To many Rogue Valley residents, tiny Prospect, Oregon is no more than a road sign passed on the way to Crater Lake. But those willing to detour off of Highway 62 and explore "the road less traveled" will discover a wonderland of waterfalls, vivid fall color, hiking trails and historic landmarks - all a mere 45 miles from downtown Medford.

Most visitors to Prospect make their first trip here to see the area's waterfalls. The two best-known waterfalls, Mill Creek Falls and Barr Creek Falls, lie within a few hundred yards of one another along the far bank of the Rogue River. Both waterfalls can be viewed from a 1/2 mile trail that starts at the Mill Creek Falls Scenic Area parking lot (see sidebar for directions). Mill Creek Falls is a muscular-looking, 173-foot tall waterfall that shoots out over basalt cliffs before it plunges into the Rogue. Barr Creek Falls is more ethereal - a shifting curtain of mist and spray - and at 200 feet high, it's one of the tallest waterfalls in Southern Oregon. Although spring is generally considered the peak season for waterfall viewing, there's still an impressive amount of water coming over these waterfalls during the fall; you'll hear their mingled thunder almost as soon as you step out of your car.

Fall visits to Prospect have their own special seasonal charm. "One of the reasons we promote this area as 'Oregon Spectacular' is because of our spectacular fall foliage display," says Alma Spicer, volunteer chair of the Upper Rogue Regional Tourism Alliance. For those interested in exploring some of Jackson County's back roads, Spicer recommends a drive along County Road 992, which leads from Prospect to Butte Falls. "The fall color along the road is especially lovely in October and November."

Fall is also a great time to explore the area's many hiking trails. Fred Wickman, co-owner of the Prospect Historical Hotel, says they keep a 3-inch thick binder in the hotel office that's full of maps of nearby hiking trails. "We're always happy to make recommendations and copy maps for any guests eager to explore the area," says Wickman. One such hike is a 15-minute walk from the hotel to Pearsoney Falls, a 20-foot waterfall located along Mill Creek, which runs behind the hotel. Wickman has a personal favorite place to visit, though. "I love to send guests out to Imnaha Springs. The springs bubble up through lava rock into a large meadow filled with wildflowers and moss and they're only about a 15 minute drive from the hotel."

Finally, no trip to Prospect would be complete without a visit to the Prospect Historical Hotel. The hotel first opened in 1892, and is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. It sits on 5 1/2 park-like acres with frontage on Mill Creek and over the years has been visited by such notable guests as Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, Zane Gray and Jack London. The Prospect Historical Hotel offers a blend of the gracious charm of bygone days and contemporary comfort. One look at the hotel's wraparound veranda with its inviting bentwood chairs will have you longing to curl up in one with a good book and listen to the sound of the creek and the whisper of the wind through the trees.

"From waterfalls and hiking to a relaxing weekend retreat, it's all here in Prospect!" concludes Wickman.