By Dan Shryock
Let’s make one thing very clear. The Chateau at the Oregon Caves is well worth the drive.
If you’re looking to escape to a quieter place, a rustic retreat where you can leave your digital devices behind, then make the 20-mile drive from Cave Junction along Highway 46 to the Chateau. You’ll find a tranquil hideaway where you can enjoy the outdoors, explore a national monument and simply relax.
The Chateau at the Oregon Caves is a rustic lodge across a driveway from the famous Oregon Caves National Monument. And while the caves are the primary attraction, the chateau is a destination in its own right.
“We have hospitality in the woods. This is the place to escape from the rat race,” general manager Menno Kraai says. “(The Chateau) is a national historic landmark. It’s a genuine Oregon experience, a part of our Oregon identity.”
That experience starts when you first walk through the huge wood doors into the lobby of this six-story 1930s structure built with local timber and stone. You will find a huge stone hearth and sprawling lounging areas. Upstairs are simple yet extremely comfortable guest rooms. Downstairs, a small creek that runs under - and through – the restaurant and gift shop.
Now’s your chance to unplug from the world.
“Some people suggest we get WiFi but that’s not the ambience we want to share here,” says assistant manager Tammy Kopaczewski. “You’re stepping back in time here. Families like to come here so the kids can see what’s like to be without TV, phones and computers.”
That digital disconnect makes the Chateau all the more inviting. You’re stepping off the grid. No cell service, no Internet, no social noise.
So, how will you spend your time? Walk outside the lobby, turn left and discover the main attraction, the Oregon Caves where 90-minute underground tours await. Directly across the road is a trailhead leading to a short, scenic hillside trail. That’s one of four hiking options.
There also are the simple pleasures. Family board games are available in the lobby. Big, cushioned chairs invite long spells with a good book. Local musicians also make appearances.
“Our guests really appreciate the quiet, the family atmosphere,” Menno Kraai says. “They like the games and listening to (National Park Service) ranger talks.”
They also come for the food. The Caves Café, a 1950s era diner, is a family favorite by day downstairs. The Chateau Dining Room delivers quality entrees at night. The menu emphasizes locally sourced ingredients as well as local beer and wine selections.
“The goal is to get good, fresh products prepared in a Northwest style,” Kraai says. “It’s healthy food with as much local flavor as we can put on the plate.”
If this all sounds good to you, start making your plans now. The Chateau operates on a limited schedule each year and the summer months book fast. The Chateau opens in early May and closes in late September.
“We were pleasantly surprised to start the year with good advance reservations,” Kraai says. “The sooner you make a reservation the better. We normally are completely booked for the months of July and August so I encourage you to book immediately for those dates.”
Dan Shryock is an Oregon-based journalist and travel writer. When he's not visiting Southern Oregon or sampling local wines, he can be found cycling throughout the state.
Did You Know?
The popular Viewmaster 3D picture viewer was "born" at the Chateau after a chance meeting at the Oregon Caves. Find out more about it on this, Viewmaster's 75th anniversary.
An informal celebration for the 75th anniversary will be held at Oregon Caves National Monument, at 11 a.m. Aug. 24.
For more information about the Chateau at the Oregon Caves and the Oregon Caves National Monument, try these links.- The Chateau at the Oregon Caves
- Oregon Caves National Monument
- A trails map for hiking in the area