is crater lake worth visiting

Is Crater Lake Worth Visiting in 2024?

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Oregon is a state full of natural beauty, from waterfalls to epic coastline and snow covered volcanoes. Crater Lake is the state’s only National Park, located in the Southern part of the state. Crater Lake is a bit out of the way if you are traveling to Oregon and going to popular cities of Bend, Portland, or hitting the Oregon coast.. So you may be wondering: Is Crater Lake worth visiting?

In this post I will cover the best places to stay in and near the National Park, the best things to do if you only have 1 day, and the best views of the lake! Plus- if I think Crater Lake is worth visiting. contains affiliate links and is a member of the Amazon LLC Associates Program. If you make a purchase using one of these Amazon links, I may receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products I believe in. Read my disclaimer for more information.

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Accommodation: I recommend to find the best deals on hotels.
Flights: I recommend Skyscanner to look for the best prices and deals on flights.
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Travel insurance: I recommend Safety Wing; keep your trips insured to protect yourself while traveling.
Tours/experiences: I recommend Viator and Get Your Guide!

Is Crater Lake worth visiting in 2024?

I say YES! I believe Crater Lake is definitely worth the detour if you are coming to Oregon. And let me tell you why.

Facts About Crater Lake

  • It is the DEEPEST lake in the United States at 1,943 feet deep. How cool is that? It is actually the 10th deepest lake in the whole world.
  • It is a volcanic crater. What does that mean? Well Crater Lake was formed 7,700 years ago after a volcano erupted and then collapsed.
  • The lake has a sacred history. Originally the land of the Klamath Native American tribe, the legend says that Crater Lake formed when the spirit of the sky and the spirit of the mountain got into a big battle and all that remained was a large hole.
  • Crater Lake is one of the snowiest places in the U.S. The lake is fed by rain and snow and is one of the purest on earth.

Why I loved Crater Lake

The lake is the most brilliant blue I have ever seen, I feel like if you are considering going to Crater Lake it is a must. The day I went, we had been there for hours and I still would look up at the lake again and just say “Oh my god I can’t believe how blue it is.” It is truly a mesmerizing sight.

The park isn’t too large and it is easy to navigate. We only had one day here and I thought you could easily find time to do a few things in the park with limited time. So even if you only have a day in Crater Lake, I believe it is well worth the detour and your time to visit.

brilliantly blue Crater Lake with mountains in the background

What is the best month to visit Crater Lake?

If you want to take advantage of ALL that Crater Lake has to offer including driving along the rim, hiking, and boat tours- you have to visit during the summer season.

Crater Lake in the summer:

Overall, I would recommend visiting the parking between July and September for the best weather, best chances that the entire Rim drive is open, and for the most activities to do. The temperature during this time of the year usually goes up to the 70s. Just be prepared for crowds, as the summer season is the most popular time to visit!

Crater Lake in the shoulder seasons of May/June or October/November:

A few things to keep in mind if you visit in the shoulder season of May/June or October/November: snow removal and early snowfall can impact your trip with road closures around the park. If you plan to visit the park during these times, be sure to regularly check the National Park Website for updates on road closures. Note that you will not be able to access most hikes when the Rim drive is closed.

Crater Lake in the winter:

Going to Crater Lake in the winter can award you with solitude and different activities to do such as snowshoeing or cross country skiing. To go to the park in winter, you must enter through either the west or south entrances as these are the only entrances plowed and open to automobiles yearlong. The Rim drive is closed in the winter.

Follow The 7 Leave No Trace Principles

  • Plan ahead and prepare
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find
  • Minimize campfire impacts
  • Be courteous of others

Find out more about Leave No Trace here.

How to Get to Crater Lake

The closest international airport is in Portland, OR- a 4 1/2 hour drive. If you are planning a road trip and want to combine other stops with Crater Lake, you’re in for a treat because Oregon has SO much to offer. Be sure to check out my other posts on the Oregon coast and the best waterfalls in Oregon.

Another option to visit Crater Lake is flying into the local commercial airport in Medford, OR that is only 75 miles away.

