Crater Lake National Park: Rim Tour


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Millenia ago,  Mount Mazama (an ancient volcano) collapsed forming Crater Lake in its caldera. The pure blue lake is the deepest in the United States and is famous for its bright blue color.  There are no rivers feeding into the lake or underground water sources…the water is replenished only by rain and snow.

The Rim Drive is a 33 mile loop around the caldera. You can explore it in your own vehicle during the summer months, but we opted to take the two-hour tour with Crater Lake Trolley. We wanted to see all the highlights without having to drive ourselves. Park loop roads are no fun for the driver.

The trolley company is privately owned, but includes a national park trained interpreter on board. Our guide was great, telling us all about the history and geology of Crater Lake, interspersed with 5-6 stops where we got out, took photos and stretched our legs.


We first stopped at the Watchman Overlook where we had great views of Wizard Island. The Island is actually a volcanic cinder cone, with a peak about 750 feet above the lake surface. There is a boat running out to the island from a point on the north shore and a trail to climb to the top.


Next we stopped at the Llao bay turnout. Llao Rock is a prominent high point on the lake, rising 2000 feet above the water. It is named after the Native American god of the underworld, who, according to legend,  fought with the sky god, Skell, and caused the eruption of Mount Mazama, forming Crater Lake.


Next, we stopped somewhere near Cleetwood Cove. The Cleetwood Cove trail is the only way to access the water in Crater Lake. It is a steep trail down to the dock where the boats depart for Wizard Island. We did not descend as the trail takes 1.5-2.5 hours to walk round-trip.


Another interesting stop was the Pumice Castle Overlook. The Pumice Castle is a colorful formation in the otherwise monotone caldera wall.

Almost full circle, we stopped at the Phantom Ship Overlook to see the small island said to resemble a ghost ship in foggy weather.


Turning away from the lake to head back to the Rim Village, we made one last stop at Vidae Falls. It was too crowded to linger for long and many were anxious to return to the village for the restrooms so I didn’t get a decent shot of the falls.

The tour runs a solid two hours and there are no restrooms once you leave rim village, so be sure to use the ones by the community center before you leave.

To see my other Crater Lake posts click:

Location: Crater Lake, OR

Designation: National Park

Date designated or established: 5/22/1902

Date of my visit: 8/25/2016


17 thoughts on “Crater Lake National Park: Rim Tour

  1. My wife and I did the Cleetwood Cove Trail a few ago when we were at Crater Lake and it was well worth it and not that challenging a hike – reasonable grade and a lot of switchbacks. We were there in late October and it snowed that evening and when we looked out of our room to the Lake below, there was a pea-soup fog. Fortunately, it lifted by the next morning, the snow melted and we had a great drive around the Lake including the hike. (The Lodge Dining Room is quaint, but not a culinary delight…..)

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    1. Thanks for commenting! Yes, we lucked out in our Oregon trip as it was before major wildfires in the PNW that year. We were there during a record-breaking heat wave, but up in Crater Lake it was pretty comfortable.

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