I spent most of Sunday absolutely speechless, soaking in the breathtaking views at Crater Lake National Park. It was the final bucket list item for my month in Oregon. A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with a local while on a river hike, and he said Crater Lake is so blue it will make your eyes hurt. An accurate statement, but in a good way. And if it’s not obvious, I’m having the time of my life on this travel adventure.
The wildfire near Bend is still raging, though I admit I don’t understand how smoke patterns change. The awful air quality in and around Bend only lasted for about a week. It rained a bit last week and was cloudy and colder for several days, but the forecast for this past weekend was 100% sun and perfect temps. Crater Lake National Park, here I come!
I set an alarm for 6:00 a.m. on Sunday, was on the road by 7:00, and arrived at the park by 9:00. A crisp Sunday morning, at one point on the drive my car’s thermometer said it was only 29 degrees outside. Later in the afternoon on my return trip, it was 81. That’s the high desert climate for you.
I entered the park’s north entrance and drove another 15 or so miles to Crater Lake. It’s hard to describe in words what the reaction is the first time seeing the lake. The blues are so intense. No camera filters needed.
At 1,943 feet deep, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States. A long, long time ago, Mount Mazama, a complex volcano, collapsed following a major eruption. This caused a caldera, which filled with water to become Crater Lake. Because of this depth, the lake gets its shockingly blue color and water clarity. In fact, I was there for a couple of hours before I even saw a ripple in the water. The entire landscape looked like a giant mirror.
After stopping at a couple of overlooks, I headed to Rim Village and the Rim Visitor Center, which had its last day of the season on Sunday. Winter is coming! Believe it or not, Crater Lake National Park averages 42 feet of snow per year, and many of the roads and facilities are only open in summer. According to park rangers I chatted with, the skies could start dumping snow any day.
Near the visitor center is a path with many overlooks—including one that juts out into the lake, with no windows—providing amazing panoramic photo opportunities.
I’m slowly getting over my fear of heights. Slowly. After getting back in the car, I proceeded to Rim Drive, a 33-mile road circling the entire lake, with over 30 overlooks. What I found fascinating is the road was perfectly designed to be hidden from view. Even the overlooks are impossible to see when at another. This helped a bit with my anxiety of mountain driving because there were often trees between the road and the cliff.
It was fun running into the same people at each stop, sharing little fun facts we picked up or noticed about the lake and its majestic surroundings.
I probably took a few hundred photos while in the park. Looking back at them, they start to look the same. But in person the views never got old. What amazing beauty! I created a photo gallery of my favorites. Enjoy!