One of the largest lakes in the country, Crater Lake is an unforgettable destination that offers endless adventures! Crater Lake has plenty to offer travelers during the summer and winter months. With endless hiking trails that offer gorgeous views of the surrounding alpine backcountry, Crater Lake is a place you’ll want to explore with friends and family year round!
Crater Lake, located in the southern region of Oregon, fills part of a 2,000+ foot caldera that was formed over 7,000 years ago. The formation was caused by the volcanic eruption of Mount Mazama, an eruption that was 42 times greater than the Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980. During the eruption, the summit of Mount Mazama was destroyed, reducing its height by a mile. Most of the former volcano dropped into the volcano’s neck and was destroyed in the magma chamber.
Crater Lake has a depth of almost 2,000 feet which makes it the deepest lake in the United States and the 10th deepest lake worldwide. Crater Lake is well known for its fresh, supremely clear water. Impressively, without any rivers feeding water into the lake, the lake water is only replenished by rain and snowfall. It takes about 250 years for all of the water to evaporate and recycle back into the lake.
PLANTS & ANIMALS
Crater Lake is home to a variety of bird and amphibian species. While touring some of the lake’s small islands, visitors often see the violet-green swallow darting from tree to tree. Some of the slimy creatures living in Crater Lake National Park include the Western Toad, the Long-toed Salamander, and the Pacific Tree Frog.
Another ecological feature of Crater Lake is the aquatic moss that calls the park its home. Most commonly found near Wizard Island, some of the dead moss underlying the living moss is thousands of years old. An odd assortment of tube-like holes and depressions can be found on the surface of the dead moss. However, the process that creates these formations is unknown.
In the summertime, preferred activities involve hiking the trails, ranger-guided lectures, and programs, boat tours across the lake, trolley tours, swimming, and fishing. During the summer, areas like Wizard Island are open for exploration. Summer temperatures stay in the 70’s most days and enter the 80’s during August. The Steel Visitors Center is open year-round, but the Rim Visitors Center is closed from October to May as is the Crater Lake Lodge Dining Room.
One of the more popular trails, Garfield Peak is located nearby Crater Lake Lodge and follows along the rim of the lake. With some of the most phenomenal views of the Crater Lake and all its stunning features, as well as colorful, alpine wildflowers, Garfield Peak is open from July to October, a moderate 3.4-mile hike round trip.
With incredible views of the Rogue Valley, Ashland, Diamond Peak, Mt McLoughlin, Mt Shasta, and spectacular wildflower displays, Grizzly Peak is a hike you can’t miss. The hike is 5 miles long and leads through a forest filled with Douglas fir, grand fir, and cedar trees.
An easy, 4-mile round trip hike, the Indigo Lake Trail leads through old trees and high mountain meadows before winding up at Indigo Lake with vigorously blue waters.
A majestic area to explore, there are numerous trails that lead hikers on a tour around Rogue River. In one spot, the river darts underground and flows through a long lava tube, with a natural bridge crossing over its surface.
A quick 2-mile round trip hike with an elevation gain of only 135 feet, this hike leads to a peaceful waterfall that drains into a creek surrounded by beautiful flowers.
This quick 1-mile hike offers views of Douglas fir, red-cedar, big leaf maple, Pacific yew. There is a two-tiered waterfall that descends 80 feet. Hikers will also catch a glimpse of the North Umpqua River.
All boat tours leave from a dock that requires a 1-mile hike through Cleetwood Trail which includes a 700-foot drop. Boat cruises operate daily from the end of June to the middle of July. Visitors can choose between the Standard Cruise and the option to stop off at Wizard Island and enjoy panoramic views of the lake. Some of the most popular Crater Lake features are listed below.
Old Man of the Lake
“Old Man of the Lake” is a tree stump that has been bobbing in Crater Lake since the 1800’s. The stump is 30 feet long, floating 4 feet above the water. Once a full-sized tree beneath the water of Crater Lake, the wood’s decomposition was slowed due to low water temperatures. However, the wood above the water’s surface has been bleached white from exposure to the elements.
Wizard Island, a volcanic cinder cone on the west side of the Crater Lake, stands at about 700 feet above the lake’s surface. The Island was formed after the eruption of Mount Mazama, from a series of smaller eruptions that occurred over the next few hundred years.
Named for its eery similarities to a ghost ship which are only emphasized on a foggy day. Phantom Ship is another small island located in Crater Lake. The island is made of a volcanic rock 400,000 years old. Though the island is small, there are 7 different trees living on its surface.
Tour Crater Lake National Park on one of three historically designed trolleys. Each tour is led by a guide who provides information about the different features of Oregon’s only national park. All trolleys are environmentally friendly!
Crater Lake National Park is open during the winter season, but access is limited. From November until April, visitors can enjoy ranger-guided snowshoe hikes, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. Winter temperatures are around 35 degrees Fahrenheit with anywhere from 3 to 10-foot deep snowfall.
Up until the end of April, visitors are invited to participate in free ranger-led snowshoe walks to explore the icy winter wonderland. Snowshoes are free to use during the walk. You can also rent snowshoes and poles to hike some of the snowshoe trails on your own. Meanwhile, snowmobilers can enjoy a 10-mile ride across a marked trail that leads to an incredible lake overlook.
Mazama Loop and West Rim Drive are considered the easiest trails and most popular since they provide beautiful views of the lake as well as several overlooks that peer onto Wizard Island or the Cascade Volcanoes. East Rim Driver and Hemlock loop are the intermediate trails with a 1,000-foot drop through the woods to the Pacific Crest Trail. For an advanced trail try Raven Trail, Lightning Springs or Dutton Creek Trail with a 1,000-foot drop through the woods to the Pacific Crest Trail.
Crater Lake offers fun for the whole family, whether you visit in summer or during the icy, white months of winter. Boat tours, hiking trails, and trolley tours give you an endless number of ways to explore the gorgeous natural features of Crater Lake. Book your trip today. You’ll be glad you did!