cute stream we saw while visiting at oregon caves

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Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve is a small high elevation National Park located in the Siskiyou Mountains of south-central Oregon.  The main attractions at Oregon Caves are the ranger-led cave tours and the historic Chateau. However, the surrounding evergreen forest also offers many hiking opportunities. 

Chateau at Oregon Caves National Monument

The Chateau at Oregon Caves is currently being renovated. It is also called the Lodge.

The Chateau is expected to reopen in 2023 for dining and lodging. In the meantime, there are no dining or lodging options at Oregon Caves.

Keep reading to learn why we decided to visit Oregon Caves even though the Chateau is closed.

Alternatively, the Oregon Caves park’s visitor center is housed in a historic chalet which is not the same building at the Chateau.

Construction of the Chateau at Oregon Caves

The Chateau at Oregon Caves was built in 1934. The six story wooden sided lodge houses a fine dining room, a 1930’s era coffee shop, and 23 unique guest rooms.

It was built in the rustic National park architecture style using local natural materials.

The marble stones used in the construction of the Chateau match the marble found in the Oregon caves. Native Port Orford Cedar bark was used as exterior siding on the Chateau at Oregon Caves.

Other notable architectural features are a grand fireplace and massive Ponderosa Pine pillars and beams of Douglas fir.

The Chateau at Oregon Caves is one of the Great Lodges of the National Parks system and is a designated National Historic Landmark.

Chateau at Oregon Caves Furniture

Each of the lodges guest rooms are unique. The furniture in the Chateau at Oregon Caves was purposefully chosen to align with the overall feel of the rustic lodge.

Much of the Chateau is furnished with handmade Monterey furniture which is made of Oregon alder wood.

Monterey furniture was constructed by the Mason Manufacturing Company of Los Angeles. Each piece was constructed by individual craftmen who painted their unique patterns to decorate their finished products.

Although many of the hand painted patterns have faded or been lost during refurbishment, the craftsmanship is still impressive.  

 Is the Chateau at Oregon Caves open?

As of fall 2022, the Chateau at Oregon Caves is not open as it is still closed for renovations.

Starting in 2018, a multi-year renovation was started on the Chateau at Oregon Caves. The Chateau at Oregon Caves is expected to reopen in 2023.

Getting to Oregon Caves

Visiting Oregon Caves is a great option on an Oregon road trip from the Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor along the southern coast to Crater Lake National.

We included Oregon Caves in an epic 3 month West Coast roadtrip in our motorhome. Our first stop was Coronado Island near San Diego. A few of our favorites stops were San Clemente beaches and San Francisco.

san diego beach
chrissy field east beach at presidio in san francisco offers great view of the golden gate bridge

As with many National Park sites, the Oregon Caves require a bit of a drive to get there.  Expect a scenic curvy and narrow mountain road leading to the park.

Fun Facts about Oregon Caves National Monument

  • During the summer, cave guides live in the top two floors of the Chalet Visitor Center at Oregon Caves.
  • The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built a walled garden, curved trails and waterfalls near the cave entrance in the 1930s.   The intent was to make the area more scenic.
  • The marble cave was carved by groundwater soaking through the forest floor.  The groundwater is a naturally acidic combination of rainwater and carbon dioxide from the forest soil.  It dissolved the marble layers creating caverns.  The process still continues today.
  • Eight bat species shelter in the Oregon Cave.  All use echolocation to feed and fly in total darkness.
  • Horizontal rungs on the cave gates allow the bats to safely enter and exit the cave.
pond and water fall built by the CCC at oregon caves

Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve Basic Facts

Location: south central Oregon; 50 miles from Grants Pass, OR and 76 from Cresent City, CA

Park Size: 480 acres

Elevation: Cave Creek Trail 2,860 feet; Chateau at 4,000 feet; Mount Elijah at 6,319 feet

Number of visitors annually: 65k in 2019 (Chateau renovations caused lowest visitation since 1956)

Established: National Monument in 1909

Admission: FREE (fees charged for cave tours)

Visitor Centers: Visitor Center (in the park); Illinois Valley Visitor Center in Cave Junction (20 miles before the park)

view of the mountains at oregon caves

How long do I need when visiting Oregon Caves?

