Crater Lake, the deepest lake in America, formed over seven thousand years ago when a great volcano collapsed on itself. The impressive, aquamarine body-of-water is also the only National Park in Oregon, making it one of the state’s biggest tourist attractions. Visitors can get an epic view of Crater Lake anywhere along Rim Drive, which circles the entire lake and takes only an hour to drive in total. But beware: the lake is often hidden by fog! Some visitors spend days at the Park Lodge, waiting for a clear day that never comes. I wanted a different experience. So, I decided to do an overnight backpacking trip on the lake’s shoulder.
Crater Lake Overnight Backpacking Trip: Day One
I arrived early in the morning, excited to photograph the majestic crater. To my dismay, the dreaded fog monster decided to shield the entire lake. I could hardly see five feet in front of my car! On top of that, it was freezing cold and misty- all around miserable weather. I decided to wait it out at the park lodge before trekking to my campsite.
Crater Lake Lodge
On a clear day, Crater Lake Lodge offers spectacular views of the lake. The large balcony has dozens of wooden rocking chairs, so pull up a seat and grab a warm cocktail. Inside, the lodge has a bar, restaurant, comfy chairs, and large stone fireplaces. On a cold, rainy day, there’s nothing better than sitting next to a warm fire with a hot chocolate. Unfortunately for me, the weather never cleared and I was forced to start my hike in a dense fog.
Lightning Springs Backcountry Campsite
Despite the view, I trekked out to my campsite – located only a half mile from Rim Drive on Lightning Springs Trail. I arrived just before sunset; the location was secluded and serene. Warm beams of sunlight danced through the mist and fog. It was very mysterious.
Lightning Springs is a popular campsite, due to it’s proximity to Rim Drive, but since I came mid-week during rough weather I had the place to myself. Fires were banned due to the drought, so I cooked dinner on my propane camp stove and let the pitter-patter of raindrops lull me to sleep.
Crater Lake Overnight Backpacking Trip: Day Two
I woke up at 3 am, as planned, and packed up my tent in the dark. The goal: photograph the lake at sunrise. I needed to get moving if that was going to happen.
The hike back to the car was magical. A full moon illuminated the terrain. The air was silent, and I felt like howling at the moon to break it apart. Then, a sudden chill crept up my spine causing me to shiver – what else is out here? I flickered my flashlight at every breaking branch and rustling bush. Spooky. Finally, I reached the car and drove towards the lake – which was finally visible. It was larger than I could have imagined!