Crater Lake National Park is located in the middle of nowhere, Oregon. If you are planning to make a trip out there, make it worth your while by at least staying a few days. It is a beautiful area to vacation. We did three nights at Umpqua’s Last Resort in Idleyld, OR. I recommend this camping location. We had full hook-up for our camper. The owners were very nice and accommodating. They also have RVs on site for rent. My sister rented one, my friend Lauren rented a cute tiny house on the property, and my parents rented a one room cabin that was cute and clean. There is also a gas station and small camp grocery store next to the campground. This is very helpful, since there wasn’t much out in this area. They make great sandwiches for you to buy and take with you to the National Park, which is exactly what we did.
Three nights at Umpqua’s Last Resort gave us a full two days to visit Crater Lake National Park. This campground is located about 45 minutes from the National Park. There are numerous waterfalls on the way to the National Park from the resort, along Hwy 138 north of the park, that are definitely worth checking out. Our group stopped at several. I personally hiked just one. I had limited time and energy, so I selected the waterfall that came most highly recommended. It was Watson Falls. You can see a map below that marks the location for these falls located in the Umpqua region.
You can see photos from my hike up to the top viewing point of the falls. There is also a nice picnic area at the bottom. The kids loved playing in the creek area at the bottom by the picnic area.
What is Crater Lake
Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the US. It is over 1,900 feet deep. The lake was made by a volcano that erupted a long time ago and eventually imploded upon itself. It left a deep crater. The crater has since filled with rainwater and snow. The only water source for this lake is from rain and snow. There are no rivers, creeks, or other bodies of water that connect to Crater Lake.
There is one island on the lake. It is Wizard Island. It is believed that volcanic activity caused the island to push up and form from the depths of the crater.
The water in the lake is crystal clear and appears to be a brilliant blue when you are standing from anywhere on the rim to view the lake from above. It appears to be a brilliant sapphire blue because there are no minerals or sediment coming in from creeks, streams, rivers, or other bodies of water. The water is some of the cleanest and purest water, which is why it so blue.
One of the best ways to see the lake from a variety of perspectives is to take the Rim Drive. This is a 33-mile scenic drive around the entire lake. There are different overlooks with parking areas where you can pull off, get out of your vehicle, and view the lake from the rim. I recommend stopping along this drive and getting out to take photos. The lake looks different from each overlook.
Below you can see my photos of the lake from a variety of perspectives.
We also stopped at Rim Village. You will find a visitor’s center here along with a ranger station. This is where you can turn in Junior Ranger Books if your kids are completing them for this park. While we visited this was the only place that we could turn in the books. There is also a short walk down to an observation deck at Rim Village. We did this walk and it was a great way to see the lake from a wider perspective without obstructions.
Wizard Lake Boat Rides
In normal years you can buy tickets to go on a boat tour on Crater Lake. They will take you out to Wizard Island during this boat ride. This was not possible this summer or last summer, because of Covid restrictions. Hopefully this will change before your trip to Crater Lake. Be sure to get your tickets in advance because like most National Park activities, things fill up and you may not be able to get tickets the day you visit the park.
Hike Down to the Lake Via Cleetwood Cove Trail
The best way to experience the lake is to actually hike to the bottom. Cleetwood Cove is the only trail that goes all the way to bottom where people are allowed to swim in the lake. You can find this trail located on the East Rim Drive, 4.6 miles from the North junction.
Whether you put your toe in the water or decide to swim, the hike down is worth the experience. It is a strenuous hike down from the rim to the lake shore. It is approximately 1.1 miles down and you hike the same way back up. Going down is easy. The hike back up is what makes it so challenging. Be sure you are in good physical health and can walk up the equivalent of 70 flights of stairs before you do this hike. The trail drops 700 feet in elevation.
Below you can see our experience hiking down to the lake via Cleetwood Cove Trail. The kids swam in the water. It is frigid. I put my feet in and that was enough for me.
There are fish in the lake. You are allowed to fish. Charlie brought his fishing pole all the way down to the lake but did not catch anything. You aren’t allowed organic bait. You can only use non-organic/ fake lures.
Make sure you bring enough water along on this hike. Again, it is a strenuous hike. The one-mile hike up took our group 45 minutes. We stopped often to catch our breath and rest. It was a great day at Crater Lake!
Take note: There are restrictions at the lake. You are not allowed any flotation devices in the water including lifejackets. According to the ranger there are only 3 things allowed in Crater Lake: your body, your clothes, your swimsuit. No goggles, no floats, no plastic of any kind in the lake. They are trying to keep the lake as clean and uncontaminated as possible.
Enjoy your visit to Crater Lake!