When to Visit Crater Lake National Park?

The fact that Oregon has just ONE National Park is….quite shocking!  Just yesterday, I was looking up dog-friendly hikes by my home in Bend, Oregon: there were over 500 to choose from!!!  Oregon boasts a wild assortment of riches when it comes to the great outdoors, & one of these spots is Crater Lake.  Famed for its depth (the deepest lake in America) & often called “The bluest lake in the world,” this National Park is worth visiting anytime….but some seasons are better than others!  Find out when to visit Crater Lake National Park, & what activities are available year-round…

When to Visit Crater Lake National Park? Girl Who Travels the World

I’ll state right up front: this photo hasn’t been altered in ANY way. The water at Crater Lake really is THAT blue.


Where is Crater Lake National Park?

Crater Lake is located in southern Oregon.  The closest airport is in Klamath Falls (60 miles away), but it’s very small.  Medford-International Airport is 80 miles away, & offers more flights.  But the largest airport in the region is definitely the Bend/Redmond Airport, which is 100 miles away ~ or about a 2-hour drive. 

I highly recommend flying into Redmond, & visiting the fun, outdoorsy town of Bend…which is where I live!

Crater Lake National Park

Redmond Airport

Klamath Airport

Medford Airport

Quick Facts About Crater Lake

  • The elevation at Crater Lake National Park is 6,178 feet (1,883 meters).  This is high enough to make snow & accessibility an issue for more than half the year (November through May/June). 
  • Crater Lake is 1,932 feet (592 meters) deep, & is the deepest lake in the United States. The deepest lake in the world is Lake Baikal, in Siberia. 
  • Crater Lake National Park gets 482,000+ visitors per year ~ but 80% visit during summer!! (So try visiting during a different season, if you can…). 
  • There are two main hotels actually within Crater Lake National Park: 1) Crater Lake Lodge, the more “upscale” option ~ but still with lots of rustic charm, & 2) The Cabins at Mazama, which frankly look a bit….dismal.  Camping may be a better option than staying here!!  But honestly: neither of these is my favorite option.  If you’re headed south after Crater Lake: check out Running Y Ranch & Golf Resort ($125+), which is an amazing, pet-friendly resort with a golf course & many amenities.  If you’re heading north to Bend: stay at gorgeous Sunriver Resort (great for families), or Tetherow Resort in Bend (great for couples & golfers).  These are much better options, with many more amenities ~ than either hotel inside Crater Lake National Park.
  • If you want to camp: there are two developed campgrounds within Crater Lake National Park: 1) Mazama Campground (yes, next to the aforementioned Cabins), & 2) Lost Creek Campground.  Both are only open during summer.

Where to Stay by Crater Lake National Park, Where to Late-Season Ski in Oregon, Closest Hotels to Mount Bachelor by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

Sunriver is only 77 miles to Crater Lake, just over an hour’s drive!  And it’s a stunning drive….

FAQ About Crater Lake

  • Can You Swim in Crater Lake?  YES!!! In designated areas, & as long as you don’t mind the freezing C-O-L-D water!!  There’s a picture of my friend Amanda leaping off a cliff into the water below…
  • Can You Fish and/or Kayak in Crater Lake:  You CAN fish in Crater Lake, & they actually encourage it! Anywhere along the shoreline is fine, or on Wizard Island.  But kayaking or bringing any kind of recreational device on the lake is a NO.
  • Is Crater Lake National Park Pet-Friendly?  The good news here for dog-lovers is….YES!!  In certain, designated areas.  But it’s a lot more territory than the average National Park.  Dogs can be walked on-leash on any paved road, in parking lots, & up to 50 feet away from either ~ as long as there’s no snow!  During summer & fall, walk along the 1/4 mile paved promenade starting at Rim Village, which gives you great views of the lake.  Also during summer & fall, you can take your pup on four of Crater Lake’s hiking trails: 1) Godfrey Glen Trail, 2) Lady of the Woods Trail, 3) Grayback Drive (as long as no snow), & 4) The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). This is actually a LOT of options for a National Park! 

