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Best Places To Visit In Oregon: Crater Lake National Park

Updated on October 20, 2012

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake is one of the premier national parks in the United States. William Gladstone Steel petitioned Congress for 17 years to preserve this remarkable creation of nature and finally won. It was declared a national park in 1902 on May 22nd.

Crater lake is the deepest lake in the United States. It's ranked the 9th deepest worldwide.

Perhaps the most amazing part of Crater Lake is the deep blue water that has become synonymous with Crater Lake. Many people ask if something is added to the water. The deep blue is due to the purity of the water. 

The water itself is crystal clear and visibility in the water at Crater Lake was measured in 1994 at a phenomenal 134 feet.

One of the other contributing factors to the blueness of the lake is the fact that there are no tributaries to the lake. There are no rivers or streams in and no rivers or streams out.

The lake is filled each year by only rain and snow runoff. The proportion at which evaporation occurs and then is replenished seems to be an amazingly consistent balance.

The lake depth fluctuates a little every year but for the most part, remains static. It has not changed in depth more than 16 feet in over 100 years.


Facts About Crater Lake

Crater Lake is the kind of national wonder that leaves one breathless. It has such a calm and serene beauty that you find yourself wishing you could stay forever.

  • Crater Lake wasn't created by a meteor falling. It was once a huge mountain, Mount Mazama which exploded with such force over 7000 years ago that the remaining walls of the mountain couldn't remain standing. They simply caved in to create the caldera or crater that exists today.
  • The lake over time filled with water and what now remains is one of Mother Nature's most prized places on earth.
  • Crater Lake is over 1900 feet deep. It was first measured in the 1800s by a geology team using a weight and piano wire. Their measurement was almost identical to that performed in the 1990s by more scientific methods.
  • Mount Mazama was 12,000 feet high when it erupted over 7000 years ago.

Things to Do at Crater Lake


There is one way down to the shore of the lake. That's by way of the Cleetwood Cove Trail. The trail is 1.1 miles long but descends 700 feet.The walk down isn't too bad but the trip back up is a little strenuous.

There are an additional 100 miles of hiking trails around the national park with innumerable photo opportunities.


Once down to the lake shore, you can fish in Crater Lake. However, you can only fish from shore or from Wizard Island. The island is reachable only by the tour boat and a ticket must be purchased.

Two species of fish live in the lake, the only survivors of five which were introduced into Crater Lake prior to the 1940s.

You can fish for Rainbow Trout or Kokanee Salmon but only artificial bait is allowed since live bait could change the ecology of the lake.

The fishing at Crater Lake is unlicensed and there is no limit to the number of fish you can catch.

-Boat Tours

There is one boat tour around Crater Lake with a naturalist who explains the geology and facts about Crater Lake. It also takes tourists out to Wizard Island for fishing. Tickets must be purchased for the boat tour or the fishing on Wizard Island.

-Skiing, Cross Country Skiing, Snow Shoeing

You can do cross country skiing, skiing and snow shoeing at Crater Lake.The winter can last 8 months at the lake because of its high elevation at over 7000 feet above sea level. November through April are the months that Crater Lake receives the most snow but October through June, you will still see snow at the lake. Some years, July and August will still have snow on the ground.

The snow views at Crater Lake are breathtaking and the quiet is like nowhere else on earth.

-Trolley Tours

You can sign up to go on trolley tours around Crater Lake. These are educational as well as a photo op a minute. The tours cover the entire rim of the lake stopping at each of the innumerable fantastic view points.

The national park rangers at Crater Lake are experts on the plant and animal life as well as the history of Crater Lake. It's a great way to see the lake and not have to drive the treacherously narrow roads yourself.

-Driving Around Crater Lake

The lake is open year round but parts are closed from October to June.This is due to the snow pack and treacherous driving conditions. If the year has had a particularly great amount of snowfall, it's not unusual for snow to remain from the previous year when the new snow starts to fall in autumn.

The roads driving around the rim of Crater Lake are all without guardrails and the drop is precipitous should someone lose control of their car. For safety reasons, many of the roads close due to inclement weather and it's best to always check ahead for current conditions.


For the best pictures you'll ever get, try a photo shoot at Crater Lake. On a recent visit, this author used two different cameras having never shot the lake before. I found that my Nikon Coolpix offered me the best panoramic views while my Nikon D5100 was great for some closeups of the two islands and the many ground squirrels and birds that I encountered.

November to April will afford a photographer the best snowy pictures while July, August and September will offer less snow but more in terms of thunderstorms and rain. The latter three months are the warmest months usually for daytime temperatures, though because of the elevation, nights are quite cool at Crater Lake.


