Visiting Grants Pass, Oregon

Gateway to US Route 199—the Redwood Highway—Grants Pass, Oregon is a great spot for an overnight stay to or from the Oregon Caves, California’s Redwood National Forest, and the beloved Pacific Coast Highway/US Highway 101.

Branding itself as the “Best River Town in America,” Grants Pass was first settled by hunters and trappers employed with the Hudson’s Bay Company who were following the Siskiyou Trail and later by settlers following the Applegate Trail on their way to the Willamette Valley.

Now more widely known as the home of the Hellgate Jetboat Excursions on the Rogue River, we visited Grants Pass a few weeks ago to catch one of the last boat excursions of the 2021 season. Arriving to town in the late afternoon, we settled into our riverside room at The Lodge at Riverside. This mini-vacation has been one of a handful of outings we have made in the last year so we splurged on a property with an excellent rating for cleanliness, location, and amenities.

Pool at the The Lodge at Riverside

Not only did our room face the river, we were a quick jaunt to the swimming pool and main lodge with its complimentary wine, snacks, continental breakfast, and outdoor seating area. Located along the paved river path, we walked to the Taprock Bar and Grill for a meal on the patio (see the feature photo for a view of the restaurant from the 7th Street bridge).

Courtyard at The Lodge at Riverside

With a 1pm reservation for the 2-hour/36 mile Quick & Scenic river excursion, we had plenty of time the next day to explore the play area at Riverside Park (located directly across from the hotel, another reason to pay a premium for the location).

Playground at Riverside Park

The weather was warm enough for the outdoor splash area, but we saved our soaking for the river.

Splash Pad at Riverside Park

Embarking and enjoying the riverboat ride, it was a bit difficult to take photos that captured the thrill without risk ruining (or losing) your cell phone. These photos (credit: Travel Oregon) capture some of the adrenaline fueled moment appreciated by my three teenagers. A narrated experience, we learned about the region’s wildlife, history, and terrain. Wildlife sitings ranged from deer to osprey, eagles, salmon, and turtles.

The two-hour trip was a good amount of time for us. Shorter and longer tours are available and prices vary (longer tours include brunch and a change to stretch your legs at the Hellgate River Lodge). For the price ($211 for four adult passengers), I would have preferred fewer stops and less talking. The return trip takes about half the time and you do have an opportunity to just experience the river without corny jokes and cross talk from other passengers. That said, a highlight of the experience is the turn-around point at Hellgate Canyon (as you can see our day was a bit hazy due to recent forest fires in California and Southern Oregon).

Hellgate Canyon on a Hellgate Jetboat Excursion

In general, I’m glad we made time for this mini adventure in Grants Pass. If you go, happy trails and read this story for more ideas and info.

About the Author

Julie Henning
Julie Henning is a freelance writer and journalist based out of Eugene, Oregon. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and owner of the family-travel website She is a recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. Julie is the Oregon Coast destination specialist for Bindu Media, an itinerary-focused website launching in Spring 2016 and featuring the work of 200+ professional, indie travel writers. Julie has been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin State Journal, The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Illinois), the Rochester Post Bulletin, Wisconsin Natural Resources (DNR) Magazine, Sustainable Chicago Magazine, Group Tour Magazine, Student Group Tour Magazine, Silent Sports Magazine, Intercom Magazine,, and FTF Geocacher Magazine. Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio and is an affiliate producer with the Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast. She has blogged for, Travel Oregon, and VISIT Milwaukee. Julie travels with her three kids and black lab as much as possible and lives by the motto, "Not all who wander are lost." Check out some of her best work at