When Mount Mazama erupted over 7,700 years ago, the mountain collapsed onto itself, leaving a giant crater behind. That 5 mile by 6 mile crater is now filled with crystal clear water, known as Crater Lake. Right in the middle of Crater Lake is an island called Wizard Island, which is made up of erupted cinder cones. You can imagine the difficulty of getting onto the island, from the rim of what was once called Mount Mazama. Crater Lake is situated on top of a dormant volcano, meaning that it hasn’t erupted since 7,700 years ago, but it is expected to erupt again.
How to get Down to Crater Lake: There is only 1 way to get down to Crater Lake, and that is to hike down 1.1 miles. Do not expect to be able to drive directly to the lake, since there are no roads to get down there. Don’t forget, going down is an option, coming back up is a must! Give yourself plenty of time to hike back up. It’s a lot steeper than it looks. The Cleetwood Trail is the only trail that leads to the bottom of the lake safely. Do not attempt any other route.
How to get to Wizard Island: In order to get to Wizard Island, you must take a boat. There is a boat dock at the end of Cleetwood Trail. You must purchase your tickets in advanced due to limited seating. There are 2 options for a boat tour. First option is a 3-hour scenic boat tour only. While the second option includes the same scenic boat tour with an additional 3-hour stop at Wizard Island. The stop at Wizard Island allows for 3 hours of free time. While on the island, there are 2 hiking trails that can be explored. First being the Summit Trail which leads to the tip of the cinder cone that formed the island, and second trail leads to Fumarole Bay.
Hiking the Summit and back: Summit Trail to the top is a must. A 360 degree view of Crater Lake is possible while hiking all the way around the cinder cone. Once you’re up there, imagine this: You just hiked 1.1 mile down into a dormant volcano. You took a boat to an island made of cinder cones which was formed by a massive eruption. You hiked up that cinder cone, and now looking down inside of that volcanic cinder cone with 360 degree views of a lake. Don’t forget that lake is laying on top of another volcano that is expected to erupt again?! What did you get yourself into? Don’t let this deter you from going. Scientists from all over the world come to study this dormant volcano, and Crater Lake is not expected to erupt anytime too soon. Did you forget that once you get back on to the boat dock, you still have to hike back out of the crater?
What to expect: Outside of the 3-hour stop to Wizard Lake, there are many other things to look forward to before, during, and after your 6 hour boat tour.
1.) Cliff diving. If you’re adventurous on after a long 1.1 miles hike, take the trail to the end pass the restrooms and jump off at the end of the rock edge.
2.) Find yourself looking at the Devil Spine also known as the Devil’s Backbone. This long wall is a dike formed by molten lava.
3.) Phantom Ship. This elusive island on Crater Lake is called Phantom Ship for good reasons. While on the rim of Crater Lake, during certain times of the day and angle of viewing, Phantom Ship blends in so well with it’s surrounding, that it is almost impossible to see.
4.) Hoodoo. Similar to the formations of Bryce Canyon, this little Hoodoo formed in a very small area of Crater Lake. See if you can spot this.
5.) Old Man of the Lake. This 30′ log apparently has been floating in the lake for over a century. Don’t let the 4 foot stub sticking out of the water fool you. The log is floating and bobbing vertically since 1896. Look into the crystal clear water and see if you can see how long that log is.
6.) Crater Lake Drainage. This is the reason why Crater Lake doesn’t overflow. There’s a drainage near one of the mountains. See if you can spot this unique mountain formations where the drainage starts.
7.) Take a dip in the water from the Wizard Island boat dock. If you’ve hiked the Summit Trail, take a dip in the water from Fumarole Bay or just along the boat dock. Make sure to steer clear as soon as you hear the boats coming.
8.) Deepest Lake in the US. Look for the buoy what is tied down to the deepest part of the lake at over 1,900 feet deep. This is the 7th deepest lake in the world!
9.) Expect crystal clear water. Because the water are the run-offs from melting snow, the water is super pure.
10.) Find some crawdads! This lake is full of them with no real predators. Shouldn’t be hard to get your hands on one of those.