Best time to visit: Summer
Recommended Hikes: Wizard Island, Garfield Peak, Mount Scott, Rim Trail
Ideal For: Camping, Auto-Touring, Hiking
Where to stay: Hotels or campgrounds in the park
Crater Lake is arguably the prettiest lake on Earth. The lake's blue color is intensely deep and vibrant, almost redefining the color itself. The park receives heavy snowfall each year, making winter and spring less than ideal times to visit. Summer is by far the best time to visit for good weather and access to the park's rim road and hiking trails. Boat tours run around the lake and to Wizard Island during the summer half of the year.
Must See Attractions:
Rim Road - There is a road that goes around the entire lake which has a ton of viewpoints - they are all worth stopping at if you have the time. Driving the full loop will take about an hour, not including stops. The entire loop is only open from July - October, but the western portion of it is open for longer. Read more about road access in the useful info below.
Wizard Island - When the boat tours are running, you can visit Wizard Island - a cinder cone volcano that rises up out of the lake. There is great hiking here to the top of the cinder cone and to Fumarole Bay, which has a swimming dock. Wizard Island is also a popular spot for fishing. You can book boat tours online in advance here.
Phantom Ship - A cool little island on the south side of the lake. There is a viewpoint to see it which requires a short hike called "Sun Notch". Some of the boat tours go to this part of the lake also if you want to see Phantom Ship up close.
The Pinnacles - An area of jagged volcanic rock formations a few miles south of the lake. There is a single out and back road the runs to the Pinnacles overlook from the east rim drive.
The south entrance to Crater Lake NP is open year around. During winter, there is one small viewpoint to see the lake - everything else is covered in deep snow. The north entrance to the park and the west rim drive open in late May or early June, and the east rim drive usually opens in early July. These roads close each year on November 1, or earlier if there is heavy snowfall.
Boat tours on the lake run when the east rim drive is open, which is roughly from July - September. Advanced reservations can be made online here.
All boat tours leave from Fleetwood Cove on the north side of the lake. To reach the lakeshore, visitors must hike down (and up) about 700 vertical feet from the rim. This is the only place where you can access the lake's shore.
There is limited lodging, gas, and food available at Rim Village and Mazama Village on the south side of the lake.
Crater Lake can be seen as a long day-trip if you are driving through Oregon. Even just an hour or two here will leave a lasting impression.
Drinking water is available at the developed areas on the south side of the lake - bring your water bottle to fill up.
Where to Stay:
There are cabins and a campground at Manzama Village on the south side of the lake - click here for the website. There is also a historic hotel called the "Crater Lake Lodge" which sits on the south rim. It has a restaurant, deck, and rooms that have views of the lake. The lodge can be booked online here. Book as early as possible - everything fills up in advance.
There is also a small, first-come-first-served campsite in the park called Lost Creek Campground, but it only has a handful of campsites. It is located on the road which runs out to the Pinnacles.
If you can't secure affordable lodging in the park, the small city of Klamath Falls is about an hour's drive south of the park.
Hiking in Crater Lake:
There are a handful of hikes that climb to peaks surrounding the rim, including the Watchman, Garfield Peak, and Mount Scott. Read more about the hikes to the Watchman, Garfield Peak, and Mount Scott. These hikes are all covered in snow well into the summer.
There is another great trail that runs from the Rim Village to the Watchman on the crater's south-west rim. This hike is perfect for getting out of the car and away from the crowds with continuous views of the lake as you hike.
Wizard Island - only accessible via boat tour during summer months. The summit of the cinder cone is an awesome short hike and if you move quickly you can see Fumarole Bay as well on a standard 3-hour visit.