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What to See and Do in Crater Lake National Park

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There's something quite compelling about the thought of a high-elevation lake located in the caldera of an old volcano. The reality of Crater Lake, just under 2,000 feet deep, is even more spectacular. The intense blue water of Crater Lake inspires visitors and leaves them with memories to last a lifetime.

Winter season starts early and ends late at the park. The abundant snowfall closes many roads and facilities during the winter. Every effort is made to keep Highway 62 and the road to Rim Village open throughout the year. The Rim Drives and other upper-elevation roads can open some time in June - the specific date varies each year depending on the timing and amount of winter snowfall.

Here are the highlights of the many fun things you can see and do during a visit to Crater Lake National Park.

Steel Visitor Center

Located towards the end of the road that leads up to Rim Drive, this year-round facility is not only a Crater Lake National Park visitor center but the park headquarter, a book store, and a post office. This is a good place to stop at the beginning of your visit. You'll learn more about Crater Lake and Mount Mazama through interpretive exhibits and a film. Expert park rangers can provide information about trail and road conditions, recreation trails, and campgrounds. Be sure to pick up a current copy of "Crater Lake Reflections", a seasonal publication that provides detailed information and maps covering numerous aspects of the park.

Take Scenic Drive Around Crater Lake

Wizard Island in Crater Lake
Wizard Island in Crater Lake (source: iStockphoto)
Roads, typically open July through October, circle the entire lake, allowing you to enjoy a scenic drive that you'll never forget. You'll be able to take in ever-changing views of Crater Lake. There are numerous scenic overlooks where you can stop and explore, capturing the vista in photographs or enjoying a hike or picnic. Many of these overlooks are unmarked or at the end of a spur road, so be sure to pick up a "Crater Lake Reflections" newsletter or purchase a detailed guide at one of the visitor centers. Plan to spend at least a half day if you want to stop at several of these amazing overlooks.

Sinnott Memorial Overlook & Rim Village Visitor Center

The Rim Village Visitor Center, a charming old stone structure, sits above Sinnott Memorial Overlook. Here you can learn about the geology of the lake and volcano before stepping out onto an open-air viewing area. You'll be treated to a spectacular view of Crater Lake's blue water across to Wizard Island and the surrounding rim. During the warmer months, park rangers give daily geology-focused talks at the overlook.

Hiking in Crater Lake National Park

Vidae Falls in Crater Lake National Park
Vidae Falls (source: iStockphoto)
Waterfalls, wildflowers, and volcanic spires. Wooded landscapes that open up to awesome Crater Lake views. These are all great reasons to enjoy a hike - or several! - during your visit to Crater Lake National Park. The easier nature trails include the Lady of the Woods loop at the Steel Visitor Center or the accessible Godfrey Glen. From Rim Village you can enjoy the 2.4-mile Discovery Point trail that skirts the caldera rim and offers great lake and Wizard Island views. Whether in sight of the lake or among down-slope woods and meadows, once in the park you'll find many hiking options.

Volcano Boat Tours

The Volcano Boat Tour allows you to experience Crater Lake scenery looking around and up from the water rather than down from the caldera rim. A knowledgeable park ranger comes along on each cruise to fill you in on the lake and park's history and science. The tour stops at Wizard Island, where adventurous guests can - with advanced reservations - spend a few hours hiking and exploring the island. The Crater Lake boat tour is not for everyone. It begins and ends with a steep, mile-plus hike; the boat dock is located 700 feet down at Cleetwood Cove on the north side of the lake.

Dine in the Crater Lake Lodge Dining Room

With it's huge stone fireplace and rough log columns, the Crater Lake Lodge Dining Room is a cozy and charming place to enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Dining Room's window tables enjoy splendid Crater Lake views. The menu features such fresh Oregon foods as locally-made cheese, marionberries, wild mushrooms, and hazelnuts.

Winter Recreation in Crater Lake National Park

Winter brings abundant snow, making parts of Crater Lake National Park a fun winter playground. The park's North Entrance Road is groomed for snowmobiling. While there are no designated sledding areas, you'll find nice slopes in open, snow-covered meadows. Portions of the Rim Drives and some recreation trails are available to cross-country skiers during winter. Crater Lake National Park provides great terrain for snowshoeing.

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