Crater Lake National Park
Distance: 2.2 miles Time: 2 hours Type: There and back
Crater Lake in Oregon is blue - very blue. In fact, it's said to contain some of the bluest water in the world. A short video at the park visitor centre forewarns you of the lake's 'dazzling' beauty and explains its unique history.
A caldera lake, Crater formed after the collapse of Mount Mazama, a huge volcano which erupted only 7,700 years ago. The eruption was an enormous event - an explosion 42 times larger than the St Helens eruption in 1980. It deposited ash as far away as British Columbia and Alberta in Canada and left a layer that covered all of Oregon.
There are no rivers that flow into the resulting caldera - the water that forms the lake accumulated over hundreds of years from rainfall and snow. That means the water is extremely clear and remarkably blue in the sunshine. There has obviously been a lot of rain and snow over the years - Crater is also the deepest lake in the US.
The hike to Cleetwood Cover is the only walk that offers access to the lake shore. It's a simple descent from a car park on the north side of the rim that takes a little under an hour in each direction.
At the bottom of the trail there is a small jetty, from where in the summer you can take a boat to Wizard Island (pictured above), the remnants of a small volcano that rose from the lake long after the main mountain had collapsed. As we visited Crater just after the season had finished we were unable to go to the island, but were content basking by the water's edge and taking in the autumnal sunshine.
It's well worth making the walk down to the lake shore for a different vantage of the crater from the rim viewpoints, as well as the chance to see that clear blue up close.
Here is a link to a map of the park: