Crater Lake National Park is located in southern Oregon and is home to the deepest lake in the country. There are plenty of activities to do both in and around the lake, including fishing, hiking, and boating. First time visitors to the park won’t want to miss out on the main points of interest!
The 33-mile Rim Drive around Crater Lake National Park is absolutely breathtaking. The road winds around the entire lake providing visitors with phenomenal views over the park’s main attraction. With plenty of scenic pullouts and overlooks, the Rim Drive is a must when visiting Crater Lake National Park.
Cleetwood Cove Trail
The Cleetwood Cove Trail leads down into Crater Lake where visitors have the opportunity to swim in the iconic deep blue lake. With shockingly cold temperatures swimmers may only be able to enjoy a quick dip, but it’s definitely worth it. Hiking back up can be challenging, so make sure you’re up for it before you embark on the hike.
The hike to Garfield Peak is difficult but rewarding. Renowned as one of the best hikes in Crater Lake National Park, the trek is 3.6 steep miles round trip and offers summit views over all that lies below. Be sure to bring plenty of water and hiking snacks for the journey!
A popular activity in Crater Lake National Park is to boat over to Wizard Island, the island that rises up from the center of the lake. Enjoy touring the island by boat and spend the day hiking, swimming, and exploring Wizard Island.
Rim Village Historic District
The historic Rim Village is home to the park’s visitor center, among several other noteworthy attractions. In Rim Village you’ll also find a bookstore, gift shop, iconic Crater Lake Lodge, daily ranger programs, spectacular views, and more.
A breathtaking national park located in southern Oregon, Crater Lake National Park is home to the deepest lake in the country. Visitors to the park will love boating, hiking, fishing, and exploring in this natural refuge. Once you’ve had your fill of Crater Lake National Park, head to the following nearby destinations to continue your trip!
Portland, Oregon – About 4 hours from Crater Lake National Park lies charming Portland, Oregon. Head to Portland for its unique bohemian culture which has been affectionately referred to as “weird”. Explore the coffee shops, bars, restaurants, art galleries, and more in Portland.
Salem, Oregon – The capital of Oregon, Salem is just over 3 hours outside of Crater Lake National Park. Salem offers a variety of artwork and museums amidst a picturesque setting. A relaxed university town, Salem makes for a lovely next stop after your visit to Crater Lake.
Mount Hood National Forest – Just over 3 hours from Crater Lake National Park, Mount Hood National Forest is home to spectacular Mount Hood. A popular ski and outdoor recreation destination, there are plenty of things to see and explore in Mount Hood National Forest.
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area – Located along Oregon’s Pacific coast, Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is about 3.5 hours from Crater Lake National Park. Home to gorgeous sand dunes situated beside the ocean, visitors will love exploring this unique area.
Umpqua National Forest – Just 40 minutes outside of Crater Lake National Park, Umpqua National Forest makes for the perfect stop before or after your visit to the park. Located in Oregon’s Cascade Range, visitors to the forest will be enchanted by its natural beauty.
With vast, gorgeous landscapes stretching throughout the state, the best way to explore all that Oregon has to offer is via road trip. The Oregon Cascades to Coast Road Trip courses through the snow-capped Cascade Mountains, several national forests, Crater Lake National Park, and the Oregon Dunes.
Your road trip will begin at Bend, which rests along the Deschutes River and serves as a gateway for lots of recreational activities. It’s the sixth largest city in Oregon with a population of around 105,000. Due to its convenient location near ski resorts, lush forests, rock climbing, scenic drives, hiking trails, and pristine lakes, Bend has become one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. Bend also has one of the highest breweries per capita in the country.
Deschutes National Forest
Next, continue on to Deschutes National Forest, which sits along the Cascade Range and consists of over 1.6 million acres of alpine wilderness. Protected for more than a century, the forest contains year-round activities for outdoor enthusiasts and thrill-seekers. The views atop South Sister, Diamond Peak, and Mount Thielsen entice mountaineers, while cavers gravitate to the hundreds of spooky caves within the forest. Altogether, there are five distinct areas of wilderness inside Deschutes National Forest that each boast panoramic shots of the mighty Cascades, adventurous hiking trails, shimmering lakes, and dozens of campgrounds.
Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway
Your road trip will continue onto Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway. Stretching for 66 miles, the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway passes several crystal-clear lakes. Starting in Bend, the central Oregon route gives you sensational views of Mount Bachelor, Broken Top, and South Sister. The byway leads directly to Mount Bachelor Ski Resort, one of North America’s largest expanses of powdery slopes. Bend residents venture to the unspoiled lakes for summer getaways to lakeside resorts and peaceful days in the outdoors. Elk Lake sits beneath the slopes of Mount Bachelor, and its shores attract boaters, kayakers, paddlers, and anglers. Campers bask in the splendor of Lava Lake, and hikers can start the trek to Three Sisters. In total, the route gives you access to 14 alpine lakes for endless recreation in the Cascades.
Crater Lake National Park
After the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway, the next stop along your journey will be Crater Lake National Park. Roughly 7,700 years ago, Mount Mazama blew its top and transformed the surrounding landscape. The remnants of the volcanic blast reveal the striking images of Crater Lake and offer a glimpse into Mother Nature’s raw power. Rim Drive encircles the caldera and gives you dramatic images for 33 miles. The engineering feat offers multiple observation points to peer into the deep-blue waters filling the lake and the surrounding Cascade peaks. Several hiking trails hug the crater rim, and it’s possible to reach the shoreline to sail towards Wizard Island. The Rim Visitor Center features intriguing exhibits that delve into the geologic history that formed America’s deepest lake.
Umpqua National Forest
Next up on your road trip is the Umpqua National Forest. The violent eruption that formed Crater Lake created the diverse ecosystem residing in the adjacent Umpqua National Forest. Situated on the western side of the Cascades, Umpqua houses tumbling waterfalls and fascinating geologic wonders. The grandest of Umpqua’s many cascades is the 293-foot Watson Falls, the third-tallest waterfall in Oregon. Ringed by mesmerizing basalt columns, Toketee Falls plunges into a turquoise pool for a breathtaking portrait. The thundering waters of the Umpqua River create some of Oregon’s best whitewater rafting excursions, and the surrounding forest is home to hundreds of native species.
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
Continue on to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, a unique 40-mile stretch of the Oregon coast known for its multitude of ecosystems. Wind-sculpted dunes tower above the Pacific Ocean, while a series of lakes and marshlands sit on the other side. Wildlife abounds in the area, and visitors will find animals such as birds of prey, snowy plovers, and black-tailed deer here. Three areas are open to off-road vehicles and ATVs, dune buggies, and other all-terrain vehicles to ride around the dunes. Other parts of the dunes reserve access for hikers and numerous day trails lead through the dunes and wind through coastal forests.
As you continue on your road trip, you’ll come to Eugene, Oregon. One of Oregon’s major cultural hubs, Eugene presents a fantastic opportunity to delve into arts, history, and an eclectic dining scene. Eugene is home to the University of Oregon, and sports fans can witness some of the country’s greatest collegiate athletes. The Museum of Natural and Cultural History studies the archaeological evolution of the Pacific Northwest, and the Eugene Science Center offers interactive exhibits for children. Alton Baker Park and Skinner Butte Park are two beautiful green spaces to unwind in nature.
Willamette National Forest
Finally, your road trip will conclude at Willamette National Forest. Head back to the Cascades and lace up your hiking boots for this trekker’s paradise with more than 1,700 miles of trails. Douglas-firs dot the 1.6 million acres of pristine forest, and seven rugged mountains overlook the landscape. Mountaineers make the daring quest to summit the craggy peaks of Mount Jefferson and The Three Sisters. Adventurous backpackers tackle the 50-mile Three Sisters Loop for multi-day hiking trips. Detroit Lake draws kayakers and campers for sweeping views of the evergreen forest. Anglers flock to the sparkling waters of the North Santiam River to catch trout, steelhead, and chinook salmon.
When to Go
Due to seasonal road closures on Crater Lake’s Rim Drive and the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway, the summer is the appropriate season for this expedition. The Cascades receive a tremendous amount of snowfall, and it takes a long time to clear some of the roadways for drivers. Portions of this route won’t be accessible until June, and could be even later depending on the weather conditions. Summer is also the driest season in Oregon to give you more time to enjoy the great outdoors. Realistically, this route is doable within a week, but give yourself upwards of two weeks if you want to fully explore each destination.
Home to the deepest lake in the United States, Crater Lake National Park is located in southern Oregon. With crystal clear waters and its shockingly blue color, there’s no question why Crater Lake is the centerpiece of this scenic park. There are some important safety precautions to take before visiting Crater Lake National Park.
