Day Trip to Crater Lake National Park

September 4, 2018
September 4, 2018 Hilary

Day Trip to Crater Lake National Park

Looking down into the caldera at Sinnott Memorial Overlook

There are very few times when all four members of my family are equally excited about something, but our visit to Crater Lake was definitely one of those times. As soon as the lake came into view our mouths quite literally dropped open. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing!

Crater Lake Klamath Falls Oregon

Crater Lake

As soon as the car stopped all four of us jumped out. We just couldn’t believe our eyes! This was the bluest water we’d ever seen! Funny enough what turned out to be the grand finale of our vacation was chosen simply because it happened to be on the way home.

Crater Lake National Park Oregon

Our First View of Crater Lake!

Crater Lake National Park

The only National Park in Oregon, Crater Lake National Park is about a 4 hour drive from Portland. The Lake itself sits in the caldera of what was once Mount Mazama and at 1,949 feet deep it’s the 9th deepest lake in the world and the deepest lake in the United States.

Crater Lake Oregon

Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States.

Crater Lake’s famous blue water is due to its extreme depth and clarity. Its thought to be the cleanest and clearest body of water in the world and it truly has to be seen to be believed.

Crater Lake Oregon

The blue water in Crater Lake has to be seen to be believed

The caldera was created 7,700 years ago with the eruption and subsequent collapse of Mount Mazama, which allowed centuries of rainwater to collect. There are no rivers or streams flowing into the lake, but as much as 43′ of snowfall each year help to replenish and keep the lake full. These cute little squirrels hibernate during the winter months.

Crater Lake Oregon

Crater Lake

The Lake is between 4.5 and 6 miles across and there are two islands, Wizards Island and the Phantom Ship, named for its shipwreck like appearance. Both were created during subsequent eruptions and of the two only Wizards Island is accessible.

Things To Do at Crater Lake

Visitor Centers

The Visitor Center is always a great place to start any trip to a National Park, and Crater Lake has two. The Steel Visitor Center, which is open every day except December 25 and the Rim Visitor Center, which is open from late May to late September.

Crater Lake Oregon

View from the Rim Visitor Center Crater Lake Oregon


There are more than 30 view points along the Rim Road all of which will provide fabulous views. You’ll find The Sinnott Memorial Overlook just behind the Rim Visitor Center. This viewpoint is easily accessible via a short paved path and will provide you an amazing panoramic view of the lake and many of the Park’s most famous features.

Sinnott Memorial Overlook Crater Lake

Sinnott Memorial Overlook Crater Lake


There are multiple walks and hikes available within the Park ranging from easy to strenuous. If you aren’t up for hiking many viewpoints are accessible via car, just pull in and take in the magnificent views.

Swimming & Fishing

Swimming and fishing are both allowed, however the lake is surrounded by cliffs, so access is extremely limited. The only place to swim is at the bottom of the Cleetwood Cove Trail, but you’ll want to keep in mind that the 1.1 mile hike down to the water’s edge is strenuous. Due to its extreme depth the water never reaches more than 61 degrees.  The combination of a strenuous hike and chilly water is why you won’t see any photos of us swimming in Crater Lake.

Volcano Boat Cruise

For those with more time the ranger led Volcano Boat Cruise is a two hour tour around the lake with options to disembark on Wizards Island where you’ll have three hours to explore.

Wizards Island Crater Lake

Wizards Island Crater Lake

The boat tours leave from the bottom of the Cleetwood Cove Trail.  Even using extreme zoom on my camera the tour boat is still a tiny blur.

Boat tour Crater Lake National Park

Ranger led Volcanic Boat Tour Crater Lake

Tips & Advice:

Crater Lake Oregon

Danger Keep Back Crater Lake Oregon

  • Crater Lake National Park is open every day of the year, but due to the large amounts of snowfall certain roads are inaccessible from mid November to mid June.
  • Crater Lake does not have an address, so if you’re using GPS you’ll want to enter the coordinates:  42° 53′ 48.91″ North / 122° 08′ 03.08″ West
  • Roads within the park are very narrow and there are no shoulders.
  • If you’re not interested in the boat tour there are direct shuttles to and from Wizard’s Island. Tickets for the boat tour can be reserved online in advance.
  • STAY on the path!
  • There are no gas stations within the Park.
  • Food options within the park include simple fare at the Rim Village Cafe and the  Crater Lake Lodge Dining Room.
  • Crater Lake Lodge is the only in-park lodging and books up months in advance.
  • The Running Y Ranch, located 40 miles south of the Park was a nice alternative, with bike rentals, dining options, and an indoor pool.

