Visiting Crater Lake National Park In The Winter

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Last updated Jun 14, 2023

A visit to Oregon is not complete unless you visit the nation’s deepest lake, Crater Lake. An almost perfectly round blue lake, with snowcapped peaks year-round, is a picture-perfect spot located in Southern Oregon and is open year-round. However, it is only fully visible about 50% of the time.

Crater Lake National Park is accessible yearlong. With an average of 43 feet of snowfall, it is one of the snowiest places in the United States and only some parts of it are accessible during the winter season. Visiting Crater Lake in the winter feels like being in a fairytale with snow-capped peaks and crystal blue water.



Crater Lake was created by a volcanic eruption, and as the magma chamber emptied the mountain could not support its own weight and collapsed, forming a deep caldera where the snow-capped volcano once stood. The deep basin, the deepest lake in the country at 1,943 feet (about twice the height of the Empire State Building), has been filled with centuries of rainfall and snowfall. No streams go in and out of the lake, minimizing any sediment and preserving its perfect blue color. Wizard Island in the lake is a volcanic cone left over from the eruption and can be accessed by boat during the summer months.

Visiting Crater Lake
Crater Lake in Winter | Visiting Crater Lake National Park in the Winter



General Information about Crater Lake in the Winter

The Visitor Center, Crater Lake Lodge, and Rim Café & Gift Shop are all closed for the winter season. Bathroom facilities are open.

Gasoline – The park’s gas station is closed for the winter. A charging station for electric vehicles is available but may not be accessible during heavy snowfall.

Driving and Parking – Park roads can get icy, drive slowly. Only park in designated areas or if allowed in certain spots by park rangers.

Winter Trails – The park’s hiking trails are buried under snow and impossible to follow which is why we created a list of trails that are accessible during winter. Cross-country skis or snowshoes can be very helpful during winter hikes. There is no place inside of the park to rent them from and the two closest locations to the park are Union Creek Resort in Union Creek and Sky Lakes Wilderness Adventures in Chiloquin.

Visiting Crater Lake



Hiking Trails in Crater Lake National Park

West Rim Drive Trails

During summer, driving on the Rim Drive is a fantastic way to see the lake, with over 30 different overlooks for those limited on time or not interested in hiking.

During winter, the rim drive is covered with snow and is a great hiking trail to different viewpoints. To find it, climb the snowbank across from the Rim Village restrooms then head west.

TrailDistance from Rim VillageComments
Discovery Point1.2 milesMostly forested trail with occasional lake views until the spectacular view at the Discovery Point
Wizard Island Overlook2.3 milesMostly forested trail with occasional lake views until the spectacular view at the Discovery Point and Wizard Island Overlook
Union Peak Overlook3.1 milesOne option from Union Peak is to leave the road and hike to summit of Watchman Peak (8013 ft elevation – about the length of the Golden Gate Bridge)
Watchman Overlook3.9 milesPast 3.2 miles from Rim Village keep an eye on possibility of avalanche from Watchman Peak
Diamon Lake Overlook4.6 milesPast 3.2 miles from Rim Village keep an eye on possibility of avalanche from Watchman Peak
North Junction6.0 milesPast 3.2 miles from Rim Village keep an eye on possibility of avalanche from Watchman Peak

Things to do in Crater Lake



East Rim Drive Trails

A less traveled road than the West Rim, but still provides amazing views of the lake. Heading east from the Crater Lake Lodge, which is closed during the winter season, gets you on a path toward a few hikes on the East Rim. As mentioned above, this is a less traveled side of the lake and when we were there the snow was hard to manage without snowshoes.

TrailDistance from the LodgeComments
Garfield Peak1.8 miles950 feet of elevation gain
Vidae Fall3.1 milesNot much to see during winter, as the creek dries up
Sun Notch4.5 milesOffers dramatic view of the Crater Lake and the rocky island knows as Phanton Ship

Snowmobiling

Since the North Entrance Road is not open for driving, it is groomed for snowmobile travel. Most people start their snowmobiling journey at Diamond Lake Resort, you can rent snowmobiles here, and drive to North Junction to enjoy spectacular views.

Sledding

There are no designated sled hills in the park or snow-play area, but you can find many opportunities to do so yourself. Just be mindful of other visitors and keep your distance. A popular area for sledding is the open meadow south of Crater Lake Lodge.

Things to do in Crater Lake

Crater Lake in March was a stunning winter wonderland when we visited. We just could not get enough of the views and we lucked out with a perfectly clear and sunny day. There is probably more to do here in the summer, but it would be hard to beat the beauty of winter splendor.

To stay with up-to-date information about the park and its accessibility especially during COVID make sure you check the national park service’s website.



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