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The Best Outdoorsy Things To Do in Cave Junction & Nearby

May 30, 2024

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This underrated region of Oregon is worthy of a road trip! Cave Junction is a magical destination where you can find towering mountains, complex cave systems, world-renowned wine, one of the first treehouse resorts in the US and much more. Anyone who loves the outdoors is sure to enjoy hiking among the towering trees, admiring the rare plants and touring the famous Oregon Caves.

The outdoor adventure here really takes center stage, but the community also makes the area special. From talking with vendors at the farmer’s market to hearing the stories of brave smokejumpers to swaying to live music on a warm, spring evening, the welcoming people make this area extra special.

Keep reading to discover the best things to do in Cave Junction and Grants Pass. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful escape in nature or an adventurous getaway full of fun activities, this area has something for you.

This blog is sponsored by Visit Grants Pass, but as always, opinions are my own. Thank you to Visit Grants Pass for their generosity!

The Best Outdoorsy Things To Do in Cave Junction and Nearby

Visit Oregon Caves National Monument

A visit to Oregon Caves National Monument is a must during your time in Cave Junction! This underrated national park is known for its intricately beautiful cave system formed by acidic water. It’s a long, mountainous drive to reach this park, but very much worth it.

Lydia standing on rocks looking out a view of mountains in the distance
Cliff Nature Trail
Cave formations seen on the cave tour at Oregon Caves National Monument
Oregon Caves

You’ll want to reserve a cave tour for your visit in person or online. If you want to reserve your tour in person, head to the visitor center in Cave Junction before making the drive up the mountain to where the tours begin. This is highly recommended so that you don’t waste a lot of time if the tours are sold out.

Tip: Plan to arrive 30 minutes early for your cave tour and allow extra time for the drive up there - it’s very windy and steep.

There are a few different tours offered and the options vary a bit depending on time of year. I did the Discovery Tour, which is the classic option. The tour was more adventurous than I expected it would be! It’s a 90-minute experience that leads you to past endless interesting cave formations. You’ll see delicate boxwork, large columns, 100’s of soda straws, underground waterfalls and more.

The tour involves climbing up and down uneven steps, crouching and navigating some narrow areas. Also make sure to not wear or bring gear that has ever been in another cave. They are trying to prevent the spread of white-nose syndrome to their bats!

The cave tour is fantastic, but there is more to do during your visit to Oregon Caves. After the tour concludes, you can add on a short hike up to the Cliff Nature Trail. This provides an incredible viewpoint overlooking the Siskiyou Mountains. There are additional hiking trails if you have time, such as the No Name Trail and Big Tree Loop.

In my opinion, a cave tour is one of the very best things to do in Cave Junction. It’s a fantastic way to see the landscape from a new perspective and learn from a ranger.

Hike in Illinois Forks State Park

If you enjoy a forested trail with few other visitors, it’s absolutely worth a stop at Illinois Forks State Park. The park is free to visit and has a few different areas. I recommend the Westside Loop which winds through tall trees, spring wildflowers and even has a peek of mountain views in the distance.

Lydia hiking with white flowers in the foregroundMountains seen in the distance between tree branches
The Westside Loop in Illinois Forks State Park

The parking area is not clearly marked on Google Maps, so use the All Trails map for guidance. The trailhead is equipped with a vault toilet and the trail was well maintained. There is a nice amount of elevation change and the forested trail also includes a stream, mossy branches and giant pinecones. You can also decide between longer and shorter loops depending on how much distance you want to hike. This is a great trail for any level of experience!

Explore Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical Area

The Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical Area is operated by the US Forest Service and home to rare plants, scenic river views and unique landscapes. In fact, it’s one of the most significant botanical sites in Oregon.

A close up of pitcher plants seen in Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical AreaLydia walking on a boardwalk with pink flowers in the foreground next to the boardwalk
The Botanical Wayside in Eight Dollar Mountain

The area is home to multiple scenic viewpoints and hiking trails, but the one you shouldn’t miss is the botanical wayside. Here, a short and accessible trail will lead you through wetlands and to a fen (a type of peat-accumulating wetland) full of pitcher plants, also known as Darlingtonia Californica.