With long, snowy winters and short but sunny summers, you can expect spontaneous snow and rain storms throughout most of the year. Come prepared with everything you’ll need, including proper footwear, plenty of water, food, warm clothing, and rain gear.
You may encounter some wildlife during your visit to Crater Lake National Park, including bears, elk, coyotes, porcupines, birds, lizards, and more. It’s important to NEVER feed the animals, both for their safety and yours. If you’re spending the night in the park, be sure to store your food safely in bear-proof containers or hang it up securely in trees.
Perhaps the most important safety concern when visiting this park is the caldera. Hiking and climbing in the caldera is strictly prohibited, as its steep walls are made up of unstable rocks and gravel. People have died from slipping and falling and getting caught in unexpected rock slides when hiking around the collapsed volcano’s dangerous caldera rim. The only exception to hiking in this area is the Cleetwood Cove Trail, which allows safe access down to the lake.
Avoid drinking from the lake or streams within the park without treating the water first, as this could lead to severe illness.
Located in southern Oregon, Crater Lake National Park is known for housing the deepest lake in the United States and the second-deepest lake in North America. Established in 1902, the lake is the fifth-oldest national park in the United States and the only national park in Oregon today. It’s home to the caldera of Crater Lake, a remnant of a destroyed volcano, Mount Mazama, and the surrounding hills and forests.
Thanks to a massive explosion that created the geological spectacle, there is lots to see and do in this park. The Pumice Desert, created from the very thick layer of pumice and ash that fell north of Mazama, is an impressive spectacle where few plants grow today. Visitors can also see the Pinnacles, where very hot ash and pumice came to rest near the volcano. There’s also Mount Scott, a steep andesitic cone whose lava came from the Mazama magma chamber.
The park was originally inhabited by Native Americans who witnessed the collapse of Mount Mazama and built it into their legends and religions. It wasn’t until the 1800s when a trio of European gold prospectors, John Wesley Hillman, Henry Klippel, and Isaaz Skeeters, discovered the lake. Mesmerized by how blue the lake was, they named it “Deep Blue Lake” and the southwest side of the rim where they saw the lake as “Discovery Point.” As they kept moving to find gold, locals renamed the lake “Crater Lake,” which has stuck with it ever since.
Local William Gladstone Steel devoted his life to ensuring the lake was managed and preserved as part of the park system. He began his mission in 1870 in an effort to bring recognition to the park, which he believed more people should see. The park was established on May 22, 1902 by President Theodore Roosevelt thanks to Steel’s efforts.
Today, Crater Lake National park encompasses 180,000-acres of heavily forested land that is home to a diverse range of plants and wildlife. As you venture around the trails, you can spot bears, coyotes, elk, porcupines, amphibians, and other birds and insects. There are also plenty of bats and smaller mammals like pikas, squirrels, and rabbits. The park is home to vegetation that ranges from mixed conifer forests to high-elevation hemlock and white bark pine forest.
There were no native fish present in the lake due to its formation; however, in 1888, kokanee salmon and rainbow trout were introduced to the lake. They now thrive there naturally.
Crater Lake National Park’s Top Animals
Cleetwood Trail: If you want to go fishing or get close to the water, this hiking trail is a great place to do it. Rim Drive: This 33-mile drive is your best bet for seeing the park’s mammals and birds. Take your time, slow down, and use the pull-offs to get amazing photos. Mount Scott: The highest point in Crater Lake National Park is Mount Scott, which provides views for 100-miles in all directions. You can also see the white-peaked Cascade Range volcanoes in the north, the Columbia River Plateau to the east, and the Klamath Mountains to the West. Sphagnum Bog: A great place to catch birds, small mammals, and even medium-sized mammals passing through and grabbing a drink. Union Peak: Look for pronghorns and bigger mammals in this area.
When Should You Go?
Black bear sightings are much more common in the fall and spring seasons, when they are waking up or getting ready to hibernate. However, you can see the snowshoe hare, squirrels, elk, and deer in the winter snow as they are more likely to venture near the park attractions when there are less people there.
Note: Winters can get wet and cold in this National Park, so pack accordingly if you want to explore the hundreds of miles of hiking trails. It’s recommended to visit the park during the spring, fall, and summer seasons for unexperienced hikers.