Crater Lake, Oregon’s only national park, occupies a relatively remote perch in a mountainous stretch of the state to the south. Socked in with an average of over 530 inches of snow each year, the park is only easily accessible for a few summer months when the roads are open for business. Winter is beautiful in these parts, don’t get us wrong, but there’s definitely more going on in terms of tourist amenities during those few blissfully balmy weeks of summer.
A popular way to get a feel for the place is on a Crater Lake boat tour, just so long as you keep in mind that it’s a steep hike from the road down to the lake itself, and then you have to get back up again. Boats usually run out to the infant cinder cone, Wizard Island, and those so inclined have the option of staying on for the day to explore or climb to the island’s highest point before catching the last boat home. Other alternatives to consider water related? Scuba diving and fishing. On those hot days, of course, you’ll also want to seriously consider swimming in that lovely turquoise water.
Once you’ve spent some time getting wet, the best way to see the place is on foot. Mount Scott, the highest peak around, tops out at 8, 929 feet; if you don’t mind the uphill climb to the top, you’ll get fine perspective on the lake and the park at large as reward. If you’re looking for something less strenuous, take a walk in Castle Crest Wildflower Garden, at its best when wildflowers are in full bloom.
And finally, there’s Rim Drive, which circumnavigates the lake in 33 miles. You can take your own wheels on this one (bicycle or car), or catch the historic trolley as it make a two-hour loop around the road, ranger narrated. Most of the guest facilities, including the visitors center, Rim Village and Mazama Village are located south of the lake, but you’ll need to drive to the north side for access to Cleetwood Trail and the tour boat landing. Importantly, keep an eye on road conditions even in fringe months like June and July - after particularly wild winters some parts of Rim Drive remain closed even when the rest of the nation is enjoying summer weather.