One of the main activities at Crater Lake National Park is touring the scenic Rim Drive. This touring route goes completely around the rim of the big crater and there is plenty to experience along the way. State Road 62 intersects with the Rim Drive on both the north and south end of the volcano crater, so this road is the dividing line for the east rim and west rim. The East Rim Drive and the West Rim Drive are often done as two separate tours, because it can take two full days to explore all of the points of interest on both sides of Crater Lake.
Camping in the National Park is the best way to go if doing an extensive two day tour of the crater rim is in the plans. Starting early will enable beating the large crowds. The number of visitors sure do increase dramatically as afternoon rolls around, because most of the casual tourists are day trippers that come from a long distance away. Starting early will result in finding more peace and quiet on the many hiking trails and scenic overlooks around the Crater Rim. When the crowds get too thick, that is the time to call it a day and take on the other half of the crater the following morning.
This kind of two day Crater Lake touring plan may sound ideal, but there is always is a chance of an unforeseeable event that will throw a few kinks into the mix. During my visit, the early morning start after camping on site went as planned, but the tour had to be cut short because of a big event that snarled up traffic shortly after dawn. About a dozen big bicycling clubs were having a rally on the Rim Drive around the entire big crater. Because there are few bike lanes, the tour of the west rim slowed down to a crawl and every scenic overlook area was converted into a bike rider watering station. I was in no hurry, so the situation was easy to deal with, but it did take some patience when trying to photograph the majestic Crater Lake. Things like this do happen at Crater Lake and it takes doing some research ahead of time to find out when big events take place so the crowds can be avoided.
Fortunately, Crater Lake is so large that there is still plenty of breathing room to be found even on a busy crowded day. All along the rim are hiking trails that offer an opportunity to get away from the road to enjoy a peaceful view of this deep blue lake that sits in the middle of an ancient volcano cone. Upon first sight, be prepared to stand and stare in awe because Crater Lake truly is a magnificent sight to see!
Along the West Rim Drive, the views of the mysterious Wizard Island are best. In this area the bare crater rim looks as it did way back when this volcano blew its top and the cliff top perches also offer dramatic views. There are several picnic areas along the West Rim Drive that are perfect for lazing the day away under the tall trees. Mother Nature is all around and some unique shelf mushrooms can be seen in this high elevation. When walking the pathways, it will become evident that the Striped Ground Squirrels own this place, because they comically become territorial as visitors pas by. These cute little squirrels do bite, so it is better to offer the aggressive ones a shoe to chew on, rather than a finger!
After moving along at a snail's pace while following the bicyclists in the rally all morning, the West Rim Drive tour came to an end and I decided to move on to Mount St Helens. Saving the East Rim Drive tour for another day was the best option, which is as good excuse as any to plan a return visit to this majestic place! Crater Lake certainly is a one of a kind destination where patience is a virtue on a busy day. Be sure to pack a good camera for the ride and share the amazing photos back home, because all it takes is one look to be captivated by this amazing place!
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