After 6 months on the road and several parks under our belts, there are certain qualities in a park that we know will heighten our enjoyment. Those are:
- Limited crowds
- Ease of travel within the park
- A range of trails – in other words, ones that are good for families or solo (on the rare occasion one of us can sneak away for an adult only hike)
Crater Lake delivered on all three credentials. Despite visiting over 4th of July weekend we had no problem finding a campsite. And because the park is centered around the lake, navigation is easy. A road, which takes about an hour to drive, loops around the caldera with short spurs branching off for easy access to all the sights and trails the park has to offer. We enjoyed several of these, the first of which was the Watchman, which offered spectacular views of the lake and even a chance for a snowball fight in July.
Speaking of the lake, let’s take a few moments to drop some knowledge about Crater Lake. Did you know CL is the deepest lake in the U.S.? It’s actually a caldera that formed when a volcano collapsed in on itself. No rivers, streams, or creeks feed into it, the water that fills the lake is pure snowmelt which means it’s also some of the cleanest water you’ll find in the U.S. We all enjoyed dipping our water bottles in and having a taste. The clarity of the water is also remarkable, visibility goes to astonishing depths of, on average, 115ft. Clarity and depth of the water all leads to the most astonishing feature of the lake, its surreal color. The only thing that I can compare it to is the most brilliant sapphire you could ever dream of seeing – that was the color of Crater Lake.
OK, now back to what we did at this breathtaking body of water. In addition to the Watchman hike, we enjoyed taking a boat to Wizard Island, a volcano inside a volcano. There we hiked to the top and explored the “Witch’s Cauldron” which is the crater atop the Wizard Island volcano. The hike up was unique in that you are scrambling up huge chunks of volcanic rock with craggily junipers and vibrant wildflowers taking root wherever they can. All around is the magnificent blue of the lake, it’s a magical sight. To cool off after the hike all four of us took the plunge into the frigid water (how could we not?). Rick was thrilled that Liam and CJ showed up a group of college guys who couldn’t work up the stones to jump in themselves.
Rick was able to go on a few solo hikes, one of which he was upset not to see the bear whose tracks he followed up the mountain. However, we lucked out the next day and caught a glimpse of a bear galloping across the road. We were also treated to marmot and deer sightings, several beautiful waterfalls and meadows bursting with wildflowers. All in all, Crater Lake was a pleasant surprise. We hadn’t expected much, and almost skipped the park but are so happy we didn’t. No other lake will ever compare to the unique beauty of Crater Lake.