**Another Note on Accommodations: If you’re bringing a pet to Crater Lake, the hotel options inside the park aren’t very pet-friendly.  This is also why I love Running Y Resort (in Klamath), Sunriver Resort & Tetherow in Bend: they’re ALL pet-friendly!

When to Visit Crater Lake National Park, Girl Who Travels the World

The good news is….you CAN bring pets to Crater Lake!  This is my dog, Dylan checking out Wizard Island, right by Rim Village.

Overview of Each Season at Crater Lake…

  • SUMMER = July, August, & September.  Let’s start with summer, since it’s the most popular time to visit.  Summer is the only season when roads, facilities, & trails are all FULLY OPEN ~ & when you’re most likely to have good weather & lake views.  There are 90+ MILES of hiking trails at Crater Lake: & summer & fall are really the only time they’re accessible….so make sure to hike when visiting!  Other great summer activities include: biking, boat tours of the lake (including to Wizard Island), photography, trolley tours, bringing a picnic lunch, or hiking to one of Crater’s two waterfalls ~ Vidae or Plaikni.
  • FALL = Late September & October.  Okay, so the bad news is: fall is REALLY short at Crater Lake!  Technically, autumn is really only October, as the snow starts falling in November.  But the best thing about fall at Crater Lake is that you can do virtually everything you can do during the summer….with wayyyy less people.  That’s why fall gets my vote for the best time of year to visit Crater Lake.  And after, I recommend heading up to Bend ~ which is one of my top spots in Oregon to view the fall colors!
  • WINTER = November – May.  Winter is lonnngggg at Crater Lake (seven months, give or take).  Unless you enjoy winter sports & have a 4X4: I’d skip visiting in winter.  Sure, the lake is gorgeous surrounded by snow ~ but you can count on the North Entrance being closed ALL winter, as well as Rim Drive….leaving only the South & West Entrances open.  BUT: if you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you can cross-country ski along Rim Drive (which is closed to traffic in winter), snowshoe, camp in the backcountry, downhill ski (no chairlifts ~ hiking required), snowboard, sled, or simply just bring the kids & play in the snow!
  • SPRING = May & June.  Because winter is so long at Crater Lake ~ that means spring is quite SHORT, with very unpredictable weather!  May sees, on average, 20 inches of snowfall here.  But in June, there’s typically only 4 inches.  Hiking trails are still covered by  deep snow in spring, so don’t come for hiking then (without snowshoes)!  Rim Drive & the North Entrance are often still closed, making activities very limited.  Due to how limited activities are: spring is my least favorite time of year to visit Crater Lake.

Photos of Crater Lake National Park, by Season

When is the Best Time to Visit Crater Lake National Park? Girl Who Travels the World

Visiting Crater Lake during summer virtually guarantees good weather ~ but bigger crowds. Try visiting on a weekday!

Visiting Crater Lake in Summer, Girl Who Travels the World

And summer is the ONLY season where you can swim in the lake ~ like my friend Amanda, pictured here.

When is the Best Time to Visit Crater Lake National Park? Girl Who Travels the World

Dark pines & juniper frame the lake beautifully, making for great shots from every angle.

Visiting Crater Lake in Summer & Fall, Girl Who Travels the World

Boat tours to Wizard Island are only available from July to September, so take advantage if you want to get out on the lake! 

Visiting Crater Lake in the Autumn, Girl Who Travels the World

Fall is fleeting at Crater Lake!  From late September through early November: you expect good weather, with little chance of snow.

When to Visit Crater Lake National Park, Girl Who Travels the World

Winter at Crater Lake is stunning!

Visiting Crater Lake in Winter, Girl Who Travels the World

During winter, Rim Drive is CLOSED to vehicles…which means you can cross-country ski around the lake!

Visiting Crater Lake National Park in Spring, Girl Who Travels the World

Crater Lake in spring….there’s STILL SNOW!! Limited activities: but gorgeous, nonetheless. Photo: The Northcoast Photographer.

When to Visit Crater Lake National Park?