Crater Lake in Oregon is a natural wonder that never fails to leave visitors in awe. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and the most mesmerizing blue color you’ve ever seen!
Formed over 7,000 years ago following a volcanic eruption, this pristine body of water boasts stunning crystal-clear deep blue waters. But- can you swim in Crater Lake?
The short answer is – yes, yes you can! Despite its chilly temperatures year-round, many adventurous souls flock to the lake’s shores each summer to take a dip and experience the unique beauty of this national treasure.
In this post, I’ll explore everything you need to know about swimming in Crater Lake, how to get down to the shore of the lake, and why it should be on every nature lover’s bucket list.
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Frequently asked questions about swimming in Crater Lake
What part of Crater Lake can you swim in?
There are only two places you can swim in Crater Lake National Park.
The first is Cleetwood Cove, accessible only by hiking down the Cleetwood Cove trail.
The other area to swim is off of Wizard Island, a small island in the middle of Crater Lake. To get to Wizard Island you have to first hike the Cleetwood Cove trail, and then take a boat to Wizard Island.
Is Crater Lake too cold to swim in?
Crater Lake is quite chilly! But if it is ‘too’ cold to swim in depends on the individual. If you’ve swam in other alpine lakes before, this is pretty similar.
In the summer months the surface water temperature of Crater Lake is 55-60°F. The water will warmest closest to the surface and in shallower water.
The temperature of the water gets colder the deeper it gets. The average temperature when you reach 300ft is 38°F!
But since you can only swim in Crater Lake in the summer when Cleetwood Cove is accessible, the hike down should get you in a sweat.
I personally found it quite refreshing when I was there! Hopefully you’re at Crater Lake on a warm, sunny day and you can soak up the sun for a little bit before hopping into the lake.
For safety, be sure to stick close by to the shore in case the water gets too cold for you and you can easily get yourself out of the water.
How clean is Crater Lake water?
Crater Lake’s water comes only from rain and snowfall.
It is actually one of the purest lakes in the world, so you can rest assured that it is very clean and safe to swim in!
When can you swim in Crater Lake?
The short answer to this question is: late June – October. But this depends on any late or early snowfall that may close the Cleetwood Cove trail, or the Rim drive that you need to drive to get to the trail.
Each year the trail opens sometimes in late June and closes again sometime in October.
You can only swim in Crater Lake when the Cleetwood Cove trail is open. The Rim Drive also must be open in order to access the Cleetwood Cove trail.
Stay up to date on current road and trail conditions on the Crater Lake National Park Service website.
How to swim in Crater Lake
Hiking the Cleetwood Cove trail to swim in Crater Lake
To access the lake’s shores you will have to hike down via the Cleetwood Cove trail.
This trail is 2.2 miles roundtrip with 700 elevation loss/gain. Find a map and recent reviews here.
Expect the hike to take 30-45 minutes each way depending on your fitness level and hiking speed. It will take a little longer coming back up due to the steepness than it took going down.
This hike can get really crowded! Want to beat the crowds and have calmer water? Go early in the morning! Also try to go on a weekday as opposed to a weekend for less crowds.
There is plenty of parking at the trailhead as well as pit toilets to use. I recommend already starting on the trail with your bathing suit on since there are no changing areas around, and I wouldn’t suggest changing in the pit toilets either!
The trail has many switchbacks going down and it is quite steep and sandy. Wear hiking boots or shoes with good grip so you do not slip. You will lose all the elevation to make it down to the lake, so be prepared for the steep hike back up!
The hike down is really beautiful, with glimpses of the vivid blue color of the lake popping out between the trees.
Bring 1 liter of water a person, especially during hot days, and maybe pack a lunch that you can enjoy down at the water’s edge. But be sure to never feed wildlife and pack out all of your trash!
Note that dogs are not allowed on this trail.
The cliff jump at Cleetwood Cove
There is a 35 foot cliff jump located at Cleetwood Cove, sometimes referred to as ‘Jumping Rock’. If you’re like me and always up for a thrill, I highly suggest it! I thought the jump was really fun and I felt really exhilarated afterwards.
