Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
The Perfect Getaway for Outdoor Enthusiasts
The deepest lake in the Unites States isn't really a lake at all - it's a caldera, an enormous volcanic crater nearly six miles wide, with depths close to 4,000 feet. Crater Lake has been stunning visitors with its piercing blue waters for centuries now, and the thrill of gazing at the mirror-like waters never grows old. But Crater Lake National Park is certainly not for onlookers alone: this is a park full of hands-on, outdoor adventure. Experience the cornflower blue waters and the mysterious Wizard Island up-close and personal with a guided boat tour, or by scuba diving.
Paddle the Pacific
Anacapa Island in the Channel Islands National Park, just off the coast of Los Angeles, is home to some of the best kayaking on the West Coast. Rich with marine life and boasting the much-photographed Arch Rock, Anacapa is the perfect day trip or overnighter for the city dweller looking to get into some rough water. It’s a cliff island, so beware of winds, currents and fog.
Float the BorderThe mighty Rio Grande runs through Big Bend National Park in Texas, but it also represents the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Rafting down the river not only takes you through some eye-widening scenery, like 1500-foot deep canyons, but will also toss you back and forth across the border. 960 1280
Hit the Sandy Slopes
Colorado has Aspen, one of the most famous skiing destinations on the planet. It also has Sand Dunes National Park, one of the only sandboarding and sandsledding destinations on the planet. Slalom down the granular slopes like some diabolical combination of Jean-Claude Killy and Lawrence of Arabia. Hit the dunes early in the morning or late in the evening, lest you roast in the 150° midday heat. And don’t forget the lip balm.
Cold StorageThe upper regions of Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park have over 35 square miles of permanent ice and snow, providing a year-round paradise for hearty souls who consider ice camping a pleasure. If you’re going to stay the night on the mountain, securely lock your vittles to keep them from the clutches of foxes and other aggressive winter wildlife. 960 1280
Take in the LightsMinnesota's Voyageurs National Park sits just below the Canadian border and offers campers a ringside seat to the Northern Lights. Voyageurs encompasses 270 campsites only accessible by watercraft, but we recommend the remote Echo Lake Campground for best visibility. Check a variety of weather services to determine your best chance of seeing the Northern Lights. 960 1280
Yosemite GlidingIt may seem crazy, but people have been leaping off Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park for decades. Hang gliding was once sanctioned and overseen by park employees. These days the private Yosemite Hang Gliding Association coordinates it. 960 1280
The RaftersIf a weekend of seething whitewater just doesn’t cut it anymore, try an eight-day Grand Canyon raft trip down the Colorado River. There are a host of operators who will happily guide you down 200 miles of rapids. By the end of it, you’ll have seen Native-American ruins, mile-high cliff walls and countless eagles. 960 1280
Hit the Heights
Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park boasts rock formations that will set a climber’s mouth to watering. The 415-square-mile park is a full-service climbing destination, featuring opportunities for scaling rock, wall, ice and snow. Lumpy Ridge and Longs Peak are favorites of local and international climbers. Whether you are an experienced sport climber or a beginning boulderer, be safe and leave no trace of your visit.
Lost in AmericaIt makes sense that America’s largest national park is in Alaska, its largest state. Wrangell-Saint Elias stretches across 13,200,000 acres. You could fit Yellowstone, Everglades, and Death Valley inside it, and still have room for Denali, the third largest park (also in Alaska) at 6,075,030 acres. 960 1280
Take Me to the RiverIn addition to being the most popular hike in Zion National Park, the Narrows has something for every ability level over its 16 miles. The trail follows the Virgin River, which is convenient during the summer months, since you’ll be at least ankle-deep most of the time. If it starts to rain, head for high ground; flash floods are common and have a tendency to drop by without calling first. 960 1280
Extreme Adventures in our National Parks 10 Photos
Virgin Islands National Park, Virgin IslandsTurquoise water and gleaming white beaches at a national park? That's what you'll find if you venture outside of the US. The Virgin Islands National Park is home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Trunk Bay. 960 1280
Grand Canyon National Park, ArizonaIt's not easy to get to most Colorado River beaches, but consider a several-day rafting trip the highlight of your trip. Before you dive in you should know the water rarely gets above 60 degrees, but you probably won't mind in 100-degree heat. 960 1280
Best National Park Beaches in America 16 Photos
The lake lies in the midst of 249 square miles of protected wilderness ready to be explored, be it by foot, snowshoe or snowmobile. Easily accessible to tourists, the 33-mile Rim Drive covers the lake's perimeter and grants drivers views of the lake and surrounding environs. Within the park's territory it's not unlikely to see black bear, elk, Clark's nutcracker, even the elusive bald eagle. Tree lovers will enjoy the varieties of forest that comprise the park's wilderness - ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, mountain hemlock and whitebark pine zones are all represented. Many cold weather activities such as cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are available to visitors, but winter travelers, take note: from October to June it is not unusual to find the park's grounds covered in 10-15 feet of snow.
Crater Lake is a caldera, which is a volcanic crater with a diameter exceeding more than half a mile. This particular caldera formed when Mount Mazama of the Cascade Range viciously erupted 7,000 years ago, scattering ash as far away as Montana. The eruption was so powerful that the volcanic chambers emptied themselves of molten rock, leaving an empty shaft leading underground. The weight of the mountain collapsed into this void creating the 4,000-foot-deep caldera that has become Crater Lake.
Making the most of 10 to 15 feet of snow each winter can be quite a task, but Crater Lake National Park faces the challenge like an old pro. This is one of the snowiest regions in the entire northwest and winter sport enthusiasts find it a dream come true. Unplowed roads and open slopes are perfect for skiing, snowmobiling and checking out the gorgeous scenery. The warmer weather of spring and summer is perfect for fishing, swimming, hiking and especially a Volcano Boat Tour through the lake. These boats are the only ones allowed on the lake, and visitors can experience close-up views of Llao Rock, Phantom Ship and Wizard Island.
Where to Stay
Crater Lake Lodge reclines along the edge of the Crater Lake caldera, leaving guests little choice but to easily fall victim to the hotel's glorious environs. Refurbished in 1995, this lodge is considered by many to be the finest of all national park accommodations. Patios dotted with rocking chairs afford perfect vistas of the lake and Wizard Island, while the delightful Watchman Restaurant and Llao Rock Cafe sate the appetite.
Nearby Sights/Side Trips
Klamath County, home of Crater Lake National Park, is a little slice of heaven on earth, and well-worth exploring. In this land of outdoor adventure, it's not surprising to gaze skyward and see one of the area's 1,000 bald eagles soar overhead as visitors take advantage of stellar skiing, snowmobiling, hunting, fishing or hiking opportunities. Culture loverd won't be disappointed either, as Klamath County is also home to museums, theaterd, monuments and even a casino.