- Associated Press - Sunday, May 11, 2014

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) - One of the famous landmarks in Grants Pass is a large sign hovering over the city’s downtown proclaiming, in big white letters: “It’s the Climate.”

For the five years that I lived there, the sign was a source of much amusement because it’s not a motto exactly, but a declaration that assumes everyone driving through Grants Pass is wondering “now what it is about this place . I can’t quite put my finger on it .?”

“Oh yes! It’s the climate! Thank you gigantic sign!”

But while the silliness of promoting something as fleeting as the weather is obvious - is it still the climate when it’s raining outside? - the sign does raise one important point:

Southern Oregon’s weather is, in fact, spectacular, especially this time of year.

The sunshine arrives earlier, lasts longer and burns hotter than in the damp Willamette Valley. Allergies are less of a problem, mosquitoes are limited and the lack of humidity means even 90-degree days are comfortable.

The outdoor recreation calendar lasts from May into October, and with wild rivers, rugged mountains and great fishing, it makes a wonderful place for family vacations.

And so, with summer getaways being planned in countless family households, I present my top five family vacations in Southern Oregon. These are vacation spots that most anyone can enjoy - from children to grandparents - and include lots of easy places to play and spend the night.

5) BOLAN LAKE CAMPGROUND

Nestled deep in the Siskiyou Mountains, on the border of Oregon and California southeast of Cave Junction, sits a little-known destination of alpine lakes, trails and mountain top views.

Best known for Bolan Mountain Lookout - one of the best rentable fire lookouts in the state - the area also features a campground of 15 sites surrounding trout-stocked Bolan Lake and three excellent nearby trails.

Down the road from Bolan Campground are easy, kid-friendly trails leading to Tanner Lakes and Tanner Mountain - both in the Red Buttes Wilderness. My favorite activity was hauling an inflatable kayak a half-mile to Tanner Lake to fish for trout. On the way to or from Bolan Lake, it also makes sense to stop at nearby Oregon Caves National Monument.

If you want to rent Bolan Mountain Lookout, make sure to make reservations way ahead of time on Recreation.Gov. The area also is somewhat confusing, so make sure to stop at Wild Rivers Ranger district in Cave Junction for a good map and directions.

Best time to visit: June to September

Information: Wild Rivers Ranger district, (541) 592-4000.

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