Pin for later:

Day Trip to Crater Lake Oregon #craterLake #familytravel #oregontravel #craterlakenationalpark


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I love to travel & explore the world both near and far! I do my best to make the most out of life each and everyday! I have two boys and they are, at the ages of 13 and 18, world travelers and all around go along guys. There isnt anywhere I cant take them. It is my hope this blog will be a way to share the fun things Ive learned while on our many adventures together!

Comments (41)

    • Hilary

      We did get very lucky, though it was 85 degrees the sky couldn’t have been more blue.

  1. WOW! I’ve read about Crater Lake before but nothing has truly shown me the beauty like your photos! What a beautiful blue day you had and what a wonderful shade of deep blue is that water! Pinned! #FarawayFiles

    • Hilary

      I know! Crazy blue isn’t it? No filter or editing necessary for this place! The water looked like blue velvet.

    • Hilary

      It certainly was a sight to see!! We were grateful for such a beautiful day!

  2. I had never heard or Crater Lake before. Its stunning. I can see why you were all so excited to be there. The colour of the water and the sky is stunning #FarawayFiles

    • Hilary

      We were surprised and delighted by how lovely a place it was! A see it to believe kind of place!

  3. As a native Californian, I still can’t believe I’ve never been to Oregon – I’ve heard so many amazing things. And here’s yet another awesome thing to add to that list! It looks absolutely incredible. I will definitely have to check this out when I’m finally able to visit, I’ve pinned it for future reference! Thanks for sharing 🙂 #farawayfiles

    • Hilary

      There is so much to see and do here in California it’s hard to leave, but Oregon is worth a look especially if you’re a nature lover!

  4. Clare Thomson

    I’ve been looking forward to this post ever since seeing your first few pictures of Crater Lake on Instagram. Honestly it looks absolutely incredible. I really would love to see it one day. I’d even hike down to take a dip – cold or no cold. #FarawayFiles

    • Hilary

      I was outvoted, but should I ever get a chance to return I’m doing the hike!

    • Hilary

      It certainly was all of the above! There are so many amazing places in the world aren’t there?!

  5. I’ve always wanted to go to Crater Lake but haven’t gotten the chance yet- even growing up on the West Coast. I would totally do the hike and swim. But I happily swim in Lake Michigan, which is freezing all year. My husband would not be so easily convinced… 😉 #farawayfiles

    • Hilary

      I would have loved to do both the hike and the swim, but my family said no way!

  6. Ever since my hip surgery I’ve been a big fan of lookouts that you can get to by car. It made me realise how difficult it is for people who don’t have full use of their legs to get to some of these beautiful places. Not everything can be accessible, but it’s lovely when some places are. I can get around fine now, so I’m happy to hike again though! #FarawayFiles

    • Hilary

      Oh, glad to hear your recovered! I couldn’t agree more. We traveled the southwest last summer and there were so many amazing places we missed because not everyone in our group was able to hike.

    • Hilary

      Funny, but I lived only hours away from Tahoe for years and still haven’t been there…

  7. I love traveling and living abroad but the U.S. really does have so many incredible things to offer. I love seeing my home state too 🙂 Crater lake is gorgeous and such a unique spot. Thank you for sharing your wonderful photos and helpful tips! #farawayfiles

    • Hilary

      Thank you! We really do have a lot to offer here in the US. If only everything wasn’t so far away from everything else! Ha ha!

  8. It does look incredible, the views across the lake are stunning, I love your wide angle view it. It’s also great that there are so many view points, sometimes these are quite limited. Thanks for sharing #farawayfiles

    • Hilary

      Thank you! There were many access point, which was great and made it so available to all walks of life.

  9. I really didn’t know much about Crater Lake until seeing your Insta posts and reading this post. The water is absolutely magical. Can understand why you didn’t swim – does anyone?! #farawayfiles

    • Hilary

      I think people do, but not many. I might have thought differently if my kids were interested.

  10. Beth

    Wow that water color is incredible! Sounds like a cool park, but then again I have loved every National Park so far, haha. Looks like a memorable way to end a road trip. #FarawayFiles

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