Dreaming of Travel: Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park is in South East Oregon and is the only National Park in the State of Oregon. The “Crater” was formed over 7000 years ago when Mount Mazama (a 12,000-foot tall volcano) erupted. The force was so powerful that ash from the explosion can still be found in Alberta, Canada! The explosion undermined the side of Mount Mazama and the mountain imploded on itself creating the Caldera we now call Crater Lake.
Crater Lake is the deepest lake in America! The lake is fed by rain and snowmelt. It is also the cleanest and clearest body of water in the world. This is because it is filled with only water from the sky, so there is no sediment flowing in with the water. It's so cold that algae cannot grow, which keeps it clear.
Getting to Crater Lake National Park
If you are visiting Crater Lake National Park, you’ll need to plan ahead and be prepared. It is a bit in the middle of nowhere and services and accommodations are limited.
There are smaller airports near Crater Lake like Klamath Falls, but the flights are expensive. A better bet would be to fly into Medford or even Portland.
The driving distance from Portland is 4.5 hours. Driving from Medford is 1.5 hours.
When to Visit Crater Lake National Park
If you want everything to be open, then summer is your best bet. Of course, this means larger crowds as well as the possibility of wildfire smoke affecting your view. Late spring and early fall are wonderful times to visit the park. Some roads remain open during the winter, but keep in mind that Crater Lake is one of the snowiest inhabited places on earth, and you will have very limited access.
What to Do in Crater Lake National Park
Driving the Rim Drive is the most popular thing to do in Crater Lake National Park. This is a 33-mile drive that circles the lake. There are plenty of places to stop along the way to see the lake from different viewpoints. You should plan about 3-4 hours of driving with stops included. If you drive without stops, then about an hour will do.
You can swim in the lake, but it is always cold. Not chilly, COLD. There is also only one trail that leads to the water. It's 2.2 miles and is very strenuous. I would not recommend this trail for young children or anyone who isn't in great physical shape. From this trail, you can also fish for rainbow trout (which is stocked) or take a boat ride to Wizard Island (a cinder cone in the lake). To take the boat ride, you’ll need advanced reservations.
There are hiking opportunities ranging from easy walks to long treks, including portions of the Pacific Coast Trail.
Tips for Visiting Crater Lake National Park
There is a seasonally open gas station at Mazama village in the park, but otherwise, the nearest gas stations are just over 30 miles away. Be prepared.
You likely won’t have cell service in or near the park. Plan accordingly.
If you want to stay in the park, the only options are camping, and 2 in-park lodges. Both of these options fill up fast so you’ll need to plan ahead. Outside of the park, the nearest places to stay are Kalamath, Union Creek, or Chiloquin.
This tip is for any National Park but especially parks like Crater Lake with no cell service: Download the free NPS app before you go. This app is a treasure trove of information. Before you head to Crater Lake, go to the app and turn on the setting that allows for the information to be viewed when offline. This allows you to have park maps, hiking trails, and services available when you are in the park.
If you want to drive the Rim Drive and do 1-2 short hikes, you can plan just one day in Crater Lake National Park. Of course, the longer you stay, the deeper you can explore!
Plan on staying for sunset! Find a spot along the Rim Drive and pull over to watch the sunset over the lake, it is beautiful! Due to its remote location, Crater Lake is a wonderful place to stargaze too!
Have you been to Crater Lake National Park? We are obsessed with the beauty here and would love to see more photos! Tag us on Instagram @gethappyly for a chance to be featured!
Looking to read up on more national parks? Check out our articles on Petrified National Forest, Haleakala National Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and Saguaro National Park!
For even more tips and advice be sure to Download the happyly app, the country’s only mobile-first family activity planning app, for fast access to all of our frequent blog content, favorite activities, and expertly designed curated days, both locally and in many communities and travel destinations across the country.