With many of the more popular destinations getting booked up for this summer, we think that Crater Lake National Park is a hidden gem. Crater Lake is located in Southern Oregon on the crest of the Cascade Mountain Range, 100 miles east of the Pacific Ocean. It lies inside a caldera, or volcanic basin, created when the 12,000 foot Mount Mazama collapsed following a large eruption 7,700 years ago. Local Native Americans have kept alive a legend, telling of two Chiefs in battle that ended with the destruction of Mt. Mazama. The Klamaths still revere the clear, pure lake that is now admired by visitors all over the world.
Crater Lake holds the title of the deepest lake in the United States, and, at 1,943 feet, the seventh deepest lake in the world. This clear blue lake is surrounded by sheer cliffs almost two thousand feet high. Lake temperature varies between 32°F and 66°F at the surface, but it maintains a constant 38°F below 260 feet. Its violent volcanic past produced two picturesque islands. Wizard Island rises 757 feet above the surface of the lake on its west side, and the small Phantom Ship Island to the south. A small crater can be seen on the summit. There are at least two areas of hydrothermal activity at the bottom of the lake. There are no inlets or outlets to Crater Lake, but with the average snowfall of just under 45 feet a year, the lake has an ample supply of water. Evaporation and seepage prevent the lake from becoming any deeper. Due to large snowfall amounts, the summertime window is very short. Snow often lingers well into June here, surprising early-season visitors.
There are two visitor centers at Crater Lake National Park. Steel Visitor Center is open year-round and provides an orientation to the park. Rim Visitor Center is open June through September. Nearby Sinnott Memorial Overlook features talks on the “Jewel of the Cascades” three times a day. Crater Lake Boat Tours are given daily from mid-July to mid-September, weather permitting. During peak season, 9 tours a day are offered between 10 AM and 4:30 PM. Access to the tour requires hiking 2.2 miles round trip on a strenuous trail. Tickets may be reserved in advance or purchased at the Cleetwood Cove Trailhead, located on the north side of Crater Lake. It is the only safe and legal access to the lake. The trail is one mile in length and drops 700 feet as you descend from the East Rim Drive trailhead to the lakeshore. The return trip is comparable to climbing 65 flights of stairs, so the trail is recommended only for those in good physical condition.
The 33-mile Rim Drive around Crater Lake is a two-lane road with more than 20 scenic overlooks. Allow two hours to travel completely around Crater Lake, and be on the lookout for deer and wildlife on the road. Be aware that icy road conditions can be present any time of the year. The roads are cleared beginning in mid-April; otherwise many sections of the drive would remain closed until the end of July or early August!
The Old Man of the Lake, a 30-foot mountain hemlock stump, has been bobbing vertically on the lake since at least 1896. It stands approximately 4 feet above the water, and has been bleached white by the elements. The winds and currents allow this “mascot” to travel the lake’s surface, and visitors who see it at close range can view the lush mosses growing underneath the surface.
If you are planning a trip of the Oregon coast, Crater Lake would be a detour well worth your time. Contact us to help schedule your custom trip!