Oregon is one of the most beautiful states in America. What makes the Beaver State so unique? The extreme biodiversity and stunning natural formations can turn an evening’s drive through Oregon into a trip down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. Especially if you happen to drive into Crater Lake National Park. This park is home to Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the United States. 

The elevation for Crater Lake reaches 8,000 feet high. Over 7,700 years of time have helped transform this place from a smoking volcanic crater into a wide, clear lake that awes and inspires. 

Where is Crater Lake? It’s located inside a dormant volcano, surrounded by old-growth coniferous forests full of diverse wildlife. 

What You Need to Know for Your Visit to Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake Park is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. It’s always a good idea to visit.

The weather at Crater Lake, Oregon, does have the tendency to fluctuate a lot between seasons. You’ll find snow during the winter and some seasonal road closures. You’ll want to check the Crater Lake National Park weather page before you go. 

You must pay a park entrance fee to visit the park. This is $10 per car, so load up all your friends. The price doesn’t change with the addition of more people. However, if you arrive by foot or motorcycle, you’ll still have to pay $10 — so it’s a good idea to meet up with some likeminded people beforehand, at least to get into the park.

Activities to Delight You in Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake and the surrounding National Park offer plenty of different activities. Because of the park’s unique situation and extreme elevation, these activities differ between the summer and winter months. 

Winter and spring activities

Enjoy special activities when you visit the park during winter and spring. These months provide you with a blanket of powdery white snow.

Ski or snowboard down the mountainside and sled through the fresh snowfall while enjoying the pristine, crisp conditions that cold weather brings to the park. 

Summer and fall activities

Enjoy a plethora of warm-weather activities like stargazing, picnicking, and exploring the sweet-smelling pine forests.

Take a boat tour on the lake to see it up-close and personal. You can even swim in the crystal-clear water, but be warned — it’s cold. You can choose from eight daily boat tours on the lake. Park rangers join the boat tours and teach visitors about the lake and caldera. The boats are U.S. Coast Guard certified for safety, too. Two of the daily tours take a three-hour stop at Wizard Island. 

Wizard Island lies on the west side of Crater Lake. Formed from ancient volcanic cinder, it rises more than 750 feet above lake level. At the top of the cone lies a crate that reaches 500 feet wide and 100 feet deep. In 1885, journalist William Gladstone Steel named both the island and the crater. He dubbed the crater “the Witches Cauldron.” 

Wizard Island at Crater Lake National Park

Image CC BY 2.0, by Stuart Seeger from San Antonio, Texas, USA, via Wikimedia Commons

Summer is also a great time to visit the historic Rim Village. 

Hearkening back to the early 20th century, the National Parks Service designed and built Rim Village as a way to provide a better visitor experience. You’ll find a promenade and observation bays surrounding the lake for perfect views of the crystal-clear waters. The lodge welcomes visitors with excellent food and a chance to relax out of the elements.

The Wildlife that normally goes into hibernation during the winter comes out during the warmer weather. You can view bears, elk, and bobcats in action during the summer months. 

Hike your heart out at Crater Lake National Park

In the summer (with the exception of June and July), all trails are usually open to the public. Crater Lake hikes range from easy 20-minute-long jaunts to longer trips of extreme difficulty.

During the snowy season, hiking can be very dangerous, and many trails are closed. However, some trails that offer amazing views are open to those willing to venture out on skis.  

Indoor Activities at Crater Lake National Park

If you need to take a break out of the chill of winter or hot sun, there are even indoor activities to enjoy at Crater Lake.

Visitor’s Centers

Take some time to explore the park’s two visitor’s centers. You’ll find the Steel Visitor Center at the park’s headquarters, and they open it every day except December 25. You can relax and watch a short movie about the park and the volcanic origins of Crater Lake. At Rim Village, you’ll find another visitor’s center that is open from May to September. 

Find books and gifts at the two bookstores located at both centers. 

Sinnott Memorial Overlook

Behind the Rim Visitor’s Center, you’ll find an exhibit room with an open parapet that provides a view of the lake. The room features a relief model and other displays giving information about the local geology and some background on the lake. In some months, the rangers offer educational presentations.

Stay in Crater Lake National Park

Staying in the park is very rewarding! Choose between lodging in the park or camping out in the forest. 

Crater Lake National Park lodging

The park offers two lodges for you to choose from:

  • Crater Lake Lodge: Open from May to October, this lodge overlooks the scenic lake around Rim Village. Make advanced reservations.
  • The Cabins at Mazama Village: These cabins are a few miles south of Rim Village, open from May to September. 

Camping in the park

Crater Lake National Park camping is not to be missed. 

During the summertime, choose to camp at one of the park’s two developed campsites. These are set deep in the forest, south of the lake, and offer amenities such as water and toilets.

The Mazama campground is open from mid-June to late September and offers sites for RVs, as well as toilets, showers, and access to laundry facilities. 

The Lost Creek campground only serves tent campers and is open from mid-July through October. While Lost Creek only offers toilets facilities, you won’t need reservations to camp there. 

Consider backcountry camping during the summer or winter. The backcountry around crater lake is worth checking out during any season, but make sure you take the proper safety precautions.

You must have a backcountry camping permit, which you can get free of charge from a ranger station. (You will still have to pay the entrance fee, however.

Dining at Crater Lake National Park

One of the best things about Crater Lake is that you won’t need to leave the park for meals or supplies. Rim Village Cafe is open all year round for casual dining. Mazama Village has Annie Creek Restaurant for break, lunch, dinner.

If you’re looking for something a bit more upscale, you can visit the Crater Lake Lodge. They offer gourmet cuisine using local ingredients, although you’ll find the atmosphere quite laid back. You’ll need reservations for dinner, but not for breakfast or lunch. You can also enjoy apps and drinks from the lodge kitchen on the back patio. 

If you run short of necessary supplies for your campout, you won’t have to go far. Just stop by the Mazama Village store for your camping supplies and groceries. You can also get firewood and gas there, as well. 

Crater Lake National Park Fun Facts

Crater Lake Park is full of surprises. Check out these Crater Lake facts:

  • No streams feed the lake. The level of water is maintained through the natural processes of evaporation, precipitation, and seepage. 
  • The water in Crater Lake is some of clearest and purest in America. 
  • Before it was a National Park, Crater Lake was a holy and spiritual site for ancient Native American tribes like the Klamaths.
  • The park has a desert of pumice stone in its northern region, as well as a “castle” made from an outcropping of pumice stone in the mountain. 

Crater Lake National Park Offers Something for Everyone

Crater Lake is a place you have to see to believe. The diversity of life stretching across dense pine forests to meet the edge of the lake is truly a sight to behold.

Come here for a day, a week, or even a month. You won’t get tired of seeing the sights in the park, so start planning your trip.

Featured Image: CC by SA 2.0, by Jeffrey Johnson from Bergen County, New Jersey, US, via Wikimedia Commons

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