I first visited Crater Lake as a child with this photo serving as my only memory.
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).
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.
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?
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.
Who walks there?
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.
- The East Rim Road trail begins near the Visitor Center (there is an unmarked pullout on the road).
- Be prepared for windy conditions at the Rim. I was there during warm weather but the wind was biting cold.
- Go early to catch sunrises. Stay late for the sunsets.
- Gear choices:
- Link to more Oregon Jan Jaunts posts.