Stay in an Ewok-like treetop village tucked into the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon.
There’s something freeing about climbing a tree. It’s as if that slight change in altitude majorly changes your attitude. That’s pretty much the mantra at the Out’n’About Treehouse Treesort, situated in southern Oregon near the California border. It’s a bed-and-breakfast-style destination where you’ll feel like you’re a world away from all the hustle and bustle of life while still having creature comforts readily available.
From the extensive maze of cable bridges connecting treehouses - some more than 30 feet in the air - to the ziplining and horseback riding, there’s something for everyone here. And because the treehouses have been built at various heights, even younger children can be part of the fun.
The Treesort is an ideal base for exploring southern Oregon. Known as an adventurer’s paradise, families with older kids can experience epic rafting on the Rogue and Illinois Rivers or mountain biking on some of the Pacific Northwest’s best trails. This is Bigfoot Country with an actual Bigfoot trap hidden high in the rugged hills above Applegate Lake. The area is visually stunning yet somehow still undiscovered.
Photo courtesy: Out'n'About Treehouse Treesort
Where to stay?
The Treesort has 13 unique treehouses on its 36-acre property. The engineering of these treehouses is a marvel. I learned that the owner invented a new type of bolt that trees treat like a dead limb. Instead of harming the tree, the wood grows around the bolt and strengthens the connection. I have to admit, my first few steps on the suspension bridges were extremely cautious, but once I got my treelegs, it was a breeze. The bridges never strained, even with substantial weight of this writer.
And it was really fun and relaxing to be there with my 4-year-old daughter. She was instantly comfortable on the suspended walkways, and my wife and I felt really safe having her there, roaming from rope swing to horse corral and riding her bike around the lodge.
You have plenty of choices to accommodate every family and heights for almost every confidence level. For example, the Majestree sleeps at least five, has a full bathroom, and sits 47 feet up in a giant Douglas fir. Or there’s the Treeloon, a saloon-inspired bungalow, that sits on stilts only about 12 feet off the ground. There’s also a room on the top floor of the lodge that sleeps five and connects to a treezebo for lounging. Treehouses range in price from $150 to $330/night for two people; extra guests are $25 each/night?
KidTripster Tip: If you have younger children, I’d recommend the Treeloon, Swiss Family Complex, Serendipitree or the Tree Room Schoolhouse. (I hope you’re getting all the fun puns in this treeview; it’s one of the happy little quirks that abound at the Treesort.)
The treehouses aren’t palatial, but most can fit a family. Each treehouse comes stocked with mattresses, sleeping bags lined with clean sheets, and pillows. Several of the treehouses have running water. Some have toilets and even showers; for those that don’t, private bathrooms and showers are available in the middle of the complex. You’ll also find a community fire pit, where you can char up some sausages or roast marshmallows. It’s like camping but better!
KidTripster Tip: The Treesort doesn’t take online reservations. The owners prefer to have “a more complete and mutually satisfactory interaction” over the phone. It may seem like an inconvenience these days, but the mandatory human interaction is worth it.
Photo courtesy: Out'n'About Treehouse Treesort
What to do?
At the Treesort, you’ve got enough to keep a family occupied all day. There’s a nine-cable zipline tour that winds through the property’s more forested sections. We didn’t try it because a) it was fully booked, and b) maybe just a little bit of fear? I love speed and all, but it was almost thrilling enough just to hear the whine of the cables as families flew down the hillside. I asked several people about the experience, and they all said that they had a great time. There are ziplines for different abilities, including some that sent one burly father scampering for a slower ride. The Treesort also has a Tarzan swing that sends riders out of the trees and over the pasture about 90 feet off the ground. Zipline tour cost: $45-$100, depending on which ziplines you choose. Tarzan swing cost: $25. For all of these activities, the minimum age/weight is 4-years-old/40 pounds; maximum weight allowed is 250 pounds.
The Treesort also offers horseback rides through the peaceful countryside. Cost: $60. You have to be at least 6-years-old and no more than 220 pounds.
KidTripster Tip: Consider booking your "activitrees" when you reserve your treehouse. They fill up quickly.
There’s also a creek-fed swimming pool in the summers, along with massages plus tile mosaic and tie-dye classes.
KidTripster Tip: For younger guests, look for the rope and tire swings scattered strategically throughout the property. My kid loved the rope swings. They were at the top of her comfort level, but she could clearly see what we were seeing - that she was getting braver with every swing.
