August 9, 2016

Crater Lake National Park (Jul. 2016, OR)

Crater Lake and Wizard Island

Crater Lake National Park

July 20, 2016
Wonderful weather, 70-80 degrees in the high mountain

In July, my dad, brother, and I made a quick trip to Crater Lake National Park while I was in Oregon for a brief family trip. We did a day trip only, we were on the move by trying to do a comprehensive Central Oregon tour in a matter of a couple days. The day views here are amazing, so it's worth visiting even if you just have a few short hours to enjoy the majesty of the park.

Also, I was with my dad who couldn't do much hiking, so we filled our day with the spectacles of Crater Lake from the truck. Even on a day trip, though, there's so much that can be seen. On the flip side of that statement, though, there is far too much to be seen in one trip, as with any National Park. So, as I always say in situations like this, I'll definitely be back here.


Driving along the Rim Road
Most of our tour was along the Rim Road, the winding and high-rising circuit around the lake. There are many viewpoints along this road, including two visitors centers and a restaurant. We came into the park from the north entrance. A slight wait held us up at the pay booth ($20 to enter the park), but we were on our way quickly enough. Rustic national-forest-style signage welcomed us as we arrived.

Park Entrance

The park's main road puts you out into open spaces pretty early. I quickly realized how high up we were, with miles of peaks in the distance. In the first few miles of the north entrance, one prominent feature I noticed right away were large pumice fields from the former volcanic activity in this area. Small shrubs dotted the fields in a patternlike way. An occasional pine sprouted up over our multi-mile trek around the pumice.

Pumice desert

The park's eponymous lake is actually a few miles down the road from the entrance. Once we got a bit further up the road, peaks became more vivid as white cumulus clouds sheeted the sky. The clouds were not alone, though. Blankets of snow persisted at this elevation (and it was still clean!). It made me wonder if the snows were fresh, or if they are continuing to hold the flowers hostage since the winter. Nonetheless, it was pretty to see the touch of the cold months still interacting deep into the summer.

Snow in July

Roadwork was being done as we headed up the edge of the caldera. There was another brief traffic stop as we waited for the flagger to let us through. It was a good chance to jump out and grab some photos.

High mountain snows

Once we got high enough up the hill, the northwestern views showed me glimpses in the direction toward the Oregon forests in which I grew up. The Willamette National Forest was in the distance, giving me an angle of the land that I had yet to see.

View toward the Willamette National Forest

First viewpoint of the lake from the north entrance
As we motored up the caldera wall, my first chance for lake photos was just as the road met the western rim of the ancient volcano. It is said that the best views of Wizard Island from the rim were from the first viewpoint we hit, near The Watchman trail and peak.

This viewpoint was close to the road after a short hike up a hill. You don't see it at first, but the view that emerges after rising up the short hill is breathtaking. I took it in for a good time.

Hike to observe


Hues of blue in this lake are unlike anything that can be projected on a computer screen. Every report I read on the "photos don't do it justice" claim are correct - there's no way I could make my camera grab these colors. My eyes just have never seen this blue before.

Crags at crater lake

The caldera's steep rim tells the story of the great Mount Mazama that once stood here.

Crater Lake and Wizard Island

Wizard Island stands alone in the lake, a small nucleus of green and brown on the ultramarine glass.

Wizard Island

Ground squirrels were numerous and bold at the viewpoint, asking for any scraps that visitors were willing to give.

Golden mantle ground squirrel

Many clarks nutcrackers also lined the viewpoint rocks and treetops. They collectively sounded a loud jay chatter that distinctly filled over the chatter from the small viewseeking crowd.

Clark's Nutcrackers

View near The Watchman

Everywhere you look, though, the views of the lake cannot disappoint. Every frame is special, every shot is perfect. Being a bit of a fan of geology as well, this park is a very special place for majesty and history.

View from The Watchman observation point

View from Phantom Ship Lookout

Crags at The Watchman

Visitors Center

There was a wildflower trail called Castle Crest close to the park headquarters, but unfortunately for us many of the blooms had yet to arrive. They had either bloomed for the year, or the late snowmelt has delayed their arrival. Either way, we only saw a couple flowers on the eponymous wildflower trail. There was, however, an attractive creek on which many greens grew.

Castle Crest Wildflower Trail

Vidae Falls

Vidae Falls is accessible on the East Rim road at the southeast edge of the Lake. The cascading water is not voluminous, but it more than makes up for its quantity with its showy display of white amid thousands of cracks.

Vidae Falls

The geologic detail of the fragmented downward water slope was gorgeous.

Vidae Falls

Alongside the falling water, many flowers and plants have taken up home. This was one of the greenest spots I saw in the park, accentuated with the many colors of the bouquet of wildflowers.

Vidae Falls Greens






Vidae Falls

The Phantom Ship

On the eastern rim, the Phantom Ship sets sail from the shore of the volcano bowl. A formation of rocks caused by a steam vent during the volcanic activity has taken the shape of an ancient ship, leaving with centuries of stories from this special place. Catching the sun just right gives a brilliant reflection off the water, its sharp spires creeping upward to support its sails for the lake journey.

View from Phantom Ship Lookout

A close-up view reveals many trees that have worked hard enough to root themselves into the volcanic boat. It's almost as if these evergreens form the sails for the ghostly frigate.

Phantom Ship

The view from the Phantom Ship overlook also gives excellent glimpses of the steepness of the caldera, sharing some more of the ancient stories that the land holds.

Phantom Ship Views

The Pinnacles

The road to The Pinnacles is a 7-mile spur from East Rim Road, which travels along a large canyon caused by volcanic expulsion and steam. It's on this road that visitors can really see the other geologic aspects of the park, giving realization that Crater Lake is not just crater, nor lake. We made our barbecue dinner along a pull-off at this crater near The Pinnacles.

Gap near The Pinnacles

Sheer walls defined the canyon leading up to The Pinnacles, and a roar of water could be heard traveling the canyon's base below.

Gap near The Pinnacles

The Pinnacles are sharp, distinct rock outcroppings that were caused from jets of stream shooting straight up during the volcanic activity. These steam vents caused enough geologic cementing that they have yet to erode down.

The Pinnacles

The canyon at the pinnacles is lined with these many angular spires. In the canyon below our viewpoint, the spires are interspersed with the growing forest that has made its new home at the canyon base.

The Pinnacles

The Pinnacles

In a world that is continually reformed by erosion, it's amazing that rocks can also be formed from the ground up.

The Pinnacles

The Pinnacles

As we left the park, we saw one final fir tree engraved in fir - a thank-you note from the Department of the Interior. It is heartening to know that this magical land has been set-aside for both myself and future generations to enjoy.

Winema National Forest Entrance


Photo Album
Here's my full photo album from the trip. Hover over or tap the image below to get slideshow controls, or view the album on Flickr.

Crater Lake National Park (OR)

No comments:

Post a Comment