National Parks and camping go together like peanut butter and jelly. Our country’s most stunning natural wonders are best experienced in an RV that really lets you immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring surroundings. One of the most underrated National Parks is Oregon’s Crater Lake. Not only does it have an epic history (the crater that holds the deepest lake in the country was formed by a massive volcano), but it’s also located in the breathtaking forests of Central Oregon. Here’s how to make the most of a camping trip to Crater Lake!
If you want to camp out really close to the lake, then Mazama Campground is your very best bet. The sites are spacious and well-appointed with fire rings, picnic tables, and grills, and you’re far enough away from your neighbors that you actually feel like you have some privacy! The bathrooms are also spotlessly clean, but remember to bring quarters for the showers. Book as far in advance as possible, because this great location attracts lots of visitors!
Crater Lake is just as historically awesome as it is beautiful! Its waters fill a caldera from a collapsed volcano called Mount Mazama (the Klamath tribes, who might have witnessed the volcano’s collapse, tell an origins story that involves an epic battle between Skell, the sky god, and Llao, the god of the underworld). With a depth of 2,148 feet, it is the deepest lake in the US, and the ninth deepest in the world. The lake is not river-fed; its water comes from rain and snowmelt, which accounts for the lake’s extra-clean—and beautiful blue—water. This also means that there is no indigenous fish population, but between the late 1800s and the early 1940s, the lake was stocked with several different species of fish, some of which have managed to survive and reproduce.
One of the best views of Crater Lake is from the Watchman Lookout Station, a fire lookout tower that’s been converted into a museum. Built partially into the hill and constructed out of logs and native stone, it features eight-foot windows looking down onto the lake. Hike up here to take it all in for yourself!
See the lake from every angle on Rim Drive, the park’s ever-popular scenic route, as it loops around the caldera. There are tons of places to pull off along the 33-mile drive that provide great photo ops, so if you happen to be driving, you can take a break and really enjoy the scenery, too. Keep in mind that Rim Drive is only open during the summer: in the winter, the road can get buried under up to 20 feet of snow!
If you’re in need of a snack, supplies for your campsite, or some souvenirs while exploring the park, head to the Rim Village Visitor Center, which also features outstanding views of the lake. Plus, this is where you can buy tickets for a tour that will take you around Rim Drive in a vintage-looking, eco-friendly trolley!
There are two islands located in Crater Lake: Phantom Ship Island and Wizard Island. Phantom Ship Island definitely resembles a ghost ship on the lake at night and in the fog. Wizard Island is a volcanic cinder cone, and is capped by a crater called "The Witch's Cauldron." While you can take a boat out to Wizard Island, Phantom Ship Island is off-limits. The best way to experience it is from afar at the Sun Notch Viewpoint. It’s a short little one-mile hike that provides excellent views!
After a long day of exploring everything that Crater Lake has to offer, there’s nothing better than returning to the comfort of your RV to make s’mores, tell campfire stories, and get a really good night’s sleep to ready yourself for the next day’s adventures!