15 Best Things to Do in Josephine County, OR

Josephine County, OR
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Known for its exceptional climate and stunning scenery, Josephine County in Oregon offers lots of exciting opportunities.

The county was established in 1856, and its name was possibly derived from a stream called Josephine Creek.

Grants Pass is its county seat and includes the Oregon Metropolitan Statistical Area.

The county also consists of the city of Cave Junction, census-designated places Kerby, Merlin, New Hope, O'Brien, Redwood, Selma, Takilma, Williams, and several unincorporated communities.

The area had a thriving mining industry during the earlier days and is now popular for its abundant tourist attractions.

It features plenty of locations for rafting, hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing for adventurous outdoor enthusiasts.

If you're leaning toward a more relaxing escape, the county area has many wineries, historical sites, museums, and restaurants you'll be delighted to try.

Explore the natural beauty of these sites and enjoy the best things to do in Josephine County, Oregon!

Step inside the Caverns at Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve

Interior of a cave at Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve
Oregon Caves from Cave Junction, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve lies east of Cave Junction in the northern Siskiyou Mountains near the Oregon–California border.

This protected park area spans over 4,500 acres, including the famous marble caves.

The cave was discovered by Elijah Davidson in 1874.

It was only during the late 1920s that visitors started flocking to the site, owing to the developments of public highways and the boost of tourism.

Rock formations at Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve
Jeffhollett, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Join the 90-minute tour with ranger guides and walk through the dark, twisting passages to discover the Marble Halls of Oregon.

Pass through the marble passageways and seeping waters, and go 220 feet under, leading to a huge cave room.

You can also set camp at several designated campgrounds and RV parks near the cave entrance.

Have a unique experience at Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve.

Visitors center at Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve
Jrozwado, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Go Wine Tasting at Schmidt Family Vineyards

Schmidt Family Vineyards is a family-owned and operated winery located at Kubli Road, Grants Pass in the Applegate Valley.

From three generations of winemakers, the business is now managed by Judy and Cal Schmidt, who have always been passionate about wines and winemaking.

Visit their welcoming and elegant craftsman-style tasting room and sip the wines to your delight.

Some of the red wines you can try are the Old Country Red, Duncan's Choice, and 2016 Estate Tempranillo.

Try white wine selections like the Amuse, the 2020 Albariño Reserve, or the 2020 Viognier Reserve.

Savor glasses from the rosé collection like the 2020 Sparkling Rose, 2020 Pink, or  2021 Pink; you can also taste the Dessert set like the Tempus, 2018 Late Harvest Viognier, and Tout Suite.

Pair your wine with excellent food on the menu, including starters, salads, and brick-oven pizza.

Schmidt Family Vineyards also features live music on Fridays and Saturdays.

Visit Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center

Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center is a non-profit corporation founded by a renowned wildlife rehabilitator, J. David Siddon.

The 24-acre facility is situated on Lower River Road in Grants Pass.

It was established in 1981 and aims to provide care and treatment to injured, sick, or orphaned wildlife and educate the public about wildlife conservation.

Go for a public tour and see different animals that made the facility their home, like badgers, bobcats, bald eagles, and bears.

Drop by the unique gift shop during your visit and support the center by purchasing exclusive items.

You can also book venue rentals at the Rotary Clubs of Josephine County Pavilion or Bindi's Critter Creek for celebrations like birthdays and reunions.

Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center also offers Camp Eek! during spring break, fall break, and winter break.

Appreciate the Arts at Grants Pass Museum of Art

Grants Pass Museum of Art features an array of exhibits and collections with opportunities for learning and introspection through the arts.

The museum has been the city's main resource for fine arts since it was founded in 1979; it was one of the four museums in the state at that time.

It was originally known as Gallery One and was owned by Charles Hill.

Today, you can visit and view currently featured exhibits on various mediums by local and national artists.

Catch weekly film shows, live concert series, and workshops for art aficionados who want to improve their skills.

Drop by Gallery One and see the works of art by Rogue Valley artists and artisans; you can also purchase art pieces and craft items at reasonable prices.

To appreciate fine arts, visit Grants Pass Museum of Art on Southwest G Street.

Hike and Camp at Red Buttes Wilderness

Red Buttes Wilderness in Williams measures more than 20,700 acres straddling the Siskiyou Mountains crest.

The area's ancient geology presents a reddish-orange brought about by the high iron and magnesium content and forming the peridotite rocks.

