1. Crater Lake
Crater Lake at 1,949 feet is the deepest lake in United States and ninth deepest lake in the world. The deep blue color makes this lake exceptionally beautiful and unique. The fact that it was created by a massive volcanic eruption between 6,000 and 8,000 years ago that caused an estimated 12,000 feet mountain to collapse into a crater, which was later filler with rain and glacial melt water, makes it even more intriguing to me. Crater Lake was on our to-visit list for a very long time. We were so glad to finally make it there. 🙂
A scenic loop runs all around that you can drive on to get magnificent views of the lake. If you’re up for slightly moderate to strenuous hiking, I would recommend hiking up the Watchman Peak and/or Mt. Scott for spectacular sunset views.
Another activity that I highly recommend is a Lake cruise around Crater Lake. The tour offers a ranger-led commentary on history and geology of the lake and beautiful views up-close. The best part for me was a point where the lake bottom sharply drops to over 1000 feet from a depth of 50 feet and you can clearly see the difference in water colors – green where it’s shallow and deep blue where it drops to 1000 ft. Do book in advance as it usually sells out.
A short but strenuous trail called Cleetwood Cove takes you down to the lake shore and boat dock where all boat rides start from. If you fancy swimming in this deepest, bluest, clearest lake, you sure have cliff jumping/diving spots here as well as spots to get into the lake for a quick swim. It’s definitely an experience of a lifetime.
Where to stay?
We stayed in Mazama campground inside the park which had a very serene setting. We loved gazing at the milky way while sipping wine at our campsite. Sleeping under stars is the most awesome thing ever. Another option is to stay at the Crater Lake Lodge which has a great location (it directly overlooks the lake). The lodge also offers good dining/eating options.
Whether you choose to bask under moonlight in a campsite or settle for a cosy room in the lodge overlooking the spectacular crater lake, do plan ahead so you could get one of these accommodations inside the national park.
2. Newport and Yaquina Head and Lighthouse
Highway 101 winds down the entire Oregon Coast and is surely one of the most beautiful and enjoyable drives in US. You could easily spend 2-3 days doing the stretch from Port Orford to Astoria. We combined our trip to crater lake with Oregon coast drive and kept a day for the stretch from Newport to Cannon Beach. The coastline was stunning with scenic beaches and postcard-pretty coastal villages on the way. We loved the touristy town of Newport with all it’s charming cafes, cute bookshops and hundreds of sea lions nestling on it’s shore. Right after Newport was Yaquina Bay State Park which was a highlight of our trip. Yaquina Head is one of the most marvelous and diverse natural areas we could have hoped to find. We spent most of our time here at Pebble Beach tidal pools enjoying the company of seals, otters, starfish and a shore full of clam beds.
Right after Yaquina Head is Depoe Bay- a small sleepy town famous for whale sightings. We didn’t spot a whale here but had a delicious seafood lunch at a restaurant called tidal raves. The food was amazing and so were the views.
3. Three Capes Scenic Drive
Whether you are short on time like us or not, I highly recommend taking this detour from 101 for three capes scenic drive. The loop goes through spectacular stretches where you will drive with pacific ocean on one side and Tilamook bay on other.
The drive starts with Cape Kiwanda, goes through Cape Lookout and ends at Cape Meares. Our favorite was Cape Meares. It had a beautiful lighhouse, green and misty walking trails and beautiful views of pacific. There is also a gazebo at the lookout point that you can reserve for private celebrations.
To learn more about the cute towns on the coast, see here