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Exploring the Pacific Northwest by RV

Helpful Tips on Traveling the Pacific Coast from California's Redwoods Through Washington's Olympic Peninsula
Article Date: August, 2008


 

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Crater Lake

Crater Lake is one of the unique jewels in the National Park system. Crater Lake is located high up in the Cascades. It's basically a dormant volcano that blew its mountain top off, creating a large crater. Because of its unique location it receives an amazing amount of snowfall every winter. Because of its cool high altitude the snow on the rim melts very slowly. In fact the rim roads around Crater Lake are generally not completely plowed until well into July, although access roads to the rim and facilities are open much earlier. 10 to 15 feet of snow is typical and the annual snowfall averages 533 inches, although the one year we went they had 655 inches that winter. The rim is filled with water. Each winter's new snowfall adds to the water level but each summer's evaporation equals that amount so the water level stays very constant from year to year. It's also constantly cold because at 1,943 feet in depth it's the ninth deepest lake in the world so the water temperature remains fairly constant and it's always cold. Later in July you can take a boat launch over to Wizard Island, which is a small volcanic island rising from the lake. More information on Crater Lake can be obtained from the National Park service website at www.nps.gov/crla.

Crater Lake is accessible from the south end via I-5. If coming up I-5 you can exit at Medford and take Oregon 62 north to Crater Lake. If you are approaching from the California redwoods on US-199 then you'll connect with I-5 at Grants Pass. From there you can head south a few miles to Gold Hill and take Oregon 234 over to Oregon 62 and then head north to the lake. Crater Lake has a campground but it's really not designed for a large class A motorhome. We chose to stay at Diamond Lake RV Park, which is just north of Crater Lake. It's very big rig friendly and nearby other great scenic areas as well.

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Crater Lake Lodge

The Crater Lake Lodge offers dining and accommodations. It is built right inside the rim so the view is spectacular. It's nearby the NPS visitor's center and concessions and also close to the park campground, which features laundry facilities and a general store and snack bar. It is located on the south end of the lake and the roads are open to this area from the south earlier in the year. The loop road around the lake won't be open until later July but if the last winter's snowfall wasn't too severe the west half road will be open around July 1st. If that road is open you can easily travel between the north and south ends of the park without taking the long detour. This will be helpful if you are staying at Diamond Lake to the north. Keep in mind that the boat launch will not be open until later in July though because the road to the launch is to the east of Crater Lake Village so if you are planning on taking the boat trip to Wizard Island plan your trip accordingly.

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Union Creek, Next to Beckie's

As mentioned earlier, Diamond Lake RV Resort has more to offer than just Crater Lake. It's right next to Diamond Lake but it's located on Oregon 138. Oregon 138 is strewn with US Forest Service sites. While Crater Lake is an awesome spectacle to see, there's actually more to see and do along the many USFS sites along highway 138. The office at Diamond Lake RV Resort gave us plenty of great information. There were lots of great hiking trails and waterfalls along 138 and the highlight was Toketee Falls. They also turned us on Beckie's Restaurant, which served excellent home made pies, which is always one of my biggest weaknesses. After having supper there and plowing down a few pieces of pie I was forced to take some extra back to the RV. The restaurant is located in a nice scenic location, right alongside Union Creek, just south of the junction between OR-230 and OR-62. A nature walk trail is provided along with viewing platforms over the rapids and cascades.

Our entrances to Crater Lake have always been from the redwoods. There are a ton of grades as you approach Crater Lake and you won't be setting any speed records climbing them with a large RV. When we left Diamond Lake we headed west on Oregon 138. It turned out that 138 was a much easier drive without the huge roller coaster grades that we experienced coming up 62 and 230. It was also more scenic as it gently wound through the Umpqua National Forest until we arrived at I-5 at Roseburg, Oregon. From there we chose to continue west to Coos Bay on Oregon 42. That part was fine but we wanted to go to Bandon so we exited 42 at Coquille and took 42S to Bandon. That was a mistake. The road was very narrow and had a constant ditch along our right side all of the way. Meeting oncoming traffic meant you had to be very careful. I don't think we'll take that way again. Next time we'll head to Coos Bay via Oregon 42 and fit Bandon into out schedule some place else. Ideally we would probably head up the coast to Coos Bay, then head over to Diamond Lake, return the same way, and then continue on northward up the coast.

 



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