Labor Day in Bend + Crater Lake National Park

Three day weekends are our jam! We love having an extra day to explore and always use them as a chance to go somewhere a little farther than we normally venture to on regular weekends. Ever since we moved to Seattle, people have been telling us that we’d LOVE Bend, Oregon, so we figured what better time to make the longer drive to Bend than Labor Day?! And to make the weekend even better, we decided to spend one day at Crater Lake National Park (our 10th National Park!). Here’s a recap of our awesome weekend in Bend and Crater Lake. Ready to visit for yourself? Check out our 3 Days in Bend & Crater Lake National Park Guide!

FRIDAY

We left Seattle around 1 PM on Friday to hopefully beat traffic (or at least give ourselves more time) going to Oregon. The drive is around 6 hours and our original plan was to stop in Redmond, Oregon for dinner, but as we sat in tons of traffic, watched the time go by, and felt our stomachs rumbling, we decided to change our plans and stop in Portland for dinner instead. Best idea ever! We went to ¿Por Qué No?, a taqueria that we had been dying to try for a while. We rolled up around 5:45 PM and made it just in time for their happy hour specials (we saved $4 on food!). We each got the Bryan’s Bowl, one with carnitas and one with barbacoa, as well as a side of chips, guacamole, and salsa. Everything we ordered was heavenly, especially their homemade salsas! The thing we miss most about Texas are quick Mexican spots and ¿Por Qué No? filled the void in our hearts. It’s also such a cool, colorful, quick spot with great prices!

We rolled back to the car and continued our journey to Central Oregon and were lucky enough to witness a beautiful sunset as we drove by Mount Hood. We arrived to our “home” for the night, the Peter Skene Ogden rest stop, around 9:30 PM. Since we were getting up early the next day, we decided to sleep in the back of our car to save money. We have stayed at this rest stop twice now and it’s quiet and safe. The only downside this time was that the restrooms were out of order, but they had porta potties set up.

SATURDAY

After a pretty solid night’s sleep in the car, we woke up around 5 AM to head to Bend, Oregon. The first stop of the day: Palate Coffee! This coffee shop is in an old house, has great service, and makes some delicious coffee. The space is nice and cozy, but unfortunately we took ours to-go and made our way to the Todd Lake trailhead to hike to No Name Lake. There are two ways to access No Name Lake, either from the Todd Lake trailhead, which makes the hike around 13 miles, or from Road 370, which is extremely rough and makes the hike 6 miles. We chose to do the longer hike because we heard the road is the “worst road in Oregon” and we weren’t sure if our car was high enough clearance.

The trail was beautiful though and we didn’t mind the extra mileage. We started the hike at 7:15 AM, which we recommended in order to beat the crowds and the heat. A lot of the trail is exposed, so you’ll get plenty of sunshine. The trail is pretty clear and easy to follow until you get closer to Broken Top. We got a little confused about where we were supposed to go and thought we were going the wrong direction, so we followed a side trail for a bit before realizing we had it right the first time. We ended up meeting back up with the real trail, but this side trail was super steep and definitely made us out of breath! We recommend reading this blog beforehand to fully understand the trail. We saved the map on our phones before our trip, which was really helpful and the trail descriptions helped us when we got confused and turned around.

We reached the lake around 9:45 AM and were greeted with the most beautiful sight: a blue lake against a rugged, pink and brown crater. And the best part? There were only a few other people! We sat on some rocks, ate lunch, and enjoyed the view for about an hour before heading up to a viewpoint on the right side of the lake.

We initially weren’t sure if we wanted to make the steep hike up there. I was suffering from some pretty bad stomach pains from a food sensitivity reaction and we were tired, but we try to never say no to an opportunity to experience more beauty, so we went for it. And boy, we’re SO glad we did! From the top of the viewpoint we were able to see the Three Sisters and a handful of other mountains. It was incredible!

After the viewpoint, we headed back down the trail towards the car. Unfortunately, we got turned around AGAIN (ugh) and made it all the way to the second trailhead (which is much closer) and had to backtrack to go to the trailhead we started from. Oops! We finally made it back to the correct trailhead around 1:45 PM, which was later than we hoped for, but with the two trail mix-ups and sharp stomach pains I got mid-hike, we figured that 6.5 hours for 13 miles wasn’t too bad! One thing to note about the hike is that there are currently 16 dead elk around the lake. One of them is in the lake right when you first reach the lake and smells pretty bad, but the others are across the lake from where the trail is. However, this means that it’s not safe to drink or swim in the water at this time.

From the hike, we ventured into Bend to get more coffee, walk around, and grab dinner. We chose to visit Thump Coffee for a much needed energy boost. We visited Thump in Denver a year ago and learned while we were there that their original location is in Bend, so we were excited to try it out. It was just as good as in Colorado!

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Bend, checking out different shops, and watching people tube and surf at the Whitewater park. We had heard that tubing was big in Bend, but due to time constraints, we didn’t look into it further. But seeing it in real life made us wish we tubed so badly! We are already planning on making a longer trip to Bend next summer and cannot wait to get out on the water!

