Crater Lake National Park often slips under the radar as a lesser visited U.S. national park, ranking 37th out of 63. However, its unique charm, nestled in its smaller size and glistening waters, is a hidden treasure worth exploring. Pictures can hardly capture the allure of this volcanic lake, so we invite you to experience it for yourself. In this post, we’ll highlight some of the park’s most captivating features.
Rim Village Visitor Center and Sinnott Memorial Overlook:
- Although smaller than popular parks like Zion or Yellowstone, Crater Lake National Park houses the charming Rim Village Visitor Center.
- A short walk from the center leads to the Sinnott Memorial Overlook, a structure dating back to 1930, nestled into the caldera wall.
- Here, you can revel in breathtaking views of the lake, Wizard Island, Phantom Ship, and explore intriguing exhibits about Crater Lake.
- Watchman Peak is a favorite destination among sunrise and sunset enthusiasts, as well as stargazers.
- This 1.7-mile hike, featuring a 400-foot elevation gain, is deceptively challenging due to the high starting elevation of 7,586 feet.
- If the journey to the peak feels daunting, there’s an enjoyable overlook at the parking lot, though reaching the peak will providing a quiet escape from the crowds.
Cleetwood Cove Trail:
- The only trail in the park granting access to the lake is Cleetwood Cove Trail.
- While this one-mile trail to the lake involves a 700-foot elevation drop (and gain on the way back), it rewards you with a unique perspective of the lake.
- You can even dip your toes or take a swim (be mindful of park restrictions) and access ferry tours to Wizard Island during a limited seasonal window.
Sun Notch Trail:
- The Sun Notch Trail is a short ¾-mile loop trail offering additional views of the lake and Phantom Ship.
- It includes several benches where you can quietly appreciate the scenery.
- Its short length and minimal elevation changes make it ideal for families or those with physical limitations.
- A must-see roadside attraction, Vidae Falls is a spectacular 100-foot cascade.
- Due to limited parking, you might need to exercise a little patience, but the sight is well worth the stop.
Ideal Visiting Time:
- While July through September is the best period to explore Crater Lake National Park, road closures lasting into late July in 2023 due to record-breaking snowfall hampered some sightseeing opportunities.
- Additional attractions like Plaikni Falls, Mount Scott, and the Phantom Ship Overlook may require a return visit in the future.
- Beware of mosquitoes, as Crater Lake seems to harbor an unusually large and persistent population of them.
- Mosquito activity is typically worse in the morning, so it’s essential to pack and apply bug spray promptly.
- Additionally, keep in mind that cell service is often spotty within and around the park, so prepare to disconnect.
- If needed, you can access free Wi-Fi at the Rim Village Café and Gift Shop.
In summary, Crater Lake National Park offers a unique and underrated experience, with its pristine beauty and captivating sights waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or simply seeking a peaceful escape from the everyday hustle and bustle, this park has much to offer. Plan your visit and embrace the natural wonder of Crater Lake.