After many years of seeing photographs of Crater Lake in magazines and travel guides, I finally got the chance to add it to my Summer Road-Trip Itinerary. I headed to Crater Lake after leaving Yellowstone, and after a few days of slowly making my way across Idaho and into Northern Oregon to the small seaside town of Astoria, I traveled south and back across the state to the 138, aka the North Umpqua Highway.
I did a brief stop at a hike a friend of mine recommended, The Toketee falls hike, which is less than 40 minutes north of the Crater Lake National Park entrance. If you have time, stop and check it out. It is a fairly short hike but a nice one, and has a cool waterfall to photograph. There were a a lot of campgrounds around this area, but I wanted to try to get closer to the park before grabbing a site. What I didn't realize is that as you get closer to Crater Lake, the campgrounds seem to disappear. If you wish to camp outside of the park to the north, don't drive to far towards the park or you will have to turn around to find a spot.
Entrance to Crater Lake National Park was only $15, a nice change from the typical $30 at previous parks. The first impression upon entering the park was that there was a lot more snow still on the ground than I expected. It was mid summer but still large sections of the roadside was covered in snow. A lot of the Rim Road was still shut down too due to snow, mostly the north and east side. This might surprise you, it sure did surprise me, but the average annual snowfall here is 48 feet. Yes, I said feet.! I was born and raised in South Florida and lived in Santa Monica for 15 years, and never have I seen snow more than maybe a foot deep on travels in the past, so to be here where there were still snowbanks 6 to 8 feet high was a real new experience.
I drove down the Rim Drive to Munson Valley Road and eventually came to the Mazama Campground on the left. I was happy to find an abundance of sites here. Surprisingly, this national park does not draw in the visitor numbers of some of the larger parks. Crater had something like 750k visitors compared to Yellowstone's 3.8 Million.! Crater Lake is a much smaller place, but even in summer, there was never any trail heads with out parking, and no problems getting a campsite. You can even make reservations for the Mazama Campground except for the month of June.
There are some great conveniences while staying in the Mazama Campground. Right next to it, there is a little store where you can get groceries, drinks, beer, ice, gas, and firewood. And if you don't feel like camp cooking, there is a full sit down restaurant adjacent to the store. The restaurant also has a stocked gift-shop if you are looking to take home something to remember the visit.
The night sky is pretty nice and dark here. I had a campfire, sat around looking at the sky, spotting satellites and meteorites many times, and then retired to my tent. It is pretty cold here at night even though it is mid summer, but I am only using a 3 season sleeping bag, so be prepared for a little bit of cold if you don't have winter gear.
On day Two in Crater, I decided to check out the Cleetwood Cove trail. This hike gets you down to the shoreline of Crater Lake. It is a pretty steep trail, so getting down to the lake is a breeze, it is a different story going up! It's about a 700 ft elevation change in a short distance so be ready for some burning legs depending on your level of fitness. I'm not sure if it was the time of day or maybe the fact that I was down at the lake level, but it seemed super Blue! It was pretty chilly on the hike down in sections due to a lot of tree coverage, so bring a light jacket or flannel if you get cold easily. There are bathrooms at the bottom of the trail and surprisingly fairly nice for trail bathrooms. As I got down to the shoreline I saw how many people were down here. A surprising number of people were hanging out by the lake, mostly watching the people cliff diving into the Lake.!
I figured I had to try it too, so I took off everything except my hiking shorts, had someone that looked moderately trustworthy hold my camera, and jumped in. The advice given by other people that had jumped previously was spot on. They said make sure you get a good breath before you plunge into the water cause that cold just knocks your breath right outta ya. And it did. It was actually a bit difficult to take in a breath of air once you surface from below that icy water. And it was literally icy, with patches of ice floating around the diving area. Absolutely try it out though if you get the chance. It's quite fun once you do it, and I ended up going a few more times. It isn't a high jump. Couldn't have been more than 18 to 20 feet, but it sure looks like more when standing on the edge staring down into that impossibly Blue water.
After all the excitement of the day, I treated myself to the restaurant back near the camp and had Buffalo sliders and a chicken sandwich. I was hungry. I had another campfire tonight, possibly my favorite thing about camping is just sitting around a fire at night and looking up into the dark night sky. The fire does take away from your night vision a bit, but with skies as dark as these, you still get clear views of the Milky Way and will spot numerous satellites and shooting stars. I even brought my telescope gear with me and have yet to take it out. Its sometimes more enjoyable just leaning back in your camp chair and staring up at the sky with just your eyes, or you can use some low magnification binoculars to draw in more light and see fainter starts but still get a wide field of view.
My campfire snack tonight was some elk Jerky I picked up at the restaurant store earlier. It made me laugh a little when I thought about what I had consumed earlier and now I had Buffalo, Chicken, and Elk all in the belly at the same time.!
I ended up leaving Crater Lake today after staying only 2 nights. I really liked the campground here, and the area is beautiful, but with a large section of the rim road closed down still due to snow, I didn't have a lot of reasons to stick around much longer. I left the park through the south entrance and took the 62 on to the next destination. The 62 was very nice with so much tree coverage in sections, I almost had to turn my headlights on in the middle of the afternoon.! I will definitely plan a trip back through this area in the future, and will try to be here a little later in the summer when more of the roads are open around the lake.Thanks for Reading
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