If you’re looking for a stop on your cross-country road trip that incorporates gorgeous scenery, rich wildlife, and a fascinating history- look no further than Crater Lake in Oregon. The lake was formed from the destruction of an ancient volcano. Roughly 7,700 years ago, a 12,000-foot tall volcano erupted and collapsed, forming Crater Lake in the process. This volcano, known as Mount Mazama, has a rich spiritual history in the Makalak people and the legend is that the fall of Mount Mazama was caused by a battle between the spirit of the sky and the spirit of the mountain.

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Not only is Crater Lake the deepest lake in America (roughly 1,943 feet deep), but it’s also uniquely isolated. The water from the lake comes solely from rain or snow as the lake doesn’t connect with any other bodies of water. This results in the lake maintaining a rich blue color as there are no sediments or mineral deposits that muddy the color.

The park is also home to unique tree life, containing four forest zones that patrons can explore. These zones include lodgepole pines, ponderosa pines, whitebark pines, and mountain hemlocks. And, although their primary source of wildlife is deer, squirrels, and birds, they are the only place in the world that contains one specific species- the Mazama newt. This is a subspecies of rough-skinned newt, also known as a Crater Lake Newt.

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The elevation of the land allows for stunning sky views as well, both during the day and after the sunsets. The night sky surrounding Crater Lake is one of the darkest in America so visitors who stay after dark can expect a spectacular starry view, especially on moonless nights.

Visitors are even able to take a drive around Rim Road which includes more than 30 scenic areas. For example, the Videa Falls spot allows one to view a rushing waterfall while the Pumice Castle Overlook includes the view of an orange layer of pumice that eroded into the shape of a castle over time.