If I had to choose only one word to describe Crater Lake it would be stunning. It isn’t immense, like the Grand Canyon. It isn’t as popular as Yellowstone. But it will entrance you, take your breath away, and leave you with a sense of awe. The color of the water, the bite in the wind, even the way the clouds crawl over the top ridge … it’s like nowhere else I’ve ever been.
Just five miles across, Crater Lake was formed when Mount Mazama erupted and then collapsed into itself 7,700 years ago. The huge crater left behind slowly filled with rain and melted snow, eventually becoming the deepest lake in the United States and the seventh deepest in the world, at 1,942 feet. No rivers or streams run into or out of the lake – the 66 inches of rain and 44 feet (yes, FEET) of snow the park sees each year are it’s only source of water.
Rim Drive snakes around the tops of the 2,000 foot cliffs that encircle the lake and provides the most dramatic views. The 33-mile road is only open from early July to late October, and the weather is so unpredictable that it can snow any time of the year!
As with most National Parks, pets are severely restricted at Crater Lake and must be within 50 feet of a road, campground, picnic area or parking lot at all times. There are no dog friendly trails and pets are required to be leashed or otherwise restrained anytime they are outside your vehicle.
Luckily, southwestern Oregon has no shortage of national forests where pets are very welcome to join you for a hike.
The Rogue River, Umpqua, and Winema National Forests all border Crater Lake National Park. Each one has distinct features and some interesting looking hikes, but we chose to stop at the Rogue River Gorge in Rogue River National Forest. The boys got a chance to stretch their legs while we reveled in more ridiculous scenery.
As we checked off another of our must-sees, I wondered – will I ever be satisfied that I’ve seen enough and be ready to settle down again? At this point, it doesn’t seem likely.