After spending a pretty glorious day driving all the way around Crater Lake and exploring the different family-friendly trails in Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park, it was time to head back toward California. No road trip is complete without pit stops at roadside attractions, so of course, on our way to Crescent City, we had to stop at Great Cats World Park.
Who can pass up an opportunity to see big cats like lions, tigers, and leopards up close?! Not us! We pulled into the large gravel parking lot around 11:00 am and had a delicious tailgate picnic lunch before heading into the park’s visitor center and gift shop.
Nestled in the Siskiyou Mountains in beautiful southern Oregon, the 11 acre Great Cats World Park is home to more than 50 individual cats representing 17 different species and subspecies.
We were able to walk-in and secure tour tickets right away. With rotating walking tours going all of the time, we could have joined in the tour already in progress… but decided to wait 30 minutes for the official start of a new tour — just enough time to browse the gift shop!
Our 90-ish minute, fully guided walking tour was educational and entertaining. We learned interesting facts about the lives and habitats of bobcats, lynx, jaguar, cougars, ocelots, caracals, cheetahs, lions, cervals, leopards, tigers, wildcats, snow leopard, and all sorts of other cats.
Now, when visiting a zoo, normally the animals aren’t very active during the day and the cats, if they can even be seen, are often sleeping. This isn’t the case at Great Cats World Park! During our tour we saw the cats climb the enclosure fencing, chase each other through the exhibit area, play in the water, and even growl and roar. At many of the stops, the tour guides interacted with the cats and fed them bits of meat to encourage the animals to come to the front of their enclosure.
I did have two big concerns when starting our walking tour of Great Cats World Park. Luckily they both were addressed almost immediately and never became an issue.
- Our tour group was really large, which usually doesn’t work out very well. This wasn’t a big deal, however, because the animal enclosures are fairly wide with plenty of room to see the cats. There were also benches in front of the enclosures, which meant people in the front sat down so people in the back could see.
- It was insanely hot. A tour in the blazing summer sun with little to no shade could have been disastrous. Lucky for us, however, the park has shade covers outside many exhibits and some even had misters attached to help cool us off!
With a hat and sunglasses or sunscreen on all of us, our visit to this big cat zoo was enjoyable and getting to see the big cats up close — much closer than in a zoo — was pretty awesome! Our favorite parts were seeing the tigers stand on two legs and growl and the lion let out a HUGE growl… both just a couple feet in front of us!
About Big Cats World Park
Great Cats World Park seeks to raise public awareness and support for cats of all kinds — from lions, tigers, and leopards to cervals, cheetahs, and lynx — and help people understand and appreciate the vital role played by predators in the wild. The park actively participates in the preservation of threatened and endangered species, cooperating with various captive breeding programs.
Great Cats World Park History
In Autumn 1983, the founder met a cougar at a roadside game farm and developed a deep love and respect for cats of all kinds. His desire to bring awareness and understanding for these magnificent animals into the public eye drove the creation of Great Cats World Park. Construction began in 2003 and since the park opened in 2005, it has welcomed more than 120,000 visitors.
Know Before You Go
- Great Cats World Park is located at 27919 Redwood Highway (Route 199), Cave Junction, Oregon 97523 in Josephine County just 1.2 miles south of Cave Junction and 30 miles southwest of Grants Pass.
- Admission is $15.00/adult, $13.00/senior, $11.00/child, and children age 3 and under are free.
- The parking lot is a large dirt/gravel lot and parking is free.
- The park is open daily from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm from mid-March to Memorial Day Weekend and in September and October, and 10:00 am to 6:00 pm from Memorial Day through Labor Day. In February and November, the park is open on weekends only from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. The park is closed in January and December, with limited hours between Christmas and New Year’s Day depending on weather.
- The Great Cats World Park gift shop sells drinks, snacks and ice cream, as well as artwork, posters, t-shirts, postcards, magnets, books, calendars, and more.
- Self-guided tours are available but you only get to see a small amount of the park. Splurge for a guided tour — it is well worth the admission.
- It wasn’t until after visiting the park that we discovered this big cat zoo has had some animal care issues in the past.
- In the summer it can get hot! There are some shade covers outside the exhibits to shade tour groups and some even had misters to cool us off — but other than that, there is very little shade so bring a hat or wear sunscreen!