Your Guide to a Girls Getaway to Crater Lake, Oregon
The #nofilter hashtag could have been created just for Crater Lake. No matter what picture you see of the vibrant blue waters, you’re still not prepared for the reality of the color. It’s really that blue. Created in a violent volcanic explosion 7,700 years ago when Mt. Mazama erupted, then collapsed, the lake is fully enclosed by tall cliffs, which is what keeps the water so pristine and blue. One of the deepest lakes in the world at almost 2,000 feet, a swim in its chilly waters seems to offer a glimpse into a prehistoric world.
The only National Park in Oregon is big enough to fill up a weekend but not so big that you need multiple trips to see it all. Crater Lake makes the perfect 3-day escape. Fill up your girlfriend’s getaway with hikes, a boat tour, a plunge in the lake water, all while soaking up bluest blue you can imagine.
After a busy day, pamper the group in a spa at the Crater Lake Lodge or your hotel or get a cozy fire going at the campsite. You won’t feel the pressure to pack your days solid, so you can have plenty of time to focus on your gal-friends. Pour some wine and enjoy!
Getting to Crater Lake
The closest town is Klamath Falls in southern Oregon, about an hour and a half south of the lake. It’s about a 5-hour drive from Portland, Oregon. The snows in winter make the scenery beautiful, but many roads (including Rim Drive) and facilities from November 1 to May or even June. Check ahead of time for current conditions.
Once you arrive at the Crater Lake National Park, there are two entrances. Travelers coming in from the north will use the seasonal North Entrance, while those from Klamath Falls will find the West Entrance closer. Crater Lake Lodge and the visitor center is nearest to the South entrance.
photo: A. F. Litt via flickr
Crater Lake Lodging
A few campsites offer tent or RV spots inside the park—the largest is the Mazama Village Campground, offering 214 sites. Limited reservations means your party might need to plan on getting there early to find a spot. If you miss out, you can also try Lost Village Campground, which is smaller and cozier with only 16 sites.
The only in-park lodging can be found at the historic Crater Lake Lodge or the Cabins and Mazama Village. Crater Lake Lodge is the closest way to stay near the lake, butting right up against the southwest rim with hiking paths just outside. Built in 1915, but more recently updated, it offers 71 guestrooms with a rustic luxury charm. It does book up fast, so be quick! Rates start at $201, seasonally. The Cabins are located 7 miles away from the rim in a serene Ponderosa Pine forest, with 40 guestrooms starting at $165.
Alternative Crater Lake Lodging Options
If you missed out on the Lodge and cabins but aren’t up for camping, you can stay outside the park. The closest options are in Klamath Falls. Celebrate the special getaway with your girlfriends at the Running Y Ranch Resort, where you can soak away the day’s dust in their spa, hit some golf balls on the course, and find prime dining less than an hour away from Crater Lake.
Rooms from $179
photo: Katrina Emery
A Girls Guide to Adventure at Crater Lake
The focal point of the park is, of course, that pool of sapphire below the rim of the ancient crater. The best way to see it all is to do the Rim Drive, a 33-mile loop around the lake, offering more than 20 pullouts and viewpoints for all your photography needs.
Along the way, you can break up the drive into several short hikes and maybe throw in a Crater Lake boat tour, or commit a day to a longer exploration.
Biking Crater Lake
The Crater Lake Rim Drive is a very popular biking challenge, but be aware that it is a challenge. Narrow shoulders and plenty of tourist traffic mean a lot of cars that are straining to peek the lake and not bikes. If you can time it right, a great option is to visit during vehicle-free days for Ride the Rim, traditionally over 2 weekends in September, where the entire Rim is closed to vehicles so bikes and pedestrians can enjoy. http://ridetherimoregon.com/,
Crater Lake Boat Tour
If you’re visiting from June to September, your crew has the option of a close-up cruise of the lake. You’ll choose from a few varieties, like a full 2-hour cruise tour around the lake, a speedy shuttle to and from Wizard Island, or a shortened tour combined with a drop-off at Wizard Island. If you’re headed to the island make sure you’re fully aware of the pick-up time—there are only a handful of departures every day. Crater Lake boat tours last up to 5 hours with stops on the island and offer details of the history and geology of the lake, as well as a chance to spot the Old Man of the Lake, a 30-foot tall hemlock that floats mysteriously around the waters. $42/tour, some tickets are reservable in advance, some are first come first serve.
photo:Maarten Brinkerink via flickr
Hiking Crater Lake
There are over 90 miles of Crater Lake trails to choose from! They range in difficulty, but a few top choices that offer a varied look at the geology and landscape are:
Discovery Point, 1 hr, 2 miles, moderate
A wandering walk starting at the Rim Village parking area and winding along the rim. Easy, with great views.
Sun Notch Viewpoint, 20-minute hike, .8 mile loop, easy
This short hike is a nice chance to stretch your legs, and offers great views of the ‘Phantom Ship,’ a rock formation jutting up from the lake that looks eerily like its namesake, floating on the deep blue.
The Pinnacles, 30 min, .8 mile, easy
This hike takes you away from the lake, but the chance to hike among the otherwordly needle-like rocks called fumaroles are worth it. They are leftover steam vents from old volcanic explosions. The easy hike gives some great angles of the vents, which are leftover from old volcanic explosions.
Watchman Peak, 1 hr hike, .1.6 miles, moderate
One of the best views of Wizard Island! This hike is steep and can be a challenge—it heads up the peak to a historic fire lookout on top. Time it well and you can catch the sunset from the peak (don’t forget flashlights for the way down, though).
Wizard Summit, 1 ½ hrs, 2.2 miles, strenuous
Expect to spend most of the day on this fantastic hike, on an abandoned island in the middle of an ancient crater. The craggy climb offers stunning views from the top.
Cleetwood Cove, 1 ½ hrs, 2.2 miles, strenuous
The only way down to the water, this hike is a serious challenge due to the steepness of it. The 700-foot ascent means that going back up, you’ll be basically climbing more than 70 flights of stairs. If you’ve booked a boat tour, or even if you want to dip your toes in the water, it’s the only option.
Once you’re down there, you can rest from the descent or wait for your boat tour on the rocks near the lake. The clear water looks just as blue from up close, and if you’re sturdy enough to attempt a bracing swim (it’s seriously cold), you’ll get the novel feeling of peering down, down, down, up to 2,000 feet below you.
Crater LakeRanger Talks and More
At Rim Village you can join a Ranger Talk, guided hike, narrated trolley tour around the Rim, or evening programs under the stars. You’ll also be able to see historical exhibits of the Lodge and an educational film of the park here, as a great introduction to the area.
photo: via pexels
So far away from developed cities, the sky turns thick with stars on cloudless nights. Drive right up to the rim, park, and sit on your hood to enjoy. Once your eyes adjust you’ll easily be able to see the thick band of the Milky Way, and maybe some shooting stars.
The ranger may come to make sure you’re not spending the night, just tell him you won’t be long.
Both sunrise and sunset are gorgeous to watch over the rim– plan your location strategically based on which side you need to be on, and bring layers to bundle up in.
After a weekend escape at Crater Lake, you’ll come back with stories of volcanic oddities, challenging hikes, stunning views, and the chance to share it all with friends. Yearly reunion, anyone?
For more ideas on where to go for your next girlfriends getaway check out these articles: