Feeling like the movie, Vacation, where their final destination was Wally World but it was an adventure getting there, we finally arrived at our Wally World but it was called Crater Lake National Park.
The place is very much like the Grand Canyon where the view is surreal. You don’t get a glimpse of it until you look over the ridge and once you do, you feel like you are looking at a postcard. All the images you see on the internet, while glorious, does not do it justice when you are looking at the real thing.
Excerpts from Wikipedia describes Crater Lake as follows:
Crater Lake National Park is a US National Park located in Southern Oregon established in 1902. It is the fifth oldest national park in the US and the only one in the state of Oregon. The park encompasses the caldera of Crater Lake, a remnant of a destroyed volcano Mount Mazama along with the surrounding hills and forests.
The lake is 1,943 feet deep at its deepest point making it the deepest lake in the US, second deepest in North America and ninth deepest in the world. The impressive average depth of this volcanic lake is due to the nearly symmetrical 4,000-foot (1,200 m) deep caldera formed 7,700 years ago during the violent climactic eruptions and subsequent collapse of Mount Mazama and the relatively moist climate that is typical of the crest of the Cascade Range.
The caldera rim ranges in elevation from 7,000 to 8,000 feet. The elevation of the lake surface itself is 6,178 feet. This National Park encompasses 183,224 acres. Crater Lake has no streams flowing into or out of it. All water that enters the lake is eventually lost from evaporation or subsurface seepage. The lake’s water commonly has a striking blue hue, and the lake is re-filled entirely from direct precipitation in the form of snow and rain.
Crater Lake is every photographers dream meaning, you just can’t take a bad pic. The deep blue waters and neon green borders near Wizard Island makes every pic pop. By the way, Wizard Island was the cone of the volcano that collapsed into the caldera when the volcano erupted.
Entering the park…
We entered the National Park from the north off of Highway 138 by taking Crater Lake Highway North (how innovative of a name!) and going south. Inside the park the road wraps around the caldera and they call it the West and East Rim drive. You can get to all your trails and ‘Kodak moments’ from this drive. It is about 63 miles in circumference.
Crater Lake National Park has lots of forests and campgrounds surrounding it. As far as going there for lots of hiking and trails, it’s really not that kind of park. Other National Parks contain a richer variety of things to do. I would say you can do all the major trails in 1.5 to 2 days. But if you are also going there to camp and hit some of the flatter trails within the surrounding forest, then more than two days would be needed. We just wanted to hit the highlights of the crater.
As we came in from the north we stopped at one of the first turnouts where you get a great view of Wizard Island. At this stop, you can also start your trail hike to ‘The Watchman’, one of the highest peaks in the park and where you can get a spectacular panoramic view of the park from a tower that was built high atop the mountain. This was a short 2.2 mile strenuous hike. Just perfect to get the muscles and lungs working good and rewarding once you got to the top.
The Eastern Rim Drive…
The Eastern Rim drive is closed during the winter and while we were there, portions of it was undergoing road work causing delays of up to 30 minutes but not too bad.
The Cleetwood trail is the only one that takes you right down to the waters edge and is where you pick up the boat tour to the island. I heard mixed reviews on whether the boat tour was worth it both in terms of price and time spent going there and coming back since it is completely on the other side of the lake. This trail is also strenuous but short, about 3 miles.
Once on the water, people actually jump into the freezing lake to swim. Well at least I say it’s freezing because as a Floridian, anything colder than bath water is freezing! The water temps were in the high 50’s.
Continuing along the Eastern Rim road, we stopped off at Phantom Ship Overlook where one sees a small island in the lake close to Wizard Island that has the shape of a small ship. Another great picture taking moment.
Just across the street from this point was another road called Pinnacles. Within the first mile of this road there is a trail head about 2 miles RT and very flat that takes you to a really pretty waterfall coming off of Sand Creek.
Further down the road, at the very end of Pinnacles, you can see hoo-doos like in Bryce National Park in Utah that is made entirely of ash from the explosion 7,700 years ago. They looked as if you could touch them that they would disintegrate. They were a very cool and weird looking structure.
As we were finishing the rim drive, we finally stopped off at Vidae Falls. A gorgeous waterfall right off the road where you could actually get out and climb a steep rocky surface right up to the falls!
Dinner and rest…
It was a very long day and we finished up at Rim Village. This is where Crater Lake Lodge resides with beautiful views of the rim (I keep saying beautiful because it is!). We had to make reservations a day in advance for dinner at the lodge there. Let me tell you, National Parks are not exactly known for fine cuisine dining but this place was amazing. Organic veggies, grass fed beef, free roaming chicken was on the menu. We had a delicious meal and our day was done.
Nothing beats 1.5 days of hiking and adventure to be…Fit Forlife!