If you don’t mind roughing it a bit, this is as close as you can get to Crater Lake National Park, without spending the night in the park. However, be prepared for some rustic features.
Even before I arrived, I knew that my nights outside of Crater Lake National Park were going to be a little less luxurious than I’m accustomed to. That’s not to say that I usually stay in four-star hotels. I’m very comfortable staying in one-star, $40-a-night accommodations, so long as the online reviews are positive, and the place looks safe and clean. I’m perfectly happy to not have a TV or phone (although these days, a lack of Wi-Fi is a difficult burden to bear). I can even put up with an ancient mattress and funky furniture, so long as I get a cheap rate. And of course, it’s safe and clean.
That’s why I booked Wilson’s Cottages for three nights. Most of the reviews suggested that it would be safe and clean, and its location near Crater Lake can’t be beat. I was also looking forward to staying in a historic place, and a quiet place in the woods.
For the location, the price is good — $75 a night — but that’s still more than I usually want to spend. I had to send in a deposit ahead of time. And by “send”, I mean, I had to write a check for half the price of my stay, and mail it in. I respect any business that wants to operate on cash only, but it would have been nice to, at least, use a credit card for the reservation. No big deal… but still, it’s the 21st century, folks.
So here’s what I got, for $75 per night. This is the cabin’s kitchen/dining room/living room. The most modern thing in here is the microwave, which appeared to be of early 1990’s origin. That refrigerator…
… comes with the original ice trays. For anyone born after the 1970’s, allow me to explain: you pull up on the handle to crack the ice, and loosen the cubes. In the process, ice flies everywhere, and half of it remains stuck in the tray. Then, your fingers stick to the tray and the cubes, like a tongue on a frozen flagpole. Once you pick up the cubes off the floor, you’re ready to enjoy a cold beverage.
The cabins, and all of the furniture inside (notice the table and chairs), were made from trees that grew on the property, back in the 1930’s. That big furnace in the middle of the room is what heats the entire cabin.
Part of the orientation provided by the owners deals with lighting and operating the furnace. It’s tricky — even for the owner — to get it started. Once it’s burning, though, you’ll stay toasty.
Behind the furnace, there are two doors, leading to two bedrooms. If you’re only using one room, the other will be locked.
This was my bedroom. The only lights are those two sconces on the wall.
The tiny bathroom had a tiny sink, with separate hot-and-cold faucets. There’s a toilet in there too, you just can’t see it in this photo.
I ended up staying here only two nights. The owners were nice enough to refund my money for the third night, even though they don’t normally give refunds.
The biggest reason for me leaving early was the weather. Due to an early snowstorm (in late September), most of the rim road was closed, and most trails were unreachable. At the end of my first full day there, headed into night number two, I realized I didn’t have anything else to do. If I was locked into staying a third night, I’d be stuck at a fogged-in, frigid lake, with nowhere to hike and very little to see.
That said, I’m really glad I didn’t stay a third night. As I mentioned, I don’t mind sacrificing some comfort for a good rate or a convenient location. But, in this case, I didn’t rest at all, and I wasn’t comfortable at any time.
The worst part was the water situation. The tap water comes directly from Annie Creek, a spring-fed creek that runs behind the cabins. I drank the water, and it was delicious. But it was cold. Even the hot water was cold. If I let the hot tap run for 5 or 10 minutes, I might eventually get some warm water. But then, it would run out. And I don’t mean it would get cold again. I mean it would just stop running. On the first night, I took a very brief shower, and on the second night, I never got enough warm water to take any kind of shower at all. And how could someone take a shower, knowing at any moment, in mid-lather, the hot water could disappear, leaving you with barely-above-freezing cold water?
I knew I was in the woods, and that meant I might see some bugs. And the truth is, I didn’t see any 6-legged creatures at all. But I did see one, very big, 8-legged creature. It was the first thing I saw on my first morning, when I awoke, on the ceiling directly above my bed. That sucker was huge. It was really hard to get over the thought of its family being nearby — a family that would be vengeful, no doubt, if they saw what I did to that guy with their eight creepy eyes. On my second night, I pulled the rickety bed into the center of the room. At least, in my mind, I figured it was less likely for something to crawl down the drapes and up my nose.
There were smaller issues, too. Aside from the four wood chairs at the table, there was only one other place to sit: a dirty, worn-out sofa that must have been built in, at best, the 1980’s. Any springs that once provided support in this couch had long-since sprung. I sat in it and practically sunk to the floor. The bed provided similar support, but added the sounds of squeaking and creaking. I couldn’t rest in bed, or when I was awake.
Of course, there was no internet service, and I expected as much. The cabin was also on the very edge of cell-phone service, which made simple phone calls difficult.
Without a cell phone signal, or wi-fi, or a tv, or a landline phone, and without a comfortable place to sit, or warm water for a shower, there was nothing to do but fix dinner and then go to sleep.
So, I was very happy to leave.
I didn’t mention any of these other problems to the owners, since my primary reason for wanting to leave early was the weather. I’m sure that anyone who enjoys camping outdoors will be satisfied with a stay in these rustic cabins. That’s just not me.
The Bottom Line
For convenient access to Crater Lake National Park, and for the historic value, Wilson’s Cottages can’t be beat. If you’re concerned about being comfortable during your stay, though, I’d recommend staying at a motel in Fort Klamath.
Wilson’s Cottages are located along Oregon Highway 62, just outside the southern boundary of Crater Lake National Park. The crater rim is about 17 miles to the north. The nearest town is Fort Klamath, about 5 miles to the south.
Be aware that Fort Klamath does not have a gas station, as of 2013. The nearest gas is inside the park at Mazama Village, or at the Kla-Mo-Ya Casino, on US 97 just north of the Route 62 junction. You can, however, find a couple of basic motels in Fort Klamath.
Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video tour of the Crater Lake area: