching, and viewing the Siskiyou Mountains.

Physically fit visitors can enjoy a 90-minute ranger-guided tour (fee and reservations required), while adventurous and fit cave enthusiasts can do the Off-Trail Caving Tour in the summer for an introduction to caving. Before or after your cave tour, stop by the Oregon Caves Visitor Center to learn about the natural and human history of the Oregon Caves and to pick up a souvenir from the bookstore. Ranger-led lodge tours are available as well or you can explore the lodge's public areas and services on your own.

07 of 10

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Hikers walking on riverside trail

Erik Isakson / Getty Images 

3700 Pearce Park Rd, Grants Pass, OR 97526-3964, USA
Phone +1 541-474-5285

With all the parks, forests, rivers, and mountains that surround it, the Grants Pass area offers excellent hiking opportunities. Start with a trip to Cathedral Hills, a system of trails within 400 forested acres that's located about 10 minutes south of Grants Pass. Here, you'll find 10 miles of trails for hikers, bikers, and horseback riders, and a good selection of easy, moderate, and difficult loop trails. Following the Rogue River from Grave Creek Bridge to the falls, try the Rainie Falls Trail, where you can enjoy the scenery, and, in season, watch the salmon migrations on this 3.6-mile trail about 45 minutes from Grant Pass by car.

Closer to town, Riverside Park is a fun place to wander and explore. Kids can enjoy the whimsical playground and open lawn spaces, which include baseball and soccer fields, and a disc golf course. For relaxation, hang out in the rose garden or at one of the picnic tables or shelters.

For fishing opportunities near Grants Pass, the Rogue, Applegate, and Illinois Rivers are all rich in salmon, trout, and steelhead, while Lake Selmac and Lost Creek Reservoir offer world-class bass and trout fishing. There are also dozens of fishing guides and outfitters that serve Grants Pass visitors.

08 of 10

Attend an Annual Event

Back to the 50's event featuring retro cars in Grants Pass

Experience Grants Pass

Grants Pass, OR, USA

The local community hosts a number of special events and festivals throughout the year, which you won't want to miss. Visit in May for a whole month of special events highlighting pre-summer fun, including the Boatnik Races on the Rogue River, the Native American Arts Festival, and the Spring Wine Stroll. In July, the cars and music of the 1950s are celebrated at a popular weeklong summer festival, Back to the Fifties, with outdoor movies, food, and family-friendly entertainment. In October, street painting and chalk art decorate the town during the special two-day Art Along the Rogue event, which also features live music.

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09 of 10

Learn About the Area's Pioneer History

Exterior of the Applegate Trail Interpretive Center

Travel Southern Oregon

500 Sunny Valley Loop, Wolf Creek, OR 97497-9746, USA
Phone +1 541-291-1225

Located just 15 minutes from Grants Pass in Merlin, Pottsville Historical Town and Museum preserves the early settlement era of Oregon's history with two museums of artifacts including war memorabilia and medals, mining equipment, typewriters, tractors, and the old Pottsville Fire Truck. The "Pioneer Town" buildings and outdoor exhibits are open to the public; if you'd like to tour it or the museum, an appointment is required.

10 of 10

Explore a Ghost Town

southern Oregon Ghost Town

Oregon State Parks

Golden State Heritage Site, Wolf Creek, OR 97497, USA
Phone +1 800-551-6949

Keep an eye out for paranormal activity in a southern Oregon Ghost Town. The Golden State Heritage Site preserves the remains of Golden, an abandoned 19th-century mining town that was once home to 100 people and served as a center for the many others who worked in nearby remote locations. The 1850s mining camp eventually gave way to a town, which was established around 1890. Today, four buildings remain, including the church, a commercial building, and one home.

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10 Best Things to Do in Grants Pass, Oregon