When doing a volcano tour of the west, the majestic Crater Lake National Park simply must be placed at the top of the list! This is a fascinating National Park and it is very easy to spend extra time in this place because the setting is so picturesque. By only doing a day trip venture at Crater Lake, there will likely be a feeling of cutting things short, so it is best to plan on spending a few days in this vast wilderness from the start. Camping on location is the best option for getting a jump start on the day and there are a few nice options to choose from.
Crater Lake National Park is located on south central Oregon and this park is surrounded by vast National Forests. There are only a few highways in this region, so figuring out how to get there is fairly easy to do. Arriving at the south entrance on State Road 62 is best for those who prefer to camp inside the park, because one of the best National Park campgrounds can be found along this parkway. The south entrance parkway also offers unique views of important geological features in this volcanic terrain, which act as a primer course.
Along State Road 62 there are several interesting scenic overlooks on the way into the park. The south end of the park is heavily forested and the trees are tall enough to touch the sky. The Ponderosa Pines and fir trees certainly are magnificent to see and all it takes is a few steps into these woods to completely disappear in the maze of tall trees. The deep forest along the road is the high ground and the edge of the woods overlooks a deep glacial canyon that the Annie Creek runs through. The canyon rim scenic overlook areas offer views of the ancient volcanic bedrock, which is mostly composed of volcanic pumice in this area. Since pumice is basically glass, it erodes in a unique way that creates dramatic shapes. The pumice canyon along the entrance parkway is well worth taking some extra time to ponder over, so it pays not to be in a hurry to get inside the park. There are picnic tables along the canyon rim and there are hiking trails that go to hidden viewpoints, so this end of the park can be a real adventure.
Mazama Village is located next to the southern entrance gate, which is a nice convenience for road weary travelers. This village is a lodge resort, dining facility, general store, gas station and campground all wrapped up in one neat package, so a visitor can find every necessity in one place. Mazama Village is operated by an upbeat concessionaire company, so the entire property is well organized.
For those who prefer camping indoors, the Mazama Lodge accommodations are comfortable and the rustic cabin rentals in the woods are even better. Reservations must be made well ahead of time for the cabins because they are in such high demand. For tent campers and RV enthusiasts, the first stop should be the general store because this is where the campground concierge is located. The campground concierge desk is where campsite reservations are confirmed and this is where any available campsites are assigned to the walk-in guests. Crater Lake can be very busy during the summer season, so making campsite reservations is a must.
The Mazama Campground is definitely one of the best that the National Park service has to offer. This campground is well organized and the facilities are top notch. There is ample space, so the campsites are not packed together. For this reason Mazama does not impart an overcrowded feeling, even when at full capacity. Each campsite has a fire ring, picnic table and a bear safe food storage locker. There are RV slips and campsites with tent pads, so be sure to mention what style of camping you will be doing when checking in with the camp concierge.
Being bear safe is important when touring the northwest because this most definitely is big bear territory. For novices, it is best to research this topic ahead of time or carefully read the bear safe literature at the park. For camping, the bear safe rules mostly apply to food storage, the meal preparation area and the dining location. The triangle rule is good for bear safe camping, but this may not be possible in a big campground. Basically, the triangle rule states that the meal prep area should be at least 50 yards away from the tent and so should the food storage location. Absolutely no food, flavored beverages or anything aromatic should be inside the tent, because this is what attracts bears. These wild animals are big enough to eat a snoozing camper in a sleeping bag like a burrito, so you really do not want to have food anywhere near where you sleep! Using the locking bear safe food storage boxes obviously is the way to go at Mazama.
The benefit of waking up at the Mazama Campground early in the morning is the opportunity to get a jump start on touring the rim of Crater Lake. Since the majority of tourists only do a day trip to this National Park just to drive around the volcano rim, an early riser at the campground will have a great advantage. Because the Crater Lake is out in the middle of nowhere, the day trippers usually do not start arriving till about nine or ten in the morning. What this means is there will be plenty of elbow room for campers that rise and shine. This is reason enough to reserve a cozy campsite inside the park when planning a tour of Crater Lake!
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