Crater Lake National Park
Guide

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Introduction

Discover one of America's deepest lakes. The collapsed, dormant volcano of Crater Lake National Park is a stunning landmark and a unique location for guests to get aquatic. Encircling the great lake are old-growth forests and spectacular cliffs that help to solidify Crater Lake National Park as one of Oregon's most awe-inspiring, beautiful vistas.
While open all year round, there are certain areas and facilities of the park that close down during winter months. The drastic differences in elevation create rather rapid changes in weather conditions, so travelers are cautioned when visiting outside of peak-operating season.
This park's varied landscape is a sheltered retreat for an array of wildlife. The many winding trails that carve through Crater Lake National Park provide ample opportunity to get face-to-face with nature at its best. While you're in the area, be sure to stop at nearby Tumalo State Park for additional recreation options, making your trip to Oregon even more exciting.
It is advised to begin your travels at one of Crater Lake's two Visitor Centers. Here, after gathering details and information about the park's other facilities, visitors can make well-educated decisions over which recreational opportunities to pursue. There are plenty of activities for all skill levels. Guests can expect plenty of opportunity for hiking, backcountry backpacking, camping, sightseeing, picnicking, and other popular pursuits.
The long summer days pair perfectly with Crater Lake's waters, and winter brings a crowd of cross-country skiers and other winter-time outdoor enthusiasts.
The Mazama Campground offers 200 sites to choose from for tent, trailer, and RV camping. This campground remains open only throughout the summer months of June through September, which is plenty of reason why most get their reservations in early. While some months of the year, campers may reserve their campsites, other months of the year only permit campers on a first-come, first-served basis.

Park Alerts (1)

[Park Closure] North Entrance Road and Rim Drive are Closed to Cars for the Winter

Winter road closures are now in effect. You can enter year-round from the south or west on Hwy 62. The road to Rim Village is also open year-round, except during periods of heavy snow. At Rim Village, you can enjoy views of the lake, weather permitting.

RV Rentals in Crater Lake National Park

Transportation in Crater Lake National Park

Driving

There are three entrances to the park: North, South, and West Entrances. It's important to note that the North Entrance tends to remain closed for about seven months out of the year, due to significant snowfall. Typically, guests can expect to gain entrance to the North Entrance sometime between mid-May and throughout June. Luckily, this isn't the only way to get your rig into Crater Lake National Park. The park's South and West Entrances are open all year round. Trailers, RVs, and buses will find no travel restrictions in and inside the park. Roads within the park do tend to run a bit narrow, so it is advised for RVs and larger rigs to drive at a steady, careful speed. Always be on the lookout for area wildlife, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

Parking

There are no travel or length restrictions for RVs, campers, or buses that navigate throughout the park. However, parking at any of the scenic overlooks can be quite limited, especially when traveling with a larger motorhome or trailer. It's advised to get going early, and plan your day accordingly, especially when visiting during the peak summer months. If you're coming in for a day-trip, you can expect a decent line at any of the entry points. Guests staying overnight can get comfortable in either Lost Creek or Mazama Campground (RV-friendly). Sites provide plenty of space to park, and Mazama Campground hosts loops that are specific to RV travel.

Public Transport

There is no public transportation advertised in the vicinity of the park. However, AmTrak provides a daily service run to Klamath Falls. A shuttle bus runs from the Amtrak station to Rim Village from late June through to early October. Most transportation around the park is done by foot or bicycle.

Campgrounds and parking in Crater Lake National Park

Campsites in Crater Lake National Park

Reservations camping

Lemolo Lake / Crater Lake North KOA

Nestled in the eastern part of the stunning Umpqua National Forest, the Lemolo Lake/Crater Lake North KOA campground is on the banks of 540-acre boating and fishing lake with views of beautiful Mount Thielsen. Most RV sites are pull-through, with full hookups. Visit the small camp store for food, necessary supplies, drinks, firewood, ice, souvenirs, and propane. Rent a boat or launch your own at one of the two boat ramps. You can also rent rowboats, paddleboards, and kayaks. Just a few miles from Crater Lake National Park, this gem is an excellent jumping-off point to explore all this area has to offer. The Pacific Crest Trail passes just a few miles east, and you can enjoy hiking, mountain biking and more, just minutes from the Lemolo Lake/Crater Lake North KOA campground.