Planning to add Oregon Caves to a road trip and wonder how long you need when visiting?

A half-day at Oregon Caves is sufficient time for a cave tour and a short hike. 

If visiting Oregon Caves on a roadtrip, allow at least 45 minutes to drive from Cave Junction to the park. 

What to know before you go to Oregon Caves?

  • The Chateau closed in 2018 for a multi-year renovation project with reopening expected in 2023.  Check the status online before your visit. It offers the only lodging and dining in the park.
  • The closest town to Oregon Caves is Cave Junction, OR. It is 20 miles northwest on OR-46.  The town has several grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations. 
  • Oregon Hwy 46 from Cave Junction is a narrow winding mountain road.  Expect many 25 mph curves.  It is best to leave trailers and RVs at the Illinois Valley visitor center.  There are no oversized parking spaces at the park.
  • Cave tours are the main attraction at this park and they sell out quickly in the summer.   Either book tour tickets in advance at or visit the Illinois Valley Visitor Center to purchase tickets before driving to the park.

What is there to do at Oregon Caves?

Oregon Caves is a small park in comparison to other National Parks but it offers hiking trails and guided cave tours.

Visitation has decreased in recent years at Oregon Caves since renovation began on the Chateau, the park’s only dining and lodging.

3 Best Things to do at Oregon Caves

Cave tours and hiking are the top things to do at Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve.

1. Visit the Oregon Caves Chateau

The Chateau was built in 1934 and was the first permanent structure.  

Port Orford cedar bark covers the chateau’s exterior and blends perfectly into the surrounding forest.

port orford bark siding on historic chateau in oregon caves

The six-story hotel has a fine dining room, a 1930’s era coffee shop, and 23 rooms.   

All park guests are welcome for dinner or a drink at the Grand Lodge even if they aren’t hotel guests.

The Chateau is a National Historic Landmark within the Oregon Caves National Historic District.  The district also consists of a beautiful cedar bark covered Chalet which houses a visitor center and bookstore.

visitor center at oregon caves

2. Hiking

If visiting the Oregon Caves during cave closures, the main thing to do is to hike. 

We enjoy hiking so that wasn’t a problem.  Some of the best hiking trails we’ve found in our full time RV travels are in Colorado including Lost Lake in Nederland Colorado and Golden Canyon State Park.

There are six hiking trails at Oregon Caves ranging from a short one-mile walk on the Cliff Nature Trail to a full day 9.2-mile hike to the summit of Mount Elijah.

oregon caves hiking trail map
Oregon Caves Official Hiking Trail Map Courtesy of NPS
Hiking Big Tree Loop at Oregon Caves

We chose to combine the 3.3-mile Big Tree Loop Trail and the shorter Cliff Nature Trail for a 6-mile loop at Oregon Caves National Monument. 

Expect to work for the first two miles of Big Tree Loop trail at Oregon Caves as the 1,000 feet of elevation gain make for a steady uphill trek.   The trail is not overly steep and provides a fairly level surface for the climb.  

We did encounter a couple of large trees across the trail. Thankfully, we were able to climb over or under them without much fuss.  

As the name suggests, the trail leads to the Big Tree.  It is Oregon’s widest-girth Douglas fir and is over 41 feet in circumference.

big tree at oregon caves
Hiking Cliff Nature Trail at Oregon Caves

The Cliff Nature trail at Oregon Caves offers much better views of the surrounding Siskiyou Mountains.

Forests blocked most of the mountain views on the Big Trees Loop.   

Pro Tip: If you only have time for one hike, I’d recommend the shorter but more scenic Cliff Nature Trail. 

view from cliff nature trail in oregon caves
mossy rocks along cliff nature trail at oregon caves

3. Cave Tours at Oregon Caves

Guides have led tours through the caves at Oregon Caves National Monument for over 100 years.  

Cave tours are the most popular thing to do when visiting Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve.

