Your Southern Oregon Guide


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Christmas Valley loops through high desert landscapes, an isolated pine forest called Lost Forest, and a sparkling lake. On the way, take a brief stop at Green Mountain Fire Lookout to survey the whole area. If you want, you can even use one of the campgrounds at this picturesque site. If you are interested in natural history, Fossil Lake offers great opportunities to view the remains of creatures that lived in the area over 10,000 years ago. The Fossil Lake Sand Dunes rise over 60 feet.

Take a trip on the Christmas Valley Back Country Byway in Oregon for a day of wild four-wheeling, digging for rare fossils, and exploring a forest in the middle of the desert. This eclectic byway will keep you guessing as you make your way through the Oregon desert. The Christmas Valley Back Country Byway runs through the towns of Fort Rock, Silver Lake, and Christmas Valley-- all which embody small-town comfort and outdoorsy excitement. Silver Lake, the largest town in North Lake County, is quickly becoming a hub of activity in this valley. Start your trip here and pick up all the necessary provisions at the local gas station or store.

Dune Buggy on the Christmas Valley Sand Dunes, a local favorite pastime.

As you pass through Christmas Valley, about 25 miles along the byway from Silver Lake, take note of the festive street names: Candy Lane, Mistletoe Road, and Comet Street, to name a few. Developed in the 1960s by M. Penn Phillips, these clever names were meant to draw crowds to his newly purchased land. Although Phillips’ yuletide development didn’t achieve great success, the whimsical names stuck.

Although Fort Rock
is small, it definitely has much to offer. The town flourished for a short time but many of the residents were drawn away by the war, leaving it nearly empty. Now, most of the buildings are part of the Fort Rock Village Historical Homestead Museum. The town is named after the nearby Fort Rock volcanic landmark that's known as a "tuff ring" and which was recently estimated to be 50,000 to 100,000 years old. This remnant of the prehistoric world jumps up from the middle of a lakebed that dates back to the ice age, just north of the town. The community of Fort Rock is located 15 miles north of Silver Lake at the northeast end of the Christmas Valley Back Country Byway.

10,000 years ago, Southern Oregon's landscape looked much different-- the ancient Fossil Lake would have covered the entire Fort Rock/Christmas Valley basin. Today, all that remains is a 6,550-acre area filled with fossils. The fossils found here are unusual because they are smaller and closer to the size of today’s mammals. Although vehicles must stay on designated roads and paths, you are free to roam this archeological gold mine, just 15 miles northeast of Christmas Valley.

Your Christmas Valley Back Country Byway journey ends at the beginning of the Lost Forest Research Natural Area. These 9,000 acres of ancient Ponderosa Pines appear in the middle of the Oregon desert area. You may be amazed to see these pines in the desert, where they’re actually being nourished. Not only is this curious growth of trees sustaining itself, it is also rebuilding. Because of its designation as a Research Natural Area, logging of this area has ceased and, oddly enough, new pines are growing! This durable forest is a great last stop for your day on the road.

Photo Credits:
Photo 1 by Parks Dept, Fort Rock
Photo 2 by N/A, Sand Dunes
Photo 3 by Parks Dept, Lost Forest

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