Going to Crater Lake was a must while in Oregon. We were living in Reedsport at this time, a 3 hour drive. We made a whole lot more of the 3-day weekend than just seeing Crater Lake. The first thing to know before you go is that Crater Lake gets a lot of snow! We knew we were going to be in Oregon til the beginning of July so we waited toward the end of our time there to make the trip for the best possible weather. We went Thurs July 22 through Sunday July 25. The camping at Crater Lake was full so we stayed at a location that was very central for us with all the plans we had at the Union Creek Campground (about a 40 minute drive to Crater Lake).
DAY 1 07.22.17
As I mentioned, we had a lot more planned than just going to Crater Lake. The first day of plans did not involve Crater Lake at all. This day we drove back up the way we came toward route 138. If we had decided to drive up on Friday morning, we could have hit all of these on the way but we were glad to already be settled in. Here are the plans:
Toketee Falls: We began with the one we were most excited about. This was a short hike (.8mi out and back) to the lookout from above. This made my “runner up” list in my Top 3 Oregon Waterfalls post. The view from the top gives you an easy hike with a great view, however, my biggest regret was not researching in advance how to get to the bottom. Click here for info on accessing the bottom of Toketee Falls. Accessing the top will provide you with the view below and is quite the scene.
Watson Falls: I had saved this one to our list of waterfalls to see long before this trip but I did not re-research it before heading out this way so I had no idea what to expect! It ended up being an easy .6 mi hike. On the way there was a really cool spot where the river was spitting out a whole bunch of different little falls and we thought at first maybe that was the waterfall but keep going to see the much taller Watson Falls. There’s one trail that will take you right to the bottom and then you can keep going a little more to get to the view posted below.
Whitehorse Falls: This was one of the longest hikes ever. Just kidding. It’s about a 50 foot walk to the lookout. An easy stop for a small but fun waterfall right along the way.
Clearwater Falls: There are a lot of easy access waterfalls in Oregon and this one is no different. Just a .5 mi RT hike will give you a stunning view (and a lot of mosquito bites).
National Creek Falls ended up being my favorite of the day. It was not a crowded area or hike at all. It’s only a .7 mi out and back hike and is a great spot for a picnic, playing in the river, and photographing. It was our last stop of the day, so we were about ready to head back to the campsite but I sure wish we had a little picnic lunch packed that we could have eaten here. It’s a wider waterfall with several areas of drops. The river below is not too deep and you can stick your feet in and cool off. There’s a nice mist from the falls as well. You can view from several different spots at the bottom and it’s a really awesome spot for lunch or just to chill for a bit. I had some fun photographing this one.
National Creek Falls
DAY 2 07.23.17
Day two of this trip was Crater Lake Day. We liked it so much we went twice that day. We headed up pretty early that morning without any definitive plans for when we got there. We knew we just wanted to start by seeing different views of the lake and then we figured we’d just find a hike to do once we got there. Here were the “plans” that I had kind of saved for the day.
Crater Lake: As I mentioned above, the first plan was just to drive to the lake and see how blue it really is. It’s very blue. When we got to the top of the road, we took a right and parked in that main parking lot (plenty of parking early in the day). There is a paved sidewalk around that side of the lake (which a lot of was covered by snow when we were there) but you can still walk around to take in views of the lake from the West side. We did this for a bit and then kept going along the road toward the North entrance to other viewpoints along this way.
Wizard Island is the lonely island in Crater Lake. It is accessible to the public during the summer months via boat tours that depart from the north end of the lake. There are a couple trails on Wizard Island. I did not research the island itself too much. The tours were not even running when we were there.
Garfield Peak: We went into the visitors center looking for hiking recommendations. Given all the snow, many trails were not accessible at the time of year. The ranger suggested Garfield Peak as one with some of the best views but thought the trail may be closed at some point, however, that it would be our best bet. We stated along that trail and made it about a mile. A mile in, there was a sign saying the trail was closed ahead. As others hikers were, we continued ahead until we realized why it was closed. There was very deep snow slanted down the side of the mountain. That was about the end point for us for hiking that day. We didn’t do any of the other hikes that day so at this point, this posting isn’t too helpful for figuring out what hikes to do (other than informing you that the end of July is still winter at Crater Lake)! Here's a view we got from part of the hike...
(View From) Garfield Peak
We came back to the campground for dinner and relaxed a bit, had dinner, had a campfire, and hung out in the tent because of the miserable mosquitoes. Seriously, you couldn’t be outside for 2 seconds without swatting the air or getting bites everywhere.
Crater Lake…again: That afternoon, I proposed we go back to Crater Lake at night. The brochure for Crater Lake suggested you return at night for an unbelievable star show over the lake and that caught my attention. Leslie was on board and we decided to go to bed around 8pm and set an alarm for 10:30pm (we usually go to bed at like 9 so being out til 1am was a big deal for us)! As planned, the alarm went off at 10:30 and we took off again for Crater Lake. We parked at one of the pull-offs near the top of the road. The sky was as clear as ever and it was literally the most stars I had ever seen, even more than the amazing sky we saw at Death Valley NP and the milky way was crystal clear to the naked eye. As I have been learning more and more about photography, I am extremely thankful that I had JUST read the part of the chapter in Tony Northrup’s book How to Create Stunning Digital Photography about taking panorama’s by taking multiple shots and stitching them with Microsoft’s Image Composite Editor. I had done this for some of the shots earlier in the day at Crater Lake but really had no practice and felt like I was just getting thrown into the big leagues. I’d say for my first go at the milky way using stitching, I did pretty good! Here was the outcome…
Crater Lake...at night
It’s always a little harder to get the motivation to explore on the day we head home but we didn’t hold back this time.
DAY 3 07.24.17
It was time to head home but of course we made plans for the drive home. We came into the area on roads to the North of us so we went home on roads to the South of us and had planned to see things on the way home:
Day 3 Map
Avenue of the Boulders
Mill Creek Falls
Barr Creek Falls
Avenue of the Boulders on Google Maps shows a little pull off right by a bridge. It didn’t look promising at first but there is definitely an area to see the boulders from above. It is a bunch of boulders in the river that landed there from a volcanic eruption from Mt Mazama many years ago. If you head to the Mill Creek Falls parking area, you can access the area from the bottom.
Mill Creek Falls & Barr Creek Falls are both accessible from the same parking area and are only about a .5 mi hike to see the views from each. I have read online that you can scramble down to the bottom but it doesn’t look easy.
Barr Creek Falls
Avenue of the Boulders
Mill Creek Falls
That was it! After that, we headed home and got ready for the next weekend adventure!
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