In the high desert just east of the Southern Cascade Mountains you'll find the small city of Klamath Falls, Oregon. The region is also home to major wildlife preserves and national forests, making it a hotspot for nature lovers. Visitors to Klamath Falls will find the beauty and diversity of the local landscape the major attraction, which they can experience via outdoor recreational opportunities or on a scenic drive. There are also many interesting museums, wildlife refuges, and fun events from a classic car show to a snowflake festival full of winter festivity.
Experience Wildlife Refuges
The Klamath River Basin, which includes land in both Oregon and California, is home to diverse ecosystems rich in fauna. You'll find major wildlife refuges within a short drive of Klamath Falls, where you can enjoy birding, hiking, canoeing, photography, and wildlife watching.
- Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge: Located a 55-minute drive north of Klamath Falls, this refuge spans mostly wet meadows with some open water wetlands. The wildlife includes sandhill cranes, ducks, Canadian geese, yellow rails, and Oregon spotted frogs. Visitors can explore via canoe, kayak, or walking trails.
- Klamath Wildlife Area: This area includes several tracts of land scattered around Klamath Falls. American white pelicans, California quail, western pond turtles, and other animals may be spotted. The Miller Island Unit, located just south of Klamath Falls, is home to birds of all kinds, depending on the time of year; take the loop trail to see the animals and scenery.
- The Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge visitor center, about a 50-minute drive from Klamath Falls across the border in California, is a good stop for the latest information on species sightings, special programs, and weather. Bald eagles are seen in numbers there and around the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, also in California, just about 40 minutes from Klamath Falls.
Hike and Run in Town
Many opportunities for varied outdoor activities exist within Klamath Falls. From hiking and biking to less-sweaty strolling and bench warming, your outdoor experience will often include the local lakes and rivers—as well as the birds and wildlife—that call these waters home.
- Link River Trail: Within walking distance of downtown Klamath Falls, this 1.5 mile route is a good choice for walkers and runners who follow the trail along the Link River to Upper Klamath Lake.
- Wingwatchers Nature Trail: Birders adore this 2.5-mile trail—with picnic tables and plenty of trees—along the lively shores of Lake Ewauna.
Delve Into the Outdoors Near Klamath Falls
East of Klamath Falls you'll find dry desert terrain; if you go west, you'll encounter mountains, forests, and Crater Lake National Park. Rivers and lakes are in every direction, as are the Fremont-Winema National Forest and Umpqua National Forest. There are many opportunities for fun: Try hiking, biking, and boating in the summer, or skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.
- Collier Memorial State Park: This park about 35 minutes from Klamath Falls displays a vast outdoor collection of early logging equipment and a riverfront pioneer village. Camping facilities are available for tent and RV campers. Enjoy hiking and horseback riding on nearby trails, trout fishing in the Williamson River or Spring Creek, or a picnic.
- OC&E Woods Line State Trail: This continuous, partially graveled rail trail runs for more than 100 miles and has four distinct sections. The trail passes through farmland, along rivers, over train trestles, and past historic sites. It goes from Klamath Falls at the south end, through Beatty and national forest lands to the north; an east-west spur connects the small towns of Beatty and Bly. Popular with hikers, bikers, and horse riders, the trail can be accessed at many points along its length.
Take Some Scenic Drives
A driving tour is an ideal way to explore the scenery with occasional stops at viewpoints, trails, museums, and restaurants. The Klamath Falls area is blessed with two wonderful options, each taking a full day.
- Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, Southern Oregon Section: This byway covers about 140 miles on US 97, from the Diamond Lake Junction on the north to the border with California on the south. You'll pass beautiful Crater Lake National Park and can check out the famous Rim Drive. Potential stops along the way include birding along the shores of Upper Klamath Lake and hiking at Vidae Falls in Crater Lake National Park.
- Upper Klamath Loop: This scenic 90-mile drive goes northwest on Highway 140, featuring great views of Upper Klamath Lake. Stop at Jackson F. Kimball State Recreation Site if you like, viewing the Wood River flowing from the pine forest into open meadows. Once you are on the east side of Klamath Lake, catch some lovely views of Mt. Scott, Mt. McLoughlin, and Mt. Shasta.
Check out Museums
Explore one of Klamath Fall's museums to get a feel for the area's history and culture.
- The Favell Museum: This site features Native American artifacts. Its massive collection includes local items as well as over 100,000 arrowheads, baskets, and ancient stone tools from North and South American tribes. You'll also find works by such significant Western artists as Charles M. Russell and John Clymer, as well as more contemporary artists.
- Klamath County Museum: Learn all about local and regional history, including the Modoc Indian War, at this museum. Additional exhibits can be found at the Klamath County Museum's sister facilities, the Baldwin Hotel Museum and the Fort Klamath Museum.
Have Fun at Annual Events
No matter what the season, there's always some reason to gather and celebrate in Klamath Falls. There are various popular annual events for all interests.
- Winter Wings Festival: This February event is where birders and wildlife fans enjoy programs, field trips, and other activities appreciating the Klamath Basin.
- Kruise of Klamath Car Show: A June event, this features classic cars, music, and food.
- Klamath County Fair: Usually held in early August, the fair has a carnival, entertainment, crafts, a food court, and more.
- Snowflake Festival: For two weeks in December, enjoy a parade, Bowling with Santa, entertainment, and other festive activities.
Venture Into Whitewater Rafting and Fishing
Enjoying the water is easy to do in Klamath Falls. A number of outfitters offers wild whitewater raft trips on the Upper Klamath River from May through September.
If you'd rather fish, The Klamath Basin's abundance of lakes, rivers, and streams provide great opportunities, with trout and bass being the major species. In addition to Klamath Lake, which is the largest freshwater lake in Oregon, Lake of the Woods and Gerber Reservoir are also popular fishing destinations. Several companies are available to supply you with rental gear or guide service.
Engage in Sports
Local sports leagues and tournaments play baseball, softball, soccer, and more at the extensive Steen Sports Park complex in Klamath Falls. Visitors can take in a game or enjoy the park's cross-country jogging trails, two playgrounds, or additional features.
Those looking to golf may want to check out Harbor Links Golf, a public golf course situated along the southeast shore of Upper Klamath Lake, or Shield Crest Golf Club, located at the east side of Klamath Falls.
The nearby mountain and forests provide plenty of terrain for skiing and other snow sports near Klamath Falls. For downhill skiing, Mount Ashland Ski Area, Mount Shasta Ski Park, Mount Bailey, and Willamette Pass Resort are all within a couple hours' drive from Klamath Falls.
For cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, check out Crater Lake National Park and the Fremont-Winema National Forest, both of which have great winter trails.