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    From Crater Lake to Lava Lands: An Unusual West Coast Itinerary Part 2

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    Lluis Enric Mayans

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    Here we are at the second part of this fascinating itinerary along the most bizarre natural wonders, unusual and little known of the west coast American (how? Did you miss the first part? No problem: here are the first 3 stops of this unusual West Coast itinerary).

    After crossing a beach with moving rocks, a science fiction lake (both in California) and an unlikely geyser resulting from the involuntary collaboration between man and nature (Nevada), it is time to move to a new state, the beautiful and, perhaps a little neglected, Oregon. What awaits us? What are the most unusual natural wonders of this state?

    How about an immense lake-crater so deep as to inspire suggestion (Crater Lake), of an unlikely expanse of desert dunes along the coast (Oregon Dunes Recreation Area), of a natural well so impressive that it has been renamed Thor's well (Thor's Well), or of apocalyptic scenarios produced by the action of volcanic lava (Lava Lands)?

    If, like me, you are fascinated by these unusual natural spectacles, follow this itinerary. Are you ready? We resume our journey along the route from Crater Lake to the Lava Lands!


    • Stage 1: Crater Lake, an impressive clear lake inside a crater
    • Stage 2: Oregon Dunes, huge dunes on the sea
    • Stage 3: Thor's Well, Thor's Well!
    • Stage 4: the apocalyptic scenario of the Lava Lands and the Newberry Volcano

    Stage 1: Crater Lake, an impressive clear lake inside a crater

    Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. Photo credit:

    We resume our journey from the Fly Geyser in Nevada and continue crossing the border in a north-westerly direction, crossing California and giving him our last farewell (eh I know, my heart is tightened ...) to land in Oregon. Traveling on US-62 from Medford you will enter the Crater lake national park, but you cannot say that you have arrived until you have reached the shores of the crater itself, the deepest lake in the western hemisphere, formed following a frightening volcanic eruption.

    The extraordinary depth of the lago Crater it gives a color so clear blue that it is considered unique in the world; it seems that a photographer, after developing a shot, was so incredulous at the result that he thought it was an "unnatural" blue color due to a technical error. Obviously this was not the case.

    Enjoy the Crater Lake from the west bank, near the Watchman observation point, admiring the tip of the volcanic cone in all its majesty (Wizard Island) emerging from the clear waters, is an impressive experience. From other observation points you can see Phantom Ship, another volcanic peak which, during periods of fog or low light, really gives the impression of being a ghost vessel.

    Crater Lake offers evocative views even in periods when it is covered with snow, when its vision literally puts you in awe! For more information on how to visit it and where to stay overnight, please refer to our guide at Crater lake national park.

    Stage 2: Oregon Dunes, huge dunes on the sea

    Who said that to see the desert you have to go to Nevada, New Mexico or other areas of the interior? In Oregon a wonderful and evocative dune desert (certainly more fascinating than the somewhat arid and monotonous Nevada) is located right on the Oregon coast, just steps from the ocean!

    The dunes, interspersed here and there with stretches of wood and a few lakes, are enormous, extending along the coast for about 72 km and reaching even 55 meters in height. From the highway (Highway 101) the dunes are not easily visible; the best thing is to enterOregon Dunes National Recreation Area and follow one of the hiking trails, which will allow you to explore the area up close. Find all the information on how to visit them and where to stay overnight in our article on the most beautiful attractions of Oregon Coast.

    Stage 3: Thor's Well, Thor's Well!

    Thor's Well: Thor's Well at Cape Perpetua

    A short distance away, continuing north along the coast, after just one hour of driving, you will come to another bizarre spectacle of nature, one that the most daring photographers dream of capturing. It is about Thor’s Well (Thor's well) a Cape Perpetua, a natural depression that continuously empties and fills with water, releasing impressive jets pumped by currents into the air, especially in times of high tide.

    It is a spectacle as fascinating as it is dangerous: photographing the continuous flow of the waters is a temptation for many passionate photographers, but be careful not to get too close, the tide could fatally drag you into the well.

    Stage 4: the apocalyptic scenario of Lava Lands and del Vulcano Newberry

    Big Obsidian Flow presso Newberry National Volcanic Monument in Oregon

    After 2 stops on the coast it is time to go back inland. Driving east, towards Bend, we will enter the Lava Lands, where the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, a volcano dating back to 7000 years ago, but whose activity has left indelible traces on the surrounding area, creating an apocalyptic natural landscape.

    The ghostly lands of the Lava Lands

    Among the things to do in this area, choose at least one of these 3:

    • Lava River Cave: 1,5 km underground passage produced by the action of the lava, where the temperature remains constant at 5 degrees (for 4 dollars they will also give you a torch).
    • Lava Cast Forest: circular forest full of basalt stems and trees burned by the action of the lava.
    • Big Obsidian Flow: apocalyptic landscape characterized by huge hills of black glass of volcanic origin, an impressive surface entirely covered with obsidian.

    For sleeping, you will find plenty of accommodations in the nearby town of Sunriver, about a 10-minute drive from the Lava Lands visitor center.

    All accommodations available in and around Sunriver

    Here is a recap of the second part of our itinerary complete with travel distances from one stage to another. To read the third, find the link just below.

    • Read the first part of this itinerary: Unknown Wonders of America: An Unusual West Coast Itinerary
    • Read the third part of this itinerary: From Painted Hills to Grand Prismatic Spring: West Coast itinerary part 3
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