Cave Junction, which is the closest town of note to the Treesort, is known as “The Gateway to the Oregon Caves.” The Oregon Caves were discovered in the late 1800s by a hunter. A visit here is a must-do. The National Park Service runs tours which are about 1-1/2 hours long where you walk through caves once explored by intrepid adventurers equipped with only lanterns and chutzpah. Now, fancy electric lights illuminate the winding, plummeting path through the cave; your tour guide’s flashlight will help reveal a few more sights hidden deep underground. The Oregon Caves open in early spring and close when the snow starts accumulating in the fall. Kids must be at least 42-inches tall and prove that they can climb a flight of stairs on their own without a railing. Cost: Youth $7; Adult $10.
South of Cave Junction and just a few miles from the Treesort is the Great Cats World Park (27919 Redwood Hwy.), a little zoo with a lot of big cats: tigers, white tigers, leopards, jaguars, and a cougar. Here you’ll get closer than at any other zoo. The cats are happy, agreeable to a point (they’re cats, after all!), and well-treated. Our tour guide carried around a fanny pack filled with meat and a pair of tongs, and the cats showed off at almost every stop. Our guide was full of information and was especially accommodating to the young kids who were enthralled by the size and ability of these cats and were asking funny, half-distracted questions (our kid). There were a lot of squeals and gasps, too (me).
If you’re visiting during the hot, dry southern Oregon summer, River Dance Rentals (561 Galice Rd., Merlin) is a great place to rent rafting equipment if you want to do a day trip on the legendary Rogue River. It has these cool things called minicats that are great for teens and parents; some are two-seaters. The day trip takes you through the canyon where The River Wild and Rooster Cogburn were filmed. And bonus: every raft gets a water cannon!
The Treesort is less than three miles from the California border and about an hour from Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in the northwestern corner of California. Seeing the redwoods is an amazing experience for kids. It’s hard to explain the size until your child tries to put her arms around a tree that’s hundreds of years old and hundreds of feet tall. And if you have any Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi fans in the family, a walk through Stout Grove will be like a stroll on the Forest Moon of Endor. Keep a lookout for Ewoks!
Where to eat?
The Treesort staff puts together a hearty breakfast buffet every morning, including quiches, pastries, eggs, and waffles. But you’re on your own for lunch and dinner. The Treesort has a community kitchen with plenty of cooking utensils, plates, glasses, and silverware. There are several propane BBQ grills available just steps away from the treehouses. Buy your fixings before you head to the Treesort or stop at the Shop Smart (205 W. Watkins St.) in Cave Junction. The grocery has a pretty good selection, including lots of meat and fish options for grilling, and all the picnic-style food that you’d need for a classic weenie roast.
We also ate lunch at Wild River Pizza (249 Redwood Hwy.), which has a buffet-style lunch special that hit the spot for our famished crew. Wild River brews its own beer, and it also makes its own root beer and Creamsicle sodas, which are quite tasty. I let my daughter have a cup, and she was in ecstasy.
If you’re trying to eat better, you might like the vibe at Diggin’ Livin’ (143 S. Redwood Hwy.), an organic grocery and produce store that sells local honey and things knitted with alpaca wool. It has something called jun on tap, a drink that’s similar to kombucha except it’s made with green tea and honey rather than sugar and black tea, and it has a higher alcohol content. You can get it to go. We visited the back of the store, where there’s a small cafe serving breakfast and lunch items with vegetarian, vegan, and meat options. The server here blended up a beet and cacao smoothie; it’s better than it sounds - this coming from someone who thinks eating a DQ Blizzard must be what heaven feels like.
Out’n’About Treehouse Treesort is in the small community of Takilma, population 378 (probably more during marijuana harvest season) near Cave Junction. It’s about a 5-hour drive from Portland. The nearest commercial airport is in Medford.
KidTripster Tip: Takilma and this whole part of southern Oregon is a prime area for growing outdoor marijuana. It’s been that way for years. So despite Oregon’s recent recreational marijuana laws, there’s still a bit of an outlaw ethos at work. Personally, after living in southern Oregon for years, I barely notice it. It’s just a different way of life. My wife noticed it but says there was nothing that detracted from our experience.
KidTripster Tip: If you get there from I-5 through Grants Pass, look for In-N-Out Burger near the exit; it’s the farthest north that the restaurant chain has expanded. Before the long drive back to Portland, we stopped for lunch, and it didn’t disappoint.
Orion Ludlow is a Portland, Oregon-based journalist/forest ninja and father to a 4-year-old daughter. In his earlier days, he surveyed mountainous wilderness for endangered snails, caught 4,000 albacore tuna by hand, and was the fastest pizza delivery driver in his hometown. Thrilling tales to be sure, but nowhere near as awesome as adventure time with his wife and kid.