Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Crater Lake

Last week, I went to Crater Lake for the first time. My grandmother was in town from Minnesota, so I went with her and my cousin.

We arrived at Crater Lake National Park about an hour before sunset, and began the long drive through pumice desert up to the actual lake the park is named for (Crater Lake makes up only 7% of the area of Crater Lake National Park). We got our first glimpse of the lake from one of many pullouts that are along the road. We were all hungry and tired, though, so after a brief stop, we pressed on to find the cabin we were staying in for the night and the restaurant nearby. None of the lodging at Crater Lake except for the campground allows dogs, so keep that in mind if you choose to visit. In early October, it was 28* at night, which for me, is way too cold for camping. That said, three of the hiking trails in the park are now open to dogs (dogs used to be restricted to parking lots only). Service dogs, of course, are not subject to those restrictions when accompanying a disabled handler.

After we checked into our hotel room and had some dinner, I talked my grandma and cousin in going back up to the lake so I could try some night photography. Neither of them really wanted to go, but I managed to talk them into it, and we took the seven mile drive back up the hill to the lake. And in my opinion, it was well worth it.

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Crater Lake, two hours after sunset

I did try to get a photo of Pallo in front of the lake with the stars, but since it was dark, neither the camera's autofocus nor my manual focus actually managed to focus on him very well. Still, I thought this photo was decent, especially since it was a 20 second exposure, meaning Pallo had to stand perfectly still for 20 seconds for the picture to not turn out blurry.

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Pallo posing on the wall at Crater Lake, two hours after sunset. I didn't quite get the focus right though.

The next morning, we got up and had breakfast, packed up the room, then drove back up to the lake. We were aiming to go to a ranger talk about the history of Crater Lake and how it was formed, but we missed the first one and decided to just go on our hike before the day got too hot. We ended up choosing the Sun Notch hike, since it was rated Easy (my grandma has bad knees, and my cousin is 7 months pregnant, so an easy hike was a must). Sun Notch was the only easy rated hike that had a view of the lake. It was well worth it.

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A glimpse of the lake through the trees. There were a ton of pine trees.

Sun Notch is also the best place to view the island formation known as the Phantom Ship.

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The Phantom Ship, which is actually the remnants of another volcano, stripped down to just the hard lava tubes.

After our hike, we decided to take the trolley tour around the lake. The whole drive around the rim of the caldera is long and has some really steep drop offs that I was not at all comfortable with. Since my grandma wanted to do the trolley tour, that saved me from driving on the scary roads around the lake too much. The trolley tour is led by a Forest Service Ranger, who talked about the history of Crater Lake and the surrounding park, the types of trees found there (mostly just 7 varieties of pine tree), the varieties of rock and how they ended up where they were, and even some of the legends the Klamath People have about the area, which is particularly interesting since the Klamath People actually witnessed Mt. Mazama blow up and eventually form Crater Lake. The trolley stops at a variety of the pull outs along the way so everyone can get out, take a look at the lake and surrounding countryside, and of course, take pictures.

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Wizard Island, the biggest island in Crater Lake and the one in most of the iconic Crater Lake photos

At every single stop, Pallo couldn't wait to take a look at the view.

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Pallo taking in the view during one of the trolley stops

We only stayed for one night, and headed home that afternoon. We had the most beautiful weather imaginable while we were there, with clear, bright blue skies and great visibility. We could see all the way to Mt. Shasta in the south and the three Sisters in the north. Because we had such great weather, we got to see the incredibly unique, clear blue color that Crater Lake is when the sun is shining.

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Taken on the Sun Notch hike, this view almost straight down showed the brilliant blue colors of the lake.
Overall, Crater Lake was amazing. Despite living in Oregon my entire life, with Crater Lake only a 3 hour drive away, I had never been before. You do have to pay a park use fee ($10 for seven days), camping or hotel fees, and food (which isn't exactly cheap on the top of a mountain). And most of the areas are not pet friendly, so it isn't ideal as a destination while traveling with dogs. Despite all of that, I think it is a must-see if you live in or travel through Oregon. I certainly plan to return in the future.

*A note, since I know people will be wondering- Koira stayed with my mom while we were on this trip. I have a disability and Pallo is being trained as my service dog, and performs vital tasks that allow me to function. That is why Pallo accompanied me on this trip and is wearing a service dog vest. 


  1. Wow! Your pictures are awesome! We've been wanting to go to Crater Lake and driven past it a bunch of times but haven't made it yet! Hopefully soon!

  2. You hiked in the park with the dogs? I thought they were not allowed on any trails? My hubby and I went to Yellowstone a couple of months ago with the dogs (it was on the way to somewhere else). They were allowed on the paved path to the edge o the old faithful area but otherwise they had to stay in the car. I am glad it was cool the day we were there.

  3. Gorgeous! What an amazing blue! Are there hotels outside the Nat'l park that are reasonably close by?

    Of course, living on the East Coast, odds are low I'll visit anytime soon, but I can dream :-)

  4. Jessica- As I mentioned in the post, dogs are allowed on three of the trails and in the parking lot areas of Crater Lake National Park. Service dogs are allowed wherever their disable handler is allowed to go. Because of this, I left Koira with my mom during the trip and only took Pallo along, since he is training as my service dog.

    Taryn- There are some hotels about 30-45 or so minutes away. Close enough that you could probably stay there and drive up to the lake for the day.

  5. Beautiful! Your photos look like postcards!

  6. What a beautiful place and great photos!