logo

Home | Destinations | Getaway Guides | Magazine | Great Drives

Destinations

Crater Lake National Park

Oregon

How to Get There | Park Essentials | Park Features
Day Hikes | Pacific Crest Trail | Where to Stay

As a national park, Crater Lake is not very large. A drive of 33 miles will take you around the rim. The only long trail inside the park is the section of the Pacific Crest Trail which runs 33 miles from north to south, west of the lake. Three much shorter trails connect the Pacific Crest Trail to the rim. However, the size of the park and the lack of a tall mountain should not deter you from visiting this remarkable place.

First, there is the beauty of the lake, an almost round body of water which partially fills the caldera. It has extreme clarity, caused by its great depth and the lack of an outflow. While snowmelt and rainwater fill the lake to a constant level, only evaporation removes water. It is an isolated lake in perfect balance; a completely closed ecosystem.

Mount Mazama came and went in a very short period of geological time, less than half a million years. It took much more time to build the volcano than for it to obliterate itself, an event of extreme destruction which occurred 7,700 years ago, when ash from the volcano jetted more than 30 miles into the atmosphere, landing as far away as Canada.

The top mile of the mountain folded into the core, making the crater, which slowly filled with rainwater and snow-melt. Since then, Mazama has been quiet, with only minor volcanic action creating the small cone of Wizard Island. What remains is a park area of incredible beauty.

How to Get There

From Medford, on Interstate 5, take State Route 62 for 75 miles. After entering the park, the highway leads south of the lake to the Annie Springs Entrance Station. The park road then leads north to the park headquarters, Rim Village and the Rim Drive.

From the south, and Klamath Falls, take U.S. Highway 97 and State Route 62 to the park and the Annie Springs Entrance Station. The park boundary is 55 miles from Klamath Falls. From the northwest (Interstate 5 at Roseburg) take State Route 138 for 82 miles, to the park boundary. The north park road is closed in winter.

Park Essentials

Headquarters: P.O. Box 7, Crater Lake OR 97604.

Telephone: 541-594-3000

The Rim Village Visitor Center is located on the rim, overlooking the lake from the south shore. It is located seven miles off State Route 62. The center is open daily from early June to the end of September.

Steel Center, located at the park headquarters, south of Rim Village, is open daily throughout the year, except Christmas Day.

An entrance fee is charged during the summer season only, when all facilities are open. However, the park remains open year-round, via the south entrance.

Park naturalist activities are offered throughout the summer season, with a 2-hour narrated boat tour of the lake, including a stop at Wizard Island, where visitors may hike to the top of the cone. The tour leaves every hour, on the hour, from 9 am to 3 pm, from the landing at the end of the Cleetwood Trail. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are popular winter activities in the south rim area.

Food and lodging are available inside the park. Crater Lake Lodge, a magnificent old hostelry, has been completely rebuilt and re-opened in 1995. It has comfortable rooms and dining facilities, open from early June to mid-September. After having been closed for almost a dozen years, the lodge was painstakingly reconstructed in its original form, with modern conveniences added. Mazama Village Motor Inn has standard motel-style units adjacent to the Mazama Campgrounds, on the Rim Drive, with a restaurant. It is open from mid-May to early October.

The nearest outside accommodations are available in Klamath and Chiloquin. Food is also available at the park Cafeteria, Deli and Fountain, located next to the Rim Village Gift Shop.

There are two campgrounds in the park. Mazama Campground is open from mid-June to mid-September, with sites for tents, trailers and RVs. The campground, near Annie Springs Entrance Station, has a store, showers, and laundry. Lost Creek Campground, with sites for tents only, is open from early July to late August. It is accessed by a park road which leads south from Rim Drive, past the campground, to the Pinnacles.

More information on lodges and campgrounds in the park are in the Where to Stay section, below

Park Features

Crater Lake is a summer place, and also a winter place. The two seasons are very different from one another.

Summer is short. The lake, the deepest in the nation, glows with a translucent sheen, rimmed by rock with a few evergreen trees clinging to the slope. The soft green forests and flowery meadows are in sharp contrast to the rocky walls of the crater and the bare rock formations which poke above the rim. Wildflowers blanket the park meadows and forest floor for most of the summer. They are some of the 600 species of plants which have colonized the region since the volcano's ash covered the slopes for many miles around. The forest is primarily mountain hemlock and Shasta red fir, with stunted and twisted whitebark pine at the rim. Down from the rim, a more temperate forest of ponderosa pine and lodgepole pine is found.

Winter provides a stark, white environment. A year's snowfall on the rim can be as much as 50 feet, and because of the moderate Oregon climate, the lake hardly ever freezes over, using stored heat from its lower depths. The last time the lake developed a thin sheet of ice was in 1949. While snow falls in October and doesn't recede until May, the south park road is kept open for visitors, who come to look at the lake in this special time of year. Park rangers open a gate, at 8 a.m. daily, and close it at sunset. Snowmobilers can enter the park at the north gate, and drive to a vista point overlooking the lake.

