3 Days of Exploring Crater Lake National Park

Brilliant blue water, surrounded by the crater walls with a cloudy blue sky

Crater Lake was formed by the now-collapsed volcano, Mount Mazama. It is a beautiful lake with crystal-clear blue water. The only water entering the lake is through the annual rainfall and snow melt. It is the deepest lake in the US and the 9th deepest in the world. We had a fantastic time. There was so much to do like the Rim Drive with its amazing views, the Cleetwood Cove Trail with the boat ride to Wizard Island, and the Watchman Peak Fire Lookout. This was the 4th stop on a 9-stop National Park road trip. Do you want to see the start of the trip? “From the Sierra s to the Rockies” Read on for more Crater Lake National Park photos and adventures.

The Campground

Our campsite add the Mazama village campground at crater lake
cat in a harness sitting on the trailer steps

Just a short drive up Munson Valley Road from the campground, you can access the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, also known as the Rim Drive. This byway offers a full loop around the lake, so you can choose which direction to take. Along the way, you will find numerous pull-outs where you can stop to admire scenic views and explore hiking trails.

Wizard Island as seen from the rim of the lake with trees in the foreground on a sunny day at crater lake national park
crater lake framed by pine trees with a cloudy sky

Cleetwood Cove Trail

One of the most memorable hikes we took was along the Cleetwood Cove Trail, which led us to a boat that took us out to Wizard Island. The trail involves a significant elevation change, so make sure you are well-prepared. Once we arrived on the island, we explored and enjoyed our lunch in the island’s stunning natural beauty. It was a four-hour trip, and the experience of exploring Wizard Island was simply breathtaking. As a bonus, we were able to witness The Old Man Log, a log that floats vertically in the water column and drifts around the lake. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also hike down to the lake from here and take a refreshing swim in its crystal-clear waters. Go here for the boat tours.

hiker walking through boulders and trees
Boat dock at Wizard Island with reflections in the water
hiker resting on the boat dock with the lake and trees in the background
cliffs, trees and clouds reflected in the water

The Old Man Log

log floating vertically in the water

A great hike to experience in Crater Lake National Park is the Watchman Peak Trail leading to the Watchman Peak Fire Lookout. The trail covers around .8 miles from the parking lot to the tower and is well-maintained with numerous switchbacks. The best time to hike this trail is during sunset, as the view is truly breathtaking. From the lookout, you can see a spectacular panoramic view of the park, including the mesmerizing Wizard Island, making it one of the best views in the park. During our visit, there were about 8 other hikers at the tower, all quietly admiring the view and waiting for the sunset. Although it was a bit windy and chilly, we only needed a light jacket since it was July.

The lake and road as seen from the top of watchmen peak at Sequoia national Park
crater lake and wizard island at sunset

We also hiked the Sun Notch Trail with views of the Phantom Ship, a small island. The trail wandered through the forest along the rim and there were benches where you could sit and take in the view.

The Phantom Ship at sunrise with orange water at crater lake national park

If you’re a fan of breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, then Crater Lake is the perfect place for you. Take a drive around Rim Road during the day and scout out the best spots for photos, then return during twilight to capture the perfect shot. You’ll likely have the overlook or location all to yourself, making this a serene and tranquil experience. For me, this is the best time of day. Watching the sky transform through the various twilight phases is truly a spiritual experience that you won’t soon forget.

Sunset with trees and an orange sky at crater lake national park

Another fun stop to get some great Crater Lake National Park photos is the Pinnacles Overlook with its strange-looking formations. You get to the overlook down Pinnacles Rd. off of the Rim Drive. There is a short walk to get to the overlooks but it is worth it. We had never seen anything quite like it and we had the views all to ourselves.

The pinnacles, a jagged rock formation at crater lake, national park, set with trees surrounding

Conclusion

Crater Lake National Park is a natural wonder that offers a unique and unforgettable experience to visitors. From its stunning crystal-clear blue waters to its breathtaking panoramic views, there is no shortage of incredible sights to see. Whether you’re a fan of hiking, boating, or simply taking in the natural beauty, this park has something for everyone. The Cleetwood Cove Trail and Watchman Peak Trail are two of the most memorable hikes we took during our visit, and the Pinnacles Overlook is another must-see stop. Additionally, the sunrise and sunset views at Crater Lake are simply spectacular, making it a photographer’s dream location. If you’re looking for a peaceful and awe-inspiring escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, then Crater Lake National Park is the perfect destination.

What’s next? Mount Rainier NP

Lorna’s Tips and Lessons

I will admit I overpack. This is especially true for long trips and when there could be a lot of different weather conditions. I know most of the time we plan on doing laundry about every 5-7 days and I can always wash something out by hand but I like having choices. I will work on packing less, however, what I have found to be really helpful is packing things in organizing cubes. It makes it easy to find things in my bag and keep things organized. I use them not just for my clothes but in organizing other items in our drawers.

On to ,Mount Rainier National Park

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