16 Best Things to Do in Crater Lake, OR

Crater Lake, OR
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If you want to see one of the best lakes in the world, you should schedule a trip to Crater Lake in Oregon and discover its stunning beauty.

Located in the Cascade Range of Klamath County, south-central Oregon, this volcanic crater lake is the main attraction of the Crater Lake National Park.

It is famous for its deep blue waters and the myriad activities around the lake, making it a premiere destination for those who love the great outdoors.

When Mount Mazama collapsed after a massive eruption 7,700 years ago, it paved the way for the birth of today's deepest lake in the United States.

Crater Lake has a depth of 1,949 feet, one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon.

Every year, over 500,000 people visit Crater Lake, even though it is a relatively isolated place to live and classified as a wilderness.

In 2020, only 137 people lived within Crater Lake's vicinity.

The lake features numerous activities all year round for all outdoor enthusiasts, from guided tours, camping, and fishing to trekking through its unspoiled forest and mountainous terrain.

Whether you are only on a day trip or spending several days in this mesmerizing place, you will enjoy the best things to do in Crater Lake, Oregon.

View Crater Lake from Sinnot Memorial Overlook

Sign board at Sinnot Memorial Overlook
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Sinnot Memorial Overlook opened in 1931 as a viewpoint for the public to revel in the captivating beauty of Crater Lake.

The overlooking site stands at the steep rock of Victor Rock, 50 feet below the caldera rim.

This viewpoint is designed with a mosaic of native stones.

Its interior walls contain information about Mount Mazama's history showing its relation to the formation of the Crater Lake.

It also houses an exhibit of images of the lake taken several decades back.

The place serves as a leading tourist destination where you can learn about the lake while celebrating its unobstructed beauty resting below.

Sinnot Memorial Overlook is open from late June to mid-October.

Camp at Mazama Campground

A young boy riding a bicycle on a sunny morning at Mazama Campground
wonrin / Shutterstock.com

Mazama Campground is a leading campsite option in Crater Lake situated near the park's south entrance and about seven miles from the historic Rim Village.

Its 214 sites are nestled within a forest, allowing tent pitching and RV parking.

During the night, you can enjoy the serenity and peacefulness of the forest while stargazing under the vast dark skies.

The site also serves as a basecamp if you want to start trekking through Crater Lake's various trails, such as the Annie Creek Trail and Merriam Point Loop.

The campground has various amenities such as restrooms, potable water, fire rings, and many others, giving you a convenient and comfortable stay.

It also has a grocery store and a gasoline station.

Mazama Campground is only open during the summer, so reserve a slot before you go.

Cruise along Rim Drive

Rim Drive at Crater Lake
inkknife_2000 (7.5 million views +), CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Rim Drive is one of the most picturesque drives in North America, with its paved road offering incredible views of Crater Lake.

It follows a 33-mile route around the caldera and takes a two-hour drive to complete.

With its 30 overlooking sites, you will have to frequently go out of your vehicle to enjoy the stunning views.

Spectacular view from Rim Drive
Jrozwado, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Although you only look at one place, each spot offers a different perspective because of the caldera's various geologic formations.

Your drive does not only involve sitting in your car as you stop at resting places along the Rim Drive.

These spots have restrooms, parking spaces, and picnic benches.

If you only have a day at Crater Lake, Rim Drive is the best option to make the most out of your stay, as it allows access to all of Crater Lake's must-see destinations.

Take a Short Trek to Plaikni Falls

Scenic view of Plaikni Falls
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A 1.6 km trek to Plaikni Falls is an excellent option if you want a short but exciting trail.

Plaikni Falls is in the southeast portion of Crater Lake National Park.

It opened in 2011 with a short course through an old forest shaded with towering trees and lush vegetation.

Trail at Plaikni Falls
Dominic Gentilcore PhD / Shutterstock.com

The serene hike gives you a moment to appreciate nature before you arrive at the majestic falls surrounded by wildflowers.

Even without the presence of a scenic view of Crater Lake, your journey through the forest toward Plaikni Falls is equally mesmerizing.

The trail is accessible for kids, seniors, and travelers who use wheelchairs.

