Crater Lake Information

Crater Lake is the focal point of Crater Lake National Park in Klamath, County, Oregon. The park covers 183,224 acres, including Crater Lake. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the U.S. at 1,949 feet deep and known as deep water in a sleeping volcano. Mount Mazama, a 12,000-foot-tall volcano, erupted and collapsed approximately 7,700 years ago and formed Crater Lake. Crater Lake has no rivers or streams flowing into it. The U.S. National Park Service manages Crater Lake and the park property. 

A caldera rim surrounds Crater Lake. The major eruption that caused the collapse of the mouth of Mount Mazama volcano formed its caldera rim. A caldera is a large volcanic crater. Crater Lake is not a typical recreational lake. Crater Lake sees three-quarters of a million visitors per year who visit to view the sweeping panoramic vistas, ponderosa pine forests, and amazing meadows in summer. In winter, snow covers its landscape with smoky clouds hovering over the lake. 

Entering the caldera is illegal and dangerous. One foot over a stone wall to take a photo or hiking down the steep caldera walls can lead to a fine at least, and injury or even death at worst. There is one island in Crater Lake, Wizard Island. There are boat tours during the summer to Wizard Island, and you can hike at and fish from Wizard Island. The Cascade Mountain Range surrounds Crater Lake National Park, which is open year round, but many of its facilities close in winter months. 

Crater Lake National Park entrance fees vary between what type of vehicle you arrive in like motorcycles, bicycles, or cars and trucks, and include commercial vehicles with different fees depending on the amount of passengers. It offers both annual park passes and special passes for senior citizens, children, military personnel, or people with disabilities, and volunteers do not pay a fee. 


History of Crater Lake

Mount Mazama was an important symbol to the native Makalak people who lived in the surrounding areas for thousands of years. Before Mount Mazama collapsed, the Crater Lake region was a temporary camping site for the Makalaks. Archaeologists have found Makalak artifacts buried under layers of ash, dust, and pumice from the collapse of Mount Mazama.

The Makalaks believed that the Chief of the Below World, Llao, who was the spirit of Mount Mazama, and the Chief of the Above World, Skell, was the spirit of the sky. Llao would come up from inside the mountain and stand on top on it. One time, Llao saw the Makalak chief’s daughter and fell in love with her. Llao promised her eternal life if she would go down inside Mount Mazama to live with him. 

When she refused, Llao became angry. He stood on top of it and began to throw fire upon the Makalaks. Skell came to the Makalak’s defense by standing on top of Mount Shasta and ferociously attacking Llao. The Makalaks fled in terror during this battle. Skell drove Llao back into the depths of Mount Mazama. When the sun rose the next morning, there was a large hole where Mount Mazama used to be and rain was filling it with water. 

Eleven miners from Yreka, California, were the first white men to discover Crater Lake in 1853. They traveled to Jacksonville, Oregon, looking for the legendary “Lost Cabin” gold mine. They picked up financing and ten more miners there, and headed northwest. They encountered a large body of water sitting in a huge, deep hole with the bluest water they had ever seen, that is Crater Lake. They wanted to name it “Blue Lake”. They ran out of supplies, headed back to Jacksonville, reported their discovery, and that there was no gold. Crater Lake was forgotten. 

The leader of another mining expedition who found Crater Lake again in 1862, Chauncy Nye, wrote the first published article about Crater Lake, and he reported, “The waters were of a deeply blue color causing us to name it “Blue Lake.” In 1865, two hunters working for road crews in the Crater Lake region rediscovered Crater Lake. 

Soldiers and civilians immediately took off to see the legendary lake at that time. Sergeant Orsen Stearns, overwhelmed and amazed by the sight, climbed down the caldera and became the first non-Native American to reach the shore of Crater Lake. Captain F.B. Sprague soon climbed down after him and suggested the name “Lake Majesty.”

A young man in Kansas named William Gladstone Steel in 1870 unwrapped his lunch from a newspaper containing an article about Crater Lake. William added seeing this unique lake to his bucket list. Fifteen years later, William finally visited Crater Lake and decided it needed to be a national park. Steel persevered in his vision, and bullied the U.S. Congress.  

In 1893, Crater Lake gained protection as part of the Cascade Range Forest Reserve, but that was not good enough for William Steel. He continued pestering congress, and on May 22, 1902, Crater Lake finally became a national park.


Fishing Crater Lake

Only two species of fish inhabit Crater Lake, the Kokanee salmon and rainbow trout. The salmon and trout are not native to Crater Lake. Researchers believe that there were no fish in Crater Lake until the late 1800s, when people stocked it with six species of fish. Anglers do not need a fishing license, and there is no limit on how many fish you can catch. You must use artificial bait so that you don’t introduce an outside species to the lake.

