Crater Lake National Park Travel Guide

November 15, 2021

Crater Lake National Park Travel Guide

We have William Gladstone Steel to thank for making Crater Lake National Park known to all. He helped survey the area in the late 1880s, provided funding for scientific studies, and lobbied politicians so that this park could become the sixth American national park in 1902.  

He knew that the beauty of Crater Lake National Park demanded attention. Now, every visitor appreciates the spectacular blue water of the deepest lakes in the USA, and also has the opportunity to take in the amazing sights, sounds, and smells of the surrounding environment. 

This is a serene place that should be experienced by all. Come along as we tell you all the things you need to know to make your visit to Crater Lake National Park a success. 

Get to Know Crater Lake National Park

Region: Pacific Northwest
State: Oregon 
URL https://www.nps.gov/crla/index.htm 
Webcams: https://www.nps.gov/crla/learn/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm 
Established: May 22, 1902 
President: Theodore Roosevelt 
By the numbers: [from NP page]

  • 700,000+ visitors per year (2019)
  • 183,000+ acres
  • Lat.42.91138, 
  • Long -122.14346
  • 2 park entrances
  • 2 visitor centers
  • Highest elevation 8,929 ft.
  • Lowest elevation 3,990 ft.

Entrances 

There are 2 entrance stations into Crater Lake National Park that you can get to from either the North, South, or West.

  1. North Entrance - The North Entrance is closed for about seven months out of the year, normally November 1, depending on snowfall, to mid-May or late June. To get to the North Entrance, get off of I-5 and take Highway 58 to Highway 97 and turn West on Highway 138 and turn onto Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway. If the North Entrance is closed, continue on Highway 97 towards Chiloquin, then take Highway 62 to the South Entrance.
  2. South Entrance - Also called Annie Spring Entrance Station. There are several ways to get to the South entrance. You can follow Highway 62 from Medford to the South Entrance, or follow Highway 138 from Roseburg to the North Entrance or merge onto Highway 230 to Highway 62. You can also take Highway 97 from Klamath Falls to Highway 62. The South Entrance is on Munson Valley Rd and is open year-round. 

Entrance Fees for Crater Lake NP 

Passes are good for entry for 7 days from the date of purchase.

  • $30 private vehicles (Summer May 22 to Oct 31 then $20 (Winter Nov 1 to May 21)
  • $25 motorcycle in the summer, $15 in the winter
  • $15 on foot or bicycle
  • $55 Annual pass good for one year for a total of four people - good at Crater Lake NP and also Lava Beds National Monument
  • $80 annual pass for ALL national parks and federal fee areas
  • $20 senior annual pass, or $80 lifetime pass
  • Free - 4th & 5th graders annual pass
  • Free - military personnel and dependents
  • Free - lifetime entry for military veterans and Gold Star families
  • Free - lifetime pass for people with permanent disabilities

Visitor Centers

There are 2 Visitor Centers in the park. A great place to begin your visit is at Steel Visitor Center (open year-round) or Rim Visitor Center (open only in summer). At both locations, you can get assistance with trip planning, ask questions, and shop at the Crater Lake Natural History Association Park Store. 

Both locations offer a relief map that shows many of the outstanding features of the lake and the caldera. Additional exhibits are available at the Sinnott Memorial Overlook near Rim Visitor Center and in Crater Lake Lodge (both are only open in summer). 

Steel Visitor Center - Located near the South Entrance, this former ranger dormitory is currently under renovation. More visitor services will be added to see, visit https://www.nps.gov/crla/planyourvisit/visitorcenters.htm or call (541) 594-3000 for more information.  

Rim Visitor Center - Views of the lake are prominent and accessible from Rim Visitor Center. It is located at the historic Kiser Studio in Rim Village. Outdoor exhibits at the nearby Sinnott Memorial Overlook are likely open until mid-October. Get your passport stamp at the US Post Office located at headquarters, 9am to12pm and 1pm to 3pm.

Park Hours and Access

Crater Lake is open daily, 24 hours a day, year-round, although activities and services are limited at certain times of the year. Check the NPS website (listed above) for details about the season you will be visiting.  

Open all year? Yes, but the North Entrance, plus East and West Rim Drive are closed for the season with the first big snowstorm, or on November 1st, whichever comes first.

