Nature’s Theater in the Round
The 6-mile-wide caldera in which Crater Lake sits was created more than 7,000 years ago by catastrophic explosions that caused a volcano to collapse on itself and slowly fill with water. Today it’s America’s deepest lake (at 1,932 feet) and is the centerpiece of the only national park in Oregon.
Scenic 33-mile Rim Drive encircles the 21-square-mile lake at an average elevation of 7,000 feet, offering awe-inspiring views for motorists, bicyclists, and hikers. Just as inspiring are the views looking up from boat tours on the lake’s hauntingly mirror-still waters – both at the rim and to the peak of cone-shaped Wizard Island, a volcano in miniature.
For a more thorough exploration of the Cascade Range’s unearthly lava-field landscape, few drives can match the 140-mile Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, which starts at the park and heads south to Klamath Falls, near the California border. Crater Lake Lodge was begun in 1909 but never properly finished due to budget constraints.
Refurbished and re-created in 1995 with historical details and a rustic aesthetic (think massive bark-covered ponderosa pine pillars and walls, reproduction Stickley furniture, and huge fireplaces), it’s now a gem among the national park system’s great lodges. The Great Hall boasts a 60-foot span of picture windows, and though the rooms have no telephones or televisions, about half are endowed with that spectacular view of the cobalt-blue lake to compensate.