The only way to access the pure, pristine waters of Oregon's iconic Crater Lake is via the Cleetwood Cove Trail. The dusty, switchback-laden trail descends at an 11 percent grade that drops almost 700 feet in just over a mile, but the path remains well maintained because of its popularity.
As you make your descent, you will experience beautifully expansive views of the caldera as the lake's hues shift with daylight and weather conditions. With no inlet or outlet, the lake is filled by only snowmelt and precipitation, and with no sediment to cloud the water, Crater Lake is one of the clearest lakes in the world (a record clarity of 142 feet was recorded in 1997). With a maximum depth of 1,943 feet, it is also the deepest lake in America and the ninth deepest on earth; the clarity and depth combine to create the intense blue that inspired discoverer John Wesley Hillman to originally dub it "Deep Blue Lake" in 1853.
Numerous benches along the trail allow for rest and introspection, and as you approach the lakeside you'll notice the boat dock straight ahead—this is where the Crater Lake Boat Tour begins. The quarter mile of craggy shoreline at Cleetwood Cove extends mostly to the east of the dock, and anglers should head in that direction for calmer waters. If you continue west past the dock, the trail ends (just past the toilets) at a small cliff where you can jump off a short but invigorating drop.
Although not native to the lake, fish were introduced and stocked by the park's forefather, William G. Steel, starting in the late 19th century. This continued for more than 50 years and the result today is the presence of two fish species: the more plentiful kokanee salmon and the larger rainbow trout. No permit is required and you can take home as many as you want as long as you do not use organic bait (only artificial lures and flies are allowed) and clean your catch away from the lake.
Once you've caught your dinner and had a refreshingly cool dip, take one last look at the frigid, unsullied waters of Crater Lake before making the trek back uphill to the parking lot.
Note: Much like the rest of the park, expect the trail to be covered in snow from October to July.