1 Day Trip to Crater Lake National Park (snow-covered!)

On our Oregon road trip we stayed in the Umpqua National Forest for a few days on our way to Bend to enjoy some hot springs, waterfalls and a day trip to nearby Crater Lake National Park.

We were debating whether to go to Crater Lake as parts of this Oregon national park were still closed due to snow. (We visited in June!) We’re so glad we went – it’s spectacular and a worthy stop on your Oregon Road Trip.

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Nestled in the remote mountains, this sapphire jewel of Oregon is a geological wonder

The 1,943 feet deep Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the US and the second deepest in North America. (The second deepest is Lake Tahoe, which you can see more of here.)

Nearly 8,000 years ago, Mount Mazama blew the lid of its mountain. Rock and lava collapsed into the mountain’s crater, creating a massive caldera in replacement of what was a 12,000 ft. peak

Over time the caldera filled with rain and snow to create the spectacular Crater Lake, which is Oregon’s only national park and surprisingly a USA national park you may have not heard of.

Something that surprises me given so much natural beauty we discovered in this Pacific Northwest state.

Why is Crater Lake so blue?

crater lake national park

Crater Lake presents a blue you thought was only photo-shopped by photographers around the world showcasing it. It reminded me of when I first arrived at West Australian beaches and my first words were, “OH it really is that color blue. It hasn’t been photoshopped.”

Crater Lake holds a no filters needed persona.

The reason it is so blue is because of its purity. Water molecules, just plain water with no sediments, algae, pesticides or pollution, will absorb all the colors of the spectrum except the blues. There are 4.6 trillion gallons of relatively pure water in Crater Lake, which is why you get this sapphire blue.

Crater Lake is open year-round

Surprisingly the park is open year round, however only the south entrance is plowed during this time.

When we visited (mid June), over half the lake was still closed due to snow which reached fire higher than the beast – our gigantic Ford 250. Crater Lake receives 44 feet of snow annually.

Someone was still skiing down the steep mountain slopes on our visit to Crater Lake, in the middle of summer, which was awesome to see.

Crater Lake Rim Drive

Crater Lake Rim Drive
Crater Lake Rim Drive

The 33 mile Rim drive offers beautiful viewpoints and interpretative signs along the way. Even though Crater Lake is small enough to take in its entirety at every viewpoint, each viewpoint offers a different perspective just as beautiful as the other.

My favorite was standing behind Wizard Island and experiencing the different color blues form turquoise to aqua and deep blew.

This is one of those vistas that will stay with me forever.

We could only do a small section of the drive from the north entrance to the south as the east rim was closed still because of snow. Many of the hiking trails were also still closed.

Our trip was very minimal, but still worth doing, especially considering it was only an hour from our campsite in the Umpqua National Forest.

If you don’t want to do the drive, there is a Crater Lake Trolley tour you can take.

Crater Lake Lodge

Crater lake Lodge was built in 1915 and is perched 1,000 feet above the lake’s surface. It offers beautiful views of the lake, especially if you can grab a swinging chair on the porch.

We ate at the lodge here, although I personally found it overpriced and underwhelming. My recommendation is that you take a picnic lunch and find a spot anywhere on the rim.

Boat Tour to Wizard Island

Wizard Island Crater Lake National Park
Look at that water!

Wizard Island is a 763-foot cinder cone rising from the within the caldera, created after the volcano collapsed.

During the summer, Wizard Island boat tours combine a tour of the lake’s perimeter with three hours to spend on the island – plenty of time to hike to the summit and take in the panoramic view, fish, swim, and explore this unique part of Crater Lake National Park.

It’s on our list to do when we return to Crater Lake in the summer when more things are opened.

Cleetwood Cove Trail

Crater Lake Cleetwood Cove
Would you swim in Crater Lake?

We were hoping to do the Cleetwood Cove hike down to shores of Crater Lake, but it was closed. Cleetwood Cove Trail is the only legal access to the shore of Crater Lake.

Cleetwood Cove Trail is a steep and strenuous hike, so make sure you have adequate fitness and strength to handle it, remembering the hard slog comes last.

In 1.1 miles the trail drops 700 feet in elevation through a series of long switchbacks. The trail surface is crushed pumice, which is loose and slippery under foot and the trail is only partially shaded. Walking up the trail is comparable to climbing 65 flights of stairs.

Swimming, wading and fishing are permitted in the lake. It was high on my bucket list to swim in Crater Lake, no matter how cold. Oh, well, next time.

You may also love the mystical and unique Mono Lake in California

Crater Lake National Park Video

Car and RV Rental

You will need a vehicle to explore this region. You could do a road trip loop.

Rentalscar.com is who we trust to find the best car rental deals. Find availability in Eugene or Portland.

RVshare is the first and largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace. They can accommodate any kind of outdoor adventure for your Pacific Northwest road trip.

Whether a weekend camping trip or longer tour of multiple states, they have a range of rentals from affordable travel trailers to luxury motorhomes.

See availability here.

Places to Stay near Crater Lake

If you are not camping, you may like:

Other Great Oregon Travel Tips

Leave a comment: Have you visited Crater Lake before? What are some of your best tips? What questions do you have?

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