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Two-Week Road Trip Through Oregon with Friends: Part 3

  • Written by Lindsey Huster
  •  / 
  • 11 min read
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  • Last updated a month ago

Keith and I continued our two-week road trip through Oregon with friends. Our agenda for the next few days would be to visit Crater Lake National Park and the surrounding area. It was Labor Day weekend and there had been fires in Northern California and Oregon so we weren't sure how this leg of the trip would pan out. Would there be holiday traffic and crowds, which roads were closed for fire danger, etc.?

The Highlight of my Trip

The day prior, we got a tip about Endert’s Beach from a ranger at the Hiouchi Visitor Center. It became the highlight of the entire trip for me!! As we started down the trail to the beach, I had high hopes of seeing a handful of starfish or sea anemones.

It was just before 8:00 a.m., a bit cloudy, and that time of the day just before everyone was out and about in the world. I am far from a morning person, but I do love this time of day. As we made our way down some large rocks and onto the sand, it wasn’t long before we saw massive tide pools bursting with invertebrate life; mussels, starfish, sea anemones, etc. We were all in amazement at the sheer number of sea life on the beach, this is a prime tide pooling spot.

As we continued along the beach, there was more and more to see. I knew immediately this would likely be the trip's highlight for me even though we were only halfway through and had some pretty big destinations coming up. What a way to start the day, especially when this was our “driving day” and there wasn’t a whole lot planned.

Keith and Lindsey are standing in front of a tide pool at Endert's Beach
Keith and Lindsey are standing in front of a tide pool at Endert's Beach

Old Town Bandon

The fires rerouted us back north towards Bandon and then East towards Crater Lake. This ended up giving us a chance to explore more of Bandon, specifically Old Town Bandon. This area boasts 10 square blocks "bursting with shopping, dining, history, art, culture, and outdoor fun."

We chose Tony's Crab Shack along the boardwalk to enjoy a fresh seafood lunch before we roamed through the shops. This was a great midday break from driving.  We missed this area when we came through Bandon a few days earlier so it was nice to get the chance to see the famous Old Town Bandon.

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Union Creek Resort

The remainder of the day was spent driving to Union Creek Resort, the closest reservation we could get to Crater Lake National Park for the next day. It’s recommended to stay in the park since it’s located in a remote area. We were pretty lucky to get these last reservations at the main lodge, which we booked 9 months prior. This was an interesting stay and honestly, the night before we arrived I read too many reviews and was a little worried about this lodging option.

I can’t say that any of the negative reviews that I read were true, at least not from what we experienced. I’m still not completely sure how I would rate this place though. It was unique and as long as you are prepared for the shared bathroom and showers, I think it is a good choice for visiting Crater Lake National Park. Plus, I’d stay there again!

There are also private cabins, which weren’t available when we booked. There were also some cute outdoor sitting areas that we just didn’t end up having time to take advantage of. We did eat dinner and Beckie’s Cafe across the street and again despite some bad reviews, we enjoyed our meals and the pie was delicious.

The Whole Day to explore Crater Lake National Park

It was day 8 and we had the whole day to see as much of Crater Lake National Park as possible! We started the day early and immediately were rewarded with spectacular views of the lake upon the first viewpoint. The cloudy, foggy morning skies parted just as we pulled up and we saw the view open up with fog curling over the mountainous rim.

Cleetwood Cove Trail to Crater Lake

We were not able to secure tickets to Wizard Island via the boat ride, but Keith and I wanted to hike down the Cleetwood Cove Trail to the lake. This is the only location to get into the water. Although we didn’t have time for a dip, we still sat on the rock edge and I put my feet in the water.

This was probably the second most memorable part of the trip for me. I’d been looking forward to this moment since we planned it and it did not disappoint. Since we arrived pretty early there were only a couple of people along the edge and it was so quiet I felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. Magical!

The trail is quite steep as it descends 700 feet (213 meters) in about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers). We were eager to get back to Jason and Kristen and continue the day so I pushed myself up the switchbacks and felt pretty accomplished by 10 a.m.

Watchman Lookout Trail and The Pinnacles

We spent the next several hours driving most of the 33-mile scenic drive around the rim of Crater Lake. There was a small section of the road that was closed so that required some backtracking. We were able to stop at most of the major viewpoints, along with the village area that includes food and gift shops.

Also on the agenda for the day was the Watchman Lookout Trail to the Lookout Tower. It was very foggy to start. We weren't sure if we'd even have a view once we reached the tower. However, much like the morning, the clouds parted and there was a great view of the lake! Another interesting stop was The Pinnacles. These spires of hardened volcanic matter are unlike anything else we saw in the park.

Wrapping Up the Day

We ended the day by having an early dinner and exploring a couple of local trails. Prospect Pizza is a small shop serving up handmade pizzas basically by the owner so it does take a bit, but was well worth it. We even ran into a trio of Rose Hulman college students. Keith graduated from Rose Hulman, a small engineering-focused college in Indiana, as did Kristen’s brother, so we instantly connected when we spotted their Rose Hulman sweatshirts. After dinner, we went to the Mill Creek Falls Scenic Area to hike to a waterfall and large boulder field. It was a great way to wrap up this busy day!

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While finding a link for Prospect Pizza, I read that the shop has permanently closed. This is sad to me because I have a great memory of being there. Also, there aren't many dining options in the area so that seems like a big loss to the community and travelers.
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Waterfalls and more Waterfalls

We had a big day at Crater Lake National Park so I think we were all a bit relieved to have another driving day with lots of fun stops, but nothing long or strenuous. Our first stop was Clearwater Falls, which wasn't a hike at all. Just park the car and you are there. These were unlike anything we’d seen. Mossy falls logs with flowing water on a hillside. There was another family there, so getting a group shot with their help was nice.

Toketee Falls was second on the agenda and boy did this deliver! About a half mile out and several sets of stairs will land you at one of the most famous waterfalls in Oregon. Quite busy, but a must-see if you are in the area.

Umpqua Hot Springs was up next. We knew it would be busy when the parking lot was full. We didn't plan to get in since we were passing through. The hike is short but quite steep.

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It doesn't bother us, but you'll likely encounter toplessness/nudity at natural hot springs.

On to another waterfall! Paulina Falls is another quick stop, less than a half-mile walk to the impressive falls. We walked to the upper falls, but there are some additional viewpoints if you have time.

I'm not sure I realized until writing this just how much we packed into this "drive day." Along the way to Bend, Oregon, where we would be staying for the next two nights, we stopped at the Big Obsidian Flow in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Obsidian is a natural glass with no crystalline structure. It's quite a unique experience to walk the one-mile trail among the obsidian and pumice rocks.

Arriving in Bend, Oregon

We arrived at our rental house for the next two nights in Bend, Oregon. We headed to dinner at The Old Mill District and walked around for a bit. It was quite a long day so it was nice to be in a house as opposed to a hotel. A good night of rest was much needed by this point in the trip!

There was so much variety during this leg of the trip; tide pools, a national park, several waterfalls, natural hot springs, obsidian flow, etc. Which location would you most like to visit? Let us know in the comments section below.👇 💬

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