Rim Drive

The road circles the lake, offering more than 25 viewpoints overlooking the lake and geological formations. Heading clockwise (west) from the Rim Village parking lot, the road is often narrow and winds around sharp curves. The first few miles provide fine views of nearby mountains, including Hillman Peak, to the far left of the rim, one of the remaining parts of Mt. Mazama, and the highest point on the rim.

Wizard Island Overlook is at mile 4. There is a short trail south, to a fire tower on "The Watchman." The Mt. Theissen Overlook provides a fine view, away from the crater, of other mountains and points of geological interest. Passing the road to the north entrance, Rim Drive continues, leading east to Steel Bay (mile 8.8), which commemorates William Gladstone Steel, who contributed much energy and money to creating the national park, in 1902. He was also a leader in efforts to build Crater lake Lodge.

Crestwood Trail, at mile 10.7, leads down the rim to the landing for the park's boat tour.

There is another view of the entire lake at Skell Head, at mile 14.8. Mt. Scott is the standout here. Another volcanic cone, it's the highest point in the park. There's a short spur road to Cloudcap, providing the park's highest vista point, at 8,070 feet. Phantom Ship, the unusual island with a fanciful name, is located to the southwest. The vista point at Kerr Notch (mile 23.2) provides another view of Phantom Ship. Take the road to Pinnacles, leading south from Rim Drive, past the tent campground. The Pinnacles are spires of volcanic ash, eroded into tall, weird forms.

Castle Crest Wildflower Trail is found at mile 31.2. The Godfrey Glen Trail provides another short walk, off the connector road to the Annie Springs Entrance Station. If you continue on Rim Drive, you'll shortly arrive back at the Rim Village starting point.

Day Hikes

Cleetwood Trail is found along Rim Drive, at mile 10.7, with a steep, one-mile descent and a strenuous one-mile climb back to the rim. The trail leads to the water's edge, to the landing for the hourly boat tour which includes a visit to Wizard Island.

Wizard Island Summit Trail offers a short climb, especially valuable to those who want to climb a mountain without spending too much time, or expending much effort. It begins at the island dock and leads through the hemlock and fir forest, rising to the subalpine wildflower level, and then to superb lake and rim views from the top. You'll find whitebark pines at the summit.

Annie Creek Trail begins behind the amphitheater at Mazama Campground, and leads along a loop that is less than two miles long. It runs through wildflower meadows, to the bottom of a canyon, and ascends to the trailhead.

The Mount Scott Trail is found at mile 17 along Rim Drive. The one-way hike is 2.5 miles long, climbing to the highest point in the park. The peak has an elevation of 8,926 feet. It provides a view of the south shore of the lake, and a vast panorama of most of southern Oregon. On a clear day, Mount Shasta is in full view, across the California border. You should also be able to see, near the western edge of the park, an isolated bog of spaghnum moss, which has its own closed ecosystem, including four species of insect-eating plants: two sundews and two bladderworts. You'll also see the headwaters of the Rogue River, at Boundary Springs.

Garfield Peak Trail starts behind Crater Lake Lodge, and climbs to the peak's summit, a climb of about 1,700 feet. This summit also offers views of Mount Shasta and park landmarks.

The Castle Crest Trail Wildflower Trail provides a half-mile loop walk through a vividly colored meadow, and leads up a nearby hillside. It begins with a short walk through the fir and hemlock forest, and then enters the meadows, which are ribbed with several streams, nurturing the water-loving plants which include monkeyflower, larkspur, violet, and corn lily. The hillside is dryer, with another set of plants, including paintbrushes, penstemon, phlox, and gilia.

Pacific Crest Trail

Access:

To hike the entire Crater Lake National Park section of the trail, a 33-mile excursion of several days, you have to start outside the park. At the north, the trail crosses State Route 138 (the road from Bend and U.S. Highway 97), at a point east of the North Entrance Station, on the park boundary. From the south, it is necessary to link up with the trail in the Winema National Forest. See the Forest Service for precise instructions on how to drive to the trail.

The Trail:

From north to south, the trail enters the park and leads for ten miles through a desert area, with thick pumice and ash deposits. The trail crosses the north entrance road about two miles from the lake, and heads east, past Red Cone, with an intersection with the backcountry trail to Boundary Spring, the headwaters of the Rogue River.

From the junction, the Pacific Crest Trail heads south, over a series of hills, and through several creek valleys, linking with the Lightening Springs Trail, leading for another five miles to meet the trail from Rim Village. The main trail snakes southward to Annie Spring, crossing State Route 62, and continuing south. A spur trail leads west to Union Peak (el. 7,698).

