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While the Applegate Valley is a well-established wine appellation, the region adds up to more than vineyards and tasting rooms. In fact, a simple drive through the region is a joy in itself. The highways are graced with historic hand-hewn barns, grandaddy oaks, roadside wildflowers and peek-a-boo glimpses of the Applegate River.

There are a variety of ways to savor your days in the valley—depending on where your enthusiasms lead you. The following itineraries are custom-made for the Adventure Lover, the History Buff, the Foodie, the Parent and the Plant Lover. Take them as suggestions to be mixed-and match-as you please. Roadside signs for farms, chocolate shops, and hikes might inspire you to toss your plan in favor of a more spontaneous adventure. That’s okay: Let blackberry-picking mornings yield to riverside afternoons.  Let your ambitious hiking agenda get pleasantly sidetracked by a winemaker’s invite for a barrel tasting.

One thing to note: opening hours can be irregular in rural areas. You’re on country time now! This makes it wise to call ahead. Another incentive to do a little advance research: There are dozens of festivals, music events, special dinners and food trucks, and farmer’s markets.  Check the Applegate Country Club, Vista 222, or Jefferson State Kitchen for special events. The Applegate Valley Connect website is also a good resource for what’s on tap in the valley.

The Applegate Valley is nested in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains, a region dubbed by the World Wildlife Fund as the “Galapagos of North America” for its impressive biodiversity. These mountains, unmarked by glaciation, are a bank of endemic flora and fauna. Easy-to-access hikes give you a window into this earthy mecca.

But first: begin your day with breakfast at Pennington Farms. This super-charming bakery is housed in a rustic red barn surrounded by raspberry and blueberry fields.  Menu items range from savory to sweet; after your raspberry turnover, you can grab a savory chile relleno one for lunch later. They also have desserts: country pies, cookies, sprinkle cakes and ice cream sandwiches. Order your favorite espresso drink and enjoy the glorious Applegate morning at the venue’s new seating area out back.

Next, take your belly-full-of-berries for a hike on The East Applegate Ridge Trail (EART). The delights of this route are both macro and micro: Look up for the best panorama in the Rogue Valley; look down for botanical wonders–especially come spring when columbine, daisies and Indian paintbrush light the trail.  The route is also lined with madrones—a signature southern Oregon tree that artistically sheds it bark.

For a level hike, start from the Sterling Creek Road side of the trail. The dirt road to the trail head is just past the 4-miles marker and leads to a wide parking area with a bathroom. An out-and-back hike clocks in at about 4.5 miles total.  The bench is a good turnaround point to recoup and eat that savory turnover you packed along and to enjoy the most expansive view in the Applegate. Note: If you have two cars, you can hike the entire length of the trail by leaving another car on the Hwy 238 side of the trail. This makes for a 5.6 mile hike, with a steep grade involved.

The earthen-construction tasting room at Wild Wines is a perfect place to cool off post-hike. This winery stands out for its unique botanical and fruit wines: dandelion, aronia berry, rosehip, and dandelion among them.  Although you’ll see sweet-sounding blackberry and peach wine among the selections, these are serious sips –not cloying as you might guess.

For more traditional wines, visit Cowhorn Vineyard and Garden. Their nature-guided wines are Biodynamic certification. When it comes to farming, they emphasize “polyculture” which means seeing the vineyards as part of the greater ecosystem.

For a plant-filled afternoon, visit one of the following:

Cantrall-Buckley: Take a walk (or drive) through the Cheryl D. Garcia Sculpture Park in this country park to see impressive larger-than-life renderings of some of our local wildflowers and wildlife: Mock Orange, Wild Iris, Acorn Woodpeckers, the Belted Kingfisher and more.

Any fan of the flower will adore the purple majesty of our local lavender farms. Visit Kingfisher Farms Lavender, The English Lavender Farm, or Goodwin Creek Gardens and enjoy unique lavender-infused products of all kinds.