Closest Airports:

If you are not close enough to drive to Crater Lake, try flying into one of several airports and then drive into the park.

From the South Entrance:

  • Crater Lake-Klamath Airport [LMT] - 70 miles, 1 hr 19 mins
  • Rogue Valley International Medford Airport [MFR] - 85 miles, 1 hr 47 mins

From the North Entrance:

  • Eugene Airport [EUG] - 136 miles, 2 hrs 21 mins
  • Portland Airport (PDX) - 243 miles, 4 hrs 4 mins

Things To Do

Crater Lake National Park contains America’s most pristine and deepest lake fed by snow and rain. There is much to see and do at Crater Lake. Enjoy the scenic Rim Drive in a car or bike or check out a ranger-led tour on a trolley or boat. You can also take a walking tour of Rim Village.

Whether you choose to visit Crater Lake in the warm or cold months, there are ranger programs for young and old to enjoy. Your junior rangers can participate in four daily activities to learn more about volcanoes, pikas, and other park-related subjects. Go on a hike, wildlife viewing tour, snowshoe walk, or enjoy a ranger talk on the patio or indoors of the historic lodge. If you visit during the winter, you can go snowmobiling, skiing, sledding, or snowboarding.

If you are interested in spending more time taking in the wildlife, you can go fishing in the lake for kokanee salmon or rainbow trout. You can reach the lake on the Cleetwood Cove Trail, or check out any of the other streams nearby for brook or brown trout. Don’t forget your binoculars because Crater Lake is home to at least 250 species of birds.

Wanting to spend the night and get back to nature? Backcountry camping is also available year-round. A permit is required free of charge from the Ranger Station at Park Headquarters. The permits are valid only for the dates, locations, and party size specified and you must have an entrance pass that is valid for the entire time as well. 

How Much Time Do You Need to Explore Crater Lake National Park?

You can take in most of the activities at Crater Lake National Park in one day. Take a 33 miles ride on Rim Drive and stop for all of the overlooks and photo spots. Stop by one of the visitor centers and learn about the history of the area, then enjoy a meal at Crater Lake Lodge.  

If you want a more relaxing trip spend three days and get ideas from this itinerary by Park Chasers https://www.parkchasers.com/2018/10/trip-recap-crater-lake-national-park/  You might think about taking a boat tour to Wizard Island and hiking some of the trails. Be sure to catch a sunrise and sunset and snap pictures!  

Continue south and visit some other National Park Properties that are close to Crater Lake:

  • Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve 2 hours 45 mins southwest on Hwy 62, via Hwy 199
  • Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument 1 hour 20 minutes southwest on Hwy 140
  • Tule Lake National Monument 1 hour 30 mins southeast on Hwy 97 via Hwy 139
  • Lava Beds National Monument 1 hour 30 mins southeast on Hwy 97 via Hwy 161

My Bucket Journals Top Crater Lake NP Picks:

  • Rim Visitor Center
  • Steel Visitor Center
  • Take the scenic Rim Drive
  • Go snowshoeing
  • See the Old Man of the Lake
  • Visit Phantom Ship Overlook
  • See the Pumice Desert
  • Sinnot Memorial Overlook
  • Visit Crater Lake Lodge
  • Drive 1.5 hours south to Lava Beds National Monument

Hike the Trails 

There are over 90 miles of hiking trails within Crater Lake National Park. Hiking is typically only permitted in Summer and Fall as staying on the trail is hard and dangerous in the colder months. 

