Yet another reason to love Oregon.
I grew up in this state, but this is the first time that I’ve ever been to its famous lake, the deepest lake in the US and, some say, the cleanest lake in the world.
It was formed when Mt. Mazama erupted and collapsed created the caldera that exists now filled only with rain water and snow melt. Four smaller volcanos within the lake have erupted since then and continue to slowly grow again, though only one is visible above the water.
The negative to this vacation is that I saw perhaps much, thus not enough of any one thing. I could have spent days here, at least one. I only had a couple hours. That’s clearly not enough.
Though the Crater Lake National Park is open all year, the road that circles the lake, Rim Drive, is closed much of the year to cars due to heavy snow. The lake gets an average of 44 feet of snow each year which helps to keep it full of clean water, but also makes visits challenging. The North Entrance and West Rim roads close with the first big snowfall in October and November and can remain closed as late as April.
If you want to do the beautiful drive around the entire lake, allow yourself 2-3 hours to enjoy the 33-mile drive with viewpoints along the way and go in the summer months after the snow’s been cleared from the roads. Though crews begin plowing in April, parts of the rim road won’t open until June and even July. August and September are the best months for an unimpeded visit.
Even in August, we found cold winds and tiny patches of snow.
Even on the side of well-traveled roads, you can find wildlife here. Squirrels and birds are common. You may also see deer and herds of elk. The area is home to black bears, bobcats, mountain lions, fox, marmot, porcupines, and bald eagles, but sightings are a little more rare. The quiet of the morning and evening are the best times to try to catch a glimpse of these locals.
Rim Village is the busiest place on the lake with gift shops, restaurants, and picnic areas. Here, the Rangers will lead children in activities to become Junior Rangers and even earn an iron-on badge. Walk down to the Sinnott Memorial Overlook where you’ll find educational posters and videos to explain how Crater Lake came to be as well as soak up another beautiful view.
The lake is so big that even with my wide-angle lens, I still can’t get it all.
There isn’t enough time. This is one of nature’s treasures that has nearly everything. Backpack and camp, bike and hike, fish and swim. Photographers will love the lighting and angles, the blues and greens, the critters and wild flowers. There are hiking trails as short as 1/2 mile and as long as 11. Come in the winter to cross-country ski. Just give yourself time and bring a camera.