Crater Lake National Park:
The first time I saw Crater Lake it felt similar to my first time seeing the Grand Canyon. It may not be as big, but it's just as impressive with a surreal aspect to it. The drive up to the lake is beautiful as well with no visual sign of the lake until you reach the last 1/2 mile or so. The lake sits inside a volcanic basin, referred to as a caldera. The caldera was formed around 5700BC when Mount Mazama erupted and collapsed in on itself. Crate Lake, at its deepest, has a depth of 1934 feet making it the deepest lake in the United States. It's not like other lakes where they get feed runoff from higher mountains, Crater Lake has no inlets or outlets meaning all of it's water is from fresh snow or rain. The lake stays at a steady depth due to seepage and evaporation. The deep blue colors of the lake set against the rocky backdrop make it a site to be seen.
You can eat at a variety of restaurants and cafes within the park itself. Annie Creek Restaurant is located at Mazama Village, Mazama Village Camper Store is another place to pick up food items, and the Rim Village Cafe is my personal favorite for a bite to eat. The Crate Lake Lodge dining room serves up some excellent food, but probably isn't going to be your best choice unless you are staying overnight. Expect to spend somewhere between 1 and 2 hours around the lake depending on your activities. I recommend taking a short walk around a portion of the rim or drive your car around the rim drive stopping off at some of the overlooks for different vantage points of the lake and Wizard Island. The official website for Crate Lake National Park can be found online HERE
Location - Directions:
Getting to Crater Lake is no easy task as it's located in a fairly remote area of Southern Oregon in the Cascade Mountain Range. The park remains open year round but the road is almost always closed during the winter due to excess snow. We have posted a nice map down below with the 2 routes that take you into the park. If you are coming up from California off of Interstate 5 (I-5), you can either take Hwy 97 and go through Klamath Falls and then get off on Hwy 62 just north of Klamath or you can cross the border on I-5 and take Hwy 62 just north of Medford (see map) which takes you into the national park. For those of you approaching from the Portland, Oregon side of things, you can take I-5 down to Eugene and head out on Hwy 58 across the Cascades and then down 97 until you reach the Diamond Lake Junction. Take Hwy 138 to the park's north entrance. The distance from Portland to Crater Lake is about 250 miles, so expect a drive of 4 1/2 to 5 hours.
For a more detailed map of Crater Lake National Park showing trails, campgrounds, visitor center, picnic areas, and RIM Village go HERE
. You will get a good idea of where the overlooks and view points are as well as see where Wizard Island sits in vicinity to the Crater Lake Lodge. The park headquarters in at the south entrance and the lodge sits on the south rim.
Hours - Fees:
There are 2 visitor centers - the Steel Visitor Center and the Rim Visitor Center. The Steel Visitor Center is open from early April through early November from 9AM to 5 PM daily and their winter hours are from 10AM to 4PM from early November to early April (daily except December 25th). If you enter by car, you pay $10 for a 7 day pass. There is plenty of parking at the south Rim Village, although when I last visited they had lots of construction going on and some of the parking was limited (temporarily). It's just a short walk from the parking lot to the craters edge where the views are spectacular and worth the closer look. Don't forget your camera as the photo opportunities are endless around the lake.
Tours and Programs:
Perhaps the most famous tour at Crater Lake National Park is the boat tour. The Crater Lake Boat tours get you down onto the lake with a close up view of Wizard Island and the surrounding cliffs that stretch back up to the craters rim. The boat tours run from early July to the middle of September (weather permitting). You can only get tickets from the Cleetwood Cove Trailhead parking area. The one big deterrent for most people is that you are required to hike 1.1 miles down (don't forget you have the distance coming back up) on a strenuous trail to get to the boat dock area. The Volcanic Boat Tours last about 1 hour and 45 minutes and you can get dropped off at Wizard Island if you want for the day. For ticket prices and daily schedules go HERE
. Other programs include the Discovering Crater Lake Talks which last about 20 minutes and meet three times each day (early July through Labor Day), Ranger's Choice Talks, and the Junior Ranger Program setup for youngsters 6-12.
Crater Lake Lodge - Campgrounds:
Crate Lake Lodge has 71 rooms and was originally opened in 1915 and was recently renovated in 1995. The lodge is open from late-May to mid-October and current room rates range from $140 to $265. You can setup reservations and check availability online at http://www.craterlakelodges.com
. Reservations are strongly recommended for Crater Lake Lodge since the limited spaces do fill up fast. Call Xanterra Parks and Resorts at (541)830-8700 or 888-774-2728 for booking over the phone. For a rustic lodging experience check out the Cabins at Mazama Village with 40 guestrooms total. Each cabin has 1 or 2 queen beds and bath/shower but there are no televisions, telephones or air conditioning. They are about 7 miles from the rim of Crater Lake. Rates are around $120/night for the cabins. Camping is another popular activity around Crate Lake and the Mazama Village Campground gets the bulk of the campers. Half of the campsites at Mazama Campground are now on a reservation system. Please call 1-888-774-2728 to reserve one. They are usually open from the middle of June to late September and perhaps even early October depending on the weather and snowpack. Half the sites are available on a first come first serve basis. Tent sites run about $20/night and RV sites go for a few dollars more. Lost Creek Campground has 16 sites for tents and can be found in the southeast corner of the park. These sites are first come first serve only.