Spotlight: Oregon's Classic Western Beauty —
the Fremont-Winema National Forest
Where winding country roads lead to scenic vistas, wild places and historic discoveries
What You’ll Find
Wide-open pastureland, lush forests and the peaceful sound of fresh mountain water flowing through the creek beds fill the “Big Sky” country of Oregon. Follow winding country roads with views of rich irrigated ranchland where grazing cattle flourish. Wildflowers, juniper, pine and aspen trees line the traffic-free roads. Enjoy the flavor of this peaceful area with a visit to the Fremont-Winema National Forest.
The Fremont-Winema National Forest sits on the north side of the California state line in south-central Oregon, between the crest of the Cascade Range to the west and the city of Lakeview, Oregon, to the east (where you can also get information at the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management Information Center at 1301 South G Street). If you’re in Klamath Falls, the largest city near the forest, stop in at the Klamath Ranger District at 2819 Dahlia Street for recreation ideas and information.
The Fremont-Winema National Forest offers reservable campgrounds at Rainbow Bay, Aspen Point and Sunset, as well as reservable Aspen Cabin, Currier Guard Station and lookouts at Bald Butte, Drake Peak and Hager Mountain.
Numerous first-come, first-served camping options are available. Two campsites at Horseglades Trailhead offer access to the OC&E Woods Line, a 99-mile trail open to hikers, mountain bike riders and horseback riders.
If you prefer a few amenities, try historic, high-mountain Lake of the Woods Resort at Rainbow Bay on one of the clearest, natural lakes found in Oregon. Lake of the Woods makes a great basecamp for a variety of year-round outdoor recreational activities and offers the cabin lifestyle, a marina, general store, a restaurant with comfort food and a pizza parlor.
Make Sure You
Learn about a poignant exception to the peace and serenity of this forest at Mitchell Recreation Area about 10 miles east of Bly, Oregon. Mitchell Monument marks the only place on the American continent where death resulted from enemy action during World War II. On May 5, 1945, Reverend Archie Mitchell, his pregnant wife Elsie, and five of his Sunday school students came here for a picnic. While Archie parked the car, Elsie and the children—tragically—happened upon the remains of an incendiary (or “fugo”) bomb that then exploded. The bomb was one of 6,000 launched by balloon from Japan two years earlier, drifting along the jet stream to their U.S. west coast target. Archie Mitchell was the sole survivor of the incident. Read more in The Two Tragedies of Archie Mitchell on the Forest History Society website. Download the Mitchell Monument site brochure before your trip for the history complete with photos and a map.
Summit Mt. McLoughlin via the Mt. McLoughlin Trail through the Sky Lakes Wilderness. Make sure you are in good shape and well-prepared — the 7.1 mile trail is strenuous and your elevation will increase by almost 5,000 feet (1,524 m) resulting in temperatures significantly lower than at the trailhead.
Not far from the forest, the Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge offers superb birding. Each winter, a thousand or more bald eagles arrive at Klamath Basin from Canada and Alaska. Osprey, white pelican and several heron and duck species also inhabit the area. The 9.5 mile canoe trail is the best (and only) way to experience this refuge.
To the north, visit Crater Lake National Park, with its blue, pure and deep water lake, sheer surrounding cliffs and violent volcanic past.
After working up an appetite with a day of hiking or biking in the forest, try a meal that includes tasty Oregon grass-fed beef, available in area markets and restaurants (try the Lake House Restaurant at Rainbow Bay).
Prefer your own tasty, wild-caught meal? Try fishing on any of the forest’s featured lakes or rivers and streams. The lower Williamson River is famous with fly-fishers for its rainbow trout. While fishing the lakes you are sure to (well, almost sure to) find rainbow and eastern brook trout, trophy-size brown trout, yellow perch, largemouth bass, catfish or kokanee (sockeye salmon living in land-locked lakes).
Anglers and hunters: be sure to visit the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website for fishing and hunting regulations before you fish or hunt on the forest.