What to do at Crater Lake, Oregon
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Established in 1902, Crater Lake National Park is a must-visit in Oregon. About 7,700 years ago, a violent volcano eruption triggered the collapse of Mount Mazama creating the lake. At 1,949 feet deep, it’s now the deepest lake in the United States and is famous for its rich blue color. The area gets an average of 42 feet of snowfall each year, so it’s great for snowsports in the winter, while still allowing for a summer season of fun! Keep on reading for everything to know about Crater Lake, Oregon!
Plan on spending at least two hours on the scenic Rim Drive. This 33 mile road gives you beautiful lake views, astounding vistas, and more as you stop at the 30 overlooks to admire the scenery around you. Along this road are also five picnic areas, hike access, several waterfalls, and interesting geologic formations.
In winter, most of Rim Drive may be closed, but the full loop is generally open from July to October so if you’re visiting then, it’s a must see at Crater Lake!
There are tons of great Crater Lake hikes here at the park. From hikes for the shortest of legs to ones for the fittest, there will be something for you.
Castle Crest Wildflower Garden Trail is an easy 1.2 mile loop that’ll have you meandering among the summer wildflowers. Perfect for young kids or to stretch the legs!
At 1.7 miles roundtrip with 400 feet of elevation gain, the Watchman Peak Trail gives you expansive views of the lake and great views of Wizard Island. You won’t regret doing this hike!
Garfield Peak, a 3.4 mile moderate trail, gives you gorgeous lake views. Sunrise here can be out of this world!
Mount Scott takes you further back from Crater Lake, but you’ll be able to see wide views of not just Crater Lake, but the whole area.
These are just some of the great hikes in the area, but we’ve highlighted one more in depth just below.
Cleetwood Cove Trail
There’s only one way to legally access the beach and it’s on the Cleetwood Cove Trail. While it’s only 2.2 miles roundtrip, it can be difficult for people, so be sure that you and everyone in your group are up for it!
Hiking down to the lake gives you an up close and personal view of the lake, and once there, you can wade, swim, fish, or even take a boat tour of the lake. The National Parks Service has more information on the hike, including what you can’t take into the lake if you go swimming on their website.
The only way to get a boat tour is to hike down the Cleetwood Cove Trail. Eight tours are offered daily in the summer to get you up close to Wizard Island, Phantom Ship, and the other natural formations. Two additional shuttles take you to Wizard Island where you can swim, hike, and take in the views.
These boat tours are a great way to get to explore the lake and the beautiful even more on your trip to Crater Lake!
Cool off in the summer with some Crater Lake swimming. Again, to get to the lake you need to head down the Cleetwood Cove Trail, but once there you can go for a refreshing dip in the water.
They have restrictions on what’s allowed in the lake in order to preserve its clarity. So be sure to know what is and what is not allowed! (Goggles, life jackets, floatation devices, and a few other common things aren’t allowed.)
You don’t need a fishing license to fish in the park. Seven fish species were introduced to the lake between 1888 and 1941, but only two have survived today. There’s no limit on how many you can catch, you just need to use artificial bait so no other non-native species get introduced to the lake. You can fish on the shoreline (after hiking down Cleetwood Cove Trail), on Wizard Island (with purchase of a boat tour), and in many of the streams.
There are two developed campgrounds in Crater Lake, Mazama Campground (214 sites for RVs and tents) and Lost Creek Campground (16 sites for tents only). They’re only open in the summer. You can make a reservation for Mazama from July to September, in June it’s first-come first-served. Lost Creek is always first-come, first served. Crater Lake camping will be a great adventure for you!
If you want to get out further into the wilderness, you can get a permit and backcountry camp. Permits are required year-round, but they are free. They must be obtained in person, during business hours, from the Ranger Station at Park Headquarters and are not available over the phone, or more than 1 day in advance.
There are differences in summer backpacking and winter backpacking at Crater Lake, so be sure to know the rules, regulations, and tips for each when you’ve decided when you’re going! Summer camping is more ideal, but you can’t camp anywhere with a view of the lake in summer while in winter, you can camp along the rim. But no matter when you go, you’re sure to have a great time!
If there are too many things to choose from, or you need someone else to plan your trip, we’ve got a Crater Lake trip for you. Whether you go on that trip, or plan one of your own, be sure to take lots of photos and create amazing memories!