Southern Oregon is home to many natural wonders but perhaps none as breathtaking as Crater Lake. While I had seen it from the air on various flights out of Portland and Seattle, it was just recently that I got an up-close look. The scene from the bluff top rim is a combination of the Grand Canyon and Lake Tahoe.
We drove up to Crater Lake from the Medford area, just an hour and a half to the west. This is an easy drive with good roads all the way as you pass by the Rogue River and head into a redwood forest. At the top lies the Crater Lake Lodge and Village set on the rim hundreds of feet above this giant caldera lake that evolved from a volcano. Not only is it the deepest lake in the U.S., but it might be the most colorful with its deep blue waters.
The Crater Lake Lodge and Village will remind you of a smaller version of the Grand Canyon Village and its El Tovar Hotel. We noticed tourists from around the world taking in the magnificent views stretching across this six-mile-long lake. The lodge is a classic National Park hotel with a drop-dead setting. One could easily spend a few hours here and out back taking in one of the world’s greatest views.
Those more adventurous might want to opt for one of two hikes along the rim that start at the lodge. To the east is the tougher Garfield Peak hike, which could take up to three hours as it winds up and down this hilly side of the bluff. We chose the easier Discovery Point hike to the west. This brought us closer to Wizard Island down below, and with the 7,000 foot altitude we still got a good workout. Looking down at Wizard Island and the pristine blue waters, I was reminded of Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay.
Getting a reservation at the Crater Lake Lodge is very difficult and requires planning up to a year in advance. Making Medford your home base allows a great deal more flexibility. The downtown area has undergone an extensive renovation over the past decade but has kept its historic Western theme while offering many great restaurants. The farm-to-table fresh cuisine available here provides a perfect way to start or end a day at Crater Lake. To plan ahead check out ElementsMedford.com.
Elements, a Tapas bar and lounge, was just what the doctor ordered as we finished our day at Crater Lake. The very comfortable venue serves great small plates inspired by the Andalucia region of southern Spain. In that spirit I decided to try a glass of Prado Rey Verdejo and am now a convert. This is the dry white I have been looking for all these years. The food was excellent, and the small plate concept allowed us to try different things. From flatbreads to mahi mahi, it was all perfectly prepared and very pleasing to the pallet.
The next day we stopped for early lunch at the Downtown Market. This quaint venue is a specialty food market offering gourmet delicacies. It is also the best place for lunch in Medford with indoor and outdoor seating in the back of the market. We dined on baby back ribs and their California flatbread, which came with bacon, avocado, and tomatoes. Surely Medford has reached a new level in food quality, and it is not hard to see why the Downtown Market is so popular.
By Courtesy Photo