Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway Part III Vol. 1

The next leg of our journey exploring the entire Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway took us to the amazing Crater Lake National Park. We picked up the byway in Fort Klamath and traveled Route 62 to the turn off for Crater Lake. The byway circumnavigates Crater Lake via the West Rim and East Rim Drive.

Our return to Crater Lake was bittersweet. The first time we visited the park was in 2014 on our road trip from Vermont to pick up our “new to us” Airstream travel trailer. We purchased the trailer from a private seller in Eugene, Oregon and our first day on the road with the trailer had us cruising the West Rim Drive around Crater Lake. We did not linger in the park on this visit – only pulling into overlooks along the way that would accommodate the truck and trailer (at a length of 45′ overall). I was excited to return and explore the park more closely. We have visited Crater Lake twice in two weeks since it is only a 2 hour drive from our current location.

On Route 62 heading towards Crater Lake, there’s a scenic vista turn-out with an interpretive display. Looking at the photograph below, imagine an enormous, snow-capped mountain rising up into the sky from the far vista that would take up almost the entire skyline. That would have been Mount Mazama – the volcanic peak that erupted 7,700 years ago and ultimately collapsed – forming what is now Crater Lake.

Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States at 1,943 feet. There are no streams flowing into or out of the lake. The water level is totally maintained by rain, winter snow melt (averaging 528 inches per year) and evaporation. Arguably one of the most outstanding features of the lake is its deep, blue color. Three factors contribute to this remarkable hue – the depth of the lake, its purity and the effects of solar radiation.

Looking towards Wizard Island – a cinder cone emerging from the water

My goal on our first day trip to Crater Lake was to hike Garfield Peak. One of the taller peaks in the park at 8,061 feet , it rises up right along the rim of the crater and offers some outstanding views of the lake during the moderately challenging hike to the summit. It’s a 3.6-mile out-and-back with an elevation climb of just over 1,000 feet – short but steep! 🙂 The trailhead starts just past the Crater Lake Lodge at the Rim Village area of the park. The biggest challenge on the hike was dealing with the wind! We kept having to hold onto our sun hats along the trail so they did not get blown down to the lake! They would not have been retrievable!

Steep terrain on either side of the trail…

There were so many wildflowers blooming along the trail including my favorites – Indian Paintbrush and Penstemon. Also, some phlox, stonecrop, columbine and balsamroot…a very good flower day!!

Near the top there are still some areas of snow – it was a record snowfall this year and Crater Lake experienced some very late spring snows as well. Parts of the Rim Drive and many trails never opened up until mid-June.

Almost to the top!

The views of the lake from the summit were spectacular! We hung out a bit and had a snack before starting our descent.

Garfield Peak summit
Alpine meadows along the rim of the crater as seen from the summit
Amazing view of the steep crater walls – Jim’s perch looks more precarious than it was!
Twisted old whitebark pine on the top of Garfield Peak

We had some nice views of the surrounding forests on our descent from the summit.

Mt. McLoughlin in the distance…
Although a hot day, there were plenty of shady spots along the trail!!
The lower section of the trail – almost done!

After a day’s adventure on the trail, we were looking at a 2-hour drive back to our “home for the summer” so we popped in to the Mazama Village cafe for a couple of coffees to go. As I waited in line to make my order, I noticed some very nice-looking food being delivered to patrons who were seated. Might be a good spot to have a meal next time. 🙂

Tomorrow I’ll share our second day trip to Crater Lake! 🙂

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