However, a big word of warning about cliff jumping. As someone sitting here April of 2023 actively recovering from a different cliff jumping accident where I fractured 2 vertebrae in Guatemala.. I don’t mean to scare you, just make sure you exercise caution! Your landing position is key.
You should always land a jump in a ‘pencil’ position with your feet first. And I feel like this goes without saying but you need to know how to swim before you jump in.
If you’re not feeling the cliff jump- that’s okay! You can also easily just slide in the water or do a little jump off a shorter rock.
Swimming at Wizard Island
The only other place you can swim in Crater Lake is right off of Wizard Island.
To get to Wizard Island you must first hike down the Cleetwood Cove trail and then take a boat. In 2023, these boats are running from July 1- September 11, but dates are boat and weather dependent.
You will find Wizard Island boat tours and shuttles from the Cleetwood Cove dock. The shuttles and boat tours book up quickly so be sure to reserve your spot in advance!
Embark on an epic Wizard Island boat tour, that takes you around the perimeter of the island for sightseeing. And you will have an additional 3 hours to hike, fish, and- swim! As of 2023 the boat tours are 55$ for adults and 37$ for children ages 3-12. Children 2 and under are not permitted.
You can also take a shuttle to Wizard Island if you’d like to forego the tour. In 2023 you cna get Wizard Island shuttle tickets for 28$ for adults and 18$ for children ages 3-12.
Rules of swimming in Crater Lake
- There are no lifeguards here, so you are swimming at your own risk.
- Swimming is only allowed within 100 yards of Cleetwood Cove and within 100 yards of Wizard Island.
- If there is a boat, dock, or buoy nearby to where you’re swimming, you must be at least 50 feet away from it.
- Only bathing suits and basic clothing can be worn when swimming in Crater Lake. It is not clothing optional.
- Objects and items not allowed: scuba/snorkel gear, wet suits, masks, goggles, fins, inner tubes, kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, rafts, and personal life jackets.
What to bring to swim in Crater Lake
- Your bathing suit!
- Lightweight, moisture wicking clothes for the hike down to the lake.
- A towel to dry off after getting into the lake. I love these microfiber fast drying towels.
- Water, snacks, and electrolyte tabs to keep yourself hydrated & healthy during the hike.
- Day hiking backpack. I love my Osprey daypack which has lasted me years and dozens of hikes.
- Hiking boots- I love my Columbia Newton Ridge Waterproof hiking boots. They’re affordable and have lasted me dozens of hikes so far including backpacking trips.
- Sun protection. Sun screen, hat, and sunglasses.
Where is Crater Lake?
Crater Lake is in South- Central Oregon in Klamath County. It is Oregon’s only National Park.
How to get to Crater Lake Oregon
The closest international airport is in Portland, Oregon, a 4 1/2 hour drive away. You can certainly fly into Portland and go on a big road trip since 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 to fly into the local commercial airport in Medford, OR. This airport that is only 75 miles away.
Be sure to check Oregon’s Trip Check website and stay up to date on any recent road closures during your trip. Both snow in the winter and shoulder season and wildfires in the summer can force road closures.
There is no public transportation at Crater Lake so you will have to have your own car to explore.
Best places to stay near Crater Lake
- You can stay in the national park itself at the Crater Lake Lodge. You must reserve a night well in advance.
- 7 miles away from Crater Lake National Park is Mazama Village. There are cabins here as well as a campground. Check out these options at the Crater Lake Hospitality website.
- Crater Lake resort is a short drive from the park’s entrance and is highly rated.
- The town of Central Point, 1 hour from the park, has many lodging options. 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 right on your way.
- The town of Klamath Falls is 45 minutes South from the park that has many lodging options as well.
Conclusion: Can you swim in Crater Lake?
In conclusion, swimming in Crater Lake, Oregon is an experience of a lifetime. The stunning blue waters and the picturesque views of surrounding mountains make it a must-visit place for any adventure enthusiast.
Though the water is quite chilly even during summers, it is worth braving the cold to take a dip in this natural wonder.
Moreover, with well-maintained facilities and safety measures, visitors can enjoy their swim without worrying about any mishaps. Plus- it is one of the purest lakes in the world, making it very safe and clean to swim in.
So if you’re planning your next vacation or weekend getaway, consider visiting Crater Lake for an unforgettable swimming experience!