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Covered Bridges, Waterfalls and a Deep Blue Lake All in 3 Days

Covered Bridges, Waterfalls and a Deep Blue Lake All in 3 Days


avatar   Stacy
Trip Date 06/16/2019
Posted On 07/07/2020 09:45:00

Destinations | Camping | Oregon | Portland | Eugene | Chemult | Donuts | Alton Baker Park | Willamette National Forest | Salt Creek Falls | Crater Lake National Park | Covered Bridges



There's so many cool destinations within the city of Portland, Oregon that it may be difficult to pull yourself away. But, if you've got a few days for a road trip, Crater Lake National Park will not disappoint - especially in late spring or summer. Better yet, make a few stops in each direction so that you can make the most of your time on the road.

After a quick breakfast at one of Portland's favorite donut hangouts, you'll be on your way south. Stops at Alton Baker Park in Eugene and Salt Creek Falls in the Willamette National Forest give you two opportunities to enjoy a picnic lunch, stretch your legs and see some of the state's natural beauty. Next up is dinner and bed time - either in the park or at a nearby lodge in Chemult. You'll want a good night's rest so you're ready for a full day soaking in the amazing volcanic scenery at the national park.

For something a little different, see some of Oregon's covered bridges during your return drive to Portland. The entire journey from north to south and back north again will fill up the better part of three days. Whether you decide to make this a camping trip or enjoy the comforts of a hotel or cabin, you won't regret your journey away from the big city!

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Day 1: Travel from Portland toward Crater Lake National Park

Breakfast plus two sightseeing stops on your southbound trip make the drive much more interesting. If you're traveling with kids or a pet, the breaks are especially helpful to reduce the consecutive hours in a car. Even if you're traveling on your own or with other adults, the stops will help you to appreciate more of Oregon's natural beauty.


Southbound Route from Portland

Southbound Route from Portland

Start Your Day with Donuts for Breakfast Before Leaving Portland

For fun, start your trip off with a visit to a donut shop. There are plenty to choose from within the city of Portland. It seems like everyone has heard about Voodoo Doughnut. Since we had eaten there on a previous trip, we decided to try out Blue Star Donuts, another shop that comes highly recommended.


Voodoo Doughnuts

Voodoo Doughnuts

Blue Star Donuts

Blue Star Donuts

We had fun sampling some of their interesting donut flavors - all made from scratch every day. (They sell out of some flavors, so if you have your eye on a particular menu item, it's best to get there early.)

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Take a Mid-Day Break at Alton Baker Park

Less than two hours from Portland, spend some time exploring Alton Baker Park in Eugene. There's a dog park plus trails (both paved and natural) that are perfect for stretching your legs (or hiking, running and even biking). You can feed or watch the ducks in the duck ponds, enjoy a picnic and spend some time learning about and admiring the sculptures scattered around this fee free park.


Duck Pond at Alton Baker Park

Duck Pond at Alton Baker Park

A Few of the Many Sculptures around Alton Baker Park

A Few of the Many Sculptures around Alton Baker Park

Soak in the Beauty of Salt Creek Falls

If you are a sucker for waterfalls like we are, don't miss making a final stop on your southeast journey at Salt Creek Falls Observation Site and Picnic Area. If you have an Interagency Pass (such as the America the Beautiful Annual Pass), there's no entrance fee. Without a pass, entering the recreation area comes at a cost of $5.00 per passenger vehicle.

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Second in cascade height only to Multnomah Falls, Salt Creek Falls cascades 286 feet in a single drop. Awesome views of the waterfall can be found while hiking a gravel trail along the canyon rim as well as from an observation platform located walking distance from the parking area.


Salt Creek Falls

Salt Creek Falls

Enjoy Dinner and Settle in for the Evening

A variety of dining options and accommodation types are available inside the national park. Crater Lake Lodge, overlooking the lake at Rim Village offers more traditional hotel rooms. Located about seven miles south of Rim Village, the Cabins at Mazama Village are a tad bit more rustic. From primitive to full hookup RV sites, there's also camping available in the park.

If you are looking for budget hotel accommodations, we had a positive experience at Eagle Crater Lake Inn in Chemult. Since we were a group of four, we chose a two bedroom suite. At the time of our stay, the rate at this no-frills hotel included a basic breakfast buffet. There were a couple of nearby dining options and the national park is located about 25 miles away.

If you've never joined Booking.com to search for accommodations, check it out now. It's very easy - just go to Booking.com. By making a reservation through this link, The Wordy Explorers will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We truly appreciate your support!

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Day 2: Crater Lake National Park

At 1,943 feet deep, Crater Lake is the deepest in the country. Although Crater Lake National Park is open year round, there is nothing similar about the summer and winter visitor experience! Cloud cover during the rainy and snowy seasons make seeing the lake virtually impossible.