Check Oregon’s Trip Check website to stay up to date on any recent road closures during your trip. Wildfires in the summer and snow in the winter and shoulder season are all things to keep in mind when it comes to road closures.

There is no public transportation in the National Park so you have to have your own car to explore.

Looking for a rental car? Check out Discover Cars where you can search through 500+ car rental suppliers and compare prices and cars!

Where to Stay Near Crater Lake

When we were in Crater Lake, we stayed in a town called Roseburg located two hours away from the park. We only did this because we were coming from Bandon, OR on the coast and staying in Roseburg made the most sense as it was on the way. It was also very cheap. But overall I wouldn’t recommend it obviously because it is a 2 hour drive away from the park!

You can stay in Crater Lake at the Crater Lake Lodge which looked so beautiful but you must reserve well in advance! It is also not cheap at 250$ a night.

Seven miles away from the park there are options for lodging at Mazama Village including cabins and the Mazama campground. Check out these options at the Crater Lake Hospitality website.

Crater Lake resort is also a nice option that has good reviews and is a very short drive from the parks’ entrance.

Central Point, just north of Medford, has many lodging options and is located about one hour away from the park. This would be the perfect option if you are coming from Medford. Central Point would also be a good option if you are driving in from the Southern Oregon coast since it would be on your way.

The town of Klamath Falls is 45 minutes South from the park that has many lodging options as well.

Do I need a reservation for Crater Lake?

You do not need a reservation to visit Crater Lake. But, there is a National Park entrance fee.

  • There is a mandatory $30 entrance fee May- October for a private vehicle. During the off season the entrance fee goes down to 20$. These passes are good for 7 days.
  • If you plan on visiting three or more National Parks in one year, I highly recommend purchasing an America the Beautiful Annual National Parks Pass as it will pay for itself. Learn more about that pass here.
  • There are some free days throughout the year as well- check those dates out here.

Is 1 day enough for Crater Lake?

Yes! I spent 1 day in Crater Lake and I feel like it was a good amount of time to spend in the park. The park isn’t too large like other national parks so it is very doable to drive around and do a few activities and enjoy your time at the lake.

Although it is a beautiful place, I personally wouldn’t recommend more than 2-3 days here because I feel like you would quickly run out of things to do.

What to do if you only have one day

On the day we spent at Crater Lake we got into the park around mid morning and took it easy. We were able to drive the Scenic Rim Drive, hike the Cleetwood Cove trail, swim in the lake and enjoy a beautiful sunset at Watchman Overlook.

With only one day in the park, I would recommend picking 1-2 hikes from the list below depending on your fitness level, the hike’s difficulty, and other activities such as boat tours that you have planned.

If you have longer than 1 day

If you have longer than 1 day in the park I would recommend doing 2-4 hikes from the list below, such as a summit hike, the Cleetwood Cove hike to reach the lake’s edge, and visit Plaikni Falls. You would definitely have time for a boat tour and visit to Wizard Island where you can swim and hike as well.

Best Things to do in Crater Lake

Scenic Rim Drive

Whether you only have one day in the park or multiples days, you definitely have to set aside time to make the Scenic Rim Drive around the lake. Luckily, many of the hikes and activities listed below will be stops on this drive, as well as numerous viewpoints along the way.

The Rim drive is 33 miles that circumferences the lake. The road closes in winter and opens in stages starting in May, depending on the season’s snowfall. It typically closes in stages with the first heavy snowfall of the season.

Be sure to keep track of the National Park’s website to stay up to date on snow removal and road closures. Note that the road could also be closed during the summer for rockfall or road repair.

Get a feel for the park by checking out this map prior to going, and be sure to take a map at the entrance when you arrive.

A view of Crater Lake in Oregon on the scenic rim drive. A brilliant blue lake in the setting of mountains and green pine trees.

Best Hikes in Crater Lake National Park

Cleetwood Cove

For me, this was the main thing I wanted to do at Crater Lake! I really wanted to do the cliff jump at Cleetwood Cove and experience the lake at its’ shore. The cliff jump here is about 30 feet.

The water is cold but refreshing after the hike down! We spent a little bit of time here to enjoy the view of the lake at our feet.

