Crater Lake is Oregon’s shimmering blue gem and its only National Park
Unbelievably in a beautiful State such as Oregon, there is only one National Park – Crater Lake. It is very much off the beaten trail – so getting there requires a determined effort. We’re lucky enough to have visited on three different occasions – but our regular journeys from our home in Central Oregon to Ashland in Southern Oregon takes us right past its doorstep. But it is worth the journey.
The water of Crater Lake is incredibly clear and the bluest of blues. On a sunny day, it is truly spectacular.
Another thing to know about when planning to visit Crater Lake is that is high in altitude and snowy. This means that the weather is incredibly changeable (which can make it hard to actually see the lake) and roads and trails inside the Pack can be closed due to snow into July each year. It is important to check on the National Park Service’s website before you travel. When you visit earlier in the season, especially in June and early July beware of the mosquitoes, they can be vicious, so pack some potent bug sprays when you visit.
There are a couple of entrances. The South Entrance is open all year round and will get you to Park Lodge. The North Entrance is open seasonally as is the 22 miles of road that follows the rim of the crater.
With so few entrances to the Park, you can face some long lines getting in especially during peak times during weekends and holidays. So, try and avoid these but if you can’t then get there early.
Some more about Crater Lake …
Crater Lake is a fine example of the power of nature. The caldera that now forms the lake is set inside a mountain called Mount Manzama, a large cone peak like Washington State’s Mount Ranier, which once stood a lofty 12,000 plus feet – which is still here today would make it the tallest mountain in Oregon (Mount Hood is 11,250 feet).
Around 7000 there was a cataclysmic volcanic event, one of the most powerful experienced in the Cascade’s range, that blew the top of Mount Manzama. This cause an implosion that caused the top mile of the mountain to disappear – reducing the 12,000 feet peak to 8,157 feet (2,486 m). This must have been quite disturbing to the Native Americans who were living in the area! The ash from the caldera-forming eruption of Mt. Mazama spread across a huge area. It can be seen today in many parts of the Pacific Northwest, from British Columbia to California, preserved as a white layer in the soil.
What was left was a crater that slowly filled with water, creating what we now know as Crater Lake. At nearly 2000 feet deep Crater Lake is the deepest freshwater body in the US and the second deepest in North America after Great Slave Lake in Canada. There are no rivers and streams that feed into the Lake, it all comes from rain and snowmelt – resulting in an incredibly pure mass of water.
The island in Crater Lake is a cinder cone called Wizard Island. Wizard Island grew within the caldera of Mt. Mazama soon after the caldera had formed.
Things to do …
There are 16 official hiking trails with Crater Lake National Park, ranging from easy to moderate to strenuous. There’s only one way to get to the lakeshore. You must hike 1.1 miles down the switchback Cleetwood Trail to Cleetwood Cove. To find the trailhead, drive to the lake’s north side, 11 miles (17.6 km) from Rim Village if travelling clockwise on Rim Drive. Once at the bottom you can fish, swim or take a boat tour (ticket required).
2. CRATER LAKE TROLLEY
There are currently three historically designed trolleys that will operate at Crater Lake each day. Each trolley accommodates 25 passengers. The tour will entail a two-hour tour around the Rim Drive of the lake with several stops at specific areas of interest and includes a National Park interpreter/guide that will provide information about the unique features of Crater Lake National Park. The trolleys are ADA compliant.
Cyclists are permitted on paved roads and on unpaved Grayback Drive. Bicycles are not allowed on park trails, except the Pinnacles Trail. Serious road cyclists love the challenge of riding Rim Drive with its frequent climbs totalling 3,800 feet in elevation gain.
The Park host two “vehicle-free” Saturdays in September for cyclists and pedestrians to enjoy the views without worrying about traffic.
4. BOAT TOURS
There are two types of boat tours available. Firstly, you can take a quick shuttle boat hop to Wizard Island to explore this little cinder cone in the middle of the Lake. The second option is a two-hour cruise around the Lake with a Park Ranger who will provide a guided experience on Crater Lake.
Getting to the boat tour is an adventure in its own right. There is a 2.2-mile round-trip trail (down to the boat dock and back) that drops approximately 700 ft. The hike down to the dock takes approximately 30-45 minutes.
Each boat holds 37 passengers. Tickets are available for advance purchase by calling 888-774-2728 and at automated kiosks inside Crater Lake Lodge and the Annie Creek Gift Shop. These tickets go on sale exactly 24 hours in advance of each tour.
Planning your visit to Crater Lake National Park
|Telephone:||T: (541) 594-3000|
The park is open year-round, 24 hours a day. But many of the park’s roads, trails, and facilities are closed seasonally due to snow
Private Vehicles – $30 in the summer (May 22-October 31), $20 in the winter (November 1-May 21)
Best time to visit Crater Lake
Crater Lake National Park generally experiences just two of the four seasons: winter and summer. The first snow falls at Crater Lake in October or November—and it doesn’t melt until Memorial Day. The park averages 43 feet of snow each year, which is how it became the deepest lake in North America.
You’re free to snowshoe or cross-country ski around the rim (rangers lead snowshoe walks between November and April), and adventurous visitors can pitch a tent on the rim for multi-day treks. (Winter is the only time of year visitors can camp within eyesight of the lake itself.) But be warned, most of the park’s facilities—including restaurants and campgrounds—are closed all winter, so make sure you have plenty of gear, gas, and food before setting out.
The vast majority of Crater Lake’s half-million visitors descend on the park between June and September, when the warmest summer temperatures rarely top 80 degrees. If you’re looking for those idyllic Instagram photos, chances are good the summertime forecast will cooperate. Late spring and early summer is when the park comes out of hibernation: The last of the snow generally melts off trails by late July, lake cruises are offered between late June and early September, and the park’s campgrounds remain open for a few weeks after Labor Day—weather permitting.
Where to stay …
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. The Lodge has 71 rooms; the rates begin at $202 per night. 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.
An alternative to the Lodge is the Cabins at Mazama Village, located 7 miles south of Rim Village. There are 40 rooms the rates of which start at $165 per night.