North America > United States of America > Pacific Northwest > Oregon > Southern Oregon > Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park is a United States national park located in southern Oregon, in the United States. The centerpiece of the park is Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the United States, known for its deep blue color.
Crater Lake was formed from the collapse of Mount Mazama, a volcano in southern Oregon that once stood about 11,000 feet (3,353 m) tall. A series of destructive eruptions around 5000 BC caused the mountain's peak to collapse into its lava chamber, resulting in a caldera nearly 6 miles (9.7 km) wide. Over time, snowmelt and rain collected in the crater to form the lake, which at 1,949 feet (594 m) deep, is the deepest in the USA, 2nd in North America, and 9th in the world. Based on a comparison of average depths, however, Crater Lake at 1148 feet (350 m), is the deepest in the Western Hemisphere and third deepest in the world.
The first known white man to reach the lake was prospector John Hillman, who found the lake in 1853. Largely through the efforts of naturalist William Gladstone Steel, the United States declared Crater Lake a national park in 1902.
Flora and fauna
|Crater Lake National Park|
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Crater Lake's location high in the Cascade mountains (over 7,000 feet/2,150 m above sea level) means that snow is often visible year-round. The lake is often enveloped in heavy snow during the fall, winter, and spring, forcing the closure of roads and trails. In fact, the lake averages 533 inches (1,353 cm) of snow a year. Consequently, the best time to visit Crater Lake is in the summer months, when all facilities, roads, and trails are open.
The nearest major airport to Crater Lake National Park is Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport MFR IATA, located three miles (4.8 km) north of Medford and 80 miles (129 km) southwest of the park.
From the north
- From Eugene, Portland, and points north on I-5: Follow Interstate 5 south to Exit 124 in Roseburg, then take Oregon 138 east to the park's north entrance.
- From Bend and Central Oregon: Follow U.S. 97 south to Oregon 138 west to the park's north entrance.
The north entrance is typically closed for the winter season (mid-October to mid-June).
From the south
- From Medford and points south on I-5: Follow Interstate 5 north to Exit 30 in Medford, then take Oregon 62 north and east to the park's west entrance (open year round).
- From Klamath Falls: Follow U.S. 97 north to route 62 north and west to the park's south entrance (open year round).
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a well known trail that extends along the West coast of the United States, from Mexico to Canada. It passes through California, Oregon, and Washington State.
Fees and permits
Entrance fees are valid for seven days. Entrance fees as of 2020 are:
- $15 Bicycle
- $25 Motorcycle
- $30 Car
- $55 Crater Lake Annual Pass
There are several passes for groups traveling together in a private vehicle or individuals on foot/bike that provide free entry to Crater Lake National Park and all national parks, as well as some national monuments, national wildlife refuges, and national forests:
- The $80 Annual Pass (valid for twelve months from date of issue) can be purchased by anyone. Military personnel can obtain a free pass by showing a Common Access Card (CAC) or Military ID.
- The $80 Senior Pass (valid for the life of the holder) is available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over. Applicants must provide documentation of citizenship and age. This pass also provides a fifty percent discount on some park amenities. Seniors can also obtain a $20 annual pass.
- The free Access Pass (valid for the life of the holder) is available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities. Applicants must provide documentation of citizenship and permanent disability. This pass also provides a fifty percent discount on some park amenities.
- The free Volunteer Pass is available to individuals who have volunteered 250 or more hours with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program.
- The free Annual 4th Grade Pass (valid for September-August of the 4th grade school year) allows entry to the bearer and any accompanying passengers in a private non-commercial vehicle. Registration at the Every Kid Outdoors website is required.
