Just recently I took my mom on a road trip for her birthday, I’ve been gone travelling for the past couple summers during her birthday and wanted to do something special with her that would involve lots of time together. We were determined to see something in Oregon that we’ve never seen before—and when both of us realized that we had never been to Crater Lake before, we immediately nailed it down as the must-visit for our Oregon Birthday Road Trip.
Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I can’t believe I had never been here before! I’ve tried multiple times to visit Crater Lake but each time it fell through (long story), and also I guess I’ve seen so many pictures of it that I never got around to visiting it myself for some odd reason. Well, I’ve been missing out. This place was amazing! It’s no wonder that it’s considered one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon.
Crater Lake is the gem of central Oregon, a 4.5 hour drive from Portland and a 1.5 hr drive from Bend. What I didn’t realize was that Crater Lake National Park is way more than just the lake itself. One of the five oldest national parks in the United States (and surprisingly the only national park in the state of Oregon), the park boasts 286 square miles of raw beauty. There were plenty of plains, forests, and even some pretty mountain peaks (still snow-capped at the end of the summer) to see, so my mom (Debi) and I couldn’t help but pull over for some photos before even getting to the Lake.
The lake lives up to the hype when you first drive up. It's an amazing view from almost any viewing point because the lake is one giant circle in which no matter what angle you come from, you are at a high elevation looking down upon the lake. Why are you always at a high elevation looking down at the lake? Because Crater Lake was formed by a collapsed volcano (Mount Mazama) about 7,700 years ago, which is pretty freaking cool and you can’t help but picture it when you are standing there staring at it. Another fascinating tidbit on this lake is that it’s also the deepest lake in the United States!
No matter where you go, the views of the lake are stunning. I love the little “island” in the middle and the vast pops of blue created by the sky / water-surface interaction wherever you go around the lake. A piece of advice: make sure to fill up on gas before entering the park, it’s bigger than you think and there aren’t any gas station options inside the park. During peak season you can find some food options, there was a café near the North Rim entrance that was pretty reasonably priced (called Rim Village Café) as well as some additional fancy restaurant options at the lodges.
One crazy thing going on when we were there last week was a host of fire fighters that have been sweeping through Oregon, and some ventured in to the park! The smell of smoke in the air was everywhere in the park, and at one pull-out we were able to witness the smoke rising from distant fires and talked to some fire-fighters on the side of the road who seemed pretty over-worked and tired from having to fight the fires!
The biggest treat of Crater Lake was the sunset, when those orange, pink, and purple colors start to make their way into the sky and water. My mom and I were in photography heaven and it was so gorgeous. Definitely a great place to visit if you’ve never been. But if you go, you MUST schedule a time around either a sunrise or sunset in the park! It really is an ideal place to watch the colors of the sky.