The shortest way from Seattle to Crater Lake is 6.5 hours, but because of the regular traffic in Seattle and Portland, it could easily take 8 hours. We didn’t expect much from the road until realized that adding 0.5-2 hours will turn it into a real adventure!
10 out of 12 places below were experienced by us and our kids (3, 6, and 11 y/o) in July 2020. Some of them are cool to spend a couple of hours (or even a night), make a quick stop, or drive along.
Stops on the way from Seattle to Crater Lake and back
1. Cape Horn Lookout. Quick stop
Cape Horn is located East of Portland and was the first stop (pullout) we made after Seattle. I could add many brakes on the way “From Seattle to Portland”, but the traffic at both cities is bad and we always try to get out of them as fast as possible.
2. Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls
One day I’ll advocate for renaming Oregon as the “Land of Falls” 😀
Many waterfalls are accessible from the scenic road and require no hike at all or just a little walking, like Wahkeena Falls and Multnomah Falls:
You can drive by, make a short stop or spend a day at the Gorge.
3. Enchanted Forest, Turner, Oregon
If you have little ones, take them to the fairyland, Enchanted Forest. The park is open from April to September, but hours and operation are affected by Covid.
4. From Seattle to Crater Lake. Trail of 10 Falls.
The trail of 10 Falls deserves a separate post :). We saw only two waterfalls, but oh, my, they were amazing! Middle North Falls is forever my favorite one, pictured below:
The forest is lush and deep. Despite the long weekend (4th of July 2020), it wasn’t much crowded:
Hike to the Upper North Falls was very easy and short:
We spent around 2 hours at the Trail of 10 Falls.
5. Fields and fields of … Christmas trees.
Oregon is one of the biggest Christmas tree providers in the US.
We were on our way to Portland when fields and fields of Christmas trees suddenly came into sight. Some farmhouses had gigantic ornaments right in front of them :). It was a kind of magic drive: there are were so many trees, up until the horizon:
6. Huge fields of lava along the road
If you’ll decide to see the scenic Sahalie Falls and Clear Lake (more about them below), you’ll pass huge fields of lava along the road. Out of a sudden, among the deep evergreen forest comes vast land covered in rough rocks:
If you’d like to dig deeper, there many “lava” related places in Oregon: caves, butte, lands, flow, etc.
7. Fish, kayak, sleep, picnic at Clear Lake
We made a 2 hour stop at Clear Lake. The area is very nice, and the lake is really “Clear” – it seemed the fish was levitating! You can stay at the cabins along the lake, bring a kayak, fishing pole, and rent a boat there too:
8. Sahalie Falls. Very cool and easy hike
Sahalie Falls became one of the most favorite trails for us in Oregon. If you love waterfalls and greenery, you’ll be delighted. Amazing scenery and the optimal length (1-2 hours) for a hike with a family:
It was pretty crowdy during our visit, but we still had a lot of fun:
9.Three Volcano, Three Sisters
“Three Sisters“, three closely spaced volcanic peaks are hard to miss when you drive by. Being like a backdrop for wheat fields, North, Middle, South sisters is a great sight. Each peak is more than 10,000 feet (3,000 m) high:
Sisters, a charming community with 1880 facades, will be on your way. We liked the city and just drove by, but would love to walk its streets.
10. From Seattle to Crater Lake. Sparks Lake.
Sparks Lake is on our bucket list. We didn’t visit it, (had no time to), but one day we will come back for sure. Sparks is one of the most popular photo session locations around the City of Bend. The scenery reminds me of Canada a lot:
11. Odell Lake, or “The coolest ever camping”
We found Odell Lake as a brief stop to stretch the legs and fall in love with it. I couldn’t help, but feel jealous of the people staying in the cabins near the lake :D! Pictures from Shelter Cove Resort:
12. Wonders of Oregon. Salt Creek Falls
Salt Creek Falls has astounding panoramic views and a short walk from the parking lot. We could go further, hike through the forest, but just enjoyed the views:
There is some space where kids can stretch their legs and roam free. Salt Creek Falls reminded us of Makahiku Falls (Maui, Hawaii) a lot.
All the listed places between Seattle and Crater Lake on the map:
Movies filmed in the Oregon area mentioned above
One of my most favorite movies, “Wild”, was shot almost entirely in the Oregon area you’ll pass from Seattle to Crater Lake. Based on C. Strayed memoir “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” it tells the story of an untrained, lone 26 y/o hiker. The plot, filming locations, and humor are great.
Several scenes from the “Leave No Trace” movie were shot in Christmas trees farm fields mentioned above. Like the “Wild”, it is also based on the true story and book. The movie is about living off the grid and watching it felt like you’re really there.
“Stand by me” is a coming-of-age movie about friendship and growing up. Good to watch with kids 10+, it’s funny, moving, and wise. IMDb 8.1. Filmed in Eugene, Oregon.
Seattle to Crater Lake NP Essentials
Weather and climate changed several times during this stretch of road. Trails were wet, sometimes muddy, and at the Suttle Lake, it was so windy and cold, that instead of “beach time and picnic” we had lunch in the car.
- bring plenty of water and snacks
- sunscreen, bug spray just in case
- warm clothes, rain gear, change of clothes, appropriate shoes, swimsuits, towels, picnic blanket
- fishing pole, kayak :). We have Intex Explorer.
- baby carrier, if you have a baby
- extra time. believe me, you’ll ask for it!
The city we liked the most on this road trip was Bend. We didn’t see much but the city seemed dynamic and surrounded by exceptional nature. During Covid, many people moved into Bend, skyrocketing the real estate prices. Eugene and Salem didn’t impress us at all (sorry guys).
Thanks for reading, friends! We are happy to have you here!
Crater Lake. National Park for lazy souls. How we explored it in one day with kids.
Oregon Coast: dramatic scenery, Pacific Ocean, and tons of things to do
From Seattle to Yellowstone: 11 cool, budget and family-friendly stops