The National Park Service offers free admission to all national parks on five days every year:
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day (third Monday in January); next observance is January 18, 2021
- The first day of National Park Week (third Saturday in April); next observance is April 17, 2021
- The National Park Service Birthday (August 25)
- National Public Lands Day (fourth Saturday in September); next observance is September 25, 2021
- Veterans Day (November 11)
The 33-mile (53 km) Rim Drive encircles Crater Lake, giving varied perspectives of the lake, rim, and surrounding terrain. Open only during the summer from late June to mid-October, there are many overlooks with interpretive signs. The only access to the lake itself is by steep trail to Cleetwood Cove, where boat tours of the lake are offered. Numerous picnic areas are along the Rim Drive, as is hiking access from Rim Village to Garfield Peak. Rim Drive also accesses Lightning Springs (west side), Cleetwood Cove (north side), Mount Scott (east side), Sun Notch Viewpoint and Crater Peak (south side). Both Kerr Notch and Sun Notch Viewpoints are particularly spectacular viewpoints, with views down to Phantom Rock and across the lake to Wizard Island.
There are many trails open to horses. But, if you're not a cowboy then hiking the trails is also a great experience. While on the trails keep an eye open for the many deer grazing in the hills.
- 1 The Pinnacles, End of Pinnacles Rd.. Can be reached in the summer from the Rim Drive on a paved, 6-mile (9.6 km) road. These eerie spires of eroded ash rise from the edges of Sand and Wheeler Creeks in pinnacle-fashion. On the way you'll pass Lost Creek Campground. Once upon a time, the road continued east of the turn-out, to the former East Entrance of the park. A path now replaces the old road and follows the rim of Sand Creek (and more views of pinnacles) to where the entrance arch still stands. A different route back to the Rim Drive, is to take the Grayback Road, a one-way, westbound only, gravel road.
- 2 Steel Information Center, ☏ . Apr-early Nov, 9AM-5PM. Early Nov-Apr, 10AM-4PM. Closed Christmas day. A park ranger is on duty to assist you with information, weather forecasts, backcountry camping permits, ski route advisories, and safety tips. An 18-minute film, Crater Lake: The Mirror of Heaven, is shown every half hour throughout the day in the auditorium. free.
- 3 Rim Village Visitor Center (located on the south rim of the caldera, approximately 200 yards west of the Crater Lake Lodge.), ☏ . late May-Sep 9:30AM-5PM. General park information, backcountry camping permits, and educational sales items are available here. free.
- 4 Sinnott Memorial Overlook. Jun-Sep. Exhibits on geology and lake research, and a popular view of the lake. free.
- 5 Watchman Observation Station.
- 1 Boat tour. Only for those who are willing to hike about 15 minutes down into the crater. Access is by 1.1 mile (1.8 km) Cleetwood Trail which descends 700 feet (213 m) to the lake surface. An additional ticket will get you onto Wizard Island. Once there you can explore the island, hike to the Witches Cauldron crater, or visit Fumarole Bay. The price can be expensive but it's well worth it. $25.
- Fishing. 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset. Season May 20 through Oct 31; however, it is legal to fish the lake year round. All waters in the park are open to fishing and no license is required. All waters are restricted to use of artificial lures and flies only. No organic bait of any kind can be used in Crater Lake National Park. This includes live or dead fish, power bait, and fish eggs or roe. The lake contains Kokanee Salmon and rainbow trout. No private boats or flotation devices are allowed. Fish must be packed out, they can not be cleaned at the lake. Streams contain Eastern, Rainbow, German Brown and Bull Trout. The streams, however, are largely inaccessible due to the steep canyons surrounding them.
- Scuba diving. Permits (no charge) are only issued from the Canfield Building (Ranger Station) in the Park Headquarters complex. A ranger will confirm your diving ability and give you specific information about diving in the lake. The lake level is at 6,173 feet in elevation, so high altitude dive tables should be used in planning your dive. Access is by Cleetwood Trail is 1.1 miles in length and descends 700 feet to the lake surface. You must be able to carry all your equipment up and down the trail. Wheeled vehicles are prohibited. Restrooms are available at the top and bottom of the Cleetwood Trail but there are no food or drinking water facilities.
