The National Park
The National Park
Somewhat surprising—considering the wide-sweeping natural beauty the state possesses—Crater Lake is Oregon’s only national park. Oregon is known for many things—chief among them the slopes of Mount Hood, the quirkiness of Portland, the rocky Pacific Coast, the winds and brews along Hood River, and the ridiculously rad town of Bend. It is also known for the Goonies, and for being the final destination for Lewis and Clark, and the ending of the Oregon Trail. Yet, the most unique and historical region of the Beaver State is tucked away, down in the southern Oregon Cascades, far below the majestic peaks of The Sisters, Mount Jefferson, and the iconic Mount Hood.
To say Crater Lake is remote is an understatement. It is just a few hours’ drive from Interstate 5, but the region surrounding the park is a vast forest of nothing, aside from majestic mountains, gorgeous lakes, and tiny communities which provide the most basic of services. There are no fast food restaurants, no major department stores, or even a choice of gas stations near Crater Lake, and that is part of the appeal. Remote, beautiful, and unbelievably scenic, Crater Lake National Park is a one-of-a-kind spot that must be visited.
Crater Lake is about nature, history, geology and world class views, and it is well deserving of a visit. While there are dozens of possible things to do in and around the park, here are five ways to get to know the park’s most awesome features.
Crater Lake sits in the crater of the ancient volcano of Mount Mazama, which erupted 7,700 years ago. Today, the crater has filled with five trillion gallons of water, slowly filling up with rain and snow melt, allowing it to be clear and blue. It is the deepest lake in North America at a staggering 596-meters or 1943-foot depth. The clarity of the lake is a world record 143 feet, the reason being that no streams empty into the lake, so sediment is minimal.
Between 1888 and 1941, the lake was stocked with Rainbow Trout and Kokanee Salmon, and fishing isn’t just allowed, it is encouraged. The only legal access to Crater Lake is from the Cleetwood Cove Trail, a steep mile long jaunt of switchbacks and impressive views.
The lake is mysterious in one of her spectacles is the presence of “the old man of the lake.” In 1896 a geologist Joseph S. Diller discovered a tree trunk floating inexplicably around the lake. The trunk is about 60 cm wide and 1.20 m long and a man can stand on it. After 117 years it is still there. This trunk is floating around in there right now…the treasure is to see if you can spot him!
There are Two Islands on Crater Lake;
Wizard Island accessible by boat. And Phantom Ship Island named because in foggy weather, its shape reminds of a ghost ship.
Boats, Hikes and Views
You can take a boat ride to Wizard Island and or around the lake. The boat ride should be reserved well in advance as it gets booked way out. You can access the boat launch at the base of the Cleetwood Cove Trail. These boat tours only operate during Summer months. And you can make a reservation by clicking on the Concessioner’s Website here. You can also go straight to Wizard Island via the “shuttle” service. Check out their website for information.
Crater Lake National Park has hundreds of amazing viewpoints, each offering stunning vantages of the lake, the caldera walls, and the surrounding peaks and valleys in all directions. Waterfalls await those who want to trek away from the lake, as does a section of the wildly popular Pacific Crest Trail, which meanders a mile or so from the crater rim. The park has 90 miles of trails, but the three most popular are 9,060-foot Garfield Peak, 8,929-foot Mount Scott, and Wizard Island—all easily accessible in the non-snowy months thanks to an average starting elevation of 7,250 feet.
Offering unique sights around every bend, these trails are not only fun, they are manageable for nearly all levels of hikers. When not hiking, viewpoints abound around the crater rim, with the best views located at The Watchman forelock out, the Cloud Cap Overlook, and of course, the always impressive view right from Crater Lake Lodge.
Sunrises, Sunsets, and Stargazing
As stunning as the views of Crater Lake are during the day, the sunrises, sunsets, and night skies are reason enough to visit the park. With most of the rim sitting well above 7,000 feet in elevation, and the nearest big city nearly 100 miles away, the skies here are about as good as it gets.
For sunrises, most visitors prefer to watch it from the Cloud Cap Overlook, which is on the east side of the rim. From here, the first beams of sunlight can be seen, letting early morning explorers watch the first bit of light shoot across the lake and crater rim. Sunsets are best seen on the western edge of the rim, specifically near The Watchman.
With craggy trees posing in the late sun, watching the sun plunge into the lake is a must experience sight. And even though Crater Lake is said to have some of the best sunrises and sunsets around, even these golden hour views are only average compared to the majesty of the night sky. With no light pollution, and limited haze at the high elevation, the entire milky way galaxy expands over Crater Lake. For the best stargazing, visit the park during a new moon to enjoy an unrestricted view into the heavens. Dress warm, avoid looking at any lights and screens, and see how deep you can look into the universe