Oregon has many, many landmarks. From its rocky, breathtaking coastline to the mountains to the high desert of Eastern Oregon; the state has it all it all. As far as national parks go, Oregon has one, and it’s amazing.
Welcome to Crater Lake National Park.
At Crater Lake, it’s easy to take the family on a lazy afternoon in the sun adventure to see this amazing and unforgettable national treasure. The park’s breathtaking beauty an hour and a half south of Bend, Oregon and for our family, has become yearly tradition. Through all four seasons, Crater Lake shows us its many hidden treasures.
Crater Lake is a caldera of Mount Mazama in south-central Oregon in the western United States. At 1,943 feet deep, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States. The crystal clear blueish water is indicative of its purity and depth. The lake is entirely fed by rain and snow coming off the Pacific Ocean, located 150 miles to the west.
Explore a Collapsed Volcano
Crater Lake rests in the belly of a dormant volcano. The stratovolcano, called Mount Mazama, once stood 12,000 feet tall, but it collapsed after a major eruption 7,700 years ago. Later eruptions formed Wizard Island, a cinder cone that rises from the water. The park has an abundance of fascinating volcanic features, including a second rocky island, the Phantom Ship.
Experience Old-Growth Forests
Crater Lake itself occupies only 8% of the park, according to Ranger Audrey who led our 5, 7 and 10 year old children through their Junior Ranger activities. Beyond the blue lake, old-growth forests blanket the landscape.
Established in 1902, Crater Lake National Park protects a vast variety of trees including 15 species of conifers, towering ponderosa pines to ancient whitebark pines. These trees shelter a wide array of wildlife, including black bears, mountain lions, elk, and spotted owls.
Will your family be able to spot the Clark’s Nutcracker and Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel? We spent an entire day at Crater Lake and got lucky – we spotted two Clark’s Nutcrackers and a handful of the mysterious ground squirrels.
Become a Junior Ranger
One of our kid’s favorite things to do when we visit a national park is participate in the Junior Ranger activities. The Junior Ranger program is offered daily in the summer months and has four different activities throughout the day for your “Junior Ranger”. Complete one of these activities as a group with a Crater Lake Park Ranger and they will earn a Crater Lake National Park Junior Ranger patch. The program is available in the afternoon by the Rim Visitor Center, which is a short walk from the Crater Lake Lodge.
Stay and Enjoy the Lake
Crater Lake Lodge has 71 rooms overlooking the lake at Rim Village. As the lodge is on the smaller side and the summer season is short, it’s recommended to make reservations in advance. For overnight lodging, there are also The Cabins at Mazama Village which has 40 rooms and is located 7 miles south of Rim Village.
Staying overnight provides you more time to enjoy the beauty or to take in a sunrise or sunset hike. If you’re hungry, grab a bite to eat at the Rim Village Café or Crater Lake Lodge. The lodge provides views of the lake on the patio lined with rocking chairs or formal dining experience enjoy a nice quiet meal in the surroundings of this rustic building. We enjoyed the hot chocolate, coffee and an Oregon-made IPA.
Popular hikes at Crater Lake
Up for a hike? Crater Lake has options that range from easy to moderately difficult. Try the Garfield Peak Trail which is a hike that provides panoramic views of Crater Lake at the top, and amazing views the whole way. This hike is very steep in the beginning and can be quite laborious. However, there are fantastic spots along the way to take in the views and enjoy lunch.
Right in the middle of the lake is Wizard Island and on it is the Wizard Island Trail. You can ride over via boat and hike up to the volcano rim and then down inside. Wizard Island is 700 feet tall and this hike is only a bit difficult with a slight incline.
More Crater Lake Offerings
Take a guided hike! Each day in the summer, the park offers guided hikes with a park ranger to explore and learn about Crater Lake. Trail choice varies depending on the ranger leading the hike.
In the winter, take a ranger-led snowshoe walks. During these led 2-hour snowshoe hikes, rangers discus various aspects of winter ecology. Walks take place every Saturday and Sunday at 1:00 p.m. Free snowshoes are provided. There is a 30 person limit on each walk, and a minimum age of 8 years. Be sure to sign up in advance.
Crater Lake Boat Tours – From July to mid-September, you can see the lake via boat! Reservations are strongly recommended as few tickets are available on the day of the tour. Note: Boat tour access requires hiking 2.2 miles round trip on a strenuous trail.
Perhaps the most charming way to explore Crater Lake is via trolley. In these tours, you can join a park ranger on a 2-hour tour aboard a historic-styled trolley. The tours start at Rim Village, a driver will navigate the 33 miles of the Rim Drive around Crater Lake including 4 stops for photos and discussion.