- Day hiking. There are over 90 miles (145 km) of trails, with marked routes from 15 minutes to more than two hours. Hiking or climbing inside the caldera is prohibited. Conditions within the caldera are extremely dangerous. The Cleetwood Trail is the only safe and legal access to the lake’s shore.
- Bicycling. Recommended only in Jul-Sep. Paved roads only, including the 33-mile Rim Drive. Bicycling is difficult because of the steep hills and high altitudes and also because the Drive may not have shoulders and has blind curves. It is only for riders experienced with traffic.
- Ski or snowshoe. On ungroomed trails by permit only.
While exploring keep an eye out for the gift shop that has many interesting souvenirs from paintings to postcards. You could even take home a custom carved wood sign.
- 1 Crater Lake Lodge Dining Room, Rim Village, ☏ (reservations). May-Oct. Breakfast: 7AM-10AM, Lunch: 11:30AM-2:30PM, Dinner: 5PM-10PM. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Spectacular views of Crater Lake. Dinner entrées emphasize the Pacific Northwest.
- 2 Rim Village Cafe. Open daily year round (except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, December 25).
Be aware that the waters there contain a lot of minerals and it is advised that you bring your own water with you while hiking the trails.
- 1 The Historic Prospect Hotel, 391 Mill Creek Drive, Prospect, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: . Built in the late 1800s and offers a cozy and comfortable night's stay. There is high demand and you should plan your travels well in advance. They also have great breakfast.
Park service facilities
- 2 Crater Lake Lodge, ☏ . 71 rooms. Normally open mid-May through mid-October. Advance reservations are strongly recommended.
- Mazama Village Motor Inn, ☏ . 40 units located in the Mazama Village complex. Reservations are recommended.
The National Park Service runs two campgrounds:
- 3 Lost Creek Campground (From park headquarters you will travel 8 miles on East Rim Drive and make a right onto Pinnacles Road. Drive 4 miles on Pinnacles Road and Lost Creek Campground will be on the right.). 16 sites. All sites are first-come, first-served. Lost Creek Campground is a small campground for tents only (16 sites) on the road to Pinnacles Overlook ($10 per night). It usually opens in early July and closes in mid-October. $10 Tent Only (2020 rates).
- 4 Mazama Village Campground (7 miles south of Rim Village and just inside the south entrance of the park). Open mid June to early October (weather permitting). 214 sites, 28 sites with electricial hookups. 160 sites can be reserved in advance, 54 sites are first-come, first-served. Mazama Village Campground is mostly forested and each site has a picnic table, fire ring, and bear locker. Running water and flush toilets are provided. 75% of the sites are are reservable in advance and the rest are available on a first-come, first-served basis. $23 Tent Site, $32.50 RV Site (2020 rates).
- Dogs and other pets are not allowed on park trails.
- Smoking is not allowed on any trail.
- Bicycling is permitted only on paved roads and the Grayback Drive.
- Feeding wild animals, including birds, is prohibited. Feeding animals is dangerous for you, bad for them, and harmful for the ecosystem.
- Stay on trails to protect vegetation and fragile hillsides. Shortcutting trails, particularly on switchbacks, can damage slopes, making them more susceptible to erosion and visual damage.
- Hiking on the caldera rim around the collapsed volcano is extremely dangerous and prohibited. People have fallen to their deaths not only by slips and falls, but from unexpected rock slides underfoot.
- Be prepared; equip yourself with water, food, warm clothing, rain gear, and anything else appropriate to the trail you take. It is better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.
- Leave all rocks, plants and artifacts undisturbed for the enjoyment of future visitors.
- Do not drink water from park streams or from the lake without properly treating it.
- Hunting is not permitted in Crater Lake National Park.
|Routes through Crater Lake National Park|
|Medford ← Jct E ←||W E||→ Jct N S → END|
|Jct W ← Roseburg ←||W E||→ Jct N S → END|