In the spring, the path was lined with several other beautiful flowers as well. It felt worlds away from the rest of the region!

Tip: There is limited parking at the boardwalk trail. If the parking is full, you can park across the street, but you’ll then have to walk up a steep hill to reach the path.

Lydia standing and looking out at Little Illinois FallsRapids in the Illinois River next to a rocky shoreline
Little Illinois Falls

Another great stop to make in Eight Dollar Mountain is the hike to Little Illinois Falls. The trail begins at the Little Falls Campground and is less than a mile. The trail is short, but rocky, so you’ll want to wear sturdy hiking shoes. It offers some incredible views of the river and the falls, which are small but beautiful to look at.

There were people swimming in the river near the falls. It’s the perfect place to cool off on a hot day. It’s also worth noting that I saw some nudity down by the river. Just something to be aware of!

Eight Dollar Mountain has other trails as well if you have more time. It’s a great place to include on your Cave Junction itinerary!

Stay at Out'n'About Treesort

Stay at one of the oldest treehouse resorts in the country at Out'n'About Treesort! The property has several unique treehouses to choose from, including some that can only be reached by swinging bridge. The owner has gone to great lengths to ensure that the houses are built in a way that does not harm the trees!

Looking up at a suspended cabin on a treeLydia standing on the steps in front of a treehouse at Out N About Treesort
Out N About Treesort

Each treehouse is themed a little differently and thoughtfully designed. A few details I loved were a shed with a mushroom room, hanging swings, very friendly kitties and endless tree puns around the property.

Out‘n'About also offers ziplining, horseback riding and white water rafting trips. Plus, there is a delicious breakfast served every morning in the main lodge. They served veggie quiche, french toast, coffee cake and more, and it was all homemade and quite good.

The Treesort has plenty of outdoor picnic tables, plus a stage, cornhole and more amenities. You can even see the horses up close! It’s an incredible property for a romantic getaway, for families or any other group. I really enjoyed my stay here!

Get Out on the Water

If you visit during the summer, white water rafting is a popular activity in the Rogue River Valley near Grants Pass! There are several outfitters that offer half day, full day and multi-trips out on the water. Depending on which trip you choose, you’ll be able to go over rapids, swim in the river and take in the beautiful scenery. A couple outfitters in the area include Rogue River Raft and Arrowhead River Adventures.

A view of the Illinois River from the Little Illinois Falls Trail
The Illinois River

If rafting isn’t your style, you can also take a jetboat excursion out on the river. Hellgate is family owned one of the oldest jet boat companies in the US. They offer the chance to glide across the water and take in the surrounding views.

Other Things To Do in Cave Junction and Grants Pass

Visit a Winery

Oregon is known for its incredible wine and Cave Junction is part of Oregon’s Rogue Valley wine region. The region grows grapes that thrive in both cool and warm climates. All this to say that you definitely make a point to visit a winery during your visit!

Two swans swimming at sunset with a vineyard in the background and mountains in the distancePouring wine into a glass at Bridgeview Winery in Cave Junction
Bridgeview Winery

Fun Fact: Oregon’s first official winery was opened in the Rogue Valley in 1873!

I had a fantastic evening at Bridgeview Vineyards, which is located just a couple minutes outside of downtown Cave Junction. The winery has a small pond with swans swimming about, vineyard views and a large outdoor patio space. During my visit, there was a live music performance by Alcyon Massive, which was so much fun. The wine tasting plus music plus beautiful surroundings made it a wonderful evening. And it was made even more special when we saw the Northern Lights dancing across the sky as soon as the sun went down.

Lydia sitting on the shore and looking up at the Norhtern Lights at Bridgeview WineryLydia and Joe sitting and admiring the Northern Lights at Bridgeview Winery
The Northern Lights from Bridgeview Winery

Another great winery to visit near Cave Junction is Foris Vineyards, which creates award-winning wine. It’s a great place to enjoy a wine tasting with lovely mountain views.

Explore Downtown Cave Junction

Cave Junction has some great restaurants and shops to discover during your Southern Oregon getaway. One place I highly recommend is Trillium Bakery, a family-owned gem that offers scratch-made baked goods, amazing sandwiches and more. I was drooling over the caprese portobello sandwich - it was made with a perfectly fluffy bread that had been lightly grilled. The bakery is cute inside and out, with a colorful painting on the exterior and woodsy decor on the inside.

