Whether you are a local, a vacationer, or just a visitor passing through, no trip to Southern Oregon is complete without a stop at Crater Lake National Park.
While the beauty of the forested drive into the park is inspiring, nothing compares to the lake itself. Nearly 2,000 feet deep and situated in the caldera of the volcano previously known as Mount Mazama, the crystalline waters and intense blue of Crater Lake is unlike anything else. Overlooks situated along the Rim Drive allow you many great opportunities to take in the lake from many different angles, as well as learn history and features of the area. For the more adventurous, hiking trails, horseback rides, and boat tours give you a unique perspective to take in one of America’s oldest parks.
Where to Start your Crater Lake Journey:
For most, the best place to start your Crater Lake adventure is at the Rim Village Visitor Center and Sinnott Memorial Overlook. The Visitor Center itself was built in 1909 using rustic stone masonry construction, and is the perfect place to plan your visit, get something to eat or pick up that perfect souvenir. Road closures, construction, trail info and more can all be found here.
The Sinnott Memorial Overlook is just a short walk from the Visitors Center and is where you can catch your first glimpse of the lake, Wizard Island, and the surrounding caldera rim. Built 900 feet above the lake, the sheltered overlook is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The view from here is world-famous and is one you will never forget. Daily talks on “Discovering Crater Lake” are also given at the Overlook during the warmer months.
What’s next for your Crater Lake visit?
After leaving the Visitors Center, now the adventure truly begins! Here’s our picks of some of the must do and see activities while you are at the Park:
- Enjoy the Rim Drive by Vehicle or Bicycle. Open June through October (depending on weather), the 33 miles of roadways encircling the lake are known as the Rim Drive. Many great scenic overlooks along the drive give you a chance to stop and take pictures, do a little exploring, picnic, or enjoy a hike. Be sure to stop in at the Cloudcap Overlook, Pumice Castle, and the overlook at The Phantom Ship.
While most visitors travel the Rim Drive by vehicle, it’s also a beautiful place for the avid cyclist. Those who take in the exquisiteness of the lake and surrounding area via bicycle should be prepared for long, steep grades and some narrow roadways.
- Stop in at the Steel Visitor Center and Visit the Lady of the Woods Sculpture. The Steel Visitor Center is open year-round on the road that leads up to Rim Drive. It’s a great place to start or end your park adventure, though many bypass it for the Rim Village Visitor Center. Steel is more than just a visitor center – this is also the park headquarters and a bookstore. For those that plan to hike during their time at the park, this is the best place to pick up the latest information, maps, and speak to rangers about trail and road conditions. Located behind the visitor center is a short trail that leads to the Lady of the Woods sculpture, crafted by Dr. Bush around 1917 and carved from volcanic rock.
- Take a boat tour of Crater Lake and visit Wizard Island. While the terrain is challenging to get down to the boat dock – a mile-plus hike on steep terrain down to Cleetwood Cove – the views, information and perspective you get are invaluable. Two tour options allow you to choose your own adventure. The two-hour perimeter cruise takes you around the edge of Crater Lake and gives you up-close views of such natural formations as Wizard Island and the Phantom Ship. The Wizard Island tour takes you out to the island itself and gives you a chance to hike the Wizard Island Summit Trail which takes you to the crater summit. You can also do some swimming or fishing from Wizard Island itself.
- Enjoy the Trolley Tour. Leave the driving to someone else and have more time to take in the sights! The two-hour tour stops at several unique areas of the park and is guided by Park Rangers who provide you with information about the park itself and many of its great features.
- Take a Hike. Crater Lake National Park is full of fantastic hiking trails. From waterfalls to wildflowers, volcanic spires to wildlife, the trails at Crater Lake have it all. Ranging from easy to extreme, there is a trail for you. Many are even wheelchair accessible.
- Do some Fishing. Yes, you read that right, you can fish at Crater Lake. There is a quarter mile of shoreline available for angling on the outer rim, accessible from the Cleetwood Cove Trail. The lake was first stocked in 1888 and today is the home of Kokanee Salmon and Rainbow Trout. While fishing licenses are not required, there are several other restrictions so be sure to visit one of the Visitor Centers for more information. You can also do some fishing from out on Wizard Island. Beyond the lake itself there are many other streams that offer fishing opportunities.
- Guided Hikes, Nature Talks and More! During the warm weather months there are a variety of talks and hikes being led by Park Rangers, many of which are determined by the presenting Ranger. Be sure to visit one of the Visitor Centers for more information on times, dates and locations.
Depending on your interests, Crater Lake offers many other attractions, including horseback trail riding, scuba diving, and wildlife viewing. Bird watchers will enjoy the many birds who visit as well as call the park home, and botanists greatly enjoy the multitude of plant life that exists in the varied elevations and terrain found throughout the park. Stargazers will also enjoy the dark nighttime skies, just perfect for enjoying the constellations or looking for shooting stars. Don’t forget to also take in a sunrise or sunset over the lake. Spectacular!
With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder why many visitors to Crater Lake choose to stay for more than one day. While overnight accommodations are limited, and advanced reservations are advised, there are several places to stay near the lake itself:
- Crater Lake Lodge, located at Rim Village and overlooks the lake. Open mid-May through mid-October. The Lodge features the Crater Lake Lodge Dining Room, which offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dinner reservations are recommended.
- The Cabins at Mazama Village, located 7 miles south of Rim Village.
- Mazama Campground is perfect for both RV’s and tents. Reservations are accepted (and recommended) for July and August.
- Lost Creek Campground is a first-come, first-served campground exclusively for tent camping.
With all these things to do and see, a one-time visit might not be enough. You may just need to move to the area to make Crater Lake a yearly event, or even something to do multiple times per year. Crater Lake offers activities year round for those willing to brave the colder weather, but will take your breath away regardless.
Whether you are a local, a vacationer, or just a visitor passing through, no trip to Southern Oregon is complete without a stop at Crater Lake. Contact one of our realtors for some more insight or to view some available homes for sale in Klamath Falls.