  • Castle Crest Trail - Access the trailhead at Steel Visitor Center or ½ mile east of Park Headquarters. This loop trail is ½ miles and will take about 20 minutes round trip. There are self-guiding brochures available at the trailhead. There are abundant wildflowers from late June through July. The trail is rocky and slippery in places. {Easy} 
  • Lady of the Woods Trail - Pets welcome! Trailhead is behind the Steel Visitor Center on the Southside of the building. This loop trail is 0.7 miles and will take about 30 minutes round trip. There are self-guiding brochures available at the trailhead and describe how early park architects integrated their designs with the natural landscape. {Easy}
  • Sun Notch Trail - Wheelchair accessible! Access the trailhead 4.4 miles east of the Park headquarters. This trail is 0.8 miles and will take about  30 minutes round trip. This short uphill walk goes through a meadow to the rim of Crater Lake. Great views of the Phantom Ship. {Easy}
  • The Pinnacles Trail - Wheelchair accessible! The trailhead is found at the end of Pinnacles Rd, 6 miles Southeast of the Phantom Ship overlook. This trail is 0.8 miles and will take about 30 minutes round trip. This trail is an easy walk along the rim of Pinnacle Valley. It offers great views of volcanic spires. The trail ends at the park boundary. {Easy}
  • Godfrey Glen Trail - Pets welcome and wheelchair accessible! Trailhead is 2.4 miles South of Park Headquarters and there are self-guiding brochures available at the trailhead. This trail is 1.1 miles and will take about 30 minutes round trip. This is an easy stroll through an old-growth forest, with some canyon views. {Easy}
  • Plaikni Falls Trail - Wheelchair accessible! Trailhead is on Pinnacles Rd 1.2 miles Southeast of the Phantom Ship overlook. This trail is 2.0 miles and will take about 1 hour round trip. Easy walk through an old-growth forest to a waterfall. Many wildflowers in July. The first ¾ mile is accessible to all-terrain wheelchair users with assistance, but the final ¼ mile might be too steep. {Easy}
  • Grayback Drive - Gravel road that is open to hikers, bikers, horseback riders, and pets but closed to motor vehicles. Start on East Rim Drive or Pinnacles Rd. This trail is 4.6 miles and will take about 1.5 hours one way. {Easy}
  • Discovery Point Trail - Trailhead is on the West end of Rim Village where the paved walk becomes a dirt path, you can also start from Discovery Point. This trail is 2.0 miles and will take about an hour round trip. The trail runs along the rim of Crater Lake through a pretty forest of white bark pines and mountain hemlocks. Great views of the lake and Wizard Island. {Moderate}
  • Watchman Peak Trail - Trailhead starts at Watchman Overlook which is 3.8 miles Northwest of Rim Village on West Rim Drive. This trail is 1.6 miles and will take about an hour round trip. There is a moderate ascent to a fire lookout above Wizard Island. There are spectacular views in all directions and it is a great place to watch the sunset. The trail may be closed until early July due to snow. {Moderate}
  • Annie Creek Trail - Trailhead is behind the amphitheater at Mazama Campground and self-guiding brochures are available. This loop trail is 1.7 miles and will take about 1.5 hours round trip. Moderately strenuous hike through a deep, stream-cut canyon. Lots of water, wildflowers, and sometimes wildlife. {Moderate}
  • Boundary Springs Trail - Trailhead is located at a pullout on Highway 230 near milepost 19 about 5 miles west of the junction with Highway 138. This trail is 5 miles and will take about 3 hours round trip. This moderate walk takes you to the headwaters of the Rogue River. {Moderate}
  • Cleetwood Cove Trail - Trailhead is located on the Northside of the lake, 11 miles from Rim Village if traveling clockwise. This trail is 2.2 miles and will take about 1.5 hours round trip. Cleetwood Cove Trail is the only legal access to the shore of Crater Lake. Depending on snow conditions, the trail is usually open from mid-June to late October. Swimming, wading, and fishing are permitted in the lake. Climbing back up from the rocky beach is like climbing up 65 flights of stairs. {Strenuous}
  • Garfield Peak Trail - Trailhead is located on the East end of Rim Village, following the paved promenade behind Crater Lake Lodge. This trail is 3.6 miles and will take about 2 or 3 hours round trip. It’s a rocky climb to a high peak. There are spectacular views along the way and at the top. Enjoy diverse plant life including wildflowers. The top section may be closed until early July due to snow. {Strenuous}
  • Mount Scott Trail - Trailhead is on East Rim Drive, 14 miles East of Park Headquarters. This trail is 4.4 miles and will take about 3 hours round trip. This is a gradual ascent of the park’s highest peak. Great views in all directions. Best in the morning, when the light is ideal for lake viewing. The top section may be closed until early July due to snow. {Strenuous}
  • Crater Peak Trail - Trailhead is on East Rim Drive, 3 miles East of Park Headquarters at the Vidae Falls Picnic Area. This trail is 6.5 miles and will take about 3.5 hours round trip. This is a moderate-to-strenuous hike to the summit of a small volcano. There are no lake views, but nice views of the Klamath Basin to the Southeast. It is a peaceful walk through forests and meadows. {Strenuous} 
  • Union Peak Trail - Trailhead is on Highway 62 at the Pacific Crest Trailhead, 1 mile West of the Crater Lake Rd junction. This trail is 9.8 miles and will take about 5 to 6 hours round trip. This long forest walk includes a very steep climb. Great views from the top and interesting geology but doesn't have views of Crater Lake. The top section may be closed until early July due to snow. {Strenuous}
  • Pacific Crest Trail - Pets welcome! The Pacific Crest Trail makes two road crossings and trailheads in the park. Each has a parking lot. This trail sees several thousand hikers going from Mexico to Canada or vice versa.