There are two campgrounds within Crater Lake National Park - Lost Creek and Mazama. There are handicapped access sites available as well as tent camp sites and RV sites. Check with the Crater Lake National Park Service for more information.


Bike tours are very popular at Crater Lake. You can get more information through the National Park Service or contact any number of bike tour companies.

Mountain biking is popular as well at the lake but extreme caution is required on main roads as there is no shoulder on the steep and narrow roads around the rim.

-Lodging and Restaurants

The historic Crater Lake Lodge offers one of the most incredible views of the lake you can find. Built in 1915, the lodge's back porch sits on the rim of the lake with incredible views of Wizard Island and the entire lake. See the video below for a great live view of the lake from its back porch.

The lodge has 71 rooms and an upscale restaurant in the lodge. However, the lodge is rustic in that it does not offer amenities such as wifi, Internet or televison.

You can also stay in one of the 40 Maza Cabins within the national park.

There are two other restaurants within Crater Lake National Park and a general store.

Portland, Oregon:
Portland, OR, USA

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Crater Lake National Park, Oregon:
Crater Lake National Park, CRATER LAKE, OR 97604, USA

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Bend, Oregon:
Bend, OR, USA

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Klamath Falls, Oregon:
Klamath Falls, OR, USA

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The Future of Crater Lake

There have been many folks lobbying for "improvements" to Crater Lake. In this writer's humble opinion, this would be a travesty of magnificent proportions. People leave comments on the historical lodge's website about how horrible it is to come to the lodge and not have wifi, Internet or TV.

To stand out on the deck or gaze from the windows of the lodge and see the view is priceless. The fact that there are not these high tech age "amenities" is as it should be in this writer's opinion.

An additional note, however, in 2012, the lodge did add complimentary wifi for its guests. It was amazing to me on a visit later in the year how few people were talking on cell phones, however, as most were using their phones to take pictures.

This author did avail herself of the Internet in our room when we stayed in October and it was nice to be able to connect. However, by and large, people didn't seem connected to their computers and for the most part seemed to appreciate the place they were for what it is--absolutely breathtaking.

There is also a push for helicopter tours around the lake. The ecological damage that this could do is indescribable. Wildlife would be irreparably damaged and it could result in ecological imbalances for this region forever.

One of the most striking features of Crater Lake is the vast and utter quiet. To take this away would be unthinkable.

Groups like Oregon Wild are currently fighting for the preservation of this beautiful national park in particular to be left "as is." This writer hopes that we as guests on this planet will find it within ourselves to leave some things as untouched as when we found them.

Crater Lake National Park is a must see on anyone's list who travels the state of Oregon.


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    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      GS--I think it should be a wonder of the world to be honest--it is just that incredible--but I'll settle for it being a national park~ Thanks for stopping by.

    • GetitScene profile image

      Dale Anderson 

      8 years ago from The High Seas

      A few years ago my wife and I visited this wonderful volcano and it was worth every mile we drove. Fantastic place that we are all lucky to have.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Thanks Eddy - you too~

    • Eiddwen profile image


      8 years ago from Wales

      What a truly beautiful place and also your words brought it to life for me and i should think very many other also.

      Take care and enjoy your day.


    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Hey Nell~ It is indeed a gorgeous place - I plan/hope to go back in the fall~~~

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      8 years ago from England

      Hi Audrey, what a great picture you took at the top, I had never heard of Crater lake, what an awesome place! nell

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Cool BW~

    • BlissfulWriter profile image


      8 years ago

      Okay, here is my article about Interesting Facts about Oregon...

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Okay Blissful - thanks for asking and sure~

    • BlissfulWriter profile image


      8 years ago

      Hi akirchner, since you are the person that took the top photo. That means that you own the copyright to the photo automatically. That means that no one else can use that photo, unless you explicitly grant the specific person permission to use your photo. That was why I had asked if you took the photo and if you would you grant me permission to download your photo and embed it into my Hub. You are free to say yes or no. If you say yes, then it is permissible for me to do so and Hubpages would have no problem with it. If you do not respond or say no, then it is not permissible for me to use your photo and I shall not.

      Of course, you are correct in that I can find public domain images for use on Hubs via Wikimedia Commons.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Maddie - it does kind of stick with you, huh? I went on a family vacation when I was 13 and still remember my sister and I running down the 1.1 mile trail in the heat and running out on the little boat dock to stick our feet in the water....I no sooner put one foot in and a water snake ran over my foot and I was off like a shot back up the trail! At least I remembered the other part of the trip - the beauty of the lake~~~

      I've been back several times since as we live in Oregon now and we always take our friends and relatives there. No one can believe matter how many times I go, it's always special. I was thrilled last week that my DOGS got to go to Crater Lake and I ran them in the woods!!!

