Crater Lake National Park is named after its main feature, a lake created by the remains of an extinct volcano named Mount Mazama. Located in southern Oregon within the Cascade Range, Crater Lake is the only National Park in the state of Oregon. The park is open all year, but some areas may not be accessible off-season, so it is always wise to check what areas are accessible when planning your trip.
The lake is easily one of the most striking natural places in the United States as it is renowned for its piercing blue hue. There is a scenic drive around the rim of the caldera which is open in the late spring through October, but the lake itself is only accessible via trail. Due to the hazardous geology of the crater, hiking down to the lake anywhere but on the Cleetwood Trail is prohibited. Once on the shore of the lake, there are swimming areas and boat tours of the volcano. Also, within the waterways of the park, there are trout and salmon so fishing is allowed in the park without a license.
Apart from Crater Lake, the park features scenic vistas of volcanic landscapes. The most notable is Pumice Desert which is a breathtaking expanse of landscape still scarred from the eruption that created Crater Lake. Also, there are thousands of acres of old-growth forests and the Pacific Crest Trail passes through the park on its way to the Canadian border. There are trails that access all this terrain so whether you’re looking for a mesmerizing trip through old-growth forests, volcanic terrain, or wildflower meadows, there is a delightful journey for all levels of outdoor adventurer with a range of tastes.
As you can imagine, the geology of the area is fairly unique and so if you’re interested in learning more about the park on your visit, there are a variety of guided tours available. A favorite is the Watchman Peak Hike which winds up the peak for a beautiful sunset view of the park. Additionally there is a trolley tour and educational talks hosted by the ranger service which explain the unique geology of the area.
During the winter snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are the favorite activities. Snowshoe hikes are led by park rangers who provide the snowshoes. The hikes include discussions of the surrounding winter ecology. The walks take place on Saturdays and Sundays from December through April, and space is limited to booking a reservation is recommended.
Crater Lake is smaller than some of the other national parks, but it is no less spectacular. So it is a destination that is popular among many outdoor enthusiasts. Because of this it has limited camping and lodging space. If you’re traveling during peak season, make your reservation well in advance.
The two main centers of the park are Rim and Mazama Villages. These villages are centers for information, shopping, dining and lodging. Mazama Village is situated within a Ponderosa pine forest near the park’s entrance and features a visitor’s center, shopping, dining, camping and lodging. Rim village features the historic Crater Lake Lodge which boasts breathtaking views of the lake and cozy fireplaces. There is also a cafe within Rim Village and a gift shop.
So whether you’re looking for fun in the sun or a winter wonderland escape, the unique geology and volcanic landscape presents a very surprising and enthralling experience for all levels of outdoor enthusiast. So don’t let its size fool you, Crater Lake National Park is definitely a great place for an outdoor adventure.