There’s a noticeable absence of beach houses ringing its shores. In fact, the only legal access to the lake is by climbing 700 feet down to Cleetwood Cove. In a way, that isolation is precisely why people go out of their way to get here. But if you want to see this cliff-ringed sapphire jewel of a lake, go out of your way you must.
Even by National Park standards, Crater Lake feels remote. There are only 111 rooms available in the entire park. That compares, for example, with the nine hotels located inside Yellowstone, including one 300-room giant so close to Old Faithful that it nearly casts a shadow on the geyser. The nearest large hotels serving Crater Lake, meanwhile, are forty miles away in Klamath Falls.
None of that prevents half a million people from visiting each year, nearly all of whom crowd in during the few summer months when the roads are cleared of snow. Crater Lake averages more than 44 feet of the stuff annually. Some roads don’t typically open until July. It starts snowing again in September, making for a very short tourist season.
That’s why we prepared ourselves for crowded roads and packed trails when we visited Crater Lake late last August. Instead, we mostly had the place to ourselves.
Like everyone else who comes to this part of southern Oregon, we were drawn by the almost mythical images of jagged two-thousand-foot cliffs plunging into the impossibly blue waters of the world’s ninth deepest lake. We weren’t disappointed.
This water-filled volcano is the most remarkable lake we’ve ever laid eyes on.
And yet we were delighted to find more here than just a crater lake.
The volcanic activity that formed the lake also left behind these terrific moonscapes.
And rocky spires called The Pinnacles that mimic the trees that have grown in around them.
But most of all, there are waterfalls; dozens of them in the Umpqua National Forest that surrounds Crater Lake.
A quick jaunt on Highway 138 north of the crater takes you past at least five easy-to-access cascades. Our favorite was probably Watson Falls. A short, but sometimes steep, one-mile round-trip hike gives you teasing glimpses of Watson along its route. It’s not until you reach the end of the trail, though, that you can appreciate the falls’ full 370-foot height, or the fantasyland emerald moss and clover fields that the water feeds.