Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Summer Road Trip to Crater Lake

As many of you know, summer is my favorite time of year. It’s prime road trip season, and although we can’t always get away on long road trips, I generally like to sneak in a few small road trips between long hauls just to satisfy my road trip bug.

Last week we headed down to Crater Lake on a day trip. From Vancouver, it’s about a 9 hour drive. We generally like to travel at night time, switching between napping in the car and driving. We cover more ground this way, and this gives us more daylight hours to explore.

Benefits of road tripping at night:
- The border lineups to cross into the states was only 5 minutes, a bonus for us as we could carry on with our road trip sooner.
- We left at night so we could avoid Seattle and Portland morning rush hour
- There was almost no one on the road with us
- We only encountered heavy traffic near the park entrance as it was morning time. I could only imagine what the lineups are like at Crater Lake midday, or on a weekend.

Our road trip itinerary: We left for Crater Lake on Monday around midnight, and arrived at Crater Lake around 9 am on Tuesday, just in time to start our day exploring.

Our first stop was at Watchman Overlook. I read online this is the best place in the park for views inside Crater Lake overlooking Wizard Island. We spent a bit of time atop of Watchman Peak admiring the royal blue water below and taking in the scenery. After seeing a few ferries pass below, we decided we should take the ferry over to Wizard Island and hike to the top.

Ferry options: You can either take the 2 hour guided tour for $40, or the shuttle/ferry direct to the island for $32. Our intentions were to just hike Wizard Island, so we opted to take the shuttle/ferry over. Lucky for us, we hadn’t book anything in advance but we’re able to purchase tickets for the shuttle/ferry with no wait times. 

The boat ride over took about 20 minutes, giving us a good amount of time to enjoy the scenery inside the crater. Once we arrived at Wizard Island, we began our hour long hike to the top of the crater. We were about 5 minutes from the top before a large dark cloud came rolling in and it began to downpour. We chose not to abandon our hike as we were so close to the top. Once we made it to the top of Wizard Island, we spent a bit of time walking around the rim of the crater. There were some pretty unique looking trees up there, and some large lava rocks. A really cool experience.

On the way down the island, we ran into the ranger who was evacuating the island due to lightening and a thunderstorm. We had to hike down in the rain, and wait in the warming shelter for the storm to pass so the boats could come get us.

We waited in the shelter for about 2 hours; this gave us ample amount of time to chat with other road trippers in the shelter. We met a group of people road tripping all the way from Virginia. They planned to spend most of the summer on the road before heading home for school in September. Another couple we were chatting with came down from Alaska and were planning on road tripping the west coast. This was a really unique experience connecting with other road trippers, and chatting about various road trip experiences, where our favorite spots are, and recommendations of places to see along the way.

After our Wizard Island hike, we made our way over to the Rim Village for some inside exploring while waiting for the rain to subside. We spent a bit of time in the visitor center learning interesting facts about Crater Lake, we wandered over to the gift shop, and made a quick stop at Crater Lake Lodge; 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the lodge’s grand opening.

We had hoped to spend the afternoon exploring Plaikni Falls and stargazing in the campgrounds overnight, but due to the thunderstorm and torrential downpour, we chose not to spend the night at Crater Lake. We made our 9 hour trek home after an exciting day in the park, and arrived home just in time for breakfast on Wednesday morning.

Before we left the park, we chose to do the Crater Lake rim drive, looping the whole way around the park. It’s a beautiful drive, and sort of reminds me of the Going-to-the-Sun road in Glacier National Park, Montana. Along the way, we stopped at the Phantom Ship Overlook and Pumice Castle; an interesting geological wonder in Crater Lake.

The main highlight from our road trip of course had to be the ferry ride over to Wizard Island, and hiking to the top of the crater. It’s such a unique experience being able to walk along the rim of a crater inside the lake of another crater.

Have you been to Crater Lake before?  Leave your comment below and let us know what you enjoyed most about your visit.

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