You can only fish at Crater Lake from the shoreline. You can access Crater Lake’s shore from the 1.1-mile Cleetwood Cove Trail, a steep, strenuous hike, and the only legal access to Crater Lake’s shore. Pets are not allowed. The Cleetwood Cove Trailhead is located on East Rim Drive on the northern shore. When the Wizard Island Boat Tour is running, you can fish from the shore on Wizard Island. Crater Lake shoreline fishing presents breathtaking views and an awesome fishing experience.


Swimming at Crater Lake

The only legal place to swim at Crater Lake is at Cleetwood Cove, accessed by Cleetwood Cove Trail, a steep, strenuous hike, and located on East Rim Drive on the northern shore. You can only wear bathing suits and basic clothing in Crater Lake. During summer the average surface temperature of Crater Lake is 57 degrees. 

You cannot use this equipment in Crater Lake:

  • scuba and snorkeling gear
  • wet suits, masks, goggles, fins,
  • inner tubes or any towable devices
  • kayaks, canoes, and any motorized or non-motorized boats
  • inflatable rafts, flotation devices
  • personal life jackets or vests
  • waders

Camping at Crater Lake

There are only two campgrounds at Crater Lake. All of your food, garbage, cooking equipment, storage containers like ice chests, and toiletries like soaps, toothpaste, etc., when not in use, must be stored in your vehicle or in the bear-resistant locker provided at your campsite. No water is available in the Lost Creek Campground. 

The National Park Service manages Lost Creek Campground. Depending on weather and other factors, this campground usually opens in early July and closes in mid-October. It is restricted to tent campers only. No RVs, buses, trailers, or vans and trucks with toilets, or generators are allowed. Registration is self-serve on the day of arrival. No advance registration is available. The campground fills up daily by mid-afternoon. The only means of knowing site availability is upon arrival at the campground.

Bring water with you. You can access a faucet with drinking water outside the Visitor Center at Park Headquarters, 12 miles away from Lost Creek Campground. A water-bottle filling station inside the visitor center, when the building is open, is a source of drinking water. Camping in the park’s pullouts, picnic areas, and parking lots is prohibited.

The Mazama Campground has 214 sites for tents and RVs with a 50-foot maximum length. Some campsites have electric hookups. You can bring generators. Mazama Campground is open from early June to late September. Mazama Campground is nestled in an old-growth forest, and all sites provide a picnic table, fire ring, and a bear-resistant food locker. In June, some sites are available only on a first-come, first-served basis, and all others by reservation. In July, August, and September, all sites are available by advance reservation, either online or by calling 866-292-6720.

There are absolutely no open fires allowed at Crater Lake National Park. Crater Lake is home to a yearly summer fire season. Its fire season can scorch thousands of acres. This fire season is essential to the Crater Lake region. Many plants in the area adapt to their survival through these fires and are born again from restored nutrients in the soil after the burn.

Plan your next camping trip on our Crater Lake Campgrounds page. 


Where to Stay at Crater Lake

Crater Lake Lodge has 71 rooms and is open from May to October, and no pets are allowed. Crater Lake Lodge opens at different times each year due to weather and other factors, and overlooks the lake at Rim Village. Crater Lake Lodge first opened in 1915, and was rebuilt between 1989 and 1995 to handle heavy snow loads of 48 feet in the winter months.

The Cabins at Mazama Village offer ideal lodging in a ponderosa pine forest located seven miles south of Rim Village. Opening dates differ from year to year. These cabins provide historic style furnishings, wall art of vintage style travel posters and of materials, like hickory saplings and alder. 


Hiking at Crater Lake

Crater Lake offers 19 trails ranging from easy, moderate, strenuous, and backcountry. Inside the Crater Lake National Park there are only a few trails and lots of paved areas where you can bring your pets. All pets must be leashed. Permits are required for backcountry hikes, but are not required for day hiking. Day hikers must observe all backcountry regulations. Permits are required for backcountry hiking trails.

Easy hikes are the Castle Crest at 0.5 miles, Lady of the Woods at 0.7 miles, Sun Notch at 0.8 miles, The Pinnacles at 0.8 miles, Godfrey Glen 1.1 miles, and Plaikni  Falls at  2.0 miles. 

The moderate trails are Discovery Point at 2.0 miles, Fumarole Bay at 1.7 miles, Watchman Peak at 1.6 miles, and Annie Creek at 1.7 miles.

The strenuous trails are Cleetwood Cove at 2.2 miles and the only legal access to Crater Lake’s shore, Wizard Summit at 2.2 miles, Garfield Peak at 3.6 miles, Mount Scott at 4.4 miles, Crater Peak at 6.5 miles, and Union Peak at 9.8 miles.