Enjoy hiking the trails, camping, and horseback riding in the area; you can take several trails, namely the Azalea Lake Trail, Cameron Meadows Trail, Frog Pond Trail, Butte Fork Trail, and Bigfoot Trail.

You'll encounter rugged terrains and various species of flora like Brewer's spruce, the Sadler oak, Siskiyou lewisia, and sclerophyllous shrubs, all found solely around southwestern Oregon and northwestern California areas.

The trails are also lined with different hemlocks, pines, cedar, and fir varieties.

Spot some wildlife in the area, like deer, black bears, coyotes, and cougars; you might also encounter a watchful ring-tail cat.

Red Buttes Wilderness is also a great place to spot birds like peregrine falcons, hawks, eagles, and northern goshawks.

Head to the Resort at Lake Selmac for Some Outdoor Family Fun

You'll find the Resort at Lake Selmac on Lake Shore Drive in Selma, just over California's state line.

The family-owned resort offers outdoor activities for all ages, from biking, hiking, and swimming to frisbee disc golf.

The lake is abundant with rainbow trout, largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, catfish, and panfish, so you'll surely have a great catch.

You can also rent boats, paddle boards, pedal boats, and kayaks for more water activities.

Set a family campout and avail yourself of the resort cabins, tipis, and RV and tent sites.

You'll find every supply you'll need during your stay at the Country Store, from camping and fishing supplies to food and snacks.

The Resort at Lake Selmac is a place to have a great time with family.

See the Colorful Butterflies at Rusk Ranch Nature Center

Rusk Ranch Nature Center on Redwood Highway, Cave Junction, presents charming gardens and attractions you'll love to see.

The center provides an interactive learning environment and recreational activities for kids and families.

View the colorful species at the Butterfly Pavilion and see the birds at the Hummingbird Garden.

Get your little ones to participate in the Nature Discovery Play or sign up for Volunteer Days and programs offered by the center.

You can also purchase milkweed varieties to take home and add to your garden, like Tropical Milkweed, Narrow Leaf Milkweed, Showy Milkweed, and others.

Have a nature tour at Rusk Ranch Nature Center.

Enjoy Family Outdoor Activities at Indian Mary Park

The waters of Indian Mary Park
Little Mountain 5, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Indian Mary Park on Galice Road, Merlin offers plenty of outdoor activities you can enjoy with your family.

The 61-acre park is a popular year-round camping site and day-use area.

It was named after Mary Peters, known as Indian Mary, who operated a ferry service to miners during the 1800s; her family refused to relocate even at the height of the Rogue River Wars.

She sold the property area to the county in 1958.

Indian Mary Park offers campground facilities like full or partial hook-ups, tent sites, yurts, and group site tents.

For day-use facilities, you can opt for the large Sims Picnic Shelter and Group Picnic Area #A and #B, all provided with electricity, barbecue grills, and water supply.

You'll enjoy river activities here, like swimming, rafting, and fishing, along with peaceful views of nature.

Other amenities available at the park include a nine-hole disc golf course, horseshoe pits, and restrooms with showers.

Find Fascinating Artifacts at Pottsville Historical Museum

Pottsville Historical Museum was founded by former State Senator Eugene "Debbs" Potts in 1959.

This interesting museum is located at Pleasant Valley Road in Merlin and is known as the "Home of Oregon Memories."

Tour the museum, ride a horse, have fun on the cart or buggy, take the Walk Through History, or enjoy a picnic under the shady trees.

You'll feel like stepping back in time with unique antiques, objects, and car displays at the Pioneer Town and Outdoor Exhibits.

Find vintage items, war memorabilia, and antiques at Museum #1 and antique toys and cool collectibles at the Toy Display.

Step into the Medical Room to see old medical devices, explore classic kitchenware and utensils in the Kitchen exhibit, and drop by Debb's Reading Library to discover Oregon's past.

View displays of various farm and agricultural tools, old tractors, and equipment in the Agriculture Room.

The Wagon and Car Museum will surely amaze car enthusiasts; the Outside Exhibits are equally interesting.

You can also catch exciting yearly summer events at Pottsville Historical Museum, like Antique Tractor Show and Pull, Ratrod Car Show, and the Pow Pow.

Go for a Water Rafting Adventure at Hellgate Canyon-Rogue River

A rafting trip at Hellgate Canyon-Rogue River is one unforgettable experience you can have during your visit.

