Cleetwood Cove Trail is the only legal access to the lake. The trail runs from the north side of rim down to the lake at the boat dock. In about 1.1 miles, the trail gains/loses about 700 feet of elevation. It's not so bad going down, but you will definitely feel it coming back up. We hiked this trail down and back up to catch the boat tour and Wizard Island Tour, probably the most common reason for hiking this trail. But even if you're not going on the tour, it's worth it to get down to the lake and touch the chilly blue waters of Crater Lake. Just take your time, particularly when going back up, and bring plenty of water. If you reach the bottom and don't have enough water, you can get a refill from the lake. Normally, I would never drink untreated water, but a ranger on the tour told us that the water in Crater Lake is clean enough to drink. Not only that, but it's very cold and tasted much better than tap water from the hotel. Much too cold for me to go swimming, but if you don't mind chilly water, this is the only spot to take a dip in the lake. Once again, this is the only legal way to access the lake. The drop from the rim to the lake is extremely steep and if you attempt to go down anywhere else, there's a good chance you could die. And if you survive, expect a citation from the park rangers, so stick to the Cleetwood Cove Trail.
This is the only trail that leads down to the water's edge and is the embarkation point for the boat tours on the lake. Its also a place for those with a strong constitution to take a swim in the icy water. The hike back up is strenuous so bring water and be prepared.
This large island within the lake is formed by a newer volcanic cone forming within the older collapsed crater. It's accessible by boat tour but on busy summer weekends advanced reservations are usually required.
The Chaski slide is a fairly noticeable landform on the caldera wall. The landslide is said to have happened after the collapse of Mt Mazama but before the lake filled in. When you are up next to it you can easily see how this huge mass of rock could have slipped down into the caldera from the steep walls.
The other interesting features of the Chaski Slide are the 3 separate waterfalls that run into the lake. The majority of wildlife that has been viewed within the caldera is also seen in this area.
Chaski is not someone’s last name. it is actually a word meaning "little fox" and was named that for the areas resemblance to the shape of a fox lying on its back.
Devil’s Backbone is a volcanic radial dike that was formed when lava was pushed into cracks in Mt. Mazama and cooled. The surrounding material (pumice and lava flows) has weathered away and now this dike has been uncovered.
This landform may not seem all that impressive but to a geologist it must be like the holy grail as it is only formed beneath the surface of a building volcano. Dikes like this one are present in all strato-volcano (layered) but are far beneath the surface.
The actual “spine" is about 427 feet (130m) at its tallest point and runs up the entire rim of the canyon. It is however less than 20 feet wide in any given point.
Located down the road from the Rim Village, the Steel Visitor's Center is co-located with the Park Headquarters. Stop here before heading up the to crater rim for infomation on what is open/closed, scheduled park activities, hiking guides, etc. There is also a selection of books about the park, the National Park Service, the Cascades Mountain Range, flora and fauna of the Pacific Northwest, and other topics related to the park. There is also an informational video that they will start up upon request. There is also a post office there.
Definitely stop here for info if you come before mid-June as the Rim Village Visitor's Center is closed from October to mid-June.
This is the centerpoint for touristic activity in the Park. A summertime buzz of cars, people, ice cream cones and squirrels looking for handouts. The restored Crater Lake Lodge is here along with the ubiquitous Gift Shop and Cafeteria and a summertime Visitor Center. One of the best hikes, the 1.7 mile trail to Garfield Peak, start from here too.
Rising 764 feet above the lake, Wizard Island - shaped as a sorcer's hat - is a classic cinder cone that formed after the collapse of Mt Mazama. The small crater atop Wizard Island impressed an early Oregon newsman enough for him to coin the name "Crater Lake'. You can take dayhikes on the island from the boat tours and there is a little fishing in and among the little islands on the north side of the Island. Fish used to be stocked in the Lake but that was stopped years ago. The lake is simply too deep and the fish had nothing to eat. Those that have survived are mostly found around Wizard Island.
Drive or Bike around the Rim Road. It is a 33 mile road that circles the rim of the caldera. There are lots of pulloffs, where you can go and appreciate a new and different view of the lake and its blueness. Snow levels will vary the season the road is open from year to year. It is usually July to mid-October.
There are several picnic areas along the road and most of the best trails in the park come off the road too: the Watchman, Garfield Peak and Mt Scott.
From the NE corner of the Rim Road, you take the trail down one mile to Cleetwood Cove. From there, you can take a boat tour lasting 1 3/4 hours which takes you around the lake, visiting both Wizard Island and the Phantom Ship. I recommend getting here early as it can get crowded. If you wanted to make a day of it, take food and water along one of the first boats - usually around 830 - and get off at Wizard Island. This is a little volcano that rose up form the caldera of the old Mt Mazama. It is not the only cone to do so, but it is the only one to rise above the lake surface. One trail will take you to the top of the island's cone - 6940 feet/2116m - the lake surface is 6176 feet/1882m. Another trail takes you to Fumerole Bay. There are a few introduced trout in the lake which have not thrived since there is not much for them to eat due to the vast depths of the lake. It is around here you might catch one though. If you get off on Wizard Island, be prepared to stay for awhile though as you won't be able to get back on one of the boats until there is room and many of the tours through the middle part of the day stay full. Boats run from July to early September.
Crater Lake is definately one of the "hidden" treasures in the world. A volcanic wonder that while standing at the edge will leave you speechless. There are many places around the lake where you can stop and enjoy the breathtaking views. Be sure to use a whole day or more in the park as the look and colour of the lake changes during the day. We got the best pictures in the morning and afternoon where the lake looked deep blue. There is a Visitor center at the top when you arrive from south (crater creek road) where you can buy souvenirs and enjoy a cup of coffee or just a sandwich.
Do not miss the Rim Visitor Center (close to the visitor center) where you can see how the lake ended up like this and other geological informations.
The last place I stopped on the rim drive was Vidae Falls. Vidae Falls comes from a creek flowing over a glacier formed cliff then drops 100 feet (30 meters) over a series of ledges. If you come here in the summer, you will be rewarded with a beautiful view of wildflowers growing by the falls.
Pinnacles Overlook is located at the end of a 7 mile spur road, and is well worth the drive. The pinnacles are a collection of 100 foot (30 meter) tall spires eroded from the canyon walls. These are what is called “fossil fumaroles” and are where volcanic gas rose up through volcanic ash deposits fusing them solid. Many of these fumaroles are hollow inside. There is a trail leading along the cliffs giving various nice views of the pinnacle. The trail leads to the edge of the park and connects to a trail in the Winema National Forest.
This is the best place to view the “other island” in Crater Lake. Phantom Ship Island got its name from the resemblance to a pirate ship. The island is much smaller than Wizard Island but is still as tall as a 16 story building. The island is composed of erosion-resistant rock that is 400,000 years old making it the oldest exposed rock in the caldera.
This stop boasts a view of one of the more interesting sights along the rim drive. There is a large outcropping of orange colored pumice rock that has been eroded to resemble a castle. I had a hard time seeing it from here. I think the best view is probably from the boat tour on the lake.