The Guide’s Guide to Grants Pass, Oregon
Though it’s best known for being the Gateway to the Rogue River, the town of Grants Pass has its own charms. If you’ve got an extra day or two at the end of your river trip, check out one of these southern Oregon spots, favorites of the guides for whom “Grass Pants” is a summer home.
Toast the conclusion of your river adventure with one of the rotating microbrews on tap at The Laughing Clam in downtown Grants Pass, Oregon. This pub has a hearty menu and a lively event calendar of local music. It’s also possible your guide will be here the evening after your trip, having happily foregone a shower to make it in before the kitchen closes and it’s too late to order a heaping basket of fish and chips.
Though it’s not the same thrill as seeing a black bear on the river, the Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center in Grants Pass is open to the public for tours. Animals that arrive at the shelter too injured to ever return to the wild become educational “ambassadors”— the team includes black and grizzly bears, a cougar, wolves, foxes, bobcats, raccoons, skunks, a badger, bald and golden eagles, an owl and a turkey vulture. The $12 admission for adults goes directly into the nonprofit’s operating budget.
Be sure to visit the flagship Dutch Brothers coffee shop. Their coffee beans are a staple on O.A.R.S. Oregon trips and something of an obsession among the guide crew. Order coffee from the cheerful baristas (whether or not they are “too friendly” is a point of contention among locals) and don’t forget to ask for a sticker.
At Wooldridge Creek Winery, black bears have been known to wander down to the vineyards to munch on grapes when the blackberries have shriveled at the end of summer.
If beer is more your style, Southern Oregon is also home to some great breweries.
Caldera Brewery in Ashland has an extensive beer list with some perennial favorites and lots of seasonal brews. Southern Oregon Brewery is a cozy brewpub in Medford. They have a delicious beer selection and a rotating line-up of food trucks that operate all week. Finally, Standing Stone Brewery in downtown Ashland has a menu of local, seasonal food complimented by a solid beer list. (Pro tip: their delicious house chai is not to be missed).
Neighboring Ashland is famous for its world-class Shakespeare Festival. But even if you don’t get to catch a play, an afternoon in downtown Ashland’s Lithia Park is well-worth your time. This park spans 93 acres of forested canyonlands. With its labyrinth of paths and ponds and playground equipment, it’s a great place for anyone whose heart is still on the river.