Guide: Crater Lake National Park | travelhappy family vacay
Crater Lake is the deepest and purest lake in the United States, and it is breathtakingly pretty.
Formed just 7,700 years ago by the volcanic eruption of Mount Mazama, the creation of Crater Lake was witnessed by the natives who lived in the area. At 6,000 - 8,000 feet high in elevation, Crater Lake remains filled entirely by precipitation (snow and rainfall!) and has no rivers or tributaries.
What to Do
You’ll want to drive (either in your car or on the trolley) around to see the lake from all angles - when it’s entirely open, the drive can be done in an hour, but rangers advise giving at least 2-3 hours including stops at scenic points. Because we were with 3 toddlers (ages 1-3), we stuck to activities labeled “wheelchair accessible.”
You can also hike, take a boat ride across the lake, or ride a trolley around the rim (but note that the boat rides are only for those ages 3+). There are also daily ranger talks and stargazing lectures, check the summer flyer for details.
When to Visit
The best time to visit is in the summer.
While Crater Lake National Park is technically open year-round, the road looping around Crater Lake (“Rim Drive”) is only open during the summer, after they’ve cleared the snow. There are also a few days each summer when the roads are open to bikers and pedestrians but closed to cars — check the Crater Lake NPS site for details.
When we visited the park during the first week of July, part of Rim Drive still remained closed, but we were able to see maybe 3/4 of it.
And bring mosquito repellent: you wouldn’t expect it, but the park has massive mosquitos that lay eggs in snow and then arise during the summer like zombies and leave massive welts.
How to Get There
Crater Lake is 3 hours south of Portland and about 1.5 hours south of Bend, Oregon. It’s a beautiful drive!
Where to Stay
We stayed at Crater Lake Lodge, which was very basic but also super convenient. I wrote about it here. We stayed two nights, but we could have stayed three or more if it were later in the summer and there were more to do, and/o if we were more adventurous and traveling without toddlers.