Crater Lake, located in south-central Oregon, is the deepest lake in the U.S. at 1943 feet deep. It’s also the deepest volcanic lake in the world.
The lake was formed by a massive volcanic eruption – 42 times bigger than Mount Saint Helens’ 1980 eruption. The mountain collapsed in on itself and created a giant basin, around 7,700 years ago.
Winter snow flowed in, and with nowhere to flow back out, the lake was born.
Today, Crater Lake is a National Park that sees 600,000+ visitors per year.
So, what is there to do at Crater Lake National Park?
Take a Scenic Drive
The Rim Drive is a 33-mile scenic drive circling the lake. There are over 30 overlooks along the road.
Because the park is located high in the Cascades, winter comes early and stays late. Snow usually starts in October, and Rim Drive isn’t free from snow until late June or early July.
It takes around 2.5 to 3 hours to complete the drive, taking into account stops at overlooks.
Note that trailers are not recommended on East Rim Drive.
Check for road closures during your planning.
Get on the Trail
One of the best things to do at Crater Lake is to take a hike! There are over 30 trails throughout Crater Lake National Park.
For a relatively easy walk, head to Godfrey Glen Trail. This is a 1-mile loop trail through old-growth forest. It runs alongside Annie Creek Canyon and features Duwee Falls.
To see an unusual volcanic formation, called the Pinnacles, take Pinnacles Road from Rim Drive. From the parking area, the trail is a half-mile, easy trail to the formation. Although the trail is worth the short walk, there is also an overlook at the parking area to view the Pinnacles.
If getting down to the actual lake shore is what you’re looking for, Cleetwood Cove Trail is the only trail to take you there. It’s a 1-mile trail, with switchbacks leading to the bottom. Just beware- the hike down may seem easy, but coming back up will take a lot of extra effort!
I personally had to take several pauses on the way back up, due to the 700-foot elevation gain. It’s not recommended for people with breathing or heart problems, bad knees, or mobility issues.
Hiking down to the shore from any other area is illegal! Cleetwood Cove Trail is generally open from mid-June through late October. Pets are not allowed!
Go for a Swim
If you make the decision to hike down to the shore, why not go for a swim in some of the cleanest and clearest lake water on the planet?
The average surface temperature of the lake during summer is 57 degrees Fahrenheit, so be ready for a chilly swim!
Not all of us were brave enough to submerse ourselves in the water! It felt icy cold, even in July!
To protect the lake from invasive species, some items are not allowed. These include scuba and snorkeling gear, masks and goggles, innertubes, and inflatables, kayaks and canoes, waders, or life jackets!
Catch a Boat Ride to Wizard Island
Wizard Island is the largest island in the lake, rising over 750 feet above the surface. It’s located at the western end of the lake and is called “Wizard Island” due to its resemblance to a wizard’s hat.
During the summer months only, park visitors can take a boat to the island to explore and climb to the summit.
Boat tours leave from Cleetwood Cove boat dock.
Children must be at least 3 years old to take the boat tour. At the time of our trip, our youngest was 2, so we didn’t experience Wizard Island this time.
Drop a Line for Rainbow Trout or Salmon
Fishing is allowed and no license is required. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout and kokanee salmon.
Fishing is allowed from Cleetwood Cove and Wizard Island. Most of the park’s streams are open for fishing as well, with a couple of exceptions.
There are no size restrictions or catch limits, but there are other rules about baits and gear used, so make sure you know all the rules before fishing!
Go Snowshoeing in the Winter Months
Did you know Crater Lake is one of the snowiest places in America? It has an average snowfall of 43 feet per year.
If you’re planning a trip during winter, one of the best things to do at Crater Lake is a ranger-led snowshoe trip. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can take a self-guided snowshoe adventure.
Other winter activities include cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling.
Only the south and west entrances are open and plowed during the winter months.
If you haven’t been to Crater Lake, it’s worth the trip just to see the beauty of the clear, deep blue water! We hope you found this list of the best things to do at Crater Lake helpful!
Other posts you might enjoy:
- Ultimate Guide to National Parks for Families
- Hidden Beach in North Lake Tahoe: Nevada’s Not-So-Hidden Beach
- Unforgettable Moments: Whale Watching in Depoe Bay, Oregon
- Complete List of Essential Road Trip Items for Families: Get them on Amazon
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