Switchback Kids: Crater Lake

The thrill seeking couple with aspirations to travel to all 59 US National Parks is back with another trip update. The Switchback Kid’s last trip to the Virgin Islands National Park was one incredible story. Now, as the adventurous couple travels on, Cole’s describes their latest exciting adventure at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.

Crater Lake gets an obscene average of 44 feet of snow per year. It is one of the snowiest inhabited places in North America. Typically the road around the lake is closed from November to June. However, this provides a great opportunity for winter sports enthusiasts who can conquer the elements. On average there are only 80 cross-country skiers and 30 snowshoers who complete the grueling 3-day, 31-mile loop around the lake on the snow-covered road. We were definitely not in that group.


Navigating into Crater Lake with our Garmin nüvi, we were already intimidated by the 10-foot walls of snow on the side of the one plowed road to the lake rim. Not conditions we are used to in our hometown of Kansas City! But we rented cross-country skis and were excited to explore the winter wonderland.


Our exploring was only limited by our ability to stay upright on our skis, an exercise that we quickly found out we’d overestimated as first-time skiers. After many unsuccessful attempts to brake or turn and numerous humbling spills, we hit our stride along the snow-covered West Rim Ski Trail. The views of unbelievably blue and incredibly reflective Crater Lake were worth every minute and every fall. Yet, I was still amazed that after all our effort, the XC Ski GPS setting of my Garmin fēnix 3 had logged only 4 miles.


The next day we swapped our skis for snowshoes and joined a ranger led walk. We then went in the counter-clockwise direction around the lake and then dropped into the densely wooded mountain slope. This time our views were accompanied by interesting stories of how the self-contained lake was formed after a 12,000-foot volcano erupted, collapsed into a bowl and collected rainwater for thousands of years. We had joined similar snowshoe walks in other parks, but this one was more strenuous and extensive by far. And the steps Elizabeth racked up on her vívofit 2 proved it.

In the end, we were grateful to discover Crater Lake offers many different ways to enjoy its beauty in every season. And we’ll be practicing our cross-country skiing for our next visit!


The US National Parks attract outdoor adventurists from all over the world and the Switchback Kids will be experiencing most, if not all of them. Learn even more about their one-year adventure here and stay tuned for another post from Cole and Elizabeth in the following weeks. Don’t forget to share with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and use #HaveNoLimits.