The main trail continues to meet two more spur trails: to Bald Top (el. 7,698), and another at Pumice Flat, which connects with the south entrance road. This connecting trail is about three miles long. The park boundary with the national forest is about 1.5 miles south of the junction with the two spur trails.

There are three park spur trails that connect Rim Drive with the Pacific Crest Trail. The Annie Spring Cutoff Trail (0.6 mile) leads from the Annie Spring entrance station area. Dutton Creek Trail is a 2.4-mile spur trail that leads from Rim Village.

Lightning Springs Trail (4 miles) leads from Rim Drive near The Watchman. There are two park locations where roads cross the Pacific Crest route. In the south part of the park, the trail intersects State Route 62, west of the Annie Spring Entrance Station. The north entrance road also connects with the trail, north of the junction with Rim Drive. From here, you can hike in a counter-clockwise direction, coming out at Annie Springs, or using one of the three spur trails to reach Rim Drive.

Where to Stay

In the Park:

Crater Lake Lodge and Mazama Village Motor Inn

Reservations: 888-774-2728 - inside the U.S.

Reservations: 303-297-2757 - outside the U.S.

Crater Lake Lodge, one of the finest of the old national park hotels, has been completely rebuilt and re-opened in 1995. It features comfortable rooms and dining facilities, open from early June to mid-September.

Mazama Village Motor Inn has standard motel-style units and a restaurant, adjacent to the Mazama Campground, on Rim Drive. This motel-style facility is open from mid-May to early October.

Crater Lake Camping

Mazama Campground, the main camping facility in the park, is open from mid-June to mid-September, with sites for tents, trailers and RVs. The campground, near the Annie Springs Entrance Station, has a store, showers, and laundry. Phone the reservations numbers, above.

Lost Creek Campground, with sites for tents only, is open from early July to late August.

Near the Park

Diamond Lake Lodge, Diamond Lake Recreation Area
Diamond OR 97731, 855-866-1909
This sizable resort has rooms, including some with kitchenettes, in a scenic area located about five miles from the north entrance to Crater Lake National Park, off Highway 138 (from Roseburg). You can also get there by taking Highway 230. To use this route, start in Medford or Klamath Falls by taking State Route 62, then turning north onto State Route 230. There is a restaurant on-site.

Crater Lake Resort, 50711 Highway 62, Fort Klamath,
541-381-2349
This RV and tenting campground, located on fort creek, is 17 miles from the Crater Lake south entrance. Tent sites and R%V sites with full hookups. Amenities include hot showers and restrooms, free canoe use, free WiFi but no cable TV

Camping Outside Crater Lake Park

The U.S. Forest Service has campgrounds surrounding Crater Lake National Park, in its national forests.

Farewell Bend and Union Creek Campgrounds are located just off State Route 62, southwest of the park. Union Creek is found near the junction of State Route 62 and State Route 230. Farewell bend is located a few miles south of Union Creek.

Public Campgeounds: A state park and a forest service campground are found just off U.S 97, southeast of the national park, just north of Chiloquin.

Collier State Park has a large campground, to the west of the highway, with water, RV hookups, showers, dump station, and hiking trails.

Williamson River Campground (Forest Service) is a small, more basic operation, with drinking water and hiking trails in the Klamath National Forest.

There are three Forest Service campgrounds at Diamond Lake, located about four miles due north of the park.

Theilsen View Campground (the farthest north of the three facilities) has drinking water, hiking trails and a boat ramp. This is a small facility.

Diamond Lake Campground is a huge operation, also on the lake, with upgraded services, including water, showers, dump station, hiking trails, and boat ramp.

Broken Arrow Campground, at the junction of State Routes 230 and 138, is another large campground, with water, showers, dump station, trails, and boat ramp.

Oregon Destinations

Crater Lake National Park

Oregon North Coast

Oregon South Coast

Oregon Dunes


logo

Destinations:

Hundreds of top vacation destinations in the U.S. and Canada


Great Drives

Scenic off-freeway vacation drives from California to New Mexico


Getaway Guides:

Las Vegas, NV

San Francisco, CA

Reno, NV

Lake Tahoe, CA & NV

British Columbia & Vancouver



Magazine - Features:

Great Drives
in the US and Canada
Adventures
Dispatches
Traveling with Kids
Top-Ten Lists


Home

Destinations:

Alaska

Alberta

Arizona

British Columbia

California

Colorado

Florida

Idaho

Montana

Nevada

New Mexico

Oregon

South Carolina

Texas

Utah

Washington

Wyoming

Yukon

 
Home | Destinations | Feature Articles | Getaway Guides | Great Drives
Travel Books | World Tourism Bureaus | U.S. Tourism Bureaus