The Deepest Lake in the USA

The Deepest Lake in the USA

Believe it or not, big snowstorms can make an appearance in south central Oregon as early as the first day of October. Since it is solely snow and rain that feed the lake, it is during the winter months when most of the clean and clear water flows into the lake.

Awesome views of the beautiful lake are possible as early as May, however your best chances are in the three months starting in July. (As expected, July and August are also the two most crowded times to visit the park.) Navigating through parts of the park is impossible for over 1/2 of the year when some roads become trails for skiing or snowshoeing.


Crater Lake Makes a Beautiful Backdrop

Crater Lake Makes a Beautiful Backdrop

The South and West Entrances are both open year round. The North Entrance opens as early as mid-May, but may not open until late June. This entrance can close again as early as mid-October when it becomes a snowmobile trail. Although one day is not enough to truly see all that the park has to offer, it's better than no days. If your visit is during May or June, you might actually be able to see (but not hike) all that has opened for the season in just one day.

Without a National Park Pass, the fee for entering Crater Lake National Park is $30.00 per passenger vehicle between mid-May and October 31. During the remaining months of the year, the fee is reduced to $20.00. In both cases, the fee is valid for seven consecutive days of entering the park. (Prior to heading to the park, it is important to know that there are no gas stations within the park and cell phone coverage is extremely limited.)

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Learn More About Crater Lake at the Steel Visitor Center

Seeing panoramic photos of Crater Lake likely enticed you to want to explore the national park on your own. Once at the park, learning some of the lake's history will make your visit even more meaningful. Nearly every day throughout the year, you can head to the Steel Visitor Center to watch an introductory film. In addition to more recent amazing underwater scenes, the short movie also explains the lake's volcanic creation. Devoting less than 25 minutes of your visit to see "Crater Lake: Into the Deep" is time well spent!

Motor Slowly Along West Rim Drive

Rim Drive is a narrow scenic byway with some of the most amazing views in all of the United States. With over 30 pullouts located around the lake, a drive which could be completed in an hour will take more than twice that time to take in the scenery and exhibits.

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Unfortunately, the entire 33-mile long drive is typically open for less than 1/3 of each year (early July through late October). Since 2004, annual cumulative snowfall has ranged from 16 to 56 feet along Rim Drive. The snow-packed and icy roads are used for skiing and snowshoeing until bulldozers and a rotary blower begin clearing them (usually in April).


Snowbanks Remaining During our June 15 Visit

Snowbanks Remaining During our June 15 Visit

In the years with the lightest snowfall, West Rim Drive can open by mid-May. The opening has been delayed as late as June's month-end in those years with heavier snow. (We lucked out with the West Rim Drive opening on the day of our visit.) The East Rim Drive always opens later (mid-June to late July). West Rim Drive has closed as early as mid-October while East Rim Drive sometimes closes in early October.

To allow drivers a better opportunity to enjoy the scenery, a limited number of ranger-guided trolley tours are offered when Rim Drive is open. The two hour long tours depart from Rim Village and make stops at five or more of the overlooks.

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Rim Village Visitor Center and Sinnott Memorial Overlook

The Rim Village Visitor Center and bookstore are open from late May through late September. On a clear day, the view of the entire lake from Rim Village is unbeatable.


Crater Lake from Rim Village

Crater Lake from Rim Village

If you don't mind walking along a steep walkway which includes stairs, be sure to stop at the Sinnott Memorial Overlook. In addition to indoor exhibits, there's a relief model and outdoor exhibits in the overlook (located on a ledge behind the Visitor Center). Between late June and late September, you may get lucky and have your visit coincide with a Ranger talk.


Sinnott Memorial Overlook

Sinnott Memorial Overlook

Discovery Point

Getting from the Visitor Center to Discovery Point is a quick car ride. (Those visiting the park when the trail is open may also choose to hike just over one mile each way along Discovery Point Trail.) John Hillman, a mid-1800's gold prospector, unexpectedly rode by this area on the back of his mule. He described of what he saw as the "Deep Blue Lake".


The View from Discovery Point

The View from Discovery Point

Watchman Overlook

Over 7,000 years ago, the cinder cone known today as Wizard Island was formed when it erupted out of Crater Lake. To get the best view of this island in the middle of the lake, make a stop at Watchman Overlook.