Nymph and Woodsman: Awaken your senses on a two-hour plant walk on this farm and forestland. Learn about seasonal wildflowers, wildcrafting practices, land stewardship, local history and geology, and communal living. Each visit culminates with a pot of tea made of herbs gathered on our walk and a visit to Rise Up! –the on-site artisan bakery. There you can poke your head into the nine-foot deep wood-fired oven and sample fresh bread. You also swing by the apothecary and purchase herbal tinctures, CBD products, drink mixers, and bath and beauty products. Add a tarot or astrology reading to make a full day out of your visit! Pug cuddles and pond dips are included. By appointment only.

Oshala Farm: If your timing is right, you’ll be in the Applegate Valley during an Oshala Farm tour. They occur on the second Wednesday of each month from April through September. This well-run organic herb farm grows and produces a variety of products from spices, to tea blends, vinegars and oils

End your plant-filled day with a meal in the enchanting garden at The Applegate Country Club. Tables are nooked around colorful flower beds, so you’ll keep company with of all kinds of plants. For riverside dining, consider the nearby Lindsey Lodge.

With miles of unspoiled countryside and a focus on farming, sit-down dining options are limited in the Applegate Valley, but there are plenty of “foraging” opportunities. By the end of a day spent dropping into farms, wineries and farmers markets, you’ll return to your accommodations with a haul complete enough to put a place-based dinner together. Just make sure you pack a cooler in your car!

But first: Breakfast. Pennington Farms serves turnovers both savory and sweet—as well as cakes, pies, cookies, brownies and berries grown on-site.  All these delights are housed in a charming red barn brightened inside by surfboards, sandals and beach art.  The owner, Sam, is from Hawaii. “This obviously isn’t Hawaii,” his wife Cathy says. “But we like to extend the aloha spirit of love and welcoming.” Nostalgia for the islands? “We’re happy right here,” Cathy says. Order an espresso drink and soak up the aloha in the seating area out back.

If coffee is your obsession, you’ll be pleased with the ambiance and third-wave grinds at  The Applegate Station Market & Cafe. Pair your cappuccino, cafe cortado, or latte with a variety of baked goods.

For a morning stroll, visit the nearby Provolt Recreation Area. Once a seed orchard for Doug Fir timber operations, the area is now being restored as a precious bit of public access river front. The flat “River Walk Trail” parallels the riparian zone and is one mile end-to-end. Chinook salmon spawn here in October. Another harvest season delight: locals insist that the nearby Provolt farm stand has the best corn in the world. Please Note: The park is only open Thursday through Sunday.

While you’re in the “neighborhood,” now would be a good time to pop into the Whistling Duck Farm store. Park and pause a moment to admire the architecture of this 1947 curved-beam barn. Inside, you’ll find many of the Applegate’s local products: grass-fed beef, organic vegetables, as well as house-made ferments, salad dressings, dips and cheeses. They also offer locally-made body and beauty products—including their own CBD and hemp products. Check their freezer stock: There are seasonally rotating treasures therein: octopus from the coast, prawns from Alaska–even yak meat!

For an afternoon of wine tasting, you could go in eighteen different directions, but here are two solid suggestions:

Plaisance Ranch in Williams used to produce milk, but now makes some of the Applegate’s best wines. This dairy-turned-vineyard was hard-won; owners Joe and Suzie milked cows for 30 years to pay the mortgage. Winegrowing is hard work, too, but more relaxed than dairy farming. “This is retirement compared to that,” laughs Joe.

The milking parlor is now a barrel room; the cow shed a tasting room.  It’s a picture-perfect country idyll for wine-sipping. *

Another option for wine-tasting: head up North Applegate Road. Several tasting rooms and acres-upon-acres of vineyards in this area add up to wine-country perfection. The garden patio at Wooldridge Creek Winery and Creamery is a leafy place to while away the afternoon. While charcuterie plates abound at our local wineries, Wooldridge’s is singular with its house-made Fromage Blanc, one called Noble Bloomy, and an alpine-style cheese called Covino. Other plate items include kimchi (fermented in-house), and locally sourced meats, nuts, crackers and bread.

Additional great wine tasting options nearby: Augustino Estate & Vineyard, Rosella’s, Troon and Walport Family Cellars. If it’s Friday night and you feel like music and woodfired pizza, Schmidt Family Vineyards is where you’ll find the buzz.

