Crater Lake National Park
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Located in Southern Oregon, the Crater Lake National Park naturally formed when Mount Mazama massively erupted around 7,700 years ago. The explosion formed a caldera, which is now a 592 meters deep lake, making it the deepest lake in America and the 9th deepest in the world, beautifully backed by picturesque scenery and 600 meter high cliffs. In Winter the landscape changes with Cascade Mountain completely covered in snow, making it a perfect location for winter sports such as skiing and snow-hoeing. Due to its depth the surface of the water rarely freezes. When the snow melts the water gathers in the the lake giving it its iconic vibrant color.
Crater Lake National Park offers countless hiking possibilities at different effort levels, all offering outstanding views. The trails range from short 0.5 mile trails such as the Castle Crest, passing through the meadows bursting with wildlife in spring to longer walks such as the Godfrey Glen passing through old growth forest, all the way to the Plaikni Falls. More adventurous hikers should consider the Pacific Crest trail, with spectacular views of the mountains and the crater. Popular trails can get busy and crowded so avoid peak time.
At 1.3km the Sun Notch Trail is one of the shorter ones at Crater Lake National Park, making it a very popular trail offering breathtaking views of the lake and Phantom ship. The trail starts near the East side of Rim Drive, where a parking lot is available. The wide trail passes by the meadows brimming with nature and flora, a glimpse of the scenery can be appreciated at a number of view points through out the route. Once at the peak the trail reaches a small plateau and moves along the crater, where visitors can take a break on one of the benches along the well kept trail. Apart from the views of the lake and Phantom Ship the trail also offers views of other peaks, such as Applegate and Dutton Cliff.
The 2.6km Watchman’s Peak trail is an in and out moderate trail, with a substantial level of elevation of around 420 feet in a relatively short while. Therefore a certain level of good physicality is recommended. The trail is accessible a few miles away from Rim Village and a car park can be found close to Watchman Overlook. For the first 0.3 miles the Trail follows the same route as the Pacific Crest Trail Alternate Route, before turning south. This is where the ascent to the peak begins following a series of switchbacks. At the peak visitors can visit The Watchman, a fire look out, which is also a museum offering a 360 unobstructed vista at 8000 feet above sea level of the lake and the Wizard island. This trail can get quite busy in summer and while it offers a moderate challenge it surely is rewarding.
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For visitors who want to make the most of the outstanding views from the comfort of their car, the incredible 33 mile two-way Rim Drive is an excellent solution. The road winds around the splendid landscape offering a scenic view of the forests, with trees on either side of the road, meadows and the lake. Visitors can stretch their legs by making stops at multiple overlooks all boasting incredible views, as well as at one of 5 picnic locations. The elevation of the road varies between 6500 and 7500 feet above sea level, with the surface of the lake being at 6148 feet. Allocating at least two hour for this drive is highly recommended. The complete Rim Drive is usually open in summer as the conditions can get challenging in winter at parts of the loop. Rim Drive can also be explored via a 2 hour trolley ride leaving from Rim village, which drives around the lake making a number of stops along the way, accompanied by a park ranger explaining about the park and its history. Rim Drive dates back to 1913 and is one of the original roads leading people around the lake, notwithstanding that is was still a rather dangerous dirt road back then. It was only in 1931 that the road was widened in hope to create a safer environment and to protect the surrounding nature.
It comes to no surprise, that Crater Lake National Park’s beauty attracts thousands of visitors each year. The clarity and depth of the waters and the surrounding scenery leaves visitors in awe. At a $30 entrance fee for a 7 day vehicle pass, the parks’ charm does not disappoint. Whether you’re interested in a skiing trip in winter, a hike with marvelous views or a peaceful a drive around the lake, this park is a must visit.