The NPS offers a variety of cave tours including a night tour. 

Fees range from $10  to $45 per adult. Tours typically last 90 minutes.

Cave Tours are available early spring through fall but availability depends on the weather.  The cave is also closed every winter to protect hibernating bat populations.

Check the NPS website for the current status of cave tours at Oregon Caves. 

What to expect on a Cave Tour at Oregon Caves

  • Tours wind through a half-mile of twisting pathways.   
  • Guests must be over 42” tall.
  • Everyone must have the ability to climb 500 stairs to join the tour.
  • The first cave room is wheelchair accessible. 
  • Cave temperatures are in the 40s year-round so bring a warm layer.

If you aren’t sure if you can walk the cave stairs at Oregon Caves, then visit the Visitor Center in the park before booking a tour. There is a small free-standing section of cave stairs available outside the Visitor Center to test your accessibility.

What to bring for a cave tour at Oregon Caves
  • Temperatures inside the cave are constantly in the 40s so bring layers of warm clothing.  A lightweight water resistant puffer jacket is great for travelling as they don’t take up much space and perform well in various weather conditions.
  • The cave tour includes steep grades and uneven surfaces. Sturdy, non-slip footwear is recommended. I love trail running sneakers as a multi-purpose travel shoe.
  • Food, drinks, gum and tobacco are prohibited in the cave.
  • Canes, tripods and flashlights are not allowed within the caves to protect the surfaces.  Special arrangements can be made for guests with canes to visit the cave’s first room.

Are there accessible tours at Oregon Caves for wheelchairs?

The caves first room is accessible to those with canes or wheelchairs. 

Contact the Oregon Caves staff at 541-592-2100 in advance or inquire at the visitor center to make special arrangements for those with mobility limitations.

Lodging at Oregon Caves National Monument

The only park lodging and dining is located in the Chateau at Oregon Caves National Monument.

The Chateau at Oregon Caves has been closed since 2018 for a multi-year renovation. Until the Chateau reopens in 2023, there is no dining or lodging available within Oregon Caves.

Hotel lodging near Oregon Caves

There are a few hotel options near Oregon Caves when the Chateau is closed and not offering lodging.

  • Kerbyville Inn
  • Holiday Motel
    • 24810 Redwood Hwy, Kerby
    • (541) 592-3003

Camping near Oregon Caves

There are several National Forest campgrounds along Oregon Highway 24. If camping near Oregon Caves, the options are:

Public Campgrounds near Oregon Caves

  • Cave Creek Campground
    •  Located 15 miles up Hwy 46 from Cave Junction and just four miles from the cave entrance
    • Open seasonally from Memorial to Labor Day or until first fall rain
    • $10/night
    • first come, first serve basis
    • Max vehicle length: 20 ft
  • Grayback Campground 
    • Located on Highway 46 between mile marker 11 and 12, eight- miles from the cave entrance
    • running water and vault toilet
    • first come, first serve basis
    • max vehicle length: 26 feet
  • Chinquapin Group Campground
    • single group campsite available by online reservation
    • accommodates 75 campers and up to 20 vehicles 
  • Lake Selmac Park
    • Located 25 miles from Oregon Caves 
    • 91 sites, 39 full hookups, RV dump station, restrooms, showers and boat ramp
    • (800) 452-5687

Private Campgrounds near Oregon Caves

Summary of Oregon Caves

We didn’t get to do everything we wanted to do at Oregon Caves on our first trip. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our hike in the fir forest.

The high elevation at Oregon Caves provides cool temperatures for hiking. We even saw a little snow still on the ground in late May.  I am sure most hiking trails in the Siskiyou National Forest would have been just as scenic.

The historic Chateau at Oregon Caves was beautiful even behind construction fencing.  If we visit again, I will definitely book a cave tour in advance to ensure availability. 

But for now, we’re marking another National Park off the list. 

We stamped our park passport, snapped a photo with the park sign, saw the historic Chateau through construction fencing, and enjoyed a beautiful hike at Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve.

kara at oregon caves national park sign

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