Crater Lake is truly one of those places that needs to be seen to be believed. The stillness. The deep blueness. The calm. In all my travels, I still haven’t visited a lake as beautiful and as unique. Although a stop to Crater Lake can be a lengthy detour (it took us about 4 hours round trip from the main freeway I5), it is well-worth a visit. One note: We visited during the fall of 2022. Getting to Crater Lake is very weather-dependent, so I’d advise checking the official National Park Service website for more information on preparation and road closures before going. They also have a live webcam where you can see current weather conditions on the lake. Crater Lake is always more beautiful with blue skies.
What Makes Crater Lake So Unique?
Crater Lake was formed about 7,700 years ago, when the volcano Mount Mazama erupted, causing most of the mountain to collapse. This collapse formed the caldera (or cauldron-like hollow) and after the caldera cooled, rain and snow accumulated forming Crater Lake. Crater Lake is unique in that no rivers feed into it, so its only water source is from rain and snowfall. Evaporation is the only outlet for the water in the lake and as you can imagine, at this rate, the total amount of water is replaced every 250 years! For these reasons, Crater Lake is very still and very blue, with nothing around to pollute it. Crater Lake is also very deep (at max, 1949 feet or 594 meters), making it the deepest lake in the United States and the ninth-deepest lake in the world.
Because this was just a detour on our way back to San Francisco, we sadly only had a few hours to spend here. But we made good use of our time, and caught some of the highlights. We even snuck another hike into this trip!
As its name states, Rim Village is located on the rim of Crater Lake. There’s a Visitor Center (which we didn’t get to visit due to time constraints, though we have visited in the past), a gift shop, and a little spot to get something to eat. We were happy to get a bite to eat with this gorgeous view as a backdrop.
Located on the west side of Crater Lake, the view we got from Watchman Peak was my absolute favorite. There are 2 small islands located in Crater Lake, the larger of the two being Wizard Island. You can get a nice view of Crater Lake and Wizard Island from the pull-out parking lot along the road, but if you want an even better view, you can do what we did and take the 1.6 mile (2.6 km) roundtrip trail from the parking lot to Watchman Peak. Although the distance may not seem long, the overall elevation plus the climb up can make it harder than it initially appears. The nice part about doing this hike is that you not only get a beautiful view of the lake, but you also get a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and valleys as well.
On the southeast side of Crater Lake sits the second island of Crater Lake, Phantom Ship. This tiny 500ft x 200ft (152m x 61m) island is so-named because of its resemblance to a phantom ship. When we arrived, the cloud cover had started to increase with intermittent sunbeams poking through, making the ship appear even more “phantom”.
And with that, we were out of time. If we had more time (and energy), I would have loved to have done the Cleetwood Cove Trail, a short, but strenuous, steep hike that would have taken us to the only legal access to the shore of Crater Lake. Oh well, something to save for next time, I guess.
And that’s it for my trip to Oregon! In my younger days, my favorite part about Oregon was the tax-free shopping, but now that I’m older, I was really able to appreciate the natural beauty that Oregon has to offer. (Though I still appreciate the tax-free shopping. 😉) Thank you, Oregon, for a wonderful time!
Until next time,
Ca va? I always love to read your blogs. I tried to i-message you to say hello but, it didn’t go through. Did your number happen to change recently? Hope you are doing well. It snowed here last night, but has already melted on the roads. It was nice to look at last night though.
Hey Nathan, it’s great to hear from you. Thanks! I’m back in the US again which is probably why your message didn’t go through. I somehow keep missing the cold spells in France – I think it might have snowed in my region, too. Not too sad about that though. 😂😎