Top Ten Offbeat Summer Parks

Crater Lake National Park
  |  Gorp.com
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon (Laura Ciapponi/Digital Vision/Getty)

Crater Lake National Park

183,000 acres

457,000 annual visits

Attractions: While few would argue that the primary reason for visiting Crater Lake is to witness the emerald waters of the namesake caldera- the six-mile-wide lake formed after the collapse of an ancient volcano—there are plenty of reasons to stick around once you've completed the 33-mile rim drive.

Due to its high altitude and incredible snow-pack (over 500 inches a year) the summer growing season at Crater Lake is very short. What this means for summer visitors is wildflowers—lots of wildflowers—in the stretch from mid-July to early August. If you're lucky enough to visit during this time, look for scarlet paintbrush, blue stickseed, cascade aster, spreading phlox, Anderson lupine, and scores of other budding beauties from the full range of the color spectrum.

Activities: Better bring your hiking boots. Crater Lake has 70 miles of maintained trails and 70 more that were once logging roads. A section of the Pacific Crest Trail runs through the park, and for outstanding views trek to the Watchman Fire Tower, a 3/4-mile hike to 8,000 feet. Boating on the lake is another popular pursuit.

Finding Solitude: Less than 1 percent of all visitors to this national park ever venture into the backcountry, a paltry number considering how much there is to see. If you're willing to stretch your legs and can time you trip appropriately, Crater Lake won't disappoint.


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