Medford / Gold Hill KOA

In the mountains of southern Oregon, the family-friendly Medford/Gold Hill KOA has a lot to offer, in a convenient, yet rustic setting. Only a mile from the Rogue River and surrounded by scenic farmland, it’s just minutes from I-5, almost exactly between Medford and Grants Pass. An easy day trip gets you to the Oregon Pacific Coast and Crater Lake, and you’re even closer to Ashland’s famous Shakespeare Festival, year-round fishing, river raft trips, and more. Medford/Gold Hill KOA features shaded sites, Wi-Fi and cable TV, a seasonal pool, playground for the kids, and video games and a pool table in the recreation room. Firewood and propane are available on-site for purchase.

Klamath Falls KOA

Look forward to a campground that’s open all year long with exciting seasonal activities and outings for you, your family, and your pooch! At Klamath Falls KOA, take advantage of the hiking trails right outside your door. Klamath Falls isn’t too far of a drive for renowned fishing and kayaking thrills, and Oregon’s longest zip lines. Pull-through sites can accommodate rigs up to 70 feet in length, and full hookups with 50-amp service are available. Other amenities include Wi-Fi and cable TV, and a seasonal pool. Not only will you find firewood and propane on-site, but minutes away from the KOA are a variety of restaurants.

First-come first-served

Mazama Campground

The Mazama Campground features over 200 sites to choose from for tent, trailer, and RV camping. This campground remains open only throughout the summer months of June through September, which is why most get their reservations in early for this one. However, in June, all sites are open as first-come, first-serve. This is an excellent opportunity for those on the road to make a stop for a few nights and dig into everything that Oregon has to offer.
If Mazama Campground has caught your attention, be sure to stake your claim early, especially when traveling in June and August. The beautiful weather and all-around inviting atmosphere for adventure mean this campground is typically filled by mid-afternoon. Sites will accommodate rather robust rigs (up to 50 feet), but trailers are permitted only up to 35 feet. While no hookups are advertised, guests can enjoy the added amenities of the Mazama Camper Store, where camping supplies, propane, firewood, basic groceries, and unleaded gasoline are provided. Each site has a standard fire ring, picnic table, and bear-resistant lockers for food storage.

Alternate camping

Backcountry Camping

Snow-heavy winters tend to keep the backpacking season at Crater Lake National Park rather short. Most trails situated at lower elevations are free from snow by late June; however, trails at higher elevations tend to remain snow-covered into July. Most guests suggest visiting the park's backcountry from mid-July and throughout September when trails are clear, and weather conditions are a little more consistent. Since many of the trails range across changing elevation, travelers should be wary of the weather, as conditions can rapidly decline. Backcountry campers need to come prepared with adequate food, water, and clothing. Here is where both skill level and supplies are crucial components before entering any hazardous areas. Five designated backcountry campsites are found within the park. All are primitive and include only a fire ring and flattened area for tent camping. Sites are assigned with a backcountry permit, which is required to stay out here overnight. Permits are issued on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Off Park Camping

There is plenty to do throughout the year, including while the park is still blanketed in snow. Unfortunately, RV camping only becomes available in the summer months when Mazama Campground is open. That doesn't mean you're without options for your stay. Several locations, while not directly inside the park, at least lie just on the outskirts. Winter guests aren't the only ones who may be on the lookout for other options. Crater Lake National Park is often open as first-come, first-serve, with reservations only becoming available as summer begins to close out. If you're left with no more room to park within the grounds, there is no need to fret. Sno-Parks (available in winter), resorts, and other family campgrounds can be located less than 15 miles from Park Headquarters. From late June and through to early October, there is even an Amtrak service that runs daily to Klamath Falls and a shuttle bus that runs from the Amtrak station to Rim Village, making it a bit easier for guests to feel better about parking their wheels outside the park.

Lost Creek Campground

This campground is for tents only, so no RVing here! The sites here are located south of Crater Lake and provide flush toilets. There are only 16 sites, and generators are not permitted. For a hot shower, overnight tent campers can visit nearby Mazama Campground where the coin-operated laundry machines can also be used. A change machine is provided near the showers. Leashed pets are also welcome to stay. All sites offer a picnic table, fire ring with grill, and metal bear box for food storage.