Closeup of Plaikni Falls
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Join a Trolley Tour with Crater Lake Trolley

If hiking and boating are not your things, a convenient way to go around Crater Lake is through a trolley tour arranged by Crater Lake Trolley.

The tour safely travels along Rim Drive and takes you to five-seven viewpoints with the unbridled beauty of the lake.

A ranger accompanies every trolley tour and narrates the history of the lake, including interesting facts about it.

Crater Lake Trolley offers a two-hour trolley tour suitable for 25 people.

It is also accessible for visitors who are in a wheelchair.

Trolley tours are available daily and start in July through mid-September.

Try Snowmobiling at North Entrance Road

North Entrance Road on a foggy morning
Tami Freed / Shutterstock.com

Another fun activity during winter is snowmobiling at the North Entrance Road of the park.

Before enjoying this activity, you must have a valid state license and a snowmobile certification.

This activity also comes with precautions.

You must also be informed of current conditions, avalanche warnings, and closed roads.

Snowmobiling is only allowed within the unplowed roadway with a maximum speed of 45 mph.

Authorities also recommend snowmobiling at North Entrance Road only from December to March.

Ski around Rim Drive

Outdoor enthusiasts with intense physical and mental endurance can try skiing around Crater Lake, one of the top activities during winter.

The lake features scenic cross-country skiing that is popular across the United States.

It's up to you if you want to ski around Rim Drive or glide through the snowy forest.

If you want to circle Crater Lake, you have to tackle a 31-mile or 50 Km loop, which takes an average of three days to finish.

However, trails are unmarked, and it requires expertise in avalanche safety.

Again, skiing the popular loop is not for the faint-hearted.

Aside from the required backcountry permit, you should have experience in winter camping and backcountry travel before you try this extreme adventure.

Walk Your Dog at Godfrey Glen

Scenic view of Godfrey Glen
Markgorzynski, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Traveling with your furry friend is possible at Crater Lake.

You can try easy hikes with your pet at Godfrey Glen, located 2.25 miles south of the park's headquarters and in the lower end of Munson Creek's valley.

The 1.9-mile loop trail follows a maintained flat dirt path through an old-growth forest.

While tackling the course, Godfrey Glen gives astounding sights of fossil fumaroles and the streams leading to canyons.

If you want to go further, you can head to the western portion of the trail and follow the path to Annie Creek Canyon.

Note that you can take your pet to Godfrey Glen if it is free of significant snow.

Join Free Ranger-Guided Snowshoe Walks

Another hit winter activity is ranger-guided snowshoe walks open for tourists as young as eight years old from November through the end of April.

Walks start at 1:00 p.m. and cover one-two miles of terrain without a trail.

Guides allow an off-trail adventure through the middle of the forests and fields surrounding Crater Lake's rim.

During the two-hour walk, rangers share information about plants and animals on the trail and explain to guests how they survive during the freezing weather.

This is an excellent and fun learning activity for kids who have outdoor interests.

When visiting during winter, you might as well grab this opportunity because ranger-guided snowshoe walks are free of charge.

The park's entrance fee is also waived.

Swim through Cleetwood Cove Trail

Narrow pathway along Cleetwood Cove Trail
Arseniy Bokov / Shutterstock.com

The only way to go down the lake shore and swim in its deep blue waters is through the Cleetwood Cove Trail, located 4.6 miles from North Junction.

If you want to experience the lake's cold waters, you need to take the 1.7 km steep trail that drops 700 feet to the shore.

The track is made of crushed pumice that tends to be slippery, so you need to wear the proper trekking footwear.

View of the lake from Cleetwood Cove Trail
D Currin / Shutterstock.com

Despite the strenuous trek down the Cleetwood Cove Trail, you will be rewarded with fun activities such as swimming and cliff jumping.

Find the spot where you can jump safely at 30 feet and enjoy your visit down the shore.

You are not allowed to use scuba or snorkeling gear in the lake and other swimming devices, such as goggles and fins, per the park's regulations to protect its clarity.

Squirrel along the Cleetwood Cove Trail
D Currin / Shutterstock.com

Join a Boat Tour with Crater Lake Hospitality

While the beauty of Crater Lake is mesmerizing from a distance, you also have the option to go near the lake for an up-close experience.

