Almost 7,000 years ago, the 12,000-foot-high Mt. Mazama blew its top, caved in on itself, and eventually formed the United States’ deepest lake. Today it is known as Crater Lake, although technically it lies in a caldera. Crater Lake is the crown jewel of the Northwest’s Cascade Range. Its depth of 1,943 ft. (592 meters) absorbs all colors of the spectrum, except for blue and violet, which are reflected back to the sky, giving the spectacular blue appearance of the lake.

The Crater Lake National Park was established in 1902 to protect the unique geology of the lake and its surroundings. Unlike many National Parks in the US, development is minimal at Crater Lake, leaving plenty of uncontaminated views. Numerous hiking trails are accessible from the park’s Rim Drive. I hiked to the top of Mt. Scott, for magnificent views of the lake. There are also boat trips to the cinder cone Wizard Island and cross-country skiing and snow shoeing opportunities in winter.

Visiting Crater Lake was one of the main destinations of my 11,000-plus mile cross-country road trip in 2010.

If you go:

Crater Lake National Park is located about 5 ½ hours south of Portland and 7 ½ hours north of San Francisco. The 33-mile Rim Drive is usually closed mid-October through July due to the massive snow accumulation. The Visitor’s Center, located on the south side of the lake is open year round, 8:30am-4:30pm. The park has 210 campsites and a lodge. Admission is $10 per vehicle.

Text and Photos by Stephen Bugno

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view of Crater Lake from top of Mt Scott

View of Crater Lake from the top of Mt Scott.

Wizard Island

The cinder cone, Wizard Island.

Crater Lake and sun

Crater lake in the gleaming sun.

view from top of Mt Scott

View of the forests and mountains surrounding Crater Lake.

Crater Lake National Park view

Stephen at Crater Lake NP

On the north side of Crater Lake.

Carater Lake Sign

Welcome to Crater Lake sign.