Wizard Island from Watchman Overlook

Wizard Island from Watchman Overlook

Stop as Often as You Have Available Time on East Rim Drive

Sadly, East Rim Drive was not yet open during our June visit. We definitely hope to return to this national park. Based on all that we have read, our goal will be the following absolute must-see's on East Rim Drive:

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  • Located on a short 1 mile spur road off of the main drive, Cloudcap Overlook is on Oregon's highest paved road.
  • Find the medieval castle shaped layer of orange pumice rock from the Pumice Castle Overlook.
  • The oldest exposed rock can be seen from the Phantom Ship Overlook. This island within the caldera is 400,000 years old and is seemingly shaped like a sailboat.
  • Also located on a detour from Rim Drive, 100 foot tall spires can be seen from Pinnacles Overlook.
  • Known as Vidae Falls, a 100 foot drop starts as a spring-fed creek which flows over a glacier-carved cliff followed by a number of ledges.

Dinner at Diamond Lake Junction Cafe

Before leaving the area, consider having dinner at Diamond Lake Junction Cafe. Located in Chemult on Highway 97, it's one of the closest restaurants to the park. We had a great dinner served by a very friendly staff.

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Day 3: Return Travel to Portland

The state of Oregon is home to over 50 covered bridges - more than any other state in the western United States. Luckily, with a little advance planning, it's possible to see several of them on the return drive to Portland without adding any additional expense (other than fuel) to the cost of your getaway.


Return Travel Route to Portland

Return Travel Route to Portland

Before checking off five of the bridges, we marveled at the scenery as we drove through the Willamette National Forest and past Diamond Peak.


Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak

Lowell Covered Bridge

A perfect first stop on any journey to see some of Oregon's covered bridges is Lowell Covered Bridge Interpretive Center. Originally built in 1907, the bridge was rebuilt in 1945 after a truck accident caused extensive truss damage.

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At 24 feet across, it is the widest of Oregon's covered bridges. Car traffic was moved to a concrete bridge in 1981. After being refurbished, today's pedestrian only bridge opened in 2006 as the home to a regional covered bridge interpretive center. There's parking, restrooms and a picnic area with great views of the lake.


Lowell Covered Bridge

Lowell Covered Bridge

Unity Covered Bridge

Built in 1936, today's Unity Covered Bridge replaced the original 1890 bridge crossing over Falls Creek. In 1986, the bridge was painted, piers and guardrails were repaired and the flooring was replaced. A new roof was installed in 2014, and cars continue to drive through the bridge on their trek across the creek. You can't miss the unique full length window on the bridge's east wall.


Unity Covered Bridge

Unity Covered Bridge

Covered Bridge at Covered Bridge Estates

We stumbled upon the bridge at the corner of W. 4th St. and N. Moss St. by the Covered Bridge Estates neighborhood. Located on the roadside, the small covered bridge is pedestrian only.


Roadside Covered Bridge

Roadside Covered Bridge

Cannon Street Covered Bridge

Located in Rolling Rock Interpretive Park in Lowell, the tiny Cannon Street Covered Bridge is the smallest in the region. The park, host to Dexter Lake Farmers' Market on Sundays (12:00 Noon - 4:00 PM) between June and September, can be found at the intersection of Main and Pioneer Streets. In addition to the footbridge, restrooms and a picnic area, the park pays tribute to the railroad industry with a 1929 caboose play area and a "railroad track" path.


Cannon Street Covered Bridge

Cannon Street Covered Bridge

Parvin Covered Bridge

Parvin Covered Bridge is named for Salina and James Parvin, pioneer settlers whose 1880's homestead was located near the original bridge. After failing a 1917 inspection, a new single lane bridge was built in 1921. Changes to the traffic flow in the 1970s caused the bridge to convert to pedestrian only. It remained that way until 1986 when increased interest in the state's covered bridges persuaded the county to repair and reopen the bridge for motor vehicles.


Parvin Covered Bridge

Parvin Covered Bridge

In addition to driving through the bridge, try to find a nearby place to park. A short hike down to Lost Creek will give you a new perspective - the bridge's underbelly!

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Unpack and Relive Your Memories

Once you make it back to your starting point, it's time to unpack from your two night getaway. As you prepare for your next adventure, grab a bite to eat and reminisce about your fun-filled three day adventure!

Day Trips from Portland

If you don't have several days to devote to visit Crater Lake National Park during your Portland vacation, consider seeing some of the surrounding area on a day trip. 3 Magnificent Day Trips from Portland, Oregon gives you options for single day journeys taking you away from the heart of the city. A drive to the Northern Oregon Coast allows you to see a small part of the Pacific Coast. The Historic Columbia River Highway was the first ever scenic roadway planned for the United States. If you are more interested in the mountains than the water, check out the round trip drive along the Mount Hood Scenic Byway.

Favorite Oregon Scenery

Where is your favorite place to enjoy the stunning scenery found within the state of Oregon?




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Covered Bridges, Waterfalls and a Deep Blue Lake All in 3 Days







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