Formed more than 7,000 years ago by a violent volcanic eruption, Crater Lake is a geological marvel. Today, the lake is part of a national park known for its unusually blue water and fantastic views of the Cascade Mountains. The temperature and available activities in Crater Lake National Park vary from month to month, so plan your trip according to your favorite seasonal activities. Choose one of the many beautiful vacation rentals near Crater Lake to stay at during your trip to this picturesque Oregon destination.
Visiting Crater Lake in the Summer
Crater Lake puts on a spectacular show during the summer. The clear sky and deep green trees reflect in brilliant blue waters, and evening sunsets turn the lake to gold. The season gets a late start, as the park is often buried in snow through June. In fact, you can often snowshoe in the sunshine at the beginning of the summer. By July and August, most park roads and trails are open for business. Days are usually warm and dry, with temperatures in the high 60s. Because of the park’s high elevation, snow and 40-degree days are possible all summer; be sure to pack a mid-weight jacket to keep you warm. If you plan to hike, particularly on the high Mount Scott Trail, bring waterproof hiking boots to ensure you stay dry in the snow.
Summer is a great time to experience Crater Lake’s many activities. Hike the Sun Notch Trail to see the Phantom Ship island, take a trolley tour of scenic Rim Drive with The Shuttle Inc., or fish for rainbow trout in the lake. Ranger-led walks and discussions operate all summer; one standout is the Crater Lake boat tour. After an adventure, refuel at Crater Lake Lodge’s Annie Creek Restaurant.
Visiting Crater Lake in the Fall
Fall is short and sweet in Crater Lake. September is a beautiful time to visit the park. Temperatures often stay in the 50s and 60s, visitor levels drop, and many days are clear and sunny. This is a great time to dine in the elegant Crater Lake Dining Room at the Crater Lake Lodge without a wait or take a Watchman Peak Sunset Hike with a park ranger. In early October, expect rain or snow and daytime temperatures in the 40s and 50s. By late October, there’s often enough snow for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
If you’re visiting Crater Lake after the snow falls, pack warm-weather gear: a winter jacket, hat, gloves, and boots are a must. November brings plenty of snow, but temperatures in the 20s and 30s make it easy to enjoy the outdoors. Roads in the park begin to close in late October and early November, but Highway 62 is always plowed to allow access to Park Headquarters. During the unpredictable fall season, it’s a good idea to check road conditions on the Crater Lake National Park website.
Visiting Crater Lake in the Winter
Approximately 44 feet of snow falls in Crater Lake each year, making the park one of the snowiest places in the United States. Winter is one of the park’s most beautiful seasons. On clear days, the combination of blue water and snow-coated peaks makes for stunning photos. The high snowfall creates some of the best cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the world. Starting from Rim Village, you can ski around the rim of the lake on the Circumnavigation Trail, or make the easier trip to the Wizard Island Overlook. Trails are not groomed, creating an exciting back-country experience. If you’re not a skier, join a free ranger-led snowshoe walk from Rim Village; snowshoes are included. Snowmobiling is also a popular activity, particularly on the North Entrance road.
If you’re hoping to gaze on Phantom Ship Island in solitude, winter is a great time. The season brings extremely low visitor levels and high availability at local vacation rentals. In the park, the Rim Village Cafe opens from January through March, providing light meals and snacks to hungry skiers. To get to the cafe, walk through the unique snow tunnel from the basement to the parking lot. As you pack, bring a jacket, snow pants, boots, and accessories to keep you warm in daily snowstorms and temperatures in the high teens to low 30s.
Visiting Crater Lake in the Spring
Early spring in Crater Lake brings continued winter conditions, with high snowfall and temperatures in the 20s and 30s. All of the area’s winter activities are in full swing, including ranger-led snowshoe hikes. By May, the weather begins to warm, with some days topping out at 50 degrees. If you’re planning to snowshoe or cross-country ski, pack winter gear and plenty of layers that you can remove or add to account for rapidly changing conditions. On sunny days, you can often get away with a light jacket and a warm base layer.
The start of the spring plowing in late April brings exciting hiking and biking opportunities. Newly cleared roads are still closed to traffic, but you can walk or bike along them, often with steep walls of snow on either side. Restaurants and stores in the park start to open in late May, including the Annie Creek Restaurant and Gift Shop.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Crater Lake?
The best time to visit Crater Lake is during the summer months of July and August. During this short window of time, you can experience the park on foot, by boat, or by bike. In the higher elevations, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are possible well into July. Warm temperatures bring plenty of sunny days, increasing your chances of seeing the lake in its full, blue-sky glory. With the wide availability of boat tours, ranger-led hikes, and dining, it’s easy to find activities to fill your vacation.
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