There are very few times when all four members of my family are equally excited about something, but our visit to Crater Lake was definitely one of those times. As soon as the lake came into view our mouths quite literally dropped open. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing!
As soon as the car stopped all four of us jumped out. We just couldn’t believe our eyes! This was the bluest water we’d ever seen! Funny enough what turned out to be the grand finale of our vacation was chosen simply because it happened to be on the way home.
Crater Lake National Park
The only National Park in Oregon, Crater Lake National Park is about a 4 hour drive from Portland. The Lake itself sits in the caldera of what was once Mount Mazama and at 1,949 feet deep it’s the 9th deepest lake in the world and the deepest lake in the United States.
Crater Lake’s famous blue water is due to its extreme depth and clarity. Its thought to be the cleanest and clearest body of water in the world and it truly has to be seen to be believed.
The caldera was created 7,700 years ago with the eruption and subsequent collapse of Mount Mazama, which allowed centuries of rainwater to collect. There are no rivers or streams flowing into the lake, but as much as 43′ of snowfall each year help to replenish and keep the lake full. These cute little squirrels hibernate during the winter months.
The Lake is between 4.5 and 6 miles across and there are two islands, Wizards Island and the Phantom Ship, named for its shipwreck like appearance. Both were created during subsequent eruptions and of the two only Wizards Island is accessible.
Things To Do at Crater Lake
The Visitor Center is always a great place to start any trip to a National Park, and Crater Lake has two. The Steel Visitor Center, which is open every day except December 25 and the Rim Visitor Center, which is open from late May to late September.
There are more than 30 view points along the Rim Road all of which will provide fabulous views. You’ll find The Sinnott Memorial Overlook just behind the Rim Visitor Center. This viewpoint is easily accessible via a short paved path and will provide you an amazing panoramic view of the lake and many of the Park’s most famous features.
There are multiple walks and hikes available within the Park ranging from easy to strenuous. If you aren’t up for hiking many viewpoints are accessible via car, just pull in and take in the magnificent views.
Swimming & Fishing
Swimming and fishing are both allowed, however the lake is surrounded by cliffs, so access is extremely limited. The only place to swim is at the bottom of the Cleetwood Cove Trail, but you’ll want to keep in mind that the 1.1 mile hike down to the water’s edge is strenuous. Due to its extreme depth the water never reaches more than 61 degrees. The combination of a strenuous hike and chilly water is why you won’t see any photos of us swimming in Crater Lake.
Volcano Boat Cruise
For those with more time the ranger led Volcano Boat Cruise is a two hour tour around the lake with options to disembark on Wizards Island where you’ll have three hours to explore.
The boat tours leave from the bottom of the Cleetwood Cove Trail. Even using extreme zoom on my camera the tour boat is still a tiny blur.
Tips & Advice:
- Crater Lake National Park is open every day of the year, but due to the large amounts of snowfall certain roads are inaccessible from mid November to mid June.
- Crater Lake does not have an address, so if you’re using GPS you’ll want to enter the coordinates: 42° 53′ 48.91″ North / 122° 08′ 03.08″ West
- Roads within the park are very narrow and there are no shoulders.
- If you’re not interested in the boat tour there are direct shuttles to and from Wizard’s Island. Tickets for the boat tour can be reserved online in advance.
- STAY on the path!
- There are no gas stations within the Park.
- Food options within the park include simple fare at the Rim Village Cafe and the Crater Lake Lodge Dining Room.
- Crater Lake Lodge is the only in-park lodging and books up months in advance.
- The Running Y Ranch, located 40 miles south of the Park was a nice alternative, with bike rentals, dining options, and an indoor pool.
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