Seasonal activities in Crater Lake National Park

Spring

Volcano Boat Tour

The Volcano Boat Tour provides you with a different view of Crater Lake’s unique scenery. Usually, visitors look down from the caldera rim, not up to it. A park ranger will accompany you on each trip and educate tour-goers of the park and lake’s rich history. The tour ends at Wizard Island, where those with advanced reservations can spend a few hours exploring. It’s not a tour for everyone, as its beginning and end involve a steep hike that is a good mile or better to get to and from the boat.

Bicycling

While bikes are not allowed on trails, bicycling is encouraged on all paved roads and even the unpaved Grayback Drive. The park’s roads are somewhat narrow and can carry heavy automobile traffic, so riders are advised to follow all safety precautions when cycling. If you didn’t bring your bike, visit one of the outfitters located outside of the park for a bike rental. Bicycling can be quite physically demanding, but the views are always worth the effort. The most popular of the more challenging rides is the 33-mile Rim Drive, where climbs can gain almost 4,000 feet in elevation. For those who seek a more relaxed ride, a paved 11-mile biking path circles Diamond Lake.

Trolley Touring

As one of America’s most scenic routes, Rim Drive is well visited but may be hard to appreciate for those doing the driving. With a trolley tour, you can leave all that driving to someone else while you take in the views. These are ranger-guided tours that circle Crater Lake and begin and end at Rim Village. Each tour usually takes about two hours to complete a clockwise ride around the lake. There is always a minimum of five stops at scenic overlooks. Buses are enclosed, and climate-controlled, as well as fully accessible, so your ride will be informative and comfortable.

Backcountry Camping

About 95 percent of the park is managed wilderness, though some areas are closed off specifically for backcountry camping. Coming to these areas can be quite rewarding for adventurous people. The old-growth forests and volcanic landscapes hold much to be explored. All campers who wish to stay outside the park’s developed campground must obtain a permit, except for hikers coming through the Pacific Crest Trail. Permits are available free of charge and can be picked up at the Park Headquarters.

Wildlife Viewing

Crater Lake is home to so many different types of animals, though they can be quite tricky to spot. It’s quite common to come across a friendly squirrel or quiet doe, but even if the animals seem benign, it's best to keep a distance of at least 100 feet from any wild animal. During certain times of the year, elk may be present in the meadows along Rim Drive, and lucky observers may even catch a glimpse of a fox, black bear, wolf, porcupine, bobcat, or an eagle. The best times to witness the most elusive animals are at dusk and dawn.

Summer

Swimming

While swimming is something fun to do mid-Summer in Crater Lake, be advised — the water is still rather cold, even on the hottest days. Swimming is only permitted at Cleetwood Cove and Wizard Island, but you must take a boat tour to reach the island. Neither of the shorelines makes for any proper beaches, but both locations are quaint and rocky and worth the stop.

Evening Programs

Ranger-led evening activities are a perfect way to learn about the park from the experts. Crater Lake Evening Programs allow guests to relax under the stars and discuss a whole variety of topics. Groups meet at the Mazama Campground Amphitheater, between loops D and E. Typically, programs run close to an hour and are accessible to everyone. Many of these Evening Programs are family-friendly, so bring the whole crew with you for an informational and fun learning experience.

Fishing

Fishing is allowed at the bottom of Cleetwood Cove Trail, where a short stretch of rocky shoreline can be found. Another area open to fishing is Wizard Island, which is only reachable by tour boat. These waters hold a good amount of rainbow trout and kokanee salmon, sure to keep any luring enthusiast happy. Fishing licenses are not necessary here and there are no restrictions on size, number, or the type of fish taken from the lake. Fishing is limited to artificial flies and lures. No organic bait of any kind may be used.

Cleetwood Cove Trail

The Cleetwood Cove Trail provides the only legal access point to Crater Lake’s shore. The hike is one that is rather steep and strenuous, so it isn’t for everyone. In just a little over one mile, the trail drops a good 700 feet in elevation. Walking back up is another feat in itself. It’s a trail that is recommended for those who are in good physical condition. This hike should not be attempted by anyone with breathing difficulties, heart problems, or any issues with walking. Hikers are encouraged to bring plenty of water along for the trek and should wear reliable, sturdy shoes. You’ll find vault toilets at both the top and bottom of the trail. The Cleetwood Cove Trail is usually open from mid-June into late October.

Sky Gazing

The rim of Crater Lake is the perfect place to observe the night sky’s astronomical events. However, sky gazing is not only limited to the night. Discovery Point offers spectacular views of the sunrise, while Watchman Overlook provides dramatic sunsets and moon-rises. It’s best to inquire at the Visitor Center for optimal time for sky viewing.

