Formed by a cataclysmic volcanic eruption about 8,000 years ago, Crater Lake National Park protects a nearly round caldera about five miles in diameter. It is the deepest lake in the country at 1,943 feet, which is a major reason why in 1902 it was named the sixth National Park in the U.S. When we first visited back in July 2010 most of Rim Drive was still closed due to snow, but in July 2014 there was little snow to be found anywhere.
For Learn more in our guidebook to the National Parks, A Park to Yourself: Finding Adventure in America’s National Parks (available on Amazon).
Rim Village, Cleetwood Trail, Cloudcap Overlook, Castle Crest Wildflower Trail, Mount Scott
That very first view you get from the rim is so overwhelming that it is worth whatever effort you have to put in to arrive there. Bring a coat, though, since at this high elevation we are pretty sure it can snow any month of the year. Crater Lake has no inlets or outlets and its crystal-clear waters were fish free until some were introduced in the early 1900s. The only way to get on the water is to hike down the steep one-mile Cleetwood Trail to a boat run by a park concessionaire. Make sure you have purchased your ticket beforehand or you will be hiking back up to get one.
We enjoyed the short but colorful Castle Crest Wildflower Trail, as well as the Pinnacles Overlook Trail where fossilized fumaroles mimic the conical shape of conifers.
Pictures truly do not do Crater Lake justice, but stop along Rim Drive to get a closer look at Wizard Island and the Phantom Ship, the only two islands that emerge from the lake.
$30 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass, but no entry fee in winter
While some roads are closed most of the year, the National Park Service (NPS) plows the main entry road year round. Bring your snowshoes!
The NPS manages two campgrounds in summer (although smaller Lost Creek only allows tent camping), or you can head to the neighboring National Forests for developed and dispersed campsites.
Mount Rainier National Park (Washington)
Explore More – What was the name of the vast volcano that existed here before it collapsed nearly 7,700 years ago?
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