Farewell Bend Campground:
Matt has always wanted to visit Crater Lake, so jumped at the opportunity to incorporate this destination into our travels. We had a very rainy, long day of driving into the campground where we were staying: Farewell Bend Campground. It’s just north of Union Creek and Prospect, OR and about a 30 minute drive from the West Rim of Crater Lake. Setting up in the rain is no fun, but thankfully the rain let up the following day around noon.
There are no hookups, and no WiFi or cell signals for many miles, so this truly was a boondock (dry) camping situation for us! Matt took advantage of the solar panels he put on our trailer roof and the supplemental panels we keep in the back of the truck to help power our rig so we could minimize the need for our generator. The temperatures were getting down there at night, so we were thankful to have both energy sources to keep the rig warm at night.
Downloaded items didn’t exactly work out the way we had planned, so we took advantage of a scant signal at Crater Lake to get Internet access, but overall we did pretty well with our “off the grid” stay. It definitely helped that we DID get a signal for a classic rock radio station, which kept us sane, connected to the outside world and lightened the mood when back at the trailer.
Just south of the campground is the Rogue River Gorge, where the river joins contributory creeks and drops precipitously though a large chasm in the rocks. The area is riddled with lava tubes as well, which make natural land bridges across the water, including a notable one about 2 miles south of our campground. There are trails all along the Rogue River and the adjoining Union Creek. It was lovely to enjoy the warm weather during the day, and the fall colors setting in on the vine maples, beaked hazelnut and dogwood trees along the river’s edge.
If you can’t get a site here, there are several campgrounds along highway 230/62 that you can choose from. I was astonished at just how many there were, to be honest. In the Union Creek area there are also cabins to rent, a general store, Becky’s Cafe for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the town of Prospect is about 15 minutes further south. Even if you don’t go to Crater Lake, the Rogue River Siskyou National Forest is a great area for hiking, mountain biking, fishing and just plain relaxing. If you haven’t been, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the campgrounds nearby, and they appear to be open from spring through fall, during which time I’m confident the area remains just as gorgeous as ever.
Crater Lake National Park:
We were a little concerned that we might not be able to get up to the rim of Crater Lake, because we knew it had recently snowed on the day we drove in as well as part of the following day. But, we waited two days until the weather had turned nice and decided to drive up in the afternoon when we knew the temperatures were warm enough to start melting most of the snow that had fallen.
The drive up was quite relaxing and to our surprise and delight, we had indeed come late enough in the season that the park wasn’t a zoo…at least not during the middle of the week. 😊 The rim still had a few inches of snow on the ground, but was melting fast. However, the trails were a little too slick for our liking, so we wandered along the Discovery Point Trail that runs from the Rim Village along the west rim for a few miles. The lake truly is breathtaking. I have never seen a lake so vividly blue and clear, and with a backdrop of mountaintops covered in snow, it was a sight to behold.
The only downside to coming this time of year is that they shut down the Mazama Village and campgrounds further down near the park entrance, and eventually will close the north and east entrances toward Crater Lake, making your options more limited during the wintertime to enjoy the area. I did, however, get a laugh out of the sign as you approach the Mazama Village and campgrounds. I felt like you could interpret the sign to mean “Obey all rules, or the bears will enforce them for you.” 😂
We resolved to come back in a few days since we knew the weather was going to get even warmer, allowing for time to melt the snow before attempting any hiking. We came back on Friday, and even then the line to get in was quick to move and there weren’t that many people at the top. We easily found space in the parking lots and did a brief hike up The Watchman Peak Trail, which gives you an even more spectacular view of the lake and surrounding mountains, including Mt McLoughlin and Union Peak to the south and the emerald green inlets of water surrounding Wizard Island in the northwest part of Crater Lake. We also took a jaunt over to Sun Notch heading toward the East Rim for a short loop and great view of the Phantom Ship island on the south side of Crater Lake. 🏔
Overall, I recommend checking out this volcanic, subalpine region of Oregon, especially during the shoulder season, like we did. In fact, I was motivated to do a little road biking while here after seeing how sparsely traveled Highway 62 was heading to the park. I did a test ride part of the way up on Thursday, then scouted out the remaining distance and elevation gain on Friday, and surmised that if I left early, I could do the entire 46-mile round trip to the West Rim and back. 23 miles and 3800 feet of elevation gain later, I bought a postcard at the Rim Village gift shop to deliver to a friend at the national park post office a few miles down and bombed down the remaining descent back to the campground. Seeing the longer line coming into the park that Saturday, I was thankful we were able to do our visiting during the week. I felt very safe the whole time, and the temperatures were perfect for a ride that climbs, climbs, climbs, then descends, descends, descends. 🚴♂️
Normally I would do my BestPlaces rundown, but we didn’t spend enough time in the nearby towns to provide any color on the area. It was a quick stop for us, but well worth the effort and time. I will make up for my lack of info when we hit the Bay Area, as I spent over 15 years of my life there and can certainly provide the many pros and cons to this popular metropolitan west coast paradise.
We are heading to California now to visit with dear friends, and I recently realized we will be spending almost the entire month of October in this lovely state! 😯 I look forward to sharing more of our adventures as we head south toward the sun and warmth. It will be very interesting to spend most of our winter in warmer climes, and I’m curious to see how it will affect our inclination to hibernate. 😴 Adios for now. 👋