One of the most unexpected finds of our trip through the Pacific North West was Crater Lake in Oregon.
We’d spent the day before in Dunes national park in Oregon, and the plan was to stay somewhere near Bandon on the coast, heading to Bend the next day, via Crater Lake.
Getting to Crater Lake
It’s a tendency of ours to make things up as we go along on these trips, and this time, we’d decided to wing it when we reached the Oregon coast, and pitch up at one of the many hotels along the coast. Unfortunately for us, we hadn’t realized that it was the labour day long weekend, and virtually the entire Portland population had had exactly the same idea. Within about a hundred miles of the coast, there wasn’t a single room, and we ended up staying in an extremely sketchy motel in Roseberg, Oregon.
Fortunately for us, this brought us significantly closer to our destination for the following night, so we had a lot more time to meander through Oregon and take our time visiting the famous Crater Lake National Park.
Also check out our post on 19 hot springs in Oregon if you’re a hot springs nut like us!
It had been a very dry summer, and our route seemed to be one of the few that had avoided the many raging forest fires in Oregon. As we drew closer to the national park though, we could see charred remnants of trees, plumes of smoke in the distance, and there was the smell of burning wood in the air. We wondered if the park would actually be closed, but the steady stream of cars towards the park suggested otherwise.
We’d been driving for hours now, down a very unexciting and straight road, and we wondered how on earth there could be such a ‘spectacular’ park in the middle of what seemed to be miles and miles of flat forest land.
What is there to eat near Crater Lake?
We eventually reached the park gates, and found ourselves at the back of a very big traffic jam. Could this possibly be worth it? At the time it didn’t really seem like it would be, especially as somehow neither of us had done any research into the park whatsoever. Hearing that it was worth a visit seemed to have been good enough for us, and the thought hadn’t crossed either of our minds to actually google a photo of the place before our visit.
For all intents and purposes, we had no idea what to expect, so we saw the traffic jam, and we just turned around…
We were hungry and had been driving for hours with nothing to show for it, so we went in search of somewhere to eat and regroup. We figured that we’d come back again at lunch time, when everyone else was busy eating. It turned out to be a really, really good decision.
That’s when we found an incredible diner –Diamond Lake Junction Café -, literally in the middle of nowhere that served amazing burgers and milkshakes. We actually can’t recommend stopping there enough, even though it doesn’t look like much from the outside. It will blow you away, especially if you arrive to the area hungry like us. There really isn’t much else in that area to choose from anyway!
So we finished our lunch and realized that we couldn’t go past this place without at least giving it a chance. We drove back to the park, and a miracle! Suddenly all of the traffic was gone!
The View above Crater Lake
We entered the park and slowly, a large mound started to appear in front of us. The road started to wind up and around its edge, and we both craned our necks to catch a glimpse of the lake, still not knowing what to expect. Still the road wound around, and still, we couldn’t see over the edge of the hill.
Then suddenly, we saw it…. (Spoiler alert!)
The bluest water either of us had ever seen in our lives (we’ve been pretty spoilt with the lakes in Alberta – like Moraine Lake, but this was a different deep royal blue). An enormous lake, in an almost perfect circle was sitting in the crater inside the mountain. Words can’t describe the moment we both saw the lake, having not been prepared in the slightest. It took our breath away, and we both started vibrating with excitement.
We walked right to the edge and then just had to sit and take in the view. We must have sat for an hour or more just taking it all in.
How Crater Lake was formed
Crater lake was supposedly formed a few thousand years ago, when a volcano erupted and spewed out so much lava that the entire mountain emptied and collapsed into a crater. I had assumed when we’d arrived that the crater was due to a meteorite, but in fact the real story is far more amazing to me.
The lake is the deepest lake in the US ( and the 9th deepest in the world), and it is one of the world’s purest lakes, as it’s filled only with pure rain water. At its deepest point, it measures 593m. Just unbelievable for a freshwater lake.
At this point, photos are the only thing that can really do the view justice, and I almost wish I could do this post without showing any photos at all. If only it were possible for you to just take my word for it and get the same surprise that we did.
Taking photos of Crater Lake
FYI, if you have a wide angle lens or a Gopro, then definitely bring it along. The gopro was the only lens we had that was wide enough to get the entire lake into one shot! Even a 14mm wasn’t wide enough – this photo below is stitched from many photos!
Once we’d taken in the view, we checked out the visitor centre to learn about the formation of this amazing park, then got back in the car and carried on with the next leg of our journey; to Bend, Oregon.
If this place doesn’t make your bucket list, I honestly don’t know what will. It’s an incredible natural wonder that you should absolutely make plans to see if you’re planning a visit to the Pacific Northwest. It stands alone in the middle of nowhere, but it’s well worth the trek. Can’t recommend it enough!
If you have any questions about our trip to Crater Lake, Oregon, don’t hesitate to get in touch!