24 Hours in Crater Lake National Park

With full time jobs, it’s no secret that we do our best to fill every available weekend with an adventure. One of the nice advantages with our recent move to the Bay Area is being just four hours from many of our favorite destinations in the Sierras. However, this time we felt the urge to visit a new destination, and the idea of Crater Lake kept bouncing into our conversations. After much deliberation, and just a few days to plan, we pulled the trigger and decided to head north to Oregon.

Photo: Julie Boyd


From the South Bay, Crater Lake National Park is 450 miles and roughly 7 hours away. I’ll be honest, the first chunk of the drive is pretty boring with not much to see. Near Redding, the scenery starts to improve a bit, as glimpses of the snow-capped peaks of the Cascade Range come into view. The 5 freeway becomes infinitely more tolerable once Mt. Shasta enters the scene in all its splendor. 

Photo: Julie Boyd


We arrived at Crater Lake National Park in the late afternoon. This was a mistake. While we saw a few cars on our initial drive into the park, the moment we passed the Steel Visitor’s Center, we were immediately stuck in traffic. From that point, it took us over an hour to go just three miles to the top, which as we expected, was packed. The good news is, once you get past all the initial cars looking to park in the first available space, there is a fairly substantial amount of parking as you drive closer to Crater Lake Lodge. The lodge is also one of the few places where cell service is halfway decent, and is home to significantly less crowded restrooms than the Rim Village Cafe and gift shop. 

Photo: Julie Boyd


After a less than restful night’s sleep, we awoke early to get a jump on our day and to catch the sunrise. Julie grabbed her gear, and we made our way into the crisp, morning in search of the perfect spot to set up. While we had anticipated a few mosquitoes, what we received was significantly more than we bargained for. Almost the moment we stopped, the mosquitoes began to swarm, particularly Julie who seems to set off bells in their tiny, bug minds. While the bugs were terrible, the views were stunning.

Photo: Julie Boyd


Crater Lake was formed nearly 7,700 years ago when the volcanic eruption of Mount Mazama caused its caldera to collapse leaving a jagged surrounding to the lake. Rain and snowmelt led to the creation of the lake as there are no rivers flowing to or from Crater Lake, and the lack of pollutants makes the water some of the purest in the world. At 1,943 feet, it is the deepest lake in the United States and it’s famous blue water along with the aptly name, Wizard Island, on the west end are some of it’s most recognizable features.

We had hoped to visit Wizard Island as there are boat rides that drop you off and allow you time to explore, but the tours were not yet running for the season.

Photo: Julie Boyd


Having had our fill of mosquitoes and eager to beat the crowds, we jumped in the car to drive the rim of the park. Even in summer, with bright blue sky, there was still plenty of leftover snow, which meant we wouldn’t be able to complete the entire drive due to road closures. Undeterred, we began our drive, stopping at Discovery Point, The Watchman, Merriam Point, and Skell Head. At Skell Head, though we secretly hoped we might be able to get through, the remaining drive was closed, so we turned around and headed back to the Rim Village.

Photo: Julie Boyd

Before leaving the park, we were sure to stop at the Steel Visitor’s Center for our National Park Passport stamp and a t-shirt for my growing collection. We definitely loved visiting Crater Lake, but wish we had more time to fit in a hike or two. The next time we visit, we might opt for winter when the crowds are smaller and the bugs are still hibernating.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Julie & BrianExplorer

Bay Area based couple making travel work with full-time jobs. Follow us on our adventures as we make the most of our time off by exploring our beautiful planet. www.boundtoexplore.com