Holding up a donut with sprinkles in front of Trillium BakeryTwo sandwiches next to a vase with flowers inside of Trillium Bakery
Trillium Bakery

Another neighborhood spot that serves great pizza and beer is Wild River Pizza. This microbrewery and brewpub has a few locations around Southern Oregon and is known for their wood-fired pizzas and beer variety. I enjoyed the pesto primavera pizza and a sour beer.

And if you want to bring home a unique souvenir, make sure to stop at It’s a Burl Gallery. Here you’ll find handmade wood decor and furniture in a fairytale-like setting. The property is full of whimsical details, such as hobbit-like doors, tangles of vines and unique wooden sculptures. It’s a great stop to make on your way in and out of town.

Visit Cave Junction Farmers Market

If you can visit on a Friday, the Cave Junction Farmers Market is a must! This zero waste market has been operating for 11 years and has a commitment to supporting local farmers and families. The market has a mix of vendors selling produce, ready-to-eat food and handmade goods such as jewelry, wood carvings and dream catchers.

Holding up a paper bowl of beighnets at the Cave Junction Farmers MarketHolding up a sticker that reads Cave Junction Farmers Market
Cave Junction Farmers Market

During my visit, live music set the tone of the family-friendly and community-focused event. There was even a performance of local children doing interpretive dance (the River Dancers). I really enjoyed a jalapeno cheddar sourdough roll from Heavenlee Farms and beignets from Flour Power.

They host a children’s area where kids could learn about gardening at an on site garden. It’s clear the community is a top priority here.

It was my first time at a zero waste market. This meant that there were no trash cans and you had to pack out your own trash. I loved the commitment to sustainability and the free-spirited ambience at the market.

Visit Siskiyou Smokejumper Museum

If you'd like to learn about forest protection, history, or aviation, it’s worth a stop at the Siskiyou Smokejumper Museum. This was a former base for smokejumping in the 1950’s and beyond. If you’re not familiar with the concept, smoke jumpers are specially trained firefighters who are parachuted into active wildfires in remote areas. It’s an intense job that may involve living out in the wilderness for multiple days as they fight on the frontlines against fires.

A rack full of yellow fire suits in the Siskiyou Smokejumper MuseumA plane that formerally used for smokejumping at the Siskiyou Smokejumper Museu
Siskiyou Smokejumper Museum

The museum here is well cared for and a bit of a hidden gem. We ended up getting a personal tour by a former smokejumper named Karl. You may arrive when there is no one staffed, in which case there is a self-guided tour you can do. Or there is a number on the outside you can call and someone can come show you around.

He showed us the planes that were used and took us through 3 separate buildings. We saw the desk where a receptionist would set a fire response in motion, former helmets, parachutes and suits and learned the stories of some of the men that served here.

Fun Fact: One smokejumper who was based here, Stuart Roosa, later became an astronaut. He brought seeds to the moon and planted one of the “Moon Trees” back in Cave Junction. Today, they still do an annual “Moon Tree Run” that celebrates the stories here.

The museum is free to visit and full of artifacts. I highly recommend making the stop!

Explore Downtown Grants Pass

Grants Pass is located about 40 minutes Northeast of Cave Junction. It’s a larger town that is very much worth a visit while you’re in the area! It's easy to spend an afternoon shopping, eating and exploring historic downtown Grants Pass. The area has been designated a National Historic District and is full of historic buildings, murals, sculptures and more.

A sign going over the road that reads "It's the Climate" in downtown Grants Pass
Downtown Grants Pass

If you’re interested in history, be sure to take the self-guided walking tour of the historic buildings downtown. There are many historic homes, churches and more with a long and rich history. Or if art is more your scene, you can take a Public Art Walking Tour. Along with several colorful murals, there are handmade life size bear statues all over town. 187 have been made but there are around 20 on display at a time. See how many you can find!

