Review: The Cabins at Mazama Village; Crater Lake National Park
Mrs. Lite Adventurer and I recently spent a week in Oregon, and the first major destination on the list was Crater Lake National Park. It’s a huge volcano that caved in on itself after a massive eruption many millennia ago resulting in a beautiful sparkling blue lake within its crater. It’s the only national park in all of Oregon and also happens to be the deepest lake in the United States. Neither of us had ever been, so we made it a priority to see this site before heading to the Pacific Coast for the rest of the week.
Because of its remote location, there are not many lodging options within the national park. The most sought-after rooms are in the Crater Lake Lodge, which is a medium sized angled building right on the edge of the lake. These rooms become available for reservations 13 months in advance and are typically completely booked a full year ahead of time. So if you want one of these rooms, you need to plan way ahead.
Since we didn’t decide on our summer travel plans until December, our best option was staying in Mazama Village which is a short 7 mile drive from the lake and still within the boundaries of Crater Lake National Park. The two options available within Mazama Village are “cabins” and a campground (I’ll explain in a bit why the word cabins is in quotation marks). I do not do well with camping, and neither does Mrs. Lite Adventurer – we simply have a difficult time sleeping outdoors – so fortunately there were still cabins available when we looked on their website to book a room.
Best thing about the Mazama cabins? Location, location, location.
If you stay anywhere outside the borders of the national park, you’re looking at a long, pain-in-the-ass drive to the crater every time you want to do some sightseeing. Since the rooms are reasonably priced, I’d highly recommend staying in the park to minimize the amount of time sitting in the car.
The cabins themselves are not really cabins in the traditional sense. Picture in your head what you imagine a cabin in the forest might look like. It looks nothing like that. Each cabin is a structure comprised of four distinct motel rooms under the same roof, each with its own private bathroom. The rooms are basic with no TV, phone, refrigerator, or microwave. The beds were more comfortable than expected. The walls are also fairly thick and well-insulated. A few of our neighbors had small kids, and unless they were right outside our door, we couldn’t hear a thing.
None of the rooms have air conditioning, but it’s really not necessary. We happened to descend upon Portland airport the previous day during a heat wave where temperatures shot over a hundred degrees. While the Crater Lake area wasn’t quite this hot when we drove in, it still reached the upper 80s yet the room felt completely fine. At night, it does cool down quite a bit. Each room has a useful small heater built into the wall that you can use to warm the place up. It’s quite powerful. Don’t sleep with it on full blast, otherwise you’ll wake up sweating balls like we did.
The bathroom is about the size of a normal hotel bathroom with a walk-in shower. The quality of the shower was great with good water pressure and plenty of hot water. Instead of giving you a real bar of soap, there are three pump dispensers with body wash, shampoo, and conditioner. If you detest body wash and prefer bar soap like I do, bring your own.
There’s very little cellular service within the park, but both the Mazama Cabins and the Crater Lake Lodge have free wifi for guests that works well, especially during off-hours when not all the guests are trying to use it simultaneously.
Near the campgrounds and cabins is a small general store that sells some food, basic supplies, and gas. All this stuff is quite a bit more expensive than what you can get at your neighborhood grocery store (no shocker there), but one particular item is surprisingly cheap: beer. And not Bud Light; we’re talking real, good, full-bodied beers including lots of tasty local Oregon microbrews. This place could very easily gouge its customers on alcohol sales, but they don’t. Keep in mind that the rooms don’t have refrigerators, so either drink your beer fast while it’s still cold, or bring a small cooler with you and use the free bag of ice that they give daily to all guests to keep your beverages cool. Though they provide daily free ice, there’s no ice bucket anywhere to be found, so bring a container if that’s something you wish to take advantage of.
There is a small laundry facility near the general store, but it was out of service when we were there. Which is not relevant for us, since we carry our own Woolite and wash our own travel clothes instead of being dependent on local laundry services.
If you’re visiting in June or the first week of July, you’ll also want to bring some strong bug spray. The Crater Lake mosquitoes are ferocious. We weren’t expecting bugs but ended up buying a bottle of bug spray at the gift shop after getting eaten alive while taking pictures at a viewpoint. The spray we used was 30% DEET, and although it helped, it didn’t deter all the mosquitoes. Some kept biting. So bring some really potent bug spray. This is not the time or place to use those ineffective holistic hippie bug sprays. Mr. Mosquito will laugh at that stuff as he pierces your epidermis with his itch-inducing proboscis. Use something with an actual poison. The local guide at the lodge informed us that around the 2nd week of July, the dragonflies arrive and eat all the mosquitoes, so if you’re visiting in mid-July or August, you should be fine without any harsh pesticides.
Lite Adventure’s rating: **** (four stars out of five)
If this motel were located in the midst of civilization, it would be a two star lodging. But you’re out in the middle of nowhere and a 10 minute drive from one of the most amazing natural landmarks in the world. Location alone bumps this rating up an additional two stars.
It’s basic but clean and comfortable. If you can get a room at the Lodge, go for it, but if not then this is a perfectly fine place to stay for a few nights.