Terra Galleria Photography

Crater Lake’s Wizard Island


Most of the photographs of Crater Lake are made from the rim. They often include Wizard Island, whose shape varies with viewpoint. Even when standing directly above Wizard Island, such from the Watchman, the island looks quite small. After looking at it from a distance many times, the main goal of my last trip to Crater Lake was to visit Wizard Island.

Tours are given from July to mid-September with hourly departures. No other watercrafts are allowed on the lake. As I often improvise, on my previous visit, I was disappointed that the tour was sold out. This time, I made a reservation in advance (reservation site). It is even more imperative to do so if you plan to hike on Wizard Island since each day only a couple of tour boats drop and pick-up passengers there.

Since it is illegal and dangerous to scramble down the steep and fragile crater walls, Cleetwood Cove is the only place where you can access the lake, via a 2.2 miles RT trail. You are hiking in a dense forest, with few views until you come close to the water. The trail is one of the most used in the park because it is the access route for the boat tour.

The water temperature at the surface is usually around 55F (12.8C) – and 38F (3.3C) at the bottom. I was content with just dipping my toes in the lake, but more hardy visitors jumped right in.

The boat tour provides you with a different perspective on the cliffs surrounding the lake. They appear much taller seen from the water.

The Phantom ship, dwarfed by rim cliffs from a distance, reveals its true size. To include its reflection in the water, I needed a 14mm lens.

You pass near a couple of waterfalls which are not visible from the rim. Above all, I felt that riding in the boat got me more intimately acquainted with the lake than just observing it from overlooks. Since you are not allowed to stand in the boat except during a few stops, try to secure an external seat for better views.

Wizard Island looks deceptively low from the rim, but is is 700 feet high. As the boat approached, although it is an easy, family-grade outing, I felt the excitement of setting foot on an island that relatively few visit.

The steep 1-mile (RT) hike to the crater summit rewards you with views in all directions over the lake and caldera, punctuated with striking bleached whitebark pine trees.

The other trail (2 miles RT) leads to Fumarole Bay, where I found delightful emerald and turquoise waters that contrasted with the deep blue of the rest of the lake. Although the trail is mostly flat, I had to be careful not to twist my ankle as it is very rocky and difficult to follow past the first bay. Unlike on the summit trail, I had the place mostly to myself.

When you reserve your Wizard Island tour, you have the option of spending 3 hours or 6 hours on the island. Although it may sound a lot of time to spend there, with 6 hours, I had to rush my second hike, running down the trail to make sure I didn’t miss the boat. As overnight stays are not allowed, a boat would come and pick you up, but you’d be charged hundreds of dollars for that.

Back at Cleetwood Cove, at the beach, rocks in the water make for foregrounds to water-level wide views of the lake which are good early and late in the day. Even if not taking the boat tour, it would be worth hiking down there to touch the water and experience the lake up close.

I concluded a great day by staying around until the last light, before hiking up 674 feet of elevation gain in the cool temperatures of the evening.

View photos of Crater Lake National Park


  1. Valerie Gorman says:

    These are stunning photographs and made me homesick. I was born in Oregon and spent much of my life until late twenties in the forests around Crater Lake. Thanks for these!

  2. Tchang says:


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