During summer, Crater Lake Hospitality hosts boat tours for tourists, involving a caldera round-trip ride.

Park rangers accompany the tours as your group navigates the lake.

Before you board the boats, you must reach the dock through the Cleetwood Cove Trail, a one-mile trail that drops 700 feet to the lake shore.

The trail is dusty and steep, so you must bring comfortable clothes, sun protection, and enough hydration.

Explore the lake with Crater Lake Hospitality!

Watch Birds from Rim Village

Rim Village during winter
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Crater Lake's lush forest is home to many migratory bird species during summer.

Bird-watching is a pleasant experience you can do while in the area, allowing you to see and hear birds such as jays, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and thrushes.

You don't even need to hike trails to see birds.

Lounge chair at Rim Village
AlessandraRC / Shutterstock.com

At Rim Village's promenade, sit back and wait until ravens and nutcrackers fly around from a distance.

If you are driving through Rim Drive, you can also rest and stay with your binoculars until colorful birds begin to appear.

Visit Wizard Island

Aerial view of Wizard Island
CAN BALCIOGLU / Shutterstock.com

Wizard Island is at the west end of the deep blue lake, a volcanic cinder cone about 6,933 feet above sea level.

This unique part of the lake offers panoramic views and several activities to try during the summer.

You can swim, go fishing, or hike up to the summit.

Boating at Wizard Island
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The Wizard Island Summit Trail is a hour-long hike to the peak with a 90-foot-deep crater.

Wizard Island is accessible through the Cleetwood Cove Trail.

You need to go down its steep path and reach the Cleetwood Cove Boat Dock at the northern part of the lake, where you will board a boat to the island.

Tourists swimming at Wizard Island
Markgorzynski, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Catch Fish at Annie Creek

Fishing is another exciting outdoor activity you can try at Crater Lake.

You can bring your fishing rod and reel and catch fish in the park by accessing Annie Creek, located past the south entrance of Crater Lake National Park.

Fossil at Annie Creek
Chiyacat / Shutterstock.com

Crater Lake is home to over 60,000 kokanee salmon and rainbow trout, while Annie Creek has brook and brown trout.

There are no limitations on the size of your catch, so you'll enjoy your time fly fishing and baitcasting here.

Other streams in the park are accessible for fishing except for Sun Creek and Lost Creek, where native bull trout inhabit.

View of Annie Creek Canyon
Jesse Stephens / Shutterstock.com

The park has a long-term project for the threatened species' sustainable production.

If you catch a bull trout, you must release it into the stream.

Go on a Sunset Hike at Watchman Peak Overlook

Snow covered Watchman Peak Overlook
TS Photographer / Shutterstock.com

Join ranger-guided hikes during the afternoon.

It starts at Watchman Peak Overlook, where your group will have to tackle a two-hour walk.

This moderate hike can be dusty, but it is worth the trouble as it ends in a historic fire lookout developed during the 1900s.

Mesmerizing view of Watchman Peak Overlook
lu_sea / Shutterstock.com

The viewpoint is 3.8 miles northwest of Rim Village, which gives you a fantastic sunset view behind the Cascade Mountain Range.

This free guided hike is available only during the summer, along with the park's other ranger-guided programs.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Eat Homemade Pies at Beckie's Café

Exterior view of Beckie's Café
Ian Poellet, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Beckie's Café is a heritage diner in the National Register of Historic Places.

You can find the rustic heritage café 15 miles from the south entrance of the lake and along Route 62 in Prospect, Oregon, 38 minutes from Crater Lake.

Built in 1926, the café offers a wide selection of classic homemade pies with seasonal fruits.

You can stop by this diner and fill your hungry tummy with good food if you are in the area.

Whatever time of the day you arrive at the café, you will never run out of food to try including sandwiches, country-fried steaks, soups, and more.

Final Thoughts

Crater Lake is a haven for different types of travelers.

Outdoor enthusiasts will surely enjoy camping under the starry night sky or hiking various trails.

Families and groups of friends will likely check out fun activities like driving around Rim Drive or swimming by the lakeshore.

Others may prefer lowkey activities like birdwatching, trolley tours, and sightseeing.

Whatever your fun choice is, you will love the best things to do in Crater Lake, Oregon.

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