Crater Lake – Winter Lust Dream Come True

I first visited Crater Lake as a child with this photo serving as my only memory.1963-123

I’ll never forget the sight when I returned as an adult a few years ago. Seeing photos of this gem in the winter had me adding this to my must do list, and now this dream is a reality!

Winter access to the park is a bit challenging due to weather, road closures, lack of nearby accommodations, and the overnight parking prohibition (except for backcountry campers). Furthermore, unless you have an annual pass, you need to arrive after 10am when the Visitor’s Center opens (no self-pay option).

There were over 100″ of snow accumulation when I was there in early February 2016.

The Disneyland vista tour follows the West Rim Road. Unless you arrive to fresh snow, be prepared to find lots of semi-hard packed terrain near the parking area as well as lots of post holing due to boot use.

On gorgeous days, you can expect WOW views!

Wizard Island holds special memories for me. One summer I took the boat tour which slowly travels the circumference of the lake with a ranger sharing many interesting geologic factoids. You can spend a few hours on the island and hike up and into the volcano. Then you too can say you were in a volcano, on a volcano, in a volcano, on a volcano. Pretty amazing! Do you see the boat docks?

Progressing toward Watchman Peak, the road may hold surprises for which you need to be prepared. 

This icy steep ledge turned me around. Would it have you?

I found safe passage to the rim south of The Watchman to obtain these views. Yep those are my snowshoe prints!

Watchman Lookout Tower

Llao Rock is a very obvious reference point along the rim edge.

Wizard Island, Llao Rock and Mt Thielsen at sunset

Unlike Disneyland, there are no safety police standing along the unsafe ledges and cornices circling the lake. 

Would you walk out on this nose? A couple days after I took this photo, I returned and found snowshoe prints.

A great example of a cornice that should not be walked upon.

Slip sliding away . . . are you ready to be a mermaid?

Phantom Ship is barely visible from the West Rim, seen here in the shadows of Mount Scott (the highest point in the park at 8,929 feet). Another highlight of the boat tour is an up close and personal look at this chunk of rock. It’s much larger than it appears in this photo with plenty of space for a boat to travel though the channel.

Reaching the East Rim for these views is much more challenging and a significantly less traveled option. It’s a 5+ mile hike with few views and 2,000’+ of elevation gain. It’s a great option on a windy day.

There are two avalanche paths that must either be crossed or detoured. The largest is Applegate. 

Sunsets and sunrises are something special and should not be missed.

Nature’s art is one of the treasures I love discovering. The first two images look like whipped cream.

Views to the southeast along the East Rim Road include the Klamath basin.

Views to the southwest along West Rim Road include a panorama of the Cascade volcanoes.

On a clear day, you can see all the way to Mt Shasta, more than 100 miles to the south. I could see her with my naked eye, but she’s barely visible in this photo.

I even successfully found Vidae Falls, where the surprising sound of water awakened my senses.

Who walks there?

Notice the slab avalanche caused by this creature.

With snow melt it was hard to determine. Any ideas? I’m guessing lynx.

A bird? LOL

I met photographer Matthew Newman near Discovery Point earlier in the day. The previous night he’d taken time-lapse images of the milky way and was contemplating building an igloo for another evening shoot. When I returned, he had obviously decided to give it a go and had made good progress. 

Jan’s Tips & Resources:

  • Crater Lake National Park Web Site
  • Current Conditions Report
  • Winter Safety at the Park
  • Winter Visitor Newsletter
  • Winter Backcountry Camping Information
  • Allow plenty of time for the drive. The last 17 miles took me about 45 minutes.
  • The Visitors Center and Gift Shop are open limited hours.
  • Parking areas are patrolled for use without permit or unauthorized overnight parking.
  • Restrooms are open at the Rim 24/7.
  • The West Rim Road trail begins at the Rim Village parking area.

    My trip to The Watchman was about 7 miles round trip with 800 feet of elevation gain.

  • The East Rim Road trail begins near the Visitor Center (there is an unmarked pullout on the road).

    My trip to Sun Notch was nearly 12 miles round trip with 2000+ feet of elevation gain.

17 thoughts on “Crater Lake – Winter Lust Dream Come True

  1. Hi Jan,

    Great stuff on Crater Lake. Really enjoy your blog by the way.

    Did you backcountry camp or did you just ddive up early and stay late for the sunrise/sunset pics? If not, where did youu stay? I need to go up there.



    • Thanks! I did not backcountry camp this time as I’m still missing a few items for snow camping.

      There is a Sno-Park 17 miles from the Rim on 62 heading west. You should obtain a permit in advance. Not positive that overnight parking is allowed but I didn’t see any signs to the contrary. I arrived after dark each night and left before sunrise each morning. I was the only one there and no one bothered me. Here’s the link for a permit. There was not a kiosk on site to buy a permit.

      Otherwise nearest motels are either Klamath Falls (43 miles) to the southeast or Prospect (21 miles) or Shady Cove (43 miles) to the southwest.

      They expect plenty of snow through April and most likely May.

    • It truly does. I guess that’s saying that visiting the same trails at different times of years makes for such unique experiences. I think when everything is white or green it adds so much dimension, but then I love fall colors too.

  2. Where did you stay? I’ve never been in winter, so pretty. And that picture with the matching dresses and Lassie is priceless.

  3. Absolutely great blog Jan 😀 big smiles from me, thanks for sharing your childhood photo and the photos you took are amazing.
    That is such a treat to have met Matthew to see a igloo builder. Awesome 😀
    Happy valentines day 😀

  4. I’m enjoying your travels. I assume you snowshoed through the area. What type of shoes did you use, and did they give you enough flotation and grip? My foot has healed up and we are considering doing some snowshoeing in our local area.

    • I have the MSR evo ascents. They are bombproof and handle all terrain. They have an updated version called the Lightning Ascents I’d consider. They both have tails you can buy for additional lift on powder. Be sure to get the version with the ascent lift. Really helps in the steep (basically levels your foot so less strain on achilles). Glad to hear you are healed. I was off for 3 months with broken ribs.

  5. Pingback: Crater Lake – Winter Lust Dream Come True – Oregon Adventure Finder

  6. Pingback: OR – PCT Sections C, D and E . . . as in Crater Lake to SOS – Jan's Jaunts and Jabberings

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