The western half of the United States is full of magnificent wilderness hotels and lodges, each taking advantage of the West's spectacular array of snow-capped peaks looming against a flawless blue sky. The 71-room hotel operated by the National Park Service at Crater Lake, Oregon, though, is in a class by itself, perched as it is on the very edge of the caldera that contains the deepest lake in the United States, the seventh deepest in the world. Ringed by mountains, staring straight down at the 1,943 foot-deep lake that drowned an ancient volcano, the lodge is a study in perseverance, a slow-motion project that seems to echo the long process that created one of the most beautiful national parks in America.
Created in 1902, Crater Lake National Park was wild and remote, a fantastically beautiful and unique place seen by few until supporters undertook to encourage more visitors. A Portland Oregon developer accepted the contract to build a lodge intended to house visitors in comfort, located atop one of the 2,000-foot cliffs above the lake. The project proved to be easier envisioned than built, however. The area was buried in snow for over half the year, th
Crater Lake Lodge has 71 rooms that come in a variety of configurations. The main consideration for most guests at the lodge when selecting a room is whether the room is on the lake side of the lodge or on the "south" side. Lake side room are considered premium rooms and with an increased rate. Most select the lake side if a room is available for obvious reasons. Room rates start at $150 per night for south facing rooms and go up to almost $300 per night for a deluxe room with a loft facing Crater Lake. There is also an extra charge of $25 for each additional person staying in a room above the standard double occupancy.
Sometimes paying more for a room just for a few extra amenities or a slightly better view out the windows certainly does not make sense. However, after the time and effort it takes to get to Crater Lake, and considering the exceptional view of the this one-of-a-kind natural wonder, paying for a lake view room is well worth the extra charge. There is nothing on earth like seeing the sun rising over the eastern rim of the Crater Lake caldera and splashing first light across the water to the lodge. It is something that you will not soon forget, if ever.
There are a myriad of outdoor activities available at Crater Lake National Park and the Crater Lake Lodge, from hundreds of hiking trails for beginners to expert hikers, to a sightseeing tour by vehicle around the rim loop road that circles the entire lake. But, one thing you should not miss in the summer time if you have the endurance to hike down to the water's edge is the Volcano Boat Cruise.
The boat cruise takes off from the Cleetwood Cove boat ramp after a 1 mile hike down to the water from the rim area near the lodge. This is a strenuous hike both going down (on the knees) and coming back up after the cruise (on the calves and the thighs). You go down over 700 feet in elevation to get to the boat ramp. But, if you are in decent shape this hike should not be a problem.
The cruise itself takes about an hour and 45 minutes and circles the lake with a guide who describes the history and geology of the lake and caldera. The cruise is very interesting and informative and well worth the price of the ticket ($27 for an adult and $17 for a child). There are also cruises that stop on Wizard Island and let you off for an hour of exploration ($37 for an adult and $22 for a child). If you have the extra time, the Wizard Island drop off is an excellent extra treat. Standing on the cinder cone of a volcanic caldera filled with water is not something everyone can say they have done! Plus the view from Wizard Island is fabulous.
Anyone who comes to Crater Lake and claims not to be impressed is either soul dead or lying through his teeth. Crater Lake is a true wonder of the world, preserved from rampant development by Congressional mandate when it was still a pristine wilderness. The Klamath Indian tribe still regards it as a sacred site, the scene of an historic battle between the sky god and the god of the underworld which collapsed the mountain with its fury. What a sight it must have been when Mt. Mazama exploded 7,700 years ago, that witnesses handed down such vivid memories that they linger in the lore of their most distant descendants.
Crater Lake is nearly a perfect circle, six miles across and almost 2,000 feet deep. There is no natural inlet or outlet for the water; the lake was formed from accumulated snow melt from the average 533 inches of snow that falls here every year. The water in Crater Lake is among the purest in the world, and the view for visitors is of a place caught in time. Old growth forest, magnificent views of snowy peaks, hiking, camping, and just breathing the crystal-clear mountain air await. Crater Lake Lodge, a cross between tourist hotel and wilderness lodge, is the perfect spot to begin your appreciation of a place built by time.