Oregon is such a beautiful state! From the mountains, to the state parks, to the Oregon coast, there is plenty for the nature lovers to explore. Even from Portland, there are plenty of day trips to take. There are so many beautiful places to see, even outside the list of the Seven Wonders of Oregon. Crater Lake, is one the Seven Wonders and it is absolutely breath-taking! Located basically in our backyard, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States. We both have heard how wonderful Crater Lake is, but we weren’t ready for the actual beauty. We decided to take a weekend to head down to Southern Oregon, and see Crater Lake in its true beauty. The pictures don’t even do it justice!
Crater Lake is 4.5 hours south of Portland, 50 miles outside of Klamath Falls. We booked a campsite a bit south of Crater Lake, at Joseph H. Stewart State Park for the weekend. We packed up our car and our dog, and we were off for a beautiful weekend in nature. We arrived at the campsite, before dark and set up camp.
The next morning we got up and headed to Crater Lake National Park. It was an easy 45 minute drive to Crater Lake. There are two entrances, north and south. Be warned that the north entrance is closed in the winter and spring, dependent on the weather. Once inside the park, there are plenty of activities to explore, such as hiking, fishing, boat tours, but our main agenda was to drive around Rim Drive.
About Crater Lake
Crater Lake was formed by the violent eruption of Mount Mazama, which left a deep basin where the snow-capped peak once was. Years of rain and snow have filled the basin, which has created the deep lake with crystal clearwater. No streams run into the lake, so there is very little residue to change the clear consistency. This is why the lake stays so blue and clear. The lakes maximum depth has been measured at 1943 feet, which is the deepest lake in the United States, and 9th deepest in the world.
In order to grasp all the beauty of the lake, we recommend driving around the lake on Rim Drive. Rim Drive is a 33-mile road around Crater Lake. It is completely drivable in the summer, with multiple places to park and explore the viewpoints. In the winter, some sections of the drive are closed due to the weather. Rim Drive can be driven in 1 hour without stopping, but the National Park Service recommends 2-3 hours to travel around the lake, depending on how much time you spend taking pictures. There are some nice viewpoints you can sit and eat lunch at, while enjoying the view. It took us about 3 hours to drive around, as we took frequent stops to enjoy the beauty of the scenery.
If you have time and enjoy hiking, you can venture down the steep 1.1 mile Cleetwood Cove trail, which takes you to the lake’s shore. The hike down to the water, drops 700 feet in elevation! Walking back up the trail is equivalent to climbing 65 flights of stairs! At the lakes shore, you can swim and fish. There are also boat tours around the lake during the summer.
We were not able to hike the trail, as dogs are not allowed on the trail. Pets on leash are allowed on paved roads and parking lots. Pets are only allowed on a few of the hiking trails. Next time we go back, we will be hiking the trail down to the water!
Getting to the Lake
From Portland, take 1-5 South to highway 138 East, then to highway 62 East, which takes you right to the south entrance of Crater Lake National Park. Highway 62 and the road to Rim Village (Munson Valley Road) are plowed and open all year. You can enter from the South entrance at Annie Springs, off Highway 62. You can also enter the park at the north entrance, which is 10 miles south to North Junction, but this entrance is closed in the winter and spring. The park’s south entrance is open year round. The roads are windy, with lots of drop-offs, so be alert.
Crater Lake Islands
There are two islands in Crater Lake, Wizard Island and Phantom Ship Island. Wizard Island is a cinder cone that erupted after Crater Lake began to fill with water. You can access Wizard Island in the summertime only, via a boat tour. Phantom Ship is a natural rock formation. It looks very small from above, hence it’s name, but the island is as tall as a 16-story building. Its made of erosion-resistance lava, the oldest exposed rock within the caldera.
Other fun facts about the lake:
- The lake is 4.5 to 6 miles wide
- The park is open year-round, although snow is common from Octoboer to June, and may cause road closure around Rim Drive
- The entrance fee into the park is $15/car, good for 7 days
- Crater Lake gets an average of 44 feet of snowfall a year
- Temperatures range from 18 degrees Fahrenheit, in winter, and 90 degrees in the summer
We only stayed for a couple hours, but we recommend staying for 2 days so you can thoroughly enjoy all the National Park has to offer.
Where to stay at Crater Lake
- Crater Lake Lodge-normally open mid May through mid October
- Mazama Cabins-open late May through late September
- Mazama Campground- open late May through late September
- Lost Creek Campground-open mid June through early October
We camped at Joseph H. Stewart State Park, which is about 45 minutes south of Crater Lake, on OR-62 highway. A beautiful campground located on Lost Creek Lake.
Visiting Portland soon? Don’t forget to check out these day trips!
When you come to Oregon, make sure you take the time to visit Crater Lake, as these pictures don’t begin to photograph the beauty of the lake! Have you visited Crater Lake yet?