A chill nips at your face as you glide along a forest trail, the only sound you hear emanates from your nordic skis pressing against the snow. An occasional thump breaks the rhythm when accumulated snow falls from overburdened tree branches to the ground.
It’s peaceful here in the Fremont-Winema National Forest and there’s a roaring wood fire ahead at the next snow shelter. This is a good day outdoors, you say to yourself, and tonight there’s a cozy cabin waiting for you.
Lake of the Woods and Fish Lake are well known throughout Southern Oregon as summer recreation meccas, but “we encourage people to get out and enjoy the four seasons that Mother Nature offers Southern Oregon,” Lake of the Woods Resort general manager George Gregory says.
That’s why the resorts at both Fish Lake and Lake of the Woods are growing as popular destinations for snowmobiling, ice skating, fishing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The resorts are located about an hour east of Medford and Ashland via Highway 140. The drive west from Klamath Falls takes less than 45 minutes. It’s a fast way to escape for a day in the snow or a few days away from city life.
The resorts work closely with the National Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and local winter recreation groups to create the best possible environment for snowmobiling and nordic skiing. There’s more than 300 miles of groomed snowmobile trails accessible beyond the resort properties.
Cross-country skiing trails lead from both the Lake of the Woods Resort and across the road at the state’s Lake of the Woods Sno-Park. “And we’re working with three nordic clubs to groom more ski trails,” Gregory says.
Fish Lake Resort owner Rob Purdy says you can connect with the same trail systems on skis, snowshoes or snowmobiles from the front door of your fully equipped cabin.
Gregory recommends using the Jackson-Klamath winter trail maps available at the BLM and forest service. Or, he says, you can download the free Avenza Maps app for your phone and then buy the GPS-driven trail map for $4.99. “It’s better than any paper map I’ve ever seen,” he says.
Bring your own equipment or rent what you need at Lake of the Woods Resort. Snowshoes are available for half-day and full-day use. The resort even rents pop-up ice houses for two or three people. Need to make a hole in the ice? Augers are available for rent as well.
Overnights are an option, too. The Lake of the Woods Resort makes available 15 cabins for winter use seven days a week through the end of March. Features for each cabin are available on the resort website. Fish Lake Resort rents four cabins.
Snowmobiles are available for rent in Medford, Gregory says. “Dave (Norris) at Mountain Adventures is really good about giving the basics skills and orienting you need so you can have a good time.”