With the government shutdown, Crater Lake closed it’s doors from December 23, 2018 through January 27, 2019. When they welcomed back visitors on the 28th, I wanted to be there to not only support our rangers but to experience the beauty under pristine conditions.
With a late start after four hours of traveling, I didn’t quite get the pristine conditions I’d hoped to experience. The area near parking tends to become a mine field of deep boot holes created by those not wearing snowshoes or skis. My plan was to camp on the rim, something that is only allowed during the winter when the roads are closed. Well as is typical for me Plan A becomes Plan B or C or . . . The park changed their parking policy for backcountry campers. They now require parking two miles away which then meant either a hitch or a hike up an ungroomed trail through avalanche territory to reach the rim. I was not prepared for those options so I’d have to settle for day visits.
While the area around Rim Village is trampled and there is usually a well stomped path to Discovery Point, once beyond that point, there is plenty of virgin snow.
One of the reasons I wanted to overnight on the rim was to enjoy sunset and sunrise. Sunset was a bit of a disappointment, but it kept me focused on Mt Thielsen and thoughts of my PCT journey six months earlier.
It’s a 20 mile drive to a snowpark at Annie Springs to legally overnight camp. With winter road conditions, it took me an hour to drive those miles. After a restless night’s sleep I was up before dawn to make my way back to the rim for sunrise.
I had high hopes of making it to Watchman Peak. Crusty conditions made for slow travel and considerable effort.
I was near the bend when I was confronted with crumbling snow, rock fall and avalanche danger. I probably should have veered from the road at Lightning Springs as the transition from the road to the ridge looked challenging. Regardless I was tuckered and knew it was unlikely I’d make it to the top, so not feeling too defeated this was good motivation to reverse direction.
This day will be remembered for the icy reflections on the lake. There was a thin veil of ice covering most of the lake but there were also open water areas which reflected the snow on the mountains. It was a 360-degree phenomenon. Incredible! I wasn’t able to capture the magic through photos, but this gives you an idea.
- January 28-29, 2019
- Permits are required to camp on or near the rim. They can be obtained from the wilderness office near the Steel Visitor Center. Plan your timing to hitch the two miles to Rim Village. Had I known about the policy change I would have arrived much earlier in the day so I could have driven to the rim to check on conditions before returning for permit and parking.
- Car camping is not allowed in the park. There are snow parks on 62 north and south. To be legal you need an Oregon snow parking pass.
- Download a copy of the winter newspaper for details on closures, trails, etc.
- Check weather forecast.