Cost: A ($15 per car for a 7 day pass)
Fun Potential: A
I love national parks! Sometimes I feel like a real life Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation, wanting to shout on the rooftops about all the wonderful places our country has to offer.
In June, we were in Oregon for a family reunion and since Crater Lake has been on my list of places to see, we decided to drive the 2 1/2 hours to go see it. Most of what Crater Lake has to offer can be seen in one day, unless you are the adventurous type and want to be in the area’s rugged wilderness.
It’s worth a stop to visit the Steel Visitor’s Center and watch the film on Crater Lake. You’ll learn all about the history and geology of the area. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the U.S. and is only fed by snow and rain. As a result, it’s considered to be the cleanest lake in the world; its deep blue hue and clear water once recorded a record depth clarity of 134 feet.
There are plenty of hikes to do around Crater Lake. We did the Watchman Overlook trail that takes you up to an old fire watchtower. It is well worth the trip up as you can see more of a complete view of the lake. Be aware the elevation change is 420 feet and only those in good physical condition should hike this. My photo from the Watchman Trail is below.
For people that don’t hike, there is the Rim Drive, which takes you around the lake. Be advised that people who are afraid of heights may not be too keen on areas of the Rim Drive. In a few places, there are sharp drop offs not far from the road. There are lookouts along the way to get new views of Crater Lake. For me, it was interesting to see the ecology on either side of the lake and the landscape beyond the caldera.
For those more adventurous, you can only get to the water by hiking the Cleetwood Cove Trail. It’s 1.1 miles each way, dropping down 700 feet, making it a strenuous hike down to the water, and back up to your car. This is the only legal way to get down to the lake. Once there, swimming is permitted, but the water is cold. Fishing is also allowed at Cleetwood Cove.
At the shore, boat tours are available (Be sure to make a reservation beforehand!) They include:
- a standard two hour narrated tour in which you circle around the lake
- a five hour tour that takes you to Wizard Island in the center of Crater Lake. This longer tour includes the standard tour that takes you around the lake, but you also have a 3 hour stay on Wizard Island as well.
- Not a “tour” but they do have shuttles to Wizard Island. They include a round trip ride to the island and back, and you can stay on the island for three hours. This shuttle does not include a narrated tour.
While in the park, there are a few places to shop, get a bite to eat, and learn about the park. There is also a lodge, campgrounds, and camp store. Obviously, there are not a ton of options for dining and shopping, but most people who visit national parks understand that you are there for the sights and the experience, not the food and shopping.
Overall, if you like geology, national parks, and beautiful scenery, Crater Lake will amaze you. Keep in mind that many parts of the park are closed until the snow melts in the early summer. We were lucky going in mid-June this year because there was not a lot of snow in the western mountains last winter. Just be sure to check out the park’s website before you go for all park information and for any news updates.