The Rouge is a famous whitewater river located near Galice Road in Merlin, with the lower part of the river beginning seven miles from Grants Pass.

Test your wits and strength as you brace the wild rapids, then enjoy the calmer waters at the lower parts of the lake.

You can go on a private trip, have a self-guided group or get an outfitted guided trip.

Enjoy more of the lake waters by fishing for a fresh catch of steelhead and salmon.

The 40-mile Rogue River National Recreation Trail will lead you to forested mountains, rock boulders, and banks.

Going to Hellgate Canyon-Rogue River is one experience you wouldn't want to miss.

The Glass Forge Gallery and Studio is located on Southwest G Street in Grants Pass.

The business was founded by expert glassblowers Lee Wassink and Nathan Sheafor in 1998.

They specialize in Italian-style glass art and utilize ancient glass-blowing techniques to create a wide range of unique glass decors and items.

You can also make your own ornament or decor by picking out a color, blowing the ornament while a glassblower assists you, then letting it cool; you drop by the next day or have it shipped to your home.

Likewise, you can just drop by for a tour and see their onsite gallery.

Glass items you can purchase at The Glass Forge Gallery and Studio include giftware, orbs, drinkware, vase, bowls, and paperweights.

Spend a Day at Illinois River Forks State Park

Illinois River Forks State Park consists of 400 acres of land area administered by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

You can access the park from Highway 199, just south of Cave Junction.

Grab a packed lunch and eat at the picnic tables along the grass lawn, or try the swimming hole on a hot summer day.

On the park's west side, you can find the West Side Trailhead, a seven-mile hiking trail, and several equestrian trails.

Enjoy the beauty of the surrounding nature, see some rare plant species or unwind and fish by the lake.

You can play at the nine-hole disc golf course if you prefer some activity.

Take time to slow down at Illinois River Forks State Park.

Zoom Away at Treehouse Ziplines

Treehouse Ziplines offers you and your family something exciting and fun to do while you're in the county area.

This attraction is located on Page Creek Road in Cave Junction and features several zipline action courses.

The basic course is the Mountain View Zipway which includes six ziplines.

The Dip Tree Extree includes the fastest cable called Round Robin, bringing you from one platform to another and the fastest platform-to-ground cable called the Big Dipper.

If you're looking for another level of excitement, try the Outback Adventure, a hybrid course with challenging bridges you need to cross.

You'll surely have an adrenaline rush with the more challenging Treeversal ExTree and the thrilling Tarzan Swing.

Go for an extreme adventure at Treehouse Ziplines.

Enjoy Hiking at Rough and Ready Botanical Wayside

Can't get enough of the outdoors?

Try hiking at Rough and Ready Botanical Wayside.

This area is located about four miles south of Cave Junction.

This location has become a well-known wildflower observation area with the discovery of new plant species.

You'll find a short interpretative trail starting from the parking area and picnic shelter.

Enjoy viewing the wildflowers on your hike and observe rare flora and the meandering ecosystem.

End your hiking trip to Rough and Ready Botanical Wayside with a relaxing picnic at the tables on your way back.

Meet Exotic Cats up Close at Great Cats World Park

A person feeding a serval at Great Cats World Park
Victoria Ditkovsky / Shutterstock.com

Bring the family to Great Cats World Park, and they'll surely have a memorable experience.

The park sits at Redwood Highway in Cave Junction and offers visitors an up close and personal look at its exotic cat collection through a guided tour.

Learn about the differences and unique features of these big cats.

You'll be able to view wildcats, caracals, Eurasian lynx, jaguars, and more.

A serval at Great Cats World Park
Brendon Connelly from Newberg, Oregon, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can also request opportunities to photograph a minimum of five cats with the assistance of park keepers.

They also have peacocks and honey bees you can also view.

Stay on the patio and enjoy snacks, drinks, and ice cream at the cafe after the tour.

Don't forget to visit the Great Cats World Park Gift Shop and choose exclusive items for mementos, like books, shirts, artwork, posters, and more.

Final Thoughts

Josephine County is filled with fantastic nature locations like rivers, trailheads, and cave areas.

It offers plenty of outdoor opportunities to satisfy your need for adventure.

Your family will have great experiences with hosts of botanical and wildlife attractions in the area.

The county also has its share of laid-back attractions like museums, wineries, and art spots.

Get your bags ready and get to do the best things in Josephine County, Oregon.

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