Otherwise, end your day at the VRBO at Troon Vineyard. Nominated as American Winery of the Year, Troon deserves extra time. Over the past few years, it has achieved Biodynamic and Regenerative Organic certifications. These approaches improve the land through the use of potions, pollinator gardens, and four-legged grazers. You’ll discover some unique selections in their wine portfolio, including Tannat and an “orange wine.” “We make wines that have something to say,” says operations manager, Craig Camp. To understand more, definitely book one of their tours. 

If you want to cook, Troon’s on-site VRBO comes equipped with a kitchen.  For the evening entertainment, do watch the movie, The Biggest Little Farm (available on many streaming services). Not only does the movie illuminate alternative approaches to farming, but Troon’s Director of Agriculture, Garett Long, is in the movie.

Another nearby lodging option is Walport Family Cellar’s “cabin in the woods.”

In the morning, be sure to hike the nearby Enchanted Forest Trail.

*Cows aren’t entirely out of the picture: they maintain a herd for organic, grass-fed beef. You can buy some on site, at Whistling Duck, or try a Plaisance burger at nearby Rascals where you’ll find locals shooting pool.

It’s been said that “hunger is the best seasoning.” The same could be said of exercise: Let a good dose of exertion at Applegate Lake enhance your evening food and wine session.

Flanked by 340,000-acres of designated wilderness, this scenic reservoir maintains a peaceful ambiance with a “no-wake” boat speed limit. It’s a good spot to fish and swim, or rent a paddleboard or kayak from the parking lot shop at Hart-Tish Park. If you brought your mountain bike, you’ll love the 17.2-mile trail loop around the lake. Without long grades, it’s more a glee-ride than a slog. Beginners can count on three hours to complete the route.

A heads up: food options are limited at the lake so fuel up beforehand with a hearty breakfast burrito from a local’s hangout, Sweets and Eats. Espresso and lunch-to-go can be found at Code 3, a small drive-thru coffee kiosk that offers a remarkable amount of food. There is also a small, covered seating area if you prefer to stay put. Code 3 is located in Ruch, right at the turn-off to the road that gets you to the lake. On the same plaza, you can go to The Ruch Country Store and fill your cooler with everything from kombucha to Coors.

After your lake adventure, head right back to Ruch and relax at LongSword Vineyard. No promises, but you’ll often see paragliders touch down on their large field.  If not, you’ll at the very least enjoy some epic views of “Woodrat Mountain”—one of the country’s premier free-flight destinations.

For a nearby dinner, you can enjoy garden seating at the Applegate Country Club.  The name implies an exclusive and stuffy establishment, but wait: This is country club Applegate-style, which means it’s welcoming and relaxed, full of non-conformist charm and an incredible garden to sit in. Menu items range from kale salads, meatball and vegetarian subs, as well as creative pizza combos. There is often live music, too. Enjoy! You definitely earned it.

Berries, Horseback rides, Parks, Rivers, Animals! Despite adult beverage focus of the Applegate Valley, it’s undeniably a kid paradise as well. If you’re visiting with young children, you will have a great time watching them have a great time.

Fuel up for the day with berry turnovers at Pennington Farms. The décor inside has a playful spirit—bright jars of jam, painted cards, and surfboard art. There is a scenic seating area out back. For a heartier breakfast, go to the Creekside Diner on the northern side of the Applegate Valley (they are also open for lunch and dinner).

If they are age seven or older, spend the cooler hours of the morning exploring the Klamath-Siskiyou mountains on horseback with Applegate Trail Rides. While there, they can meet “Copper,” an equine character that loves to roll and splash in their pond. This outfit is based at Pacifica—a 500-acre nature preserve. Pacifica also offers hiking, disc golf, and various kid-friendly classes and events throughout the year,

If you have younger children, or ones that prefer looking at animals (as opposed to riding them), then Sanctuary One is the place. This 55-acre property serves as a “care farm” for rescued house pets and farm animals. They offer tours to the public every Friday and Saturday morning at 10:30 am. There are also private tours available and Expanded Accessibility Tours for groups that require special attention and care.

Depending on your route, Code 3 and the Provolt Country Store & Deli are options for a casual lunch (for desert, swing by the Super Natural Chocolate Co). Eat on site, or picnic at Cantrall-Buckley Park where can take your little ones to a swimming hole and enjoy shade on the grassy lawns. Botanical sculptures, interpretive signs, and a playground will for sure enhance the family experience. Oh, and don’t forget the 20-foot diameter sundial: stand in the middle and tell the time with your own body.