Scenic Drive

You can drive scenic Rim Drive around the perimeter of the lake. This 33-mile drive includes lake views, panoramic vistas, forests, and meadows. The contours of the road were designed to complement the natural landscape, and disappear from view as you look across the lake from any point. Along the way, there are 30 overlooks with ample car parking, which provide opportunities to stop for views of the lake and caldera. Rim Drive provides access to five picnic areas, hikes of various difficulties, geologic formations, and several waterfalls. Due to snowfall, the Rim Drive can only be done in the warmer months starting in May or June. Allow about 2 hours.

Tours: 

There are many ways to enrich your visit to Crater Lake by participating in a ranger program, becoming a junior ranger, exploring as a young scientist, or going on a guided tour.  

Try the Crater Lake Trolley tour, a ranger-guided tour of the lake that includes 5-7 stops. While it is closed for the 2021 season, they hope to open in 2022 as the social distancing restrictions are eased.   

The National Park Service requires specific authorizations for commercial businesses to operate in national parks. Approved companies provide a variety of services and tours inside Crater Lake, including: 

  • Boat 
  • Hiking
  • Trolley

Learn more at the National Park Website.   

Lodging in the park:

Crater Lake Lodge - is the only lodge in the park. It has 71 rooms and overlooks Crater Lake. It is open from mid-May to mid-October. Call 866-292-6720 for reservations, or visit www.travelcraterlake.com

The Cabins at Mazama Village - 7 miles South of Rim Village is Mazama Village which has opportunities for camping or cabins. There are 40 cabins that are open from late May to late September. Call 866-292-6720 for reservations, or visit www.travelcraterlake.com.

Campgrounds: 

There are 2 campgrounds inside Crater Lake.  

Mazama Campground - 7 miles South of Rim Village is Mazama Village which has opportunities for camping or cabins. There are 214 sites of tents or RV’s (50’ max), some sites have electric hookups. Open early June to late September. Call 866-292-6720 for reservations, or visit www.travelcraterlake.com

Lost Creek Campground - 3 miles South of East Rim Drive on Pinnacles Road. There are 16 tent sites only. Vault toilets available, but no water. Wood fires are prohibited, and reservations are not required. Visit their website for more information. 

There are lodging and camping opportunities outside of Crater Lake NP. Check out Fort Klamath, Union Creek, Diamond Lake, Prospect, and Chiloquin areas and visit this site for suggested places.

Get Connected

The National Park Service App (NPS App) features downloadable information for all the national park sites in the country, including Crater Lake. This includes an interactive map, self-guided audio tours, and information to make your trip smoother and more interesting.  

Visitor TIP 

Cellular service within the park is extremely limited. In order to make use of the app while at Crater Lake, follow these simple steps before you arrive: 

  • Download the app.
  • In the app, select the "Settings" option.
  • Tap the choice "Download Offline Content." 

This gives you access to most of the app content (except alerts, calendar updates, and real-time updates, although accessing those items before leaving service will keep that information available in the app) Even without cellular service, the app will be able to share your location on the map and bring up all site content.

Online Map of the Park

Use our interactive map to plan your trip and view details about visitor centers, campgrounds, lodging, walking tours, and attractions. 

How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left-hand corner of the map to view the layers. You can click the checkmarks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.

If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

 

Pin it for Later!

 

 






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