The Backcountry hiking are Large Pacific Crest Trail Loop at 30 miles, Small Pacific Crest Trail Loop at 24.8 miles, Dutton/Lightning Loop at 12.8 miles, Bald Crater Loop at 20.3 miles, and Union Peak/Stuart Falls at 22.4 miles. A backcountry camping permit is required year-round for all overnight trips in the park. Permits are not required for day hiking; however, day hikers must observe all backcountry regulations. 

Backcountry hiking permits are free, but must be obtained in person during business hours from the Ranger Station at Park Headquarters. Permits are not available over the phone, or more than 1 day in advance. Backcountry hiking regulations can be found here: https://www.nps.gov/crla/planyourvisit/backcountry-faq.htm


Biking at Crater Lake

Bicyclists love to ride the 33 Rim Drive circling Crater Lake. The stunning views and exhilarating rides give cyclists a ride to remember forever. There are strict rules and precautions for cyclists.

Cyclists must respect and obey all rules that apply to automobile traffic, including speed limits and stop signs. Bicycle helmets are highly recommended for all riders and are required for riders under the age of 16. Bicyclists must ride single file, and are prohibited from riding abreast, or side by side. Bicycles are not permitted on park trails.

Cyclists face many hazards including high speeds on steep downhill sections, rocks, animals, potholes, and other road hazards as well as heavy traffic volume. Only cyclists experienced at riding with auto traffic should consider biking at Crater Lake. Cycling the three-mile road section between Park Headquarters and Rim Village is discouraged due to limited sight distance, and a narrow, steep, winding road with heavy traffic.

Park roads seldom have shoulders and no bike lanes exist. Cyclists should use extreme caution along narrow areas and blind curves. Cyclists need to wear bright, highly-visible clothing to help drivers see you. Cyclists unaccustomed to high altitudes may find that the elevation at Crater Lake makes breathing difficult, and the trip may take longer than anticipated. 


Winter Activities at Crater Lake

Winter activities at stunning Crater Lake include snowshoeing and ranger-guided snowshoeing tours, designated cross-country and downhill skiing routes, snowboarding, sledding,  snowmobiling, and winter backcountry camping. The Crater Lake region sees approximately 43 to 58 feet, not inches, of snow per year, which provides unbelievable winter sport opportunities. 

There are dangers and precautions to consider when participating in winter sports at Crater Lake. Snow cornices, avalanches, roofalanches, tree wells, and terrain traps present the most dangerous conditions for winter sports enthusiasts. At Crater Lake in the winter, always go with a partner, and keep your partner in sight when participating in winter activities.

Snow cornices are overhanging deposits of snow formed as wind blows snow over an edge. Cornices are difficult to identify from above and can extend beyond the rim of the caldera at ten feet or more. 

The steep slopes of the Cascade Mountain Range can create ideal conditions for avalanches, which are influenced by wind, temperature, snow, rain, slope, and aspect, and the risk of an avalanche can vary hourly or daily. 

Roofalanches are avalanches that slide off the roofs of buildings. Heavy sheets of snow and ice often accumulate on roofs before finally sliding. Do not stand under the eaves of a building, and do not climb on snow-covered roofs. A roofalanche can occur without warning and trap a person under heavy snow or between a building and the snowpack.

A tree well is an unstable hole or depression around the base of a tree and formed when low branches prevent snow from filling in around the trunk. A person can fall into a tree well and become trapped which can result in suffocation. It is extremely difficult to get out of a tree well without help. 

A terrain trap is a landscape feature that increases the chances of injury in an avalanche. Terrain traps include gullies, creek beds, drainages, abrupt slope transitions, and other features that cause avalanche debris to pile up. Even in a small avalanche, a terrain trap can leave a person buried under deep snow. There are hundreds of small, innocent looking gullies in the park. Before you travel in or near one, realize that a small avalanche can be deadly.


Things to Do at Crater Lake 

Crater Lake National Park has three restaurants and one general store. The Mazama Village Store sells groceries, camping supplies, firewood, and gasoline. The Rim Village Café is open year round and serves sandwiches, salads, soup, and snacks. The Annie Creek Restaurant in Mazama Village serves burgers, sandwiches, soup, salads, and pizza, and is open seasonally. Crater Lake Lodge offers casual dining with a lake view setting and is open seasonally.

Rim Drive is 33 miles long and circles Crater Lake with views from 30 overlooks. This drive follows Crater Lake’s caldera rim and provides opportunities to photograph landscapes, the lake, wildlife, and wildflowers. It’s an amazing scenic drive for bicycles, motorcycles, and vehicles. During peak season in the summer months, traffic can be heavy on Rim Drive around Crater Lake. 