Before heading to our campsite for the night, we went to Spork, an awesome fusion, fast casual restaurant. We cannot say enough good things about this place! We got the coconut green curry with pork belly, a side of spicy fried chicken (gluten free!!! YASSS!), and the Thai Steak Salad. Everything was absolutely amazing! We basically licked our bowls and wanted to order round two of everything. If you go to Bend, you MUST go here!

We then drove 45 minutes to our home for the next two nights, the Lava Lake Campground. We chose to camp during this trip to save money, especially because we knew we would be out most of the day and just there to grab a few hours of sleep at night. This campground is right on a beautiful lake with mountain views and we enjoyed watching the sunset from it’s tiny little beach. However, our absolute favorite thing about this campground (and Central Oregon in general) were all of the stars! We have never seen so many stars in our life. We decided to play around with night photography our first night and saw our first shooting star (we screamed we were so excited!) and also saw the Milky Way for the first time. It was such a magical experience!

SUNDAY

We set our alarms for 3:15 AM on Sunday to drive to Crater Lake National Park for sunrise. National Parks hold such a special place in our heart and we were so excited to visit our 10th one (only 50 left!). We arrived at Crater Lake while it was still dark and made our way up Watchman Peak for the sunrise. We sped walked the entire time (talk about a workout!) and arrived at the top just before the sun started to poke out. The colors were so gorgeous and getting to see Crater Lake for the first time was breathtaking.

After sunrise, we snagged a parking spot over by the Rim Village Cafe (parking fills up fast, so get there early!) and walked a portion of the Discovery Point Trail before heading up to Garfield Peak. Garfield Peak is a 3.4 mile uphill battle, but worth it for the views! Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the US (1,949 ft!) and has the bluest water we have ever seen. The lake is only fed by snow and rain, no creeks, which is why the water is so clear and pure.

We were very hot at this point and figured there was no better way to cool off than a freezing cold dip into Crater Lake! There is only one spot at the park that you can access the lake, the Cleetwood Cove trail, and it requires a pretty steep hike down. Don’t let this deter you! Getting up close and personal with the deep blue lake was one of the highlights of our day at the park! The water ranges from 30-60 degrees depending on the time of year (we estimate it was upper 50’s to low 60’s for us) and despite how cold that is, we both were determined to go in. Adam was much braver than me and jumped from a rock into the water, while I took the more brutal approach of slowly entering the lake. It was very, very cold, but the water is so insanely clear and beautiful that you slowly become numb and forget about the temperature lol. It was a pretty awesome feeling to know that we both have been in the deepest lake in the US!

We dried off very fast (thank you sunshine!) and ventured to our next two hikes: Pinnacles Overlook and Plaikni Falls. Both are super quick and easy trails and give you a change of scenery from the lake. We had planned to do another hike after, but we were pooped and wanted to relax before sunset.

For sunset, drove to the Cloudcap Overlook, parked the car, and made dinner. The sky had gotten significantly more smoky since the morning, but we had hopes that it would only make the sunset even cooler. And we were right! The sunset was just as colorful and beautiful as sunrise and was the perfect ending to our day at Crater Lake.

MONDAY

We had originally planned to visit either Tumalo Falls or Paulina Creek Falls on Monday morning before heading home, but we were honestly so tired and decided to skip it. We push ourselves a lot when it comes to doing many things, getting no sleep, etc and it has started to catch up with us a bit. Instead of a hike we decided to get up right before sunrise and head into Bend for one last breakfast and coffee shop adventure. We did some googling to find a quick breakfast spot and came across Bad Wolf Bakery & Bistro. The food here was so delicious! I cannot eat any breakfast foods due to food sensitivities and I was able to make my own plate of sides and it was honestly one of the best breakfasts I have had in so long. Adam got a breakfast burrito and loved his meal as well!

Our last stop of the trip was to Spoken Moto for coffee. There are so many good coffee spots in Bend and it was so hard to pick one, but we are SO glad we chose Spoken Moto! It’s a coffee shop + motorcycle shop and has such an awesome and unique interior and really great coffee. They also have food trucks outside, which weren’t open, and an awesome patio space. We highly recommend this coffee shop!

And that’s a wrap on our Bend and Crater Lake trip! Central Oregon is such a cool place, with unique scenery and a great smaller town vibe. We had such a great time and cannot wait to go back next summer and spend more time there!

about us

Hi y’all! We’re Adam, Kathryn, and Kona, an adventurous married couple (+ pup!) living on the road in our self-converted sprinter van! You can often find us driving all around the US and Canada, scoping out the best coffee shops, eating tacos and ice cream (we’re a 5+ taco and 2+ scoop household), and enjoying nature.

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2 Comments

  1. Suzanne

    Bend is absolutely gorgeous!!! How do you ever pick a favorite place??? Every spot you visit is breathtakingly beautiful!!! I so enjoy experiencing it all through your blog!!!

    Reply
    • Kathryn Frazer

      It’s very impossible to pick! We love the diversity of the places around us and love them all for different reasons!

      Reply

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