    • Maddie Ruud profile image

      Maddie Ruud 

      8 years ago from Oakland, CA

      I haven't been to Crater Lake since I was a child. It really is an awe-inspiring experience. You've got me yearning to go back!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Thanks, Virginia and so glad you got to see it....I definitely am trying to get back there before it closes up for winter at the lodge~ Of all the photos I took, I forgot to take some from the lodge patio! Oh duh!

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 

      8 years ago from United States

      We visited Crater Lake on vacation last summer--it is such a spectacular place! You really can't appreciate it unless you see it. So very beautiful! Terrific information and photos! Voted up and pinned.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      BW - yes, the top photo is my photo from last week~ I'm not sure if by HP standards you can do that since it is not a public domain photo. If you go to Wikimedia Commons though, you can find countless photos of Crater Lake - and if you want to link to my hub here, that would be cool too....I just don't want you to get into trouble by linking incorrectly as that is a big deal.

      Denise - I'd kick myself too~~~ I only wish I could have stayed longer but think I'll try and go back in the fall when I have a bit more time - hopefully.

      As to the wildlife being damaged....the problem is the noise factor. There are herds of resident elk, there are bears, there are all kinds of "littler" mammals indigenous to the Crater Lake region that would be driven out of the park according to studies done by wildlife officials. They do not think that helicopter tours would be helpful to preserving the pristine environment of the lake. I have to agree. If I was visiting and saw helicopters buzzing overhead every minute, I'd be truly ticked and indignant. Can't anyone just leave anything alone is my gut feeling on the matter. Why not put a few cell towers out on Wizard Island and call it good? All because we can't live without our precious cell phones and Internet for 5 minutes~ I'm sorry but it just doesn't make any sense to my ecological spirit. I saw this same thing happen in the Puget Sound region. I have a great love affair with the resident Orca whales up in the San Juans. I watched from shore as people in motorized boats roared after them when there are laws in place that say specifically "STAY AWAY." They even were going to let people go after them on skidoos....the Navy is detonating things underwater that are causing them to die. They become confused and beach themselves only to perish.

      My point being...some things in nature are just too indescribably beautiful and I think man/we go too far in trying to see everything and "be" everything we can be all at the same time. It's time we left nature to itself and let it "be" before it's too late and we've destroyed everything beautiful and natural on this precious gift we call earth! thinks I'm a wee bit passionate about saving wildlife.

    • BlissfulWriter profile image


      8 years ago

      The first photo is a great photo of Crater Lake. Did you take that photo yourself? If so, may I have permission to use this photo in a Hub that I am writing about on "Interesting Facts and Trivia about Oregon"? I'll be sure to link back to your hub and give your credit in the photo by-line.

    • denisemai profile image

      Denise Mai 

      8 years ago from Idaho

      Can you believe I lived "down the hill" from Crater Lake off I-5 for 7 years and never visited this place? What were we thinking? Your article has me kicking myself. I guess I just didn't realize the things you could do there.

      I do want to ask you something, though: how can wildlife be irreparably damaged by helicopter tours? Just curious.

      I'm so happy that you wrote this wonderfully detailed article about one of the many beautiful places in Oregon!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Thanks Donnah - and I completely agree....if you walk out onto the deck, it is absolutely breathtaking. I think I would probably stay out there overnight if I was staying there~~ I'm thinking of going back to spend the night in October - it was that gorgeous~

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 

      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      Living on the East Coast, I have to admit that I didn't know about Crater Lake. What a beautiful place! I can imagine visiting there to relax and maybe using it as a retreat to do some writing in a quiet place.

      It is sad that we have come into a time when people can't spend a weekend or a week without modern technology. I would love to get away and "disconnect" for a week in a place like the lodge you describe.

      Thanks for sharing this. Voted up and sharing.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Thanks MP - I would just die if they ever let someone change it. It is such a beautiful place just as it is~ Glad you got to see it.

      Stephanie - from your lips to God's ears indeed. I would hate for anything to change the absolute grandeur of that place. It is like going to church out of doors~

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 

      8 years ago from San Antonio, FL

      Wonderful hub full of interesting information. My husband and I were at Crater Lake in July of 2010, and there was indeed still snow on the ground. I agree with you - they should leave it as it is. Beautiful pictures and video. Voted up, interesting and beautiful.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      I truly enjoyed your well-researched article on Crater Lake! This is an amazing and spectacularly beautiful place, and well worth the visit. Even though I spent nearly a week camping at Crater Lake a few years ago, I still learned some interesting facts.

      I would hate to see the helicopter tours happen. Right now the lake is a serene natural area. There are few places left like this, and I agree that it should be preserved as it is without disturbing the ecology or the wildlife.

      Voted up, useful and interesting!


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