Views around the Rim of Crater Lake
As usual, Jave and I always try to squeeze way too much into our short getaways. This time, it kind of bit us in the butt. After visiting California’s Del Norte Coast, we spent a night in Grants Pass, OR, and the next morning we got up at the crack of dawn to make our way to Crater Lake National Park for the day.
We were scheduled for a 10:30am Crater Lake Rim Drive tour with Crater Lake Trolley Tours, and having endured a bunch of back and forth with the tour company’s archaic reservation process while planning the trip, I wanted to make sure that we left in plenty of time to make the hour and a half drive to Crater Lake.
Until my alarm clock went off early that morning, it hadn’t hit me that I had no idea where we were supposed to meet for the tour, and after checking the tour company’s website and calling them only to find that the reservation office was closed for the day, I still had no idea. So I decided to call the concierge at the Crater Lake Lodge in hopes that they’d know where we were supposed to meet. We were told that we could simply drive up to the lodge and park there as the trolley tour company was just a short walk away.
Cool! We were on our way. The drive to Crater Lake National Park was stunningly beautiful with acres and acres of verdant farmland, the refreshing waters of the Rogue River rushing past, and the colorful first signs of the fall foliage. We resisted the urge to stop for pictures since we were so pressed for time and were relieved when we finally made it to the park’s entrance at 10:20am with ten minutes to spare. But our navigation system told us that we still had another ten or so miles to drive to reach the lodge, so we stepped on it.
But I had to slow down as the roads began to narrow the further up we drove, and when we finally caught our first glimpse of Crater Lake, I slowed down even more. Not necessarily because we wanted to take the time to admire the lake’s beauty, but because the sudden sight of the lake was downright intimidating. Imagine, on one side of the narrow road you have a steep drop off into the deepest lake in the U.S. at 1,943 feet deep, and on the other side of the road you have a steep drop off the mountain into slopes of trees. A bit nervous, I rebuffed Jave’s offer to drive (he’s one of those drivers who likes to take his eyes off the road to admire the scenery), and I took the liberty of driving in the middle of the road, only moving to my lane at the sight of an approaching car.
By this time, it was 10:30am on the nose.
“The tour company will give us at least a ten minute grace period,” I told Jave as he made call after dropped call to the lodge in hopes that they could reach out to the tour company on our behalf to alert them that we were minutes (or so we thought) away. “I mean, it would only be right for them to give people a grace period,” I said trying to convince myself.
When our navigation told us we had finally reached our destination, we were flabbergasted to find that there was no lodge on either side of the road. So I called the lodge in hopes that they could give us some clearer instructions on how to reach them considering that their address clearly wasn’t correct in Google Maps and considering that there were ZERO signs on the sides of the road confirming that we were on the right path to the lodge.
“Yeah, lots of people aren’t able to navigate to us,” the lodge’s concierge told me when my call finally went through. Gee, that’s something you’d think they’d make clear on their website!
“But we’re 11 miles from Cleetwood Cove Trail.” he said.
I didn’t realize just how unhelpful the concierge’s directions were until I hung up the phone. Eleven miles which way?!
At this point, we remembered that we were given a map upon entering the park, and when we took a look at it, we realized that the lodge, and hence the trolley company, was right next to Rim Village – another 30 or so minutes up the mountain from where we were.
Feeling defeated, Jave gave the concierge one final call to see if the tour had, in fact, left us. It had.
After a few expletives, we resolved that we’d just take our sweet time and give ourselves a self-guided Crater Lake rim drive tour as opposed to taking the afternoon trolley tour. Fortunately, we hadn’t paid in advance. We also decided that we still wanted to visit the lodge since its balcony is the best place to take a coffee break and take in views of the lake.
Somehow, despite our long journey and our missed trolley drama, we still managed to enjoy Crater Lake. I mean, how couldn’t you? Just look at it…
The lesson: If taking a trolley tour, allow yourself plenty of time to reach Crater Lake Lodge. And don’t get giddy when you finally reach the entrance to the park – you still have about another half an hour or so to drive uphill towards Rim Village before you reach the lodge, so plan accordingly.