Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Photo by Ray Bouknight

Where in the West Should I Go? • 52 Places to Visit in 2022

Like many favorite national parks in the West, with Crater Lake, it all starts at the rim. Though closed for part of the year, a summer cruise along Rim Drive is a must on your trip to southwestern Oregon.

Along the historic route, there are 33 miles of amazing lake views from each of the 30 overlooks. If you’re in shape, you’ll certainly want to stop at the Cleetwood Cove Trail and make a day out of the only legal hike to the Crater Lake shore.

Dropping 700 feet in 1.1 miles, the trail isn’t the easiest. The National Park Service notes that heading back up – obviously the more daunting task – is the equivalent of climbing 65 flights of stairs. Depending on snow conditions, the trail is usually open from mid-June to late October.

Hiking at the rim is also quite rewarding. A moderate 1.6-mile roundtrip hike to Watchman Peak (8,013 feet) offers panoramic views of Wizard Island (6,940 feet), which sits at the western part of the lake.

Of course, Crater Lake is best known for being the deepest lake in the United States and the ninth deepest in the world. It was formed by Mount Mazama, a 12,000-foot-tall volcano that erupted some 7,700 years ago. Today, 83% of the water in Crater Lake comes from rain and snow falling directly on the surface; the rest is runoff from the slopes above.

Marvel at its beauty from any angle. You won’t be disappointed.