Another option for water-fun: Go to Applegate Lake for a swim. While in the area, you can take the short hike to the Big Foot Trap. In 1974, a wildlife research team set up the trap after a miner claimed to see 18-inch human-like footprints nearby. A few bears were caught (and apparently a confused hunter), but no Sasquatch. It might seem like a big empty box to you, but your kids will surely fill it with their imagination.

Pre-dinner wine tasting spot would be Red Lily Vineyards, where both kids and adults can enjoy the sandy river frontage.

For dinner, pizza at The Applegate Country Club will be a win. Their outdoor seating area has plenty of space kids to play—if they still have energy left over! If you feel like riverside dining and something more formal, try next door at The Lindsay Lodge.

The Applegate visitor is steeped in history with old barns, a covered bridge, and interpretive signs on display. But first, fuel up for your time travel by grabbing provisions from the Provolt Country Store & Deli. It’s not only a good place to find fresh coffee, pastries, breakfast sandwiches and convenience foods, but this 1870s building has an interesting history. Poised at the border of two counties, rumor has it that the owner didn’t like the high taxes in Josephine County, so moved the business across the street into Jackson County. That’s where it sits today.

For a morning walk, the Gin Lin Mining Trail is the perfect “history hike.”  The trail is named after a Chinese mining boss who, in 1881, expanded a hydraulic operation in the area called “Palmer Creek Diggings.” This one-mile loop offers interpretive signage and a viewpoint over the Applegate River. Along the way you’ll see tailing piles, evidence of sluice boxes, and a prospecting hole. Gin Lin hit “pay dirt” here, depositing over a million dollars of gold at C.C. Beekman’s bank in Jacksonville.

While you’re in the Upper Applegate area, visit McKee Bridge. Built in 1917, this covered bridge is tied for the second oldest in Oregon. It’s also the longest and highest above the water in Oregon. It’s community-maintained and open to foot traffic. If the day is already heating up, there is a swimming area just downstream of the bridge.

For other historical locations in the area, The McKee Bridge Historical Society’s website is worth a visit. It features a comprehensive maps and stories of local history sites, including nearby Buncom and Logtown Cemetery. If you prefer hardcopy, you can find their brochure stocked in the Jacksonville visitor’s center, B&Bs, Logtown Cemetery, McKee Bridge and at other Ruch area businesses.

For Native American history, the “Dragonfly Place” at Cantrall-Buckley Park is being developed in honor of Taowhywee, Agnes Baker Pilgrim. “Grandma Aggie” was an elder and member of the Takelma Rogue River Tribe and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz, and founding member of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers. She was a “voice for the voiceless” and strong advocate for clean water and Native American Rights. The site features engraved stones honoring her, a gathering area, and an interpretive sign about her life.

For wine history, swing by Valley View Winery. Started by Frank Wisnovsky in 1972, Valley View was the first post-Prohibition winery in the Applegate. It is now run by Frank’s sons, Mike and Mark. There’s often live music on the lush lawn, and the vineyard-and-barn view from the tasting room is quintessentially Applegate. Don’t forget to pet the mellow, four-legged maître d’, Brock, an English mastiff who pirouettes for carrots!

Another winery with some historical ties is Plaisance Ranch in Williams. Owner, Joe Ginet, is the great-grandson of one of the area’s pre-Prohibition winegrowers, and is currently making some of the region’s best wines. He also raises organic, grass-fed beef. Buy some direct from the ranch, or try one of his burgers at nearby Rascals, a casual joint where you’ll find locals playing pool.

If you need some provisions while in the area, stop by Williams General Store. This heart-of-the-community store dates back to 1897. One reviewer describes the shelves as “multiverses of flavorfully packed items.” Another says, “These general stores are a dying breed. This one is TOP notch.”

Another dinner option: The Applegate Country Club, which sits at the location of the former Applegate Grange Lodge. Hidden in the weeds next door are the remains of the original Pernoll log store. It has been moved several times, last from the Pioneer Village amusement park in Jacksonville.

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