A colorful mural that reads 'Greetings from Grants Pass' with different elements inside of each letterLydia spinning in front of a mural with a rainbow vineyard, trees and mountains
Murals in Grants Pass

If the hours work out, don’t miss the Pharmacy and Soda Shop. This historic soda fountain has been open since 1933 and they offer phosphate sodas (a tangy soda that was popular in the 1870s). The soda shop has a ton of flavors that you can enjoy with the phosphate soda, ranging from classic to fruity. Plus, they have ice cream sundaes, shakes, floats and more. And it’s an actual pharmacy! You can pick up medicine and shop around when you visit.

The exterior of Grants Pass Pharmacy. The awning reads 'Historic Soda Fountain'A red soda sitting on the bar inside Grants Pass Pharmacy and Soda Shop
Grants Pass Pharmacy and Soda Shop

Another popular thing to do in Grants Pass is antique shopping. There are multiple shops full of interesting finds. I enjoyed Old Town Antique Mall and Elegance Antiques. Elegance Antiques had neon signs, a vintage coke machine and lots of unique decor. And you can find all kinds of things in the sprawling Old Town Antique Mall.

When it comes to dining, Babe’s Bakery is an incredible place to enjoy a breakfast sandwich. They make their food fresh daily and their sandwiches are incredible. I had the veggie boom breakfast sandwich on a jalapeno cheddar bagel and the ingredients were perfectly fresh (it was the best tomato slice I’ve had in a while!). They have an extensive menu of breakfast sandwiches, lunch sandwiches and other items, plus a drive thru. Babe’s is definitely worth a stop.

When it comes to dinner, both the Horny Goat Gastro Pub and Bohemian Bar & Bistro are wonderful. The Horny Goat has an extensive craft beer list and an eclectic menu. With items like ‘There’s Fungus Amongus’ mushroom skewers or ‘Scorpions Kiss’ noodles, plus decor that feels industrial yet homey, it’s easy to get a feel for the fun atmosphere. We loved the Nutty Bangkok Salad and the Spinach Artichoke Dip, which was served with several dipping options on a huge board. This unique spot is not to be missed!

Holding up an ice cream cup topped with oreos inside of House of Glory
House of Glory
A plate with zucchini cakes, cherry tomatoes and sauce at the Bohemian Bar & Bistro
Bohemian Bar & Bistro

For something a bit more elegant and perfect for date night, Bohemian Bar & Bistro is also delicious. They have well-crafted cocktails and use local, sustainable and organic ingredients. They also have a nice rooftop! I loved the zucchini feta cakes and the Oregon Mule.

If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to stop by House of Glory for their gelato and bubble waffles. The guava and cream cheese gelato is delicious. They also have a beautiful interior with an earthy feel, and sandwiches if you’re there for lunch.

With many local businesses, ample parking and a walkable city center, a stroll around downtown Grants Pass needs to be on your Southern Oregon itinerary!

When to Visit Cave Junction

Cave Junction and Grants Pass have something different to offer in every season. During the spring, you can enjoy colorful wildflowers. During the summer, you can enjoy water activities such as white water rafting. During the fall, you can enjoy fall foliage and take part in harvest festivals around Grants Pass. Winter is a quieter time when the mountains get a lot of snow, but you can still take advantage of winter hiking and cozy cabin stays.

I had a wonderful experience visiting in the spring! The wildflowers were stunning and it was a perfect time to explore without it being too hot.

A close up view of pink flowers at the Eight Mountain Botanical AreaPink flowers in front of a church window in Downtown Grants Pass
Grants Pass and Cave Junction in the Spring

How to Get to Cave Junction

Cave Junction is located right on the famous Redwoods Highway, which stretches from San Francisco to Grants Pass. If you’re driving, it’s located just under 5 hours from Portland and just under 6 hours from Sacramento.

If you’re flying, the closest airport with multiple commercial flights is Rogue Valley International Airport (MFR), located in Medford. Medford is about 30 minutes from Grants Pass and a little over an hour from Cave Junction. You’ll want to rent a car to get around.

Final Thoughts

I hope this guide helps you plan an epic trip to Cave Junction! Whether you visit to sleep in a treehouse, tour a cave or one of the many other reasons, this area is worth a spot on your Oregon bucket list! I can’t say enough good things about the variety, beauty and great energy I felt while visiting. Happy travels!

For more guides on the West Coast, check out these guides:

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