While you wish away the winter months thinking about your summer vacation, consider packing up the family and taking a road trip this year. There is something almost nostalgic about riding cross country with the family as you make your way towards an undiscovered destination. A family car trip creates an almost magical anticipation as you stop at tourist traps and capture moments at roadside overlooks. Many incredible natural wonders exist right here in our National Parks and offer a perfect summer journey. Recently, I made the long trek to Crater Lake National Park in Oregon and spent the week exploring the beautiful landscape and learning about the amazing process that created the deepest lake in the United States and the ninth deepest in the world! It is a place to get back to nature and spend a vacation relaxing, hiking, and taking in the sights.
The picturesque landscape was formed over 7,700 years ago when Mount Mazama erupted and the mountain collapsed in on itself. It created a crater that slowly filled over thousands of years with rain and snow. It has made a lake bluer than the sky above and almost mirror like as the sides of the crater deter any ripples from the wind.
The park’s open season is mid May through mid October and reservations are strongly recommended. There are hotel rooms available at the Crater Lake Lodge along with an incredible restaurant full of ambiance and a balcony overlooking the sapphire water perfectly illuminated by a warm night’s sky. If you want a more outdoorsy feel there are also cabins available for rent, and anyone feeling more adventurous can take advantage of the campsites for RVs and tents. However, modern amenities are available including flushable toilets and pay showers at the welcome center.
During your stay the park has numerous hiking trails which include a steep climb down to the lake where you can cliff jump into the icy waters. You can walk right up to the edge and hurl yourself into the cobalt depths for a terrifying but liberating experience. For those not quite so daring you can take a boat or trolley tour around the lake which visits Ghost Ship Island and Wizard Island. The latter is a product left over from the volcanic eruption of the mountain. It is a cone shaped piece of land jutting from the water that had once been a vent for the gases of the hot lava below. Now, there are actual hiking tours on the mysterious Wizard Island.
Ghost Ship Island
Crater Lake is also is big attraction for bicyclists. If you like a challenging course you can ride the 33 mile rim around the lake and spend the entire ride looking over the edge of the crater. The park has guided hikes and presentations about the natural history of the land and park. There are Junior Ranger programs which educate kids about the geology and culture of the land as well as family entertainment around the campfire. Fishing is even offered for those interested. If you can’t quite wait until summer to get away, you can take a weekend trip. During the winter months guided snow shoe tours are offered, weather permitting.
If you happen to be a teacher in the area, the park does have two educational tours for school groups in the fall. It is the perfect place to discover the marvel of volcanic activity and see firsthand the astonishing effect it has on the world around us.