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Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park is a national park in southern Oregon in Klamath County, Oregon's only national park.  The main feature of the park is Crater Lake, a caldera of the volcano Mount Mazama, which collapsed in on itself and filled with water.

Contact Information:

Crater Lake National Park
P.O. Box 7
Crater Lake, Oregon 97604

Phone: (541) 594-3000
Fax: (541) 594-3010

Directions:

The south entrance to the park is open year-round.  From Medford and points to the southeast, take OR-62 east towards the park entrance.  From Klamath Falls and points to the southwest, take US-97 north to OR-62 west towards the park entrance.

Map:

Hiking:

Cleetwood Cove Trail:

Length: 1.1 miles (one way)
Difficulty: Strenuous

Cleetwood Cove Trail is the only legal way to get to the lake, due to the instability and fragility of the steep walls surrounding the caldera.  The trail starts from the parking lot on the north side of the lake, about 11 miles from Rim Village if traveling clockwise.  In just over a mile, the trail gains (or loses if if you're heading down) 700 feet of elevation from the rim to the lake.  A series of switchbacks slightly reduces the slope, but it's still really steep.  Along the way, the trail winds through a forest of lodgepole pine, Shasta red fir, and mountain hemlock with views of the lake interspersed with the trees.  This trail also leads to the boat dock for boat tours of Crater Lake and Wizard Island, so visitors intending to make the tour must hike the trail down and back.

Fumarole Bay Trail:

Length: 1 mile (one way)
Difficulty: Moderate

Fumarole Bay Trail is located on Wizard Island and is only accessible via the boat tour.  From the boat dock, the trail splits from Wizard Summit Tour and leads around to Fumarole Bay on the west side of the island.  The trail is mostly flat, but very rocky and becomes difficult to follow past the bay.

Pinnacles Trail:

Length: 0.5 miles (one way)
Difficulty: Easy

The Pinnacles Trail is a short trail that leads from the Pinnacles Overlook along the rim of Pinnacles Valley.  The trail leads to the park boundary in a half-mile and continues into Winema National Forest.  Along the way, there are some great views of the Pinnacles in the valley.

Plaikni Falls Trail:

Length: 1 mile (one way)
Difficulty: Easy

Plaikni Falls Trail is one of the newest trails in the park, opened in 2011.  The trailhead is along Pinnacles Road, 1.2 miles southeast of Phantom Ship Overlook.  This easy trail runs through a beautiful forest and is wheelchair-accessible with assistance for most of the ways.  The trail ends at Plaikni Falls, a pretty waterfall that is completely fed by snow melt.

Wizard Summit Trail:

Length: 1 mile (one way)
Difficulty: Strenuous

Wizard Summit Trail leads from the boat dock on Wizard Island up to the summit.  Although the trail is short, it's considered strenuous due to the elevation, gaining over 700 feet in a mile.  A series of switchbacks slight reduces the slope as you hike up the cinder cone.  At the summit, the trail makes a loop around the crater, called Witch's Cauldron.  There are fantastic views of Crater Lake is all directions from the summit.  The dead trees at the summit were killed by dwarf mistletoe, a parasitic plant.



Rim Drive:

The Rim Drive is a 33-mile loop road around the caldera of Crater Lake.  Due to heavy snow, the road is only completely open in the summer, generally July to October, and partially open during other months.  Besides great views from the road itself, there are more than thirty scenic overlooks to pull off and enjoy views of the lake.  I have a couple of the most popular overlooks listed below.

Cloudcap Overlook:

Cloudcap Overlook is located on the east end of the lake.  A 1-mile spur road, the highest paved road in Oregon, leads from the Rim Drive to the overlook.

Phantom Ship Overlook:

Phantom Ship Overlook is located on the southeast side of the lake and is the closest spot to view Phantom Ship from the rim (a much better view of the island is only possible through the boat tour).  The island resembles a ship and is one of my favorite features of the park.

Pinnacles Overlook:

The Pinnacles Overlook is located about 7 miles off the Rim Drive at the end of Pinnacles Road.  These volcanic spires, some 100 fee tall, are fossil fumaroles, formed by volcanic gases rising through volcanic ash and cementing the ash into solid rock.

Pumice Castle Overlook:

Pumice Castle Overlook is an unmarked overlook on the east side of the lake, 1.1 miles west of Cloudcap Overlook and 2.4 miles east of Phantom Ship Overlook.  Pumice Castle is a bright-orange layer of pumice rock that has eroded into the shape of a castle.

Vidae Falls:

Vidae Falls is a roadside waterfall along the Rim Drive, located between the Phantom Ship Overlook and the Steels Visitor Center.

Watchman Overlook:

Watchman Overlook is located on the west end of the lake, about 3.8 miles past the Rim Village.  Some of the best views of Crater Lake and Wizard Island are found at this overlook.  The trailhead to hike to the top of Watchman Peak is located at this overlook.



Boat Tour:


Waterfalls:

Chaski Falls

Chaski Falls is a small waterfall in Chaski Bay that flows into Crater Lake.  It can only be viewed by taking the boat tour, which passes through Chaski Bay after leaving Wizard Island.

Plaikni Falls:

Plaikni Falls is a nice waterfall a little bit southeast of Crater Lake.  From the Rim Drive at Phantom Ship Overlook, head down Pinnacles Road about 1.2 miles to the parking area for the trail to the falls.  It's an easy one-mile hike to the falls through a beautiful forest.

Vidae Falls:

Vidae Falls is a roadside waterfall along the Rim Drive, located between the Phantom Ship Overlook and the Steels Visitor Center.

Wizard Island:

Wizard Island is the largest of two islands in the lake.  Shaped like a sorcerer's hat, the island was named in keeping with the mythological theme of the park.  Wizard Island is actually a volcano within a volcano.  After Mount Mazama erupted and formed Crater Lake, a series of subsequent eruptions formed several smaller cinder cones inside the Caldera.  Wizard Island is the only one that rises above the lake surface.  Wizard Island is fairly large, over 300 acres, and is visible from most overlooks on the rim.

The best way to experience, though, is to take the boat tour to the island and explore it on foot.  The boat drops visitors off at the dock and picks them back up in about three hours.

Besides the dock, the only other facilities on the island is a vault toilet.  The park rangers ask the visitors use the vault toilet rather than going off trail to use the restroom.  Two trails on the island allow opportunities for exploration.  Wizard Summit Trail leads up to the summit of the island and Fumarole Bay Trail leads to the bay on the west side of the island.  The crater at the top of Wizard Island is called Witch's Cauldron.


External Links:

National Park Service website: http://www.nps.gov/crla/index.htm

Photos:


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