The hike is short but very steep at 2 miles roundtrip with almost 700ft elevation gain. You will start at the parking lot and walk down to the lakes’ shore and gain all of that elevation on your way back up. Be sure to carry lots of water in the heat of summer.

Do note that this trail is closed until they clear the snow, so be sure to keep track of the National Park website for updates on when the trail is open!

Photo of a girl jumping into Crater Lake. The cliff jump is 35 feet high. There are slight waves in the lake from wind. this trail makes crater lake worth visiting
A view of Crater Lake in Oregon on the Cleetwood Cove trail. A brilliant blue lake in the setting of mountains and green pine trees.
A view of Crater Lake in Oregon on the Cleetwood Cove trail. A brilliant blue lake in the setting of mountains and green pine trees.

Garfield Peak

A moderately challenging hike that rewards great views of the lake and of Phantom ship, a small island in Crater Lake. This hike is 3.4 miles roundtrip and over a 1000 ft of elevation gain.

Watchman Peak

This hike is 1.7 miles with 400 ft of elevation gain. This would make for a great quick sunrise or sunset hike to get a rewarding view of the lake. This parking lot can get crowded so plan accordingly.

Mount Scott

Mount Scott is the highest point in the park and is classified as moderately challenging. This trail is 4.2 miles roundtrip with 1300 ft of elevation gain. Be sure to pack lots of water and some snacks if you’re doing this in the heat of summer!

Plaikni Falls

I wish I knew about this waterfall trail when I was visiting the park because it looks so beautiful! This trail is 2 miles and relatively flat and rewards you with a beautiful waterfall! I think this is a unique activity to add to your one day itinerary if you have the time.

Discovery Point

This is a great hike to explore some beautiful viewpoints of the lake on foot that’s not too strenuous. The trail is 2.4 miles with under 400 ft of elevation gain. It has great views of the lake and Wizard Island. You can also snowshoe this trail in the winter!

Swim in the Lake

The only way to swim in the lake is by hiking down the Cleetwood Cove trail that was detailed earlier!

The surface water temperature is a balmy 55-60 degrees Farenheit! 🥶

Yes, it is a bit chilly but it is worthwhile to say you swam in the deepest lake in the US! Plus- the hike to get down there will most likely have you working up a sweat in the summer heat.

Enjoy a Sunrise or Sunset 🌅

We chose to watch the sunset at Crater Lake at the Watchman Overlook. We couldn’t see the sun setting over the lake, it was actually behind us, but the sky changed to beautiful pastel colors and it was a different way to experience the lake.

The setting sun painted a beautiful red and orange glow on the mountains around the lake.

A view of Crater Lake at sunset. The blue of the lake becomes deeper, and the sunset casts a orange, red, and pink glow on the mountains.

Take a Boat Tour around the Lake or Visit Wizard Island

When we visited in 2021 boat tours and boat shuttles to Wizard Island were shut down due to Covid which was a huge bummer. I feel like seeing the lake from the water itself would be such a special experience!

Note that you have to hike down the Cleetwood Cove trail in order to access the boats. You are NOT able to drive down to the shore of the lake.

They currently offer a 2 hour boat cruise where you can see Wizard Island, the Phantom Ship, and more.

They also provide Wizard Island tours where you can get off the boat and swim around and explore the island, as well as a Wizard Island shuttle. On Wizard Island you can even do a hike to the highest point that is about 2 miles roundtrip.

Check out the Crater Lake Hospitality website for dates, prices, and booking information.

If you wanted to do either of these tours or the Wizard Island shuttle, make sure you have enough time and daylight in your day. Between the hike down and back up the Cleetwood Cove, I would budget a half day for any boat activities.

Crater Lake Packing List

Conclusion: Is Crater Lake worth visiting?

Yes I think that Crater Lake is worth the extra driving to reach. It is the deepest lake in the U.S. and a very unique place to visit.

If you visit in the summer you can go on an epic boat ride around the lake and visit the island, or swim. Not only is the natural beauty astounding, but to say I jumped into the deepest lake in the U.S. is pretty cool!

Have more time in Oregon? Check out my post on the Oregon Coast and the best waterfalls in Oregon!

is crater lake worth visiting

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