CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK
Serene Beauty In Every Corner
Lake Tahoe, Lake Powell, Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake—are some of the most beautiful lakes we have seen in our travels throughout the U.S. and Canada. After visiting Crater Lake in Oregon, we added this lake to our list of must-see destinations.
Crater Lake is the focal point of Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, established in 1902. The lake was created more than 7,000 years ago when Mount Mazama imploded upon itself in a catastrophic eruption. Over time, rain and snow melt (no rivers or streams feed the lake) filled the collapsed volcano and formed the purest lake in the United States. Sheer cliffs, almost 200 foot high, surround the lake, which has a depth of 1,943 feet, making it the deepest lake in the U.S. and the 7th deepest lake in the world.
The sapphire blue color of Crater Lake gives it the title “Gem of the Cascades.” Because the water is so pure and clear, it absorbs every ray of the sun, reflecting only the deepest blue hues of the spectrum back to the surface. On a clear day, the lake resembles a mirror reflecting the rim.
Exploring Crater Lake
Crater Lake National Park is home to more than 40 volcanoes. All the peaks, cones, and hills result from volcanic activity. As a result, there are numerous ways to explore this fantastic landscape.
Traveling around the 33-mile Rim Drive, which circles Crater Lake, is a must. We opted to take the Crater Lake Trolley, a two-hour tour around Rim Drive, making several stops at scenic overlooks. A National Park ranger accompanies the tour providing an informative narration about the lake’s history and exciting details about the park. This is a great way to begin your exploration of the park. We also drove around the rim, stopping at many of the 20 scenic overlooks to take pictures and marvel at the vistas, including the two picturesque islands in the lake—Wizard Island and Phantom Ship. Bike rentals are available for the more adventurous looking to pedal Rim Drive.
The only way to access the lake is with Lake Cruises, offered by Crater Lake Hospitality. Cruises depart from the lone boat dock at Cleetwood Cove which can be accessed by hiking a 1.1-mile trail to the lake. This doesn’t sound difficult until you learn that the course is steep and strenuous due to the 700-foot drop in elevation. Tickets can be purchased in advance online, and some tickets are available for same-day bookings.
Crater Lake National Park is open year-round, but winter access and services are limited due to heavy snow. Cross-country skiing and guided snowshoe expeditions are famous in the winter. Your best bets for warm, dry weather are July, August, and early September. Since the park gets over 500 inches of annual snowpack, it typically isn’t until mid-summer that all the snow melts.
CRATER LAKE LODGING
There are several types of lodging available in Crater National Park. The recently restored Crater Lake Lodge (the original lodge opened in 1915) has a rustic elegance creating the warmth and hospitality of a bygone era. Perched on the crater’s rim and offering majestic views of the lake’s pristine blue waters, the lodge has 71 rooms open from mid-May to mid-October. The Cabins at Mazama Village, seven miles from the lodge, have 40 rooms and 211 RV and tent sites. Crater Lake Hospitality recently completed a renovation of the interior. The cabins honor the local region’s history and surroundings using historic-style furnishings and wall art of vintage-style travel posters. Whether you stay at the lodge, cabins, or campground, make reservations well in advance, as is true of all U.S. National Parks, lodging books up very quickly.
The Crater Lake Lodge Dining Room, which offers beautiful lake views, features regional Northwest cuisine and serves breakfast and dinner buffets. Take time to relax in the serene atmosphere by the fireplace of the Great Hall and enjoy appetizers and drinks—a welcome respite after a long day of exploring the park. Located close to Crater Lake Lodge, Rim Village Café is perfect for grab-and-go food items such as sandwiches, salads, and snacks. At Annie Creek Restaurant in Mazama Village, you will find family-friendly breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. Menu items include specialty sandwiches, soups, burgers, pizza, veggie options, and local beer.
Crater Lake National Park is remote in the Cascade Mountains of southwest Oregon. The closest airports are in Eugene or Medford. Driving from Portland is an option—the interstate route through Eugene is about a 4.5-hour drive. We opted for the more scenic “Bend route” from Portland. The Mount Hood and Cascade Lakes make this route a great option if you have more time. Stops at Smith Rock State Park, Newberry National Volcanic Monument, and the small but vibrant town of Bend is worth the extra time.
For more information on Crater Lake, visit travelcraterlake.com or call 866.292.6720 for park information, lodging, and tour reservations with Crater Lake Hospitality; for more information on Crater Lake National park, visit nps.gov/crla