Crater Lake National Park

Location: Oregon

Park Tally: 45/59

Orientation: A visitors first view of Crater Lake is unforgettable. This gem of the Cascades is set within a dormant volcano called Mount Mazama. Once standing at 12,000 feet tall, Mount Mazama erupted and collapsed in 5700 B.C., creating a huge caldera. Rain and snowmelt eventually filled the caldera, forming the deepest lake in the United States – Crater Lake. Lake eruptions formed park features such as Wizard Island and Phantom Ship.

Crater Lake National Park is now a popular tourist attraction, drawing large crowds during summer months and adventure seekers in the winter. The park can be accessed from the west (Medford) and south (Klamath Falls) via Hwy 62, and from the north (Eugene, Portland) and northwest (Roseberg) via Hwy 138. The park’s North Entrance is closed for about 7 months of each year (approximately November – June).

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Scientists consider Carter Lake to be the cleanest and clearest large body of water in the world, plus some of the cleanest air in the nation! Sadly, we were met by nearby wildfires during our visit to the park, and had to leave the area early due to hazardous air quality.

Most iconic view:  Some of the most popular viewing locations of Crater Lake are from the rim overlooks nearby the Visitor Center and Crater Lake Lodge. Here you will find numerous vantage spots to take in the vibrant lake colors and picturesque Wizard Island. Visitors have enjoyed scenic views from the deck of Crater Lake Lodge since its opening in 1915, and continue to do so to this day.

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Accessible activity:  One of the best (and easiest!) ways to experience Crater Lake National Park is by taking an auto tour of the Rim Drive. This 33-mile scenic drive circles the rim of the caldera and provides remarkable views along the way. Stop by the Visitor Center before starting the drive and pick up a park map. This will highlight any overlooks and short walks. The Sun Notch Loop Trail is a wonderful 3/4-mile wheelchair accessible walk for views of Phantom Ship and the rim.

Another worthy but slightly more challenging hike is the Watchman Peak Trail. This 0.8-mile walk is steep in sections and has a 420-foot elevation change. The summit provides breathtaking views of Crater Lake and Wizard Island.

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For the adventurous:  Why not take a dip in some of the cleanest water in the world?! There is one way to access the shoreline of Crater Lake and that is via the Cleetwood Cove Trail. The trail descends 656-feet from the parking lot and covers 1.1-miles. Its steep 11% grade results in a trail rating of “strenuous” and is not recommended for mobility-impaired visitors. Swimming and fishing are permitted from the dock and shoreline, with concessionaire tour boat facilities also available.

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Best photo opportunities: The entire rim of Crater Lake provides extremely picturesque views and photo opportunities, though not all of the rim is easy to access. The Watchman Trail provides clear views of Wizard Island and the east side of the lake, making it a particularly good spot for sunrise photography.

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Quick facts

  • Crater Lake was established as a National Park on May 22, 1902, making it the fifth-oldest national park in the United States.
  • Local Native Americans, the Makalak people (the Klamath people are today’s descendants), witnessed the collapse of Mount Mazama and kept the event alive in their legends. The Makalak people reportedly left the area shortly after Europeans “discovered” Crater Lake in 1853.
  • At 1,949 feet deep, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and the ninth deepest in the world. It is so clear that you are often able to see 100+ feet down into the water.
  • Interestingly, when comparing Crater Lake’s average depth of 1,148 feet to the average depth of other lakes, Crater Lake becomes the deepest in the Western Hemisphere and the third-deepest in the world.
  • Scientists are still learning more about Crater Lake each year. In 1988 and 1989, a manned submarine was used to discover evidence of hydrothermal venting on the lake’s bottom.
  • There are no streams or rivers flowing into or out of Crater Lake, with the only water coming from rain and snow.
  • Crater Lake has an average of 102 snowy days and 487 inches of snow per year!
  • The highest point in the park is Mount Scott at 8,929 feet.
  • Mammals in Crater Lake National Park include lynxes, bobcats, pikas, beavers, foxes, mountain lions, black bears, coyotes, deer, elk, badgers, martens, chipmunks, squirrels and more.
  • Birds commonly seen in the park include Peregrine falcons, ravens, gray jays, bald eagles, hummingbirds, spotted owls and more.
  • In 2016, Crater Lake had 756,344 visitors according to the National Park Service.

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