Take a boat tour to Wizard Island. Crater Lake Hospitality offers eight daily boat tours on Crater Lake and two shuttles to Wizard Island in the summer season. Crater Lake captains and boats are US Coast Guard certified. A park ranger is aboard the eight daily tours, which circumnavigate the caldera. Two of the ranger tours make a three-hour stop on Wizard Island. There are restrictions because visitors must be able to descend and ascend the Cleetwood Cove Trail to get to the Wizard Island dock. It is a 1.1-mile trail that drops 700 feet to Crater Lake’s shore. This steep trail is challenging. 

Crater Lake Trolley offers daily trolley tours in the summer months. Visitors can enjoy the beauty of Crater Lake while safely traveling the historic 33-mile Rim Drive. A park ranger on-board offers narration about the history of Crater Lake. The trolley tours are wheel chair accessible, seat 25 passengers, and takes two hours with no bathroom stops. Reservations are recommended. You can purchase tickets from the trolley ticket office at Rim Village the day of a tour if there is availability.

Crater Lake summer ranger programs offer a wide variety of educational fun. Several times daily, rangers offer short talks on a variety of subjects at the Sinnott Memorial Overlook in Rim Village. Late afternoon talks at Crater Lake Lodge begin in May when the lodge reopens for the season, continue until it closes for winter, and are presented on the lodge’s patio with lake views or indoors near the fireplace.

A daily ranger-guided sunset hike begins at Watchman Peak Overlook, 3.8 miles northwest of Rim Village. This moderate hike ends at an historic fire lookout as the sun sets behind the Cascade Mountain Range. Evening presentations occur nightly in the campground amphitheater beginning in late June.

Junior ranger activities invite children aged six to 12 to participate in activities to learn about volcanoes, pikas, art, and other fascinating park-related subjects. All children’s activities begin at the Rim Village Visitor Center and last 20 minutes. Each child receives a Crater Lake iron-on patch when their activity is completed. 

The Crater Lake Science and Learning Center provides opportunities for educators, scientists, and artists. It connects scientists with teachers, students, artists, and the public. The Center is located in the former Superintendents House with a separate residential facility in the former Naturalists residence. 

The Crater Lake Science and Learning Center, in collaboration with the Crater Lake Natural History Association and the Friends of Crater Lake National Park coordinates the park's Artist-in-Residence program. Artists can apply for a two-week residency in the spring and fall. The Crater Lake Science and Learning Center invites writers, sculptors, photographers, painters, dancers, cinematographers, musicians, composers, and other visual and performing artists to apply. There is an eligibility and selection process. 

Teachers can bring their students on the field trip of a lifetime with the Classroom at Crater Lake program. Students interact with natural surroundings, learn science concepts, work with park rangers, get plenty of exercise, and make memories that inspire them throughout their scholastic careers. These field trips are free of cost, conducted in spring and fall, are hands-on, and aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.

Check out our What To Do At Crater Lake page to plan your next adventure.


Crater Lake Weather

The climate at Crater Lake is difficult to predict. The facilities at Crater Lake operate on a weather-related spring opening month to a fall closing date on a year-to-year basis. Smoke from fires and fog can hide Crater Lake’s surface. Generally, Crater Lake sees an average of 42 to 58 feet of snow with 216 sunny days and 20 inches of rain per year. The July high is around 84 degrees, and the January low is 20 degrees. June, July, and August are the most pleasant months and December and January are the least comfortable months.

Stay tuned into the weather on our Crater Lake Weather Forecast page.


Crater Lake Zip Codes 

Klamath County: 97425, 97601, 97602, 97603, 97621, 97622, 97623, 97624, 97625, 97627, 97632, 97633, 97634, 97639, 97737. 


Flora and Fauna

The mantra at Crater Lake National Park is: Do not feed the wildlife at Crater Lake National Park. 

Common wildlife species sightings include bears, birds, bobcats, coyotes, deer, elk, porcupines, and squirrels. The lake and streams in the park are home to numerous species of fish and animals, including the endangered bull trout and the Mazama newt, which is only native to Crater Lake.

Vegetation includes mixed conifer forests dominated by ponderosa pine in the south to high-elevation mountain hemlock and a whitebark pine forest at the rim. The park is a sanctuary for native forest and meadow communities. In Crater Lake, layers of aquatic moss are present.

Crater Lake Email Updates


 

Crater Lake Current Weather Alerts

There are no active watches, warnings or advisories.

 

Crater Lake Weather Forecast

Wednesday

Mostly Sunny

Hi: 41

Wednesday Night

Partly Cloudy

Lo: 31

Thanksgiving Day

Mostly Sunny

Hi: 45

Thursday Night

Mostly Cloudy

Lo: 30

Friday

Mostly Cloudy

Hi: 42

Friday Night

Mostly Cloudy

Lo: 29

Saturday

Mostly Sunny

Hi: 39

Saturday Night

Mostly Cloudy

Lo: 26


Crater Lake Water Level (last 30 days)


Water Level on 11/23: 6165.82 (-4.18)



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