Oregon’s Crater Lake is blue—really blue. At 1,943 feet, it’s the deepest lake in the U.S. and the seventh-deepest in the world, and it also has some of the clearest fresh water found anywhere on the planet. But the landscape around it is what makes it truly exceptional, with tall, sharp peaks rising from all sides thanks to the eruption of Mount Mazama many, many years ago. It’s a gorgeous place to visit, and for the most memorable views, you’ll have to hike the steep and family-friendly Mt. Scott trail.
What: Crater Lake makes for some of the most incredible views available in the U.S. National Park system, and its Mt. Scott trail leads you to its highest point (the 10th-highest peak in the Oregon Cascades) and one of the only places you can get a sweeping panorama of the entire lake and the acute peaks all around it.
Where: Trailhead begins off East Rim Drive, approximately 14 miles east of the Park Headquarters.
The stats: Difficult, 5 miles round trip, approximately three hours, 1,250 feet of elevation gain. Open mid-July through October, $10 entrance fee. No pets on the trails.
What to do: Start off at the trailhead and follow a shallow ascent through dry grass fields and a peppering of trees until you reach the base of the mountain. From here, it’s a series of very steep switchbacks until you make it to the fire tower at the top of the mountain. You’ll go back the way you came (unless you’re one of the skiers who lugged their skis all the way up for a trim down the remaining snow patches!).
How to get there: Coming from the west, take Highway 62 East to the south park entrance. From the east, take Highway 62 up from the southeast entrance or take Highway 138 from Diamond Lake Junction to the north entrance. Follow signs for the East Crater Rim Drive and look for the Mt. Scott Trailhead. Parking is available right off Rim Drive.
What to bring: Sneakers or light hiking boots, snacks, plenty of water, hiking poles if you need them, a hat, and a camera.
Do: Try to spot the Phantom Ship, which is a small island in the middle of the lake that looks just like a pirate ship with its sails up, or Wizard Island, a cinder cone that erupted after the lake started filling up with water.
Don’t: Feed the ground squirrels that are all over the park. They’re already way too comfortable with humans. Don’t add to the problem (I know, it’s hard to resist).