Cleetwood Cove : Bucket List Swim
I have been a little obsessed with Crater Lake for a few years now. There are a ton of photos on Instagram that make me want to hop in the car and drive there, even if it is twenty hours away. We have tried a few times since moving to California, to plan a trip up there and it has never worked out. We finally made it happen for our wedding anniversary and my highest priority was to hike down to the water and jump in.
Luckily, there is one place they allow you to do this. It's Cleetwood Cove. This is also where you catch a boat to go out to Wizard Island. We didn't have time to do that this time around, but we did make the trek down to the cove to take a dip in this incredibly blue water.
The trailhead has a very large parking lot that fills up early and stays full all day. We got there mid afternoon and lucked out and got a spot in the back. I changed into my swimming suit in the back of our rental minivan (who we named Martha) and we headed out.
This trail has a very different vibe than Garfield Peak. We started out super early on that trail and had it all to ourselves almost. The Cleetwood Cove trail was crowded. And crowded with a different kind of national park visitor - large groups of young people, families with children, and boat riders. This is also very different because you start off going down. Lots of switchbacks drop down 700 feet to the shore of the lake. The trail each way is just over a mile, so it is pretty steep. If you have bad knees, it'll be a little more rough, but the trail is very well maintained with a lot of benches and areas to stop and rest, especially at the switchbacks.
Once you reach the bottom, that blue water is even more blue, and clear, and just absolutely stunning. I think the next time we come here, we will hike down here early in the morning and just stay all day. The boat dock is here and they have a small concession stand with water, soda and chips. The prices are a bit high, but someone had to carry all that stuff down the trail! There are also bathrooms - please don't use the lake!
The shore around the lake is very rocky. People climb all over the rocks and set up near the water to either dangle their feet in it, or just jump in. There are a few higher spots that people like to jump off of into the water. We watched some people jump, then found a spot down by the water to sit and soak and swim!
The water is incredibly cold. During the summer, it stays around 55 degrees, and it definitely felt like it. The water is so clear that it can be tricky walking out into it. The rocks you step onto appear closer than they are. After standing in it for about 20 minutes, I decided I needed to just jump in even though it was frigid. I found a rock and launched into the water. It was amazing! Andrea enjoyed soaking her legs in the water, and letting that chilly water work like an ice pack on some sore muscles! After swimming and floating and enjoying the water, we dried off and headed back up the trail.
The hike up is a leg buster. We were tired from the other two trails we did that day, so we took it slow and enjoyed the views of the lake as smoke rolled in from the Spruce Lake fire. Once we reached the top, the lake wasn't visible because of all the smoke. We were happy we got to see as much of the lake as we did during the day, since it was disappearing for the evening.