Yes, Crater Lake is really as gorgeous as everyone says. Here's how to enjoy it in 2020.
Ok. Really? I look at this picture again and cannot believe that I took it. How stunningly beautiful is this?!! (Cute dog excluded.) Yes, Crater Lake is really as gorgeous as everyone says. Go see for yourself.
What It Is
Crater Lake is in southern Oregon and is the main feature of Crater Lake National Park. It's famous for its deep blue color and water clarity. The lake partly fills a nearly 2,148-foot-deep caldera that was formed around 7,700 years ago by the collapse of the volcano Mt. Mazama.
There are no rivers flowing into or out of the lake! The evaporation is compensated for by rain and snowfall at a rate such that the total amount of water is replaced every 250 years. With a depth of 1,949 feet, the lake is the deepest in the United States (reference).
What To Do
Since COVID, our idea of travel (even in the great outdoors) has changed significantly. This is why I knew we'd want to be at this extremely popular destination for a short time: get in, enjoy, and get out! Keeping our social distance as much as possible. Here are the best ways to enjoy Crater Lake National Park right now.
DRIVE IT. One great way is from the privacy of your own car. The 33-mile Rim Drive circumnavigates the lake and has a whopping 30 different turnouts for you to pull over and enjoy the views from every angle, at your own pace.
HIKE IT. We wanted to get in a good healthy hike, so ahead of time I researched AllTrails.com. We laced up our hikers, slathered on sunscreen, and hit the path!
We chose the Mt. Scott Trail Hike, which is a 4.2 mile, up-and-back trail that takes you to the highest viewpoint of Crater Lake (at an elevation of 8,936 feet).
The hike's elevation gain is 1,236 feet itself, so it's definitely challenging. But oh, so worth the view at the top!
Of course, coming back down was far more pleasurable. In part, because I could just skip along like it was no big deal, but also because... these views! Are you kidding me?
In 1909, a Portland developer was convinced to build a lodge on the rim above the lake. The average winter snowfall at Crater Lake is a whopping 533 inches. As a result, the lodge structure was required to carry an extremely heavy snow load for up to eight months every year.
Neither the developer nor project's architects had experience building structures in a demanding environment like the Crater Lake rim site. In addition, building materials had to be trucked to the site over very poor park roads, and the construction season was limited to only three summer months. All this combined to slow construction and drive up project costs, so they kept the structure very simple. The exterior was covered in tar-paper and the interior walls were finished with a thin cardboard-like wallboard called "beaverboard." The lodge had no private bathrooms and the only electricity came from a small generator. Wow!
As I understand it, staying here can be quite a treat! But only once. The rooms are pretty small and have small windows (even with that view). Room rates are fairly expensive.
Hungry? There are three restaurants at the Lodge, but the only food available during our visit was the Rim Village Cafe, a grab-and-go deli. For that, and the gift shop, there was a very long line. No thanks.
Sadly, there were quite a few tourists in every direction. We had to work hard to keep our distance (and still, it was a Wednesday, darn it!). So we snapped a quick selfie and got outta there.
During normal operations, the Park offers quite a few organized activities. Many tours are offered - fishing, cycling, boat tours, and backcountry camping. For the kids they offer ranger programs!
Do you have the opportunity to visit Crater Lake National Park? Before you go, make sure you check current available activities and potential restrictions. And be sure to be mindful of those crowds; mornings are always best, and skip the weekends if possible. And once you see that incredible world-class view it will be worth the planning.
For a great relatively-nearby camping or lodging option, check out my post Rediscovering Lake of the Woods Resort.