Fall

Picnicking Along the Rogue River

The Rogue River Valley is a beautiful location, perfect for sightseeing and picnicking, especially during the fall when the leaves are changing color. It is an enchanting area with gorgeous forests and intriguing hiking trails. Many enjoy challenging the waters of the Rogue River by facing its roaring rapids. Others find the whimsy of the area’s waterfalls quite alluring. It’s a perfect destination to spend the day.

Eating at the Rim Café

The Rim Village Café and Gift Shop is open daily, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Occasionally, when the roads to Rim Village are closed off, the café and gift shop remains closed. At the Rim Village Café and Gift Shop, you can enjoy quick meals to help you regain your strength after a day out enjoying the landscape. It's the perfect place to warm-up from the crisp fall air while filling your belly with hot sandwiches, bowls of chili, and comforting soup. The Rim Village Café and Gift Shop also provide snowshoe rentals and winter clothing to help you bundle up if you didn't pack warm enough clothing, and like most gift shops, there are trinkets and souvenirs for sale.

Scenic Driving

The roads that circle the entire lake are typically open from July and throughout October. It’s a drive you won’t soon forget, with incredible scenic views of the lake. There are numerous overlooks to stop and take in what’s around you. Feel free to explore as you continue on this journey around the lake. The drive showcases many areas that are perfect for picnics or a start to a day hike. Visitors should plan on spending at least half of a day driving around if you want to stop at multiple overlooks along your drive.

Viewing the Lake

Coming to Crater Lake National Park wouldn't be complete without seeing the lake from different perspectives. Exceptional views of Crater Lake can be enjoyed from Rim Village when the skies are clear. The lake is somewhat elusive, invisible about half the time in Winter and early Spring. Fall makes for the perfect time to catch a glimpse of the lake’s pristine waters before losing sight of the waters again as winter’s storms roll in.

Dining at Crater Lake Lodge

The Dining Room of Crater Lake Lodge is the perfect spot to dine in style. Its massive stone fireplace and rough, rustic log columns make the dining room a superbly charming (and quite cozy) environment to get out of the crisp fall air. Come here to enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with reservations available for window-view tables that pair your meal with views of Crater Lake.

Winter

Snowshoeing With a Park Ranger

Ranger-led snowshoe walks are a perfect way to experience Crater Lake’s winter wonderland. Walks are offered weekends and holidays from late November through the end of April. Check-in with either of the two Visitor Centers, as some walks might take place on the weekdays from December through January. Snowshoes are provided free of charge, and no experience is necessary to join in. The walks typically last about two hours and cover roughly one to two miles of terrain. It’s a somewhat strenuous trek, but a very fulfilling walk overall. Space to join in on tours tends to be somewhat limited, depending on the time of the year, so advanced reservations are highly recommended.

Skiing

You’ll find a wide variety of marked and unmarked routes for cross-country skiing. Trails are not groomed, so skiers should be prepared to break trail, sometimes even through some fairly deep snow. Conditions will vary from slush to powder to ice. Trail recommendations are readily given from the friendly staff at Steel Visitor Center.

Snowmobiling

Every winter, the park’s northern entrance is groomed for snowmobiling. Travelers can go as far as the rim of Crater Lake. However, all snowmobiles must adhere to marked routes and are not allowed access on Rim Drive. Snowmobile routes are typically open from December through March, as weather permits. Rentals are provided nearby, and guided snowmobiling tours are also available.

Watching the Park’s Film

The Steel Visitor Center offers a 22-minute long introductory film that examines the park’s rich geologic history. It includes dramatic underwater footage and state-of-the-art animations that depict Crater Lake’s violent and volcanic past. When you want to learn about the park, it’s a perfect place to start. The Steel Visitor Center is located at Park Headquarters, and it is open every day but Christmas Day. If you miss your first movie time slot, don't worry, the film plays every half an hour during operating hours.

Sledding

Sledding is a fun activity for people of many ages. While there are no designated sled hills in the park, there are many opportunities where you can break out the sled and enjoy a fun ride on some of the smaller hills and slopes within the park. Find the safe and sled-friendly areas near Rim Village. One of the more popular sledding